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Faylon – the Wild Elves

“I am Tedur. Currently, I am in the middle of my third year as apprentice scribe and personal guard for Jarendor, the grand inseromancer of the Rilynn branch. Jarendor is now at rest after the palace raising; and the Vanaidon’s, from Do-Sha wood and the forests of Kennyth and Veyrafin, who assisted in the amazing miracle, have been returned to their provinces. Oh, how it was a sight to see! To watch as Jarendor drew saplings up from the moist ground on the edge of the forest was almost to dream. The young trees growing and changing, reaching for the blue sky above, and slowly but surely forming the walls of the palace. Hours passed as Jarendor worked the wood, directing its growth as the saplings became first young trees and then solid, adult trees with trunks as thick as your waist. He paused for a moment, his hands glowing in the dusk light, and then motioned to the inseromancers who would join with him to reinforce his work. They chanted and swayed back and forth, running their hands over the pulsing wood as it flowed together and the palace took shape. As the Council of the Groves strengthened the palace itself, many of the younger Vanaidon’s ran about the perimeter creating windows, airways, and secret passageways. They did not stop until the sun had set beyond the great desert.

Then Jarendor lowered his hands, his face clearly showing his exhaustion, and the others followed suit. Some remained standing while others sank slowly to their knees. Finally, our new palace was complete. I now have a moment to myself for the first time this season – at least until my master recovers.

Jarendor teaches the younger students who struggle to grasp the arcane intricacies of his magic and I listen. I am a guard of sorts, I protect him from those who would wish to do him harm, but I also take notes of his lectures and I now have enough scribblings to fill three entire journals to overflowing. Although my lineage denies me the right to use the magic, I hope the journals will someday help to teach one who can. To protect an inseromancer is a rare privilege, and I trained with the Keepers of the Forest for many years to ensure that I am at my physical peak. I would gladly give my life to save him, but it will not come to that. No enemy has the strength or ability to get past me, of that I am sure; and none have tried while I have been at his side.

Today, I went to the Elders to speak to Lord Cyred about the shadow elf menace we face. They are the dark and evil side to our heritage of which we should all be wary. They are unnatural; living below the ground in their foul, dank labyrinths and committing such atrocities that I cannot bear to repeat them. Lately, during training sessions, I have been drawn to the Freani: skilled hunters who take the fight to the shadow elves. It would be wrong to leave my calling, and the elders would not permit it even if I were to make that choice, but I am torn. Can I continue to serve Jarendor when the call of the Freani is so strong within me?”

Faylon – the Wild Elves
The wild elves are one of the oldest cultures on ascendallion, living long and peaceful lives within the comforting grasp of the deep woods, protecting and savouring the beauty and tranquility created for them by the gods. The trees are their shelter and the forest itself is their provider. It is in the branches of the majestic oak and ironwood, high above the forest floor, where they build their tree forts and towns, taking care not to injure the living wood but instead allowing the druids to manipulate nature with their magic. They burn peat and coal for warmth and cooking, but never burn their wood. The infrequent trading with Humans, Gnomes and even Dwarves is usually to provide rare fuels from outside their realm. Left to themselves, they re a peaceful race but if they re interfered with or their way of life threatened, they turn quite savage. War parties from other races are not tolerated within their homeland boundaries and they can either leave or fertilise the greenery with their bodies. Wild elves have a great respect for life, but they do subscribe to the theory that some life forms in general – and orcs in particular – should move on to a possibly improved incarnation. To kill an animal for any reason less than food holds the same penalty as if one had commited murder.

The Faylon after the Fall
Since the fall, darkness creeps slowly upon the firstborn of all elven races – throwing the faylon into sincere depression. The wild elves – once living in harmony and peace – have acted as intermediaries between the races and factions of ascendallion. But this key-role fades since the great disaster and the pilgrimages to distant forests and places of power stopped all of a sudden. Trapped within the twilight of the naifir, faylon society slowly shifts to the right – exhibiting more and more arch-conservative characteristics. It seems only like a matter of time until the harmony between wild elves and nature will fracture, birthing a horror even greater than their evil cousins – the shadow elves.

Faylon Society
Wild Elf society is divided into two distinct branches: The forest elves, who refer to themselves as “Keepers of the Forest” and the natives, who are also known as “The Children of Oussea”. Both branches coexist in peace and work together whenever circumstances necessitate strength of unity. Some see the natives as savages, the sad remains of an elven culture that is extinct in other parts of the world since thousand years. The forest elves on the other hand, symbolize a higher evolutionary level, being both – more sophisticated and civilised than their savage bethren. The wild elf leaders, who are called the “Council of the Groves” consists of savages and forest elves alike. All wild elf tribes are obliged to the council and live in unity without tribal rivalities. This harmonic balance of power is maintained by the council of groves and reffered to as the “Eyllis-eplith”.

Faylon Military
Although it is true that wild elves understand technology, they tend not to use all the options available to them as it would inevitably change their lifestyles. They refuse to use gunpowder, for example, and prefer to use machines of destruction that don’t invovle fire. They are well respected for their skills with linen fabrics and it is rumoured that the cloak of invisibility worn by the Freani scouts is not magic but rather a stunning combination of their knowledge of camouflage and the unique properities of one of their mysterious fabrics. The Freani are the elite scouts of the wild elf kingdom. Their purpose is to seek out and kill shadow elves and other enemies foolish enough to bring evil into their forest. Skilled in all manners of hand-to-hand combat and silent forms of attack, they are trained to blend into their surroundings allowing them to approach an enemy encampment undetected.

Warriors are the backbone of the military and are responsible for training new recruits. All warriors are supplied with double-sided cloaks with one side displaying the colouring and emblem of their regiment and the other side doing double-duty as a camouflage cloak and ground cover. One of the warrior’s primary duties is to protect the Aijin – the archers. Chosen while still in infancy and given intensive training, their skills of archery are impressive by the time they are mature enough to enter the ranks. It is rumoured that you only know that wild elf archers are around when you look down to see a shaft protruding from your chest. Elvish archers are always cloaked and hooded and they paint vivid stripes across their eyes.

First formed as a way to oppose the Hadab wind riders, the wild elf giant eagle riders are both a inspiring military force and an impressive sight to behold. It is true that the wild elves bring no war-machines to battle, as they detest machines that are able to burn and raze trees, even more if those are built out of wood.

War Strategy
Wild Elf tactics have remained the same for countless generations – they pick a field of battle with plenty of woodland to occupy and then herd their opponents into range of their archers with cavalry and eagle riders. This is not to say that wild elves can’t fight in the open as they can and do, but it would not be their first choice. Wild Elf archers can outshoot most enemies but they sometimes need to be protected by swordsmen or the like as they move towards a tough adversary. Wood Elf Scouts are ideal for skirmishing and pinning down an enemy and can bei either mounted or on foot. Their giant eagle riders are the pride of the wild elven court. The wild elves lack war-machines, artillery and heavy troops in general – as they utterly dislike using the wood of their forests as material or fuel.

Important Places
The “Naifir” is the largest cohesive patch of woodland in the wild elf homeland. It is said that dryads and treants – who walk the world since the dawn of time – fostered the first wild elves from saplings deep within Naifir’s green heart. But since the fall and advancement of the Formorian and other races (Dune warriors in the first place), the great desert sweeps relentless towards the outskirts of Naifir. Row after row of aeon old trees wither and die, as the earth beyond their roots is sanding-up slowly. The children of Oussea, supported by their forest elf brothers – realize the importance to protect their homeland and deploy inseromancers to stop the sanding. Its a desperate fight to recultivate the land, and its muttered that the fading belief in the goddess of nature itself is the true reason of Naifir diminishing.

Allies & Enemies
Wild Elves are friends and allies with certain Sun Elf families, Wolven tribes and Barbarians. They tolerate humans (Eszmerian as well as Lyeness), Dwarves and Atlantean but will almost never fully trust them. They are enemies with orcs (any tribe), goblins, shadow elves, the Formorian and all other truly evil races.

Wizardry & Religion
There are two distinct types of wild elf magic users: “Druid Mages” (also “Naru”), who have spell casting abilities and the “Inseromancer” (also “Vanaidon”), whose talents lie with the manipulation of wood. Both types of magic users are descendants of the native wild elves, as the higher developed forest elves lost the ability to use magic centuries ago. The Druid Mage’s responsibility is to nurture and train the “Beastkin”, those special warriors who are in fact a crossbred between wild elves and animals. Being able to tap into animalic powers, the beastkin are blessed with incredible strength and ferocity.

While a druid mage might enter the battle, to turn the tide, a inseromancer would never willingly enter a skirmish as his talents are more of a passive variety. Talents wich are all around you when you enter a wood elf kingdom for a inseromancer is responsible to rise tree villages, forts and pathways high above the ground. He is a valueable member of wood elf society, but would not be of much use on the battlefield.

Faylon Artefacts: The True Elven Bow
The true elven bow is a precious and rare weapon available only to the most skilled Freani and Aijin. Theese weapons are grown from magical bow-seeds that require one year of growing and another year of craftmanship. Elvish bows are alive and they do not require repair when damaged – but healing. The bow manifests magical energies its wielder can tap into, to increase shooting range and damage. In the hands of any race other than elves, the bow starts to brittle and dies.

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Nightlings – the Goblins

“Hear me clearly. Power isn’t having magic, weapons or gold. It is not in the having, it is in the being able to twist all of these things to your advantage and use. What does it matter if you have enemies if your enemies can be bribed with one another’s money to kill each other? We are free to walk the earth to take anything we need and we protect our families and kin by having powerful and useful contacts.

We are proud of our position in this world. We are the providers of battle and they couldn’t wage their never-ending wars if we did not get them what they needed, from horses, to swords, to supplies. We provide but we are not interested in getting involved. War and carnage are not for us, we have families, we love life. We have culture and history so why do the other peoples of the world consider us to be horrible and evil parasites, to be paid off and ignored. That is a question, for which we have no answer.

We see ourselves as the middlemen, the negotiators willing to provide our clients with the strength they need for each battle. And if we should end up being the providers for both sides in a skirmish, so be it. If they both paid us, they both deserved the best service and that is what we are good at.”

Nightlings – The Goblins of the Undermountain
Nightlings are a sub-tribe of Goblins, known as mischievous meddlers, whispering troublemakers, and absolute mercenaries. They often find themselves in battles but never battles of their own making (they don’t have the time…). Cross their yellowy-green hands with a few silver coins and the job is as good as done. Nightlings are very cunning, though and if they find themselves in real trouble, they will call upon their curel and vile allies – Shadow Elves (or worse…) – to lend a hand… or cut off an ear or two.

The Nightlings after the Fall
The Nightlings actually benefit from the great catastrophe that devastated the world of Ascendallion. Being forced to inhabit the caves of the undermountain after several defeats against the Dwarves, the Nightlings now think it’s their time to strike back. Their Bonerollers actually interpret the meteor as a sign of the gods and spur their bethren on to battle. Since the Fall, the Goblins levy massive armies and streams of green skinned lunatics pour from the Undermountain.

Nightling Society
Nighlings travel in marauding bands of between 50 and 100 members, hunting and raiding by night and sleeping in caves or hollows by day. They’ll often attack merchant camp sites and steal what they can – not necessarily killing their victims as they would hate to eliminate the chance of robbing them again! More ferocious than their Goblin cousins, they have pasty yellow or grey skin. They wear hooded robes and often carry short stabbing spears, blow guns, and other close range weaponry. This sub-tribe is despised by most Goblins as they will work for anyone – wether they agree with the reasons for the conflict or not. Despised or not, the Goblins will still use them if they have a particularly nasty job to take care of!

Nightling Military
The advancement of technology and war skills has led the goblins down several paths of experimentation, including the recent development and introduction of the shield wall. This is seen to be a very succesfull tactic but is also a great test of patience and organisation for the leaders. The average goblin has an eager, easily excitable persona wich doesn’t sit well with the concepts of the shield wall – and the leaders must control them at all times.

Partly armored and skilled with various weapons and in particular the bow, the mounted infantry are very fast and manoeuverable and ride giant wolves and on occasion other beasts. These skirmish riders receive special training wich allows them to ride and use their bows at the same time. They enter battle in a unique manner, ignoring standard lines of attack and instead making fast attacks and even faster exits to pick of the slower enemy infantry. Riding about the enemy flanks and rear, they avoid their archer regiments and have been known to complete an encounter without the loss of a single rider.

Long standing troops that have gained fame from heroic acts in the service of the warlord are dubbed heroes with all the privileges this title endows. They are the acknowledged best all-around fighters of their particular regiment, and must undertake a testing ritual before they receive their public promotion to this prestigious rank.

The guard is the front rank of the goblin defense, entrusted with the protection of the homestead and other special areas. Proficient with both sword and dagger, the missile weapon of choice for guard members is the hand held sling. It only takes a small rock or crystal in the hand of a master to make it deadly. Trained in all manners of hand-to-hand combat, they are often called upon to join the ranks of travelling war patrols and may also act as personal bodyguard for the explorers, when the goblin warlord sends out a new party.

Shamanism & Magic
A long established part of the goblin life are the bone rollers, Visionaries and mystics who throw animal bones on velvet cloths and then divine the results. These “fortune-tellers” are often called upon before battles and other important events to foretell the outcome. There is a call now to abandon the old ways but there will always be those goblins who prefer that which worked for their ancestors. Goblin Magic Users, known as Shamans, are well respected in their society although they are reclusive and antagonistic towards almost everyone. Military leaders who are veering away from the use of Bonerollers in their campaigns have no qualms about using the services of a good Shaman.

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Khor – the Dwarves

So, we’re talking about Nightlings, eh? If we must, we must. I don’t mind killing them, it’s the burning of the carcasses wich disturbs me. I know that it’s necessary to prevent disease and all that but you can never get the stink out of your clothes. It’s good practice, killing nightlings, it keeps you fit and sharp. It’s better than digging coal anyway. I could have gone into the forge work like my brother, I suppose, but working with Gnomes would have driven me around the bend! They’re always blabbering on about this great idea or this wondrous invention and no matter what you do, they could have always done it better! When the coal is delivered, though, you don’t hear a peep from them and they’re off like a shot! You’ll never see a gnome lift a shovel or heft a sack but you might find one spending weeks designing an elaborate coal-lifting engine. No, the army is the place for me.

I have served in the army my entire life and my experiences, wielding the axe in the name of my lord, are what made me what I am. Before I was old enough to lift a weapon or pull the string of a crossbow, I would help my fathers regiment by feeding the Nalrim beasts, polishing the weapons, cleaning the boots. For years i watched and listened as i worked, learning all the while. my friends would come for me, asking me to go climbing or play a game with the gnome children but I wouldn’t leave a job until it was finished. I had a purpose in life even at that young age. I knew what I wanted and I knew this was the way to get it. So, if I went climbing with the others it was because the skill of climbing would come in useful later. I spent my time preparing myself for when the wasteful time of childhood would be over and I could join the clan warriors. If I was to be chosen to guard the gates, then that was as it should be, but I dreamt of the clan warriors and the battlefield.

Today I stood at the foot of Jargal peak and traded with Bipple Barefoot, my halfling friend, for items we need for the upcoming campagin. he is strong and preserving and will never disappoint on our promised trades. He answered my call on the beckoning horn most promptly and along with the special consignment, he delivered the toy he had promised for my son. He is a good friend.”

Khor – the Dwarves of Torgmar-Banor

Dwarves are a short, stalwart race whose warriors are renowed for their skills with the axe. It is a social custom for their men to have impressive beards and they will often plait their hair to keep it out of the way during battle. Rumours persist among most other races that dwarves live in dark and dingy tunnels hewn roughly from the rock but they actually live deep within the mountains in thousands of brilliantly carved out tunnels and underground cities, with streets, halls, libraries, workshops, homes etc. Travellers and adventurers are very unwelcome in their underground abodes but they are tolerated if they have a contribution to make. Dwarves make friends very seldom but when they do, they are fiercely loyal and protective. They have a great respect and admiration for the achievements of their ancestors, and as such, their laws and beliefs tend to be ancient and solid. Their system of law deals with crime in a swift but efficient manner: If you are caught stealing, the courts will confiscate all your possessions; if you commit treason, you will be branded and banished. The death penalty is used only by the military courts to punish desertion, cowardice in the face of danger, etc. their justification for this? A dwarf’s best friend is another dwarf and if your actions endanger the lives of other dwarves, i.e. your comrades in arms, then you do not deserve to live. End of story.

Khor Society
Dwarves are natural fighters and their society, structured around honour and glory is quick to reward excellence. When a particularly sterling warrior is brought to a clanlord’s attention, he will be promoted to a position of responsibility such as kings bodyguard or henchman before being returned to the ranks as a hero. They are then expected to make a name for themselves by continued acts of bravery and heroism above and beyond the call of duty. To fight alongside a hero is what dreams are made of in many a dwarf home throughout the land. Champions are the acknowledged best all-around fighters of their particular regiment and are promoted to this class as an honour of service to their lords. They are then responsible for maintaining the honour of their regiment and for motivating and inspiring the troops to the best of their abilities.

Khor Military
The responsibility of the guard is to protect the gates to the underground cities, the first line of defence against the outside world. usually armed with spears, short swords and shields, they are also used in battles to support the centre point of defensive ranks. the uniforms of the guard vary widely depending upon wich clan they are from and for wich gate they are responsible. for example, the guardians of the great eastern gate (also called the gate of rising sun in some records) are clad in tunics of silver and gold and carry shields emblazoned with a symbol of the sun. the great western gate is protected by guardians who wear deep red and golden tunics and carry shields decorated with a stylised symbol of a setting sun.

War Strategy
Dwarves have had to fight for so long, and for so many reaons, that it is now second nature to most of their kind. The recent lull in the never-ending orc wars has led to decline in the number of veteran dwarves in the standing army. But their absence has been covered up by the introduction of new pike troops, an idea stolen from the Eszmerian human empire. Dwarven love for missile weapons is apparent in their abundant use of crossbows and the like. Artillery has improved immeasureably in recent times with the new “magic” of gunpowder and artillery pieces have been spotted not only in the gnomish workshops but also in various border forts.

Important Places
The stronghold of Torgmar-Banor, located in the heart of the world mountains, is considered to be the strongest of all dwarven fortresses. Composed of incredibly steep cliff faces and more inhospitable areas than you can count on the fingers of many hands, the area has served as a superb fortress for many centuries. The fact that they had no need to continually defend their holdings in the past – as is the case with most other dwarves tribes – has allowed the dwarves and gnomes of Torgmar-Banor to concentrate on pleasureable and practical inventions. A prime example of this creative powerhouse is their underground rail system, wich predates the aboveground rail system found within the empire by at least a decade, and wich boasts hundreds of miles of track. Working on an ingenious system of conveyor belts and cogs that propel the carriages along level runs and up slopes, gravity (and a skilled driver/brakeman) guides it down slopes where it picks up speed to send it on its way. This system is used for practically all long travel within the fortress.

The royal dwarven familiy maintains a clan hall within the strong walls of Torgmar-Banor. Although it is not a castle, as would be expected, the palace was constructed within a large, crystalline chamber within the mountain and it is a glorious sight. In common with most civilised races, dwarves wear different types of uniforms and armour, etc. to identify their allegiance to certain cities or strongholds. These outfits and their corresponding markings are often quite distinctive. the military leaders of their people, the lords are answerable only to the king (the absolute ruler of the many dwarven clans) and are highly respected. With a council of advisors and scholars at their side, they rule jointly over the dwarven armies. It is not unusual for a clanlord to rule for several centuries, stopping only when he is physically unable to lead the army into battle. Following this retirement, he is automatically entitled to join the council of advisors.

Allies & Enemies
Dwarves have a strong relationship with halflings, obtaining food, etc. for protection and gold. although dwarves have “officially” ended their wars with the orcs, they hate them still and dislike the Formorian and all goblins (including nightlings). They will ally with certain sun elf families and the human empires of eszme and lyeness.

Wizardry & Religion
As the dwarves follow no religion (at least not officially) but instead believe firmly in the tenets of existentialism, their teachings focus on existence, change, freedom and self cognisance rather than the worship of an unseen being (it is true that dwarves often worship their ancestors but this should not be confused with a religion, as such). their philosophers also function as teachers in dwarven society.

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Eszmeria – the Humans

“As high councillor and advisor to the king, i sometimes think that I, Ospin Miere, am the only honest person within this state of office. I have no hidden agenda, no devious plans to assert control. No, I am here to ensure that others with such ideas and leanings are kept well away from the King. Others, wether they are listening just a little too closely to the church or basing their decisions on which trade route will most benefit them, do not have the best interests of Eszmeria in mind. I do and I shall do everything within my power to make sure that Eszmeria remains the greatest kingdom in the world. You would like an example? Then I would remind you of the disastrous alliance with the Hadab that lesser councillor ABC and his cronies tried to foist upon king Bardolf! That alliance would have cost us dearly and I had to argue non-stop through seven sessions, without a single rest or draft of water to soothe my throat, to crush the proposal and bury it. That shows my dedication. And was I justified? The prosperity we currently enjoy is answer enough for that question.

This season, as the snow settles the ground, the Pagan are striking us again, torching our towns and settlements in the north. They claim that it is revenge for the attacks we made last summer but they were not attacks. We travelled to their lands to trade and preach; they are the ones who attacked us! Our forces were just defending themselves. Look closely at the robes I am wearing – the material for this garment was traded to us by the Barbarians before they took umbrage at our presence. We would have paid with silver but they gave us no choice but to pay with cold steel. We gained some pretty cloth and they lost their lives. Hardly a fair exchange from their point of view.

Eszmeria is a great land and our warriors are forging a new world, moving our borders even further in all directions. While the kings guard and the holy templars do not always see eye-to-eye, they have the same purpose on mind. There will come a time when this entire land is ours, from sea to sea, and we must make others ready for this.”

Eszmeria – the Church State

The inhabitants of Eszmeria are almost exclusively human. The sprawling, landlocked kingdom of Eszmeria is an enigma to many. To some, it is clearly ruled by King Reynard Bardolf and Queen Beatrix; to others, the Church (led by the Arch Bishop Francis Whyte) is the controlling power. They are both right, to an extend, but the subject is not open to debate – at least not in public. The relationship between Bardolf and Whyte is unique – Whyte accepts Bardolf as the ruler and bows to his decisions but Bardolf, as a god-fearing man, is highly influenced by Whyte and lets him know that. The Queen, on the other hand, accepts Bardolf as the ruler and distrusts, some might say dislikes, Whyte and the power he has over the king. She has built up quite a clandestine following devoted to her and opposed to the church and its heavy-handed ways. it is a strange, and immently volatile situation.

King Bardolf’s appetite for conquest (along with the well oiled propaganda machine within his court of trusted advisors) ensures that the armed forces loyal to the crown are forever growing. It is considered a position of honour to serve in the military, to be a part of things in this grand continuing quest for glory. The King and queen live in seperate cities within the kingdom and each controls an army on its own. While each army is, of course, loyal to Eszmeria, they are devoted to their leader first, be it king or queen. The church on the other hand, sees this as an excellent watering-down of power as the church army answers to Whyte alone – with no divided loyalities to worry about.

The Church, headed by the Arch Bishop Francis Whyte, maintains a military force for its own defense. Their religion, which features the worship of one all-powerful god and the concept of heaven for those who lead pious, caring lives and hell for those who don’t, is very important to Eszmerians. All aspects of daily life are infused with religious temperament to some degree. Non-believers, be they Eszmerians or Outlanders, are dealt with by the Church-controlled Yruton, a particularly savage brand of holy inquisition. If it becomes common knowledge that one does not truly believe (and no one will protect you if this is indeed the case), he is urged to go and explain his-self. These regular sessions held before a high priest in the  black chamber are not a pleasant experience. The only redemption for non-believers is to be tortured to death for the sake of their immortal soul.

Eszmerians holy Templars, the heavily armored elite knights who crusade against the dark triad and others they see as evil, are answerable to the Church rather than the king or any member of the royal family. They are a particularly vicious opponent as they have no fear of death, believing that they are fighting for the one true cause, and that if they die in battle they will go to heaven as heroes.

Important Places

There are six major city-fortresses within Eszmeria, each important in its own right, and each controlled by a member of the royal family. The well-protected city of Vaitev houses not only the palace of king bardolf but also the magnificent cathedral that represents the supreme headquarters of the church. Radiating out from a grand central square, this city more than any other in the kingdom is indicative of Eszmerian tastes and styles. From the grandeur of the palace to the intricacies of the architecture found in the buildings and houses, this city is a veritable showcase. Aclashane also has its poorer areas of course, where the style of architecture is limited to the amount of plaster one can spread over straw, but this aspect of the city is hidden and not so brightly lit, you might say.

The central castle, home to queen beatrix, is situated in the centre of Miza. Although outsiders think its strange that the king and queen do not share a single palace, the royal family feels that it is better to not “keep all their eggs in one basket”, as it were. Recognised as an Eszmerian centre of learning, the queen supports many universities and colleges within the sanctity of Miza’s fortified walls.

Aclashane is perhaps the most neglected of the Eszmerian cities and is beginning to suffer. Home to the templar training grounds until they where moved to Misthaven together with all church representatives. Aclashane is a city in the far north and controlled by the youngest of the royal heirs. Prince Krafwood. he is resentful of this posting, considering it a punishment of sorts being forced to rule a city which has lost its main industry – taking care of the templars and their needs. The marketplace catered primarily to the tempalrs, along with their household staff and retainers, the pubs and brewhouses served the market traders (and retainers), the blacksmiths served the templars, and so on. Aclashane has definitely seen better days and Krafwood’s ruling abilities are not instilling a great deal of confidence in the townsfolk. The king and his advisors are considering a replacement, without telling the queen of their plans.

The strongest of all Eszmerian cities, due in part ot the fact that it is now the home of the famed templar training grounds, is Misthaven. Situated close to the Scar, it protects the Garnuk pass through which the dark triads tries to invade. Within the fortress walls, Whyte has established a central seminary to lead initiates through his own particular style of preaching and below the grand courtyard, the Vonah sect maintains a black chamber where inquisitors are trained.

Off to the northeast, and the nearest to Hogor and Khor territories, is the city of Ericaport, a craftsmans paradise. Although still well defended, with a large number of soliders stationed there, it is here where the Eszmerian culture is defined for others. Bleridge is the northernmost city in the Eszmerian kingdom and closest to the holdings of the Goriath. Although quite small, Bleridge is well defended.

Partly due to Bardolf’s efforts to expand his borders, and partly due to the horror stories about the Inquisition which filter out, Eszmeria has many enemies – Goriath and Pagan to the north. Hogor and Khor to the northeast, Hadab to the south, and the many evils that represents the dark triad to the east.

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Hadab – the Desert Empire

“Why am I wetting my blade? I am preparing it for tonight and one slip of the wrist and I’ll be dead. It’s as simple as that. This poison, which I – Abbad Sadi – personally developed for the Jy’fa from the sap juices of the Khayegha plant, is so deadly that if my stained blade were to even scratch my skin, I would not have the chance to utter a word before I dropped to the ground. I dip the blade in the juice and allow the sun to dry the droplets upon the steel. Then, when it enters the body of my enemy it is not merely the steel which kills! I once killed four of my enemies by dropping my scabbard into their meal pot! The powder which had gathered there from the knife blade was ufficient to dispatch them all! I always chew my special herbs when I do this for to face this task without their soothing qualities would be impossible and I would quake with fear.

Don’t misunderstand me, though. I’m not afraid to die but I shall die in battle as my father did and his father before him. When my time comes I shall take my seat with them alongside Abu Sa’ha Beelaa al-Qud, the God of the Jy’fa. To die in a foolish accident would be unthinkable and would bring shame upon my family and my guild.

This past week I spent time with our falcon handlers of Mahma Siry, watching in silent amazement as they practised with the newly-acquired northern breed of bird. Faster and more vicious than the southern Falcons, they are trained to attack the faces of mannequins outfitted to resemble Sun Elves and Dwarves mostly, ripping and gouging at the eyes before swiftly flying off and circling for another attack. I would not like to taste their wrath. We rule the skies now with our falcons and Dune Riders. No one else can touch us.

We are a proud, god-fearing race, rich beyond imagination in both gold and culture. Our lives are simple, though, and our homes humble and welcoming. Lustre and ostentatiousness we save for our temples and places of worship; strength and simplicity we save for our city walls. And it is strength we need for the walls as, sadly, it is getting increasingly difficult to trust our former allies. it is as though promises of peace and signed documents mean nothing to them. Especially for the dwarves, they are not just short of stature – they are short of honor!

A storm is brewing, a war approaches which will involve us all and should I die, my place by the Gods is assured. Can my enemies say the same?”

Hadab – the Desert Empire

The Hadab are very different from most other humans who inhabit the world of Ascendallion, with quite unique codes of honor and valor. Females have little or no standing in their society and it is the rare woman who is allowed to excel at anything. Hadab are deeply religious, worshipping many different gods, and praying several times a day. Punishment oftten fits the crime as thieves have their hands cut off, seditious rebels have their tongues cut out, etc.

The Hadab are at home in the desert and their way of life, and costume, reflects this. Although they wear armor when the battle calls for it, their standard outfit is usually composed of light colored fabrics, often with brightly-colored sashes and adornments. They also wear veils across the lower half of their face, primarily to shield themselves from the harshness of the desert sun but also to identify the guild to which they belong. Their textile artisans have also developed an incredibly sheer silk which can be used to veil the entire face, without obstructing vision or breathing. This veil, which is most commonly worn by their fighters during sandstorms, gives them the upper hand over their enemies when the forces of nature join the battle.

Their once stable realm is now fragmented, consisting of the westernmost part of the Djasim Peninsula, Estrean island, and the provinces to the south of Tulmarun. They are aware that their lands bordering the southern seas are quite desirable and their fortress cities of Yar’Hala and Matab (on the Eszmerian border) and An’pha and Yagrah (on the Sun Elf border) are fully manned and well-defended.

Surrounding the island of Estrean, their Corsairs are poised and ready. Estrean, the first in a string of islands extending westwards from the Djasim peninusla, was the former home of Grand Palace of the Caliph, Sovereign of all Hadab. After the Fall, the Dark Triad encroached the island as well as the Eszmerian and Lauron who took the chance to expand their territories by wrenching it from the weakened Hadab. For centuries, the Caliph’s palace was located on the Estrean island, the former capital city of the Hadab kingdom. The proximity of the invaders, though, made it an unsafe place for the emperor and his familiy and Zumal was chosen as their new home.

But Hadab pride is unbreakable and so they moved their political and cultural center onto the main land and rebuild the Caliphs palace in Thaamira-Huda near the Zumal Oasis. This opulent, glittering royal residence is visible from miles away as the sunlight reflects from the millions of multicolored mirrored tiles which decorate it’s walls and towers.

Hadab are skilled warriors in many areas and are justifiably proud of their horsemaen – the Abu Qaar Ajinkis and Riya’ma Sparhis, their assassins – the Jy’fa, and their sky troops – the Abu Neesa Dune Riders.

The Alith Ibn Elite Lancers are covered head-to-toe in chainmail and carry a light spear, while the Abu Ni’mee are more heaviliy armored and are easily recognisable on the battlefield in their black and white uniforms and blood-red shields. Jy’fa, their fanatically dedicated assassins, are superbly skilled, ambidextrous killers. When they are on a covert mission, they are almost always clad in black but in open battle, they are very distinctive, almost blatant. Their white flowing uniforms, adorned with red or gold sashes, are designed to show their arrogance and contempt for their opponents. It boosts the morale of the surrounding troops and causes fear in the approaching enemy, or so they say.

And finally, riding their flying carpets into battle from their protected mountain fortresses, Dune Riders will often take attacking forces by surprise by coming up behind them… making no noise whatsoever.

Sorcerers are revered in Hadab culture and will often have wealth and power only slightly below that of the Grand Caliph. They are the ones who have given the power of flight to the Dune Riders so the army respects them and pays them well for their services. Their manner of magicry if connected in almost every way to the elements, with the spells they cast and the creatures they summon being of the earth, air, fire or water variety. They will often combine elements in their spells and it is in this way that they create their blinding sandstorms, for example. There are followers of black magic as well, with evil intent behind every spell, but they are publicly reviled. In private, the Caliph has frequently called upon their services to take care of a particularly difficult situation regarding the Formorians. But these encounters are never conducted with a middleman so no one else knows… at least, that is what the Caliph thinks.

Yet another side effect of the Formorians and their magical tampering throughout the southeast, Giant Scorpions are now a common sight throughout Voran. While they cannot be trained or easily handled, they can be captured and used against Hadab enemies. The Sun Elves and Eszmerian who regularly invade Voran through the Djasim peninsula prefer to simply destroy the scorpions and their nests instead.

The Hadab are almost always in conflict with either the Lauron or the Eszmerian (or both…), but their greatest enemy are the Formorians as well as their foul creations in form of the Mongrelfolk and Ratkin. Other than the Slavers whose fleet the Corsairs share, they feel no need for allies but are cordial with most races.

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Formoria – the Serpent Kingdom

The desolate, forbidding land of sand and sun-baked cliffs stretched out as far as the eye could see behind the Formorian standing on the hillcrest, her staff adornments fluttering in the dry wind. Vultures and other carrion-birds floated above in the hot currents, black silhouettes against the azure sky. Throwing her arms wide, the Formorian Priestess stood proudly between the massive sandstone lions which served as sphinx-like guardians to the valley of the inner sanctum, and began her speech to the assembled crowd of young formorians their mentors.

“Look around you. Is this valley not grand? Can there be any doubt that we are meant to rule the world? As Salisehk, Priestress of the seventh circle, it is my honoured task to adapt the land we conquer, eleminating the cold and rain, bringing forth the sun to bake the land. It has taken me several decades to transform the valley of the inner sanctum but it is now a place of peace and solitude, of blowing winds and shimmering obsidian shards, of blinding sun and shellack cactii which reach for the sky. It is a place worthy to receive the tombs of our royal family”. She stopped to pause and kneel at the mention of the royal family and the audience followed suit. It was quiet for such a large gathering but the youngers and lessers were aware of the proper procedure when in the presence of a Priestress and they made no sound. Salisehk stood and continued her speech.

“You were brought here today to show what we can achieve and to prepare you for your own challenges once you reach maturity. You are adepts of the first circle and soon you will cross the threshold and enter the next phase of your being. As you shed your skin, so shall you shed the last vestiges of your former life. The tangible magic will come and you will enter the cult, ready to face any challenge! And there is no challenge greater than that of ridding our land of invaders! For many years we have been clearing our homeland of the soft-skinned Hadab. They proved a worthy challenge, more so than any other foe we have faced in the years and we will miss them when they are finally expunged from our land. It is only a matter of time before the palace cities in the west will fall to our overwhelming forces and we cleanse the land. You must now go with the blade masters of J’Ram-Lei, supporting them as they join our forces in the Djasim dessert. Go! It shall be glorious and our legend keepers will tell the tales of this conquest for our children.

Formoria – the Serpent Kingdom

The Formorians are a large snake-like race, generally considered by the majority of the world to be manical killers and slavers who play with magic and who have no interest in anything beyond what they can take from it. This is not that far from the truth. Their magical abilities are still rough and untested and their belief that they are the only true rulers of the world has lead to some very harsh treatment of the Sun Elves and Dune People who formerly shared their land. During a secret alliance in the past, details of which are still unclear, Shadow Elf Sorcerers came to the Formorian homeland and offered to teach their ways of magic to the Formorians. They set no price for this service; rather they seemed satisfied in the knowledge that with these new talents, the Formorians could inflict suffering on the Humans and Elves, who shared their lands. After the Shadow Elf mentors left, Formorian Priests began to experiment and found that, with practice, some of their new spells could alter weather patterns and strip moisture from the lands. So, armed with these new powers, the fledling Priests pushed back the flora which bordered the deserts and the Estrean Wilderness was born. This new land of sand, rock and heat, was in a word, perfect.

One thing they didn’t expect, though, as the spells wreaked their havoc with the land, was that the magical force would mutate certain things rather than eradicate them. In the central area of the Nabor Thaan Wilderness, in the region formerly known as the Eterra Oasis, a new creature appeared. Transformed by the spells which washed over them, the rats which had flourished in the area not only grow in size but also in intelligence. Realising what must have happened, the Formorians took advantage of this new slave labour which they called Ratkin and added them to their armies or set them to work in the new cities which were springing up in the desert. The Formorians chose to ignore the Dune People’s cities which now lay empty in the sun-baked land, preffering instead to pillage and destroy them instead, using pilfered stone and brick to build glorious new Formorian cities.

While some Ratkin seemed to enjoy their new roles, fitting in well, others proved rebellious and deserted or escaped the Formorian work camps. Tasked with creating more, the Priests found they could not recreate the effects of the earlier spells. They started from a different direction, working with larger animals and their human slaves, and the Mongrelfolk (Beastmen) was born. Again, it was not a complete success as many of the new beings were more intelligent than hoped and fought against their captors. As with the Ratkin, though, some Mongrelfolk enjoyed their new roles and remained with the Formorians.

Formorian magic is wielded by priests of progressive strengths, starting at lower levels with the first circle who are able to control and use minor invocations. As their power and training regime intensifies, they move up to the second circle and so on – until finally joining the most powerful magic users of the seventh circle. It is these priests who experimented with the enviroment changing spells with varying degrees of success. The creation of the Estrean Wilderness could be considered a success; the creation of Ratkin and Mongrelfolk perhaps not.

As ferocious carnivores and serious slavers, the Formorian find it difficult to ally with anyone who is warm-blooded and treat most human races as slaves…or cattle. Each birthing season their brood females will yield hundreds of births to each tribe. The sheer number of successful births provides a justification for their incessant need to spread out over the land – they need the space.

There are three distinct racial castes of Formorian: Greater Formorians, Formorians and Lesser Formorians (the last caste is often also reffered to as Xeal). The three types vary in size, number of arms, heads and even legs or tails. Most Formorians are snake-like, they move using their tail – but some of them also feature legs like a lizard or dragon.
The individual size determines their social standing, with the Greater Formorians ruling and dominating all others. There are strict codes of conduct to be followed by the three distinctly different castes and to break the code is to risk banishment.

Indigenous to the Estrean Wilderness are several snake-like reptiles as well. One of them is the Snapper, a waist-high reptile seemingly composed of theeth, claws and little else. The snappers are used by the Formorians in close combat and are fully capable of inflicting large amounts of damage on the other side before they are stopped. The snapper handler also functions as a breeder, maintaing a large herd at all times, so that losses on the battlefield can be made up rather swiftly. However, without the strict control exerted by a handler, the snappers will run rampant around the battlefield attacking everyone … including other Formorians … so the handler needs to be protected all times.

Although the Estrean Wilderness is ruled by the grand Formorians and their Royal Family, its size and geographic position makes it impossible to control well and the armies of the Formorians are constantly under attack. Furthermore, the once so great Formorian Empire is nowadays divided into several smaller provinces, each ruled by a landlord. This patchwork turns ruling their own land into a challenging task, that requires lots of attention of the royal family. The continent of Voran, where the Formorian empire is located is an open and lawless place with a subculture of bounty hunters and lawkeepers who maintain their own form of justice.

The Formorian Royal Family is an enigma. Not only are the greater Formorians and the family treated as Gods by their subjects, they themselves firmly believe that they are gods. They valley of the inner sanctum in the eastern reaches of the Estrean Wilderness is the repository of many royal tombs. Guarded by ancient reptilian beasts, who kept in place by immensly powerful spells. No other race has ever entered this area. Rumor has it that the royal family also guards a dark secret about the origin on the Formorians and their place in the balance of power of the world.

“The Day of Convergence approached and the Formorian Priestess carved one more notch into the retribution staff. Soon, the stones will sing once again, she thought as she brushed away the ebon whittlings and replaced the staff in the ceremonial holder above the mantel. Soon…”

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Hogor – the High Orcs

“I spit on the peace treaty with the dwarves!”

“I am of the Hogor, an Orcish tribe with few allies save our own kind and that is how it should remain. Of the many tribes in this land, we are the fiercest and most powerful. While we trade with the humans for their superior steel, sometimes, and allow the ogres and trolls to join our ranks for battle, sometimes, we should look to our own kind for strong alliances, especially as we face so many enemies. It is a strong alliance we need, to fight the elves who seem to be all around us, to take revenge against the Formorians to the south, with their monstrous beasts, who attack and murder our hunting parties. To the west? The Fallen with their foul ways, skewering their enemies on sharpened poles along the roads, leaving them to rot in the warmth of the sun. They leave us alone and we like it that way, they nave nothing we want. The North? A place filled with Sun Elves, despicable, fragile things who seem to hate everyone for no reason. They live to hate. When an Orc holds hatred in his heart, it is for a reason, a purpose. Beyond them is the land of cold winds ruled by our Goriath cousins. They are strong and many in number but they will not join us against the others…yet.

I spit on the peace treaty which ties our hands! Orcs under my leadership will never trust dwarves, those landgrabbing destroyers, stunted freaks who leech the mountains dry of all their treasures and give nothing in return. No offerings or sacrifices to satisfy the hunger of the mountain god, nothing! The dwarves, who dwell beneath our feet and share their homes with worms, have not changed with the signing of a single piece of parchment and i shall continue to tell this truth at the gatherings under the solid moon.

In their haste to end the dwarf wars, tired of the battles which never came to an end, of an enemy who turned and ran back to the safety of their groundholes every time the tide turned against them, the elders gave too much. They drew up the peace treaty and commanded the gathered clan warchiefs to keep the peace. In turn, we pierced our thumbs and marked the treaty, all the while knowing that we must grow strong, build up stores, hoard the precious steel in our secret meeting places, and wait. The elders would eventually realize their mistake and we would be ready. Ready to take up arms again against the dwarves!

Our weaponsmiths work within the secret fortress of Omaghed with the quality steel even now, forging new blades, new weapons. The warchiefs will not suffer the peace forever and word of “the storm” is out. The Warlocks foretell a conflict on the horizon, a conflict the mystics have named the storm. At the last gathering, as the clans sat around the great fire which sparked and flared, the story was told again and again. The story of an impeding conflict in which our warbands would clear the land of the dwarves forever and would be restored as the warrior kings of this world, taking back our mountain kingdoms. As we listened, each telling grew in passion and fervor until it was as if we were listening to one long story told by many orcs. No matter how they arrived at the conclusion, it was always the return of the warrior kings and the death of all dwarves…and anyone foolish enough to ally themselves with the stunted ones.

The storm is coming!”

Hogor – the High Orcs

The Hogor tribe is seen as the most advanced of all Orcs and has had dealings with practically every other race at one time or another. although this had led to the occasional unnatural alliance, i.e. their temporary team up with a group of Humans at the battle of Gujek during the third dwarf war, for example, they usually follow party lines. The Hogor are ruled by a high council of respected leaders, consisting of great chieftains chosen by the old method of “promotion by combat”. All laws and commands are issued from the most high office. Internal disputes between clans are listened to and ruled upon by all the others involved. Simple and final – no clan would ever oppose the will of the high council for approval and permission, as thoughtless ambitions of the individual can end up dragging all the other clans into expensive wars. A prime example of this is the case of Urul Urgran, leader of the severed claw clan. His arrogance and unwillingness to listen to advisors led his forces into countless unnecesary battles and he was deemed personally responsible for the third and final dwarf war. Following the end of this costly and exceedingly bloody bwar, the various Orc clans within the Hogor tribe held a secret meeting – excluding Urul – and it was decided that he should be executed for the good of the Orcish people. his teeth, with their distinctively large tusks, were then fashioned into a elaborate necklace and presented as a goodwill gift to the dwarves at the signing of the peace accord.

Orcs are an aggressive race and like the challenge of a fight. Fighting is good. If there is not battle to fight or war to wage, they will probably end up fighting each other just to keep practise. They generally prefer hand-to-hand combat, believing that you do not enjoy the power of really inflicting terror until you have held an opponent’s throat in your fist, but they accept that missile weapons are important to the successful and triumphant resolution of many a battle. Smaller Orcs within the tribe, the Runts, are taught the ways of archery thereby allowing them to distinguish themselves in battle despite their smaller stature.

As with practically all elements of Orc life, Clan leaders advance by combat, pitting successful challenges against existing leaders. They then maintain their positions by surrounding themselves with dedicated bodyguards who protect their leader’s life at any cost. Providing the second-in-command from amongst their members for most orc leaders, the elite are extremely well trained warriors who will protect their leades – all the while waiting for an opportunity of their own to advance. The primary mounted troops of the Hogor Orcs are the Boar Riders, a rugged troupe guaranteed to strike fear into the hearts of their opponents as they come bellowing into the fray. While they can be armored, most boars have only minimal covering so as to not diminish their speed. The riders on the other hand are usually well armored, to say the least. Boars are replaceable, skilled riders are not.

While Orc contingents will use Goblin or Nightling scouts, occassionally Orcs assume this responsibility. These are usually the smaller Orcs who don’t quite fit into the fighter/warrior mould and/or are useless with a bow!

The Hogor Warlords are constantly on the prowl, looking to take the best aspects of their foe’s forces and make it their own. The giant boar cavalry, an Orc tradition for centuries, has become strongly influenced by the armor worn by Eszmerian Knights. Also, the adoption of full plate mail armor by Hogor Warriors has led to them considering themselves as the noble race amongst the orcs.

Hogor Orc Warlords should try to pin the enemy with skirmishers or the main battle line troops while they attack the flank or rear with a thunderous charge of Orc Tuskers. Hogor Orcs have recently added War Engines to their forces, a new technology “acquired” from the Gnomes.

Practising a form of magic which appears anachronistic to most other races, Orc magic relies heavily on a variety of components. For example to perform a spell of any power an Orc magic user might need the eye from a bat, three oak leaves, a right front kneecap from a goat and a handful of quartz dust. This makes a magic user reasonably easy to spot on the battlefield as they are the ones with three or four assistants carrying bags of “things”. They also have their fair share of bodyguards so although they can be spotted, they cannot always be reached by the enemy.

Hogor Orcs support no permanent alliances at this time although they do, of course, maintain a close kinship with the Orcs of Goriath. They will ally with some Goblins and Nightlings. They tolerate Humans and even Dwarves but harbour a strong antagonism against the Sun Elves for many different reasons.

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Mongrelfolk – the Beastmen

“There is no waste after a battle. He is finished with his fine boots, isn’t he? He has no need for them now and I can use them to barter with, at one of the many stalls in the Zandu marketplace. They have a trade value and I want something fancy to eat. The harshness of the sands has exhausted me and I refuse to eat any more cactus flowers! They are all I have eaten for days and they stick in my gullet, the mere thought of their texture makes me retch. I want some ale and some real food, some meat for now and a haunch to carry with me.

There is safety in numbers and our herd is large, but we have to keep moving. The battle has ravaged this land, the food is gone and our leaders say that the south is where we should go. Our herd numbers in the many hundreds and we can eat anything but sometimes there is nothing. When the threat of starvation hangs over our heads, then we serve the Formorians as we do now. They feed us and our families and we survive another season, but it is not all good. We are forced to fight in the front ranks and we are the first to fall. I accept that it is as it should be. If we are destined to fall then we shall fall but why was it ordained that my clanbrothers should die on the first day of the Khalsastra campaign? I continued alone, my anger stronger than ever before and the axe in my hands turned into a death machine. I survived my clanbrothers to avenge their death’s, one life at a time, but victory did not erease this loss I felt. I feel that still.

I run with the pack, alone and strong with no brothers and no family. I am strong and I live, I roam the world with my pack and my life is in the killing of those who would confront us. There will come a time when we will have a homeland of our own, when we can create a new history for our people, but for now, we fight for the reptiles and my family eats.”

Mongrelfolk – the Beastmen

Beastmen were created by the Formorians to serve as slave labour and to function as mindless mercenaries. While some function in this capacity within the realm of the Formorians, many broke away from their despotic rulers and made the desert their home. These nomadic outcasts now wander the land, bitter and resentful, fighting for food and survival and attacking the Formorians at every opportunity. They are most angered by the fact that they have no realm to call their own and no land to lay down their roots despite a tiny enclave in Marmundi, a harsh scrubland in the northern part of the continent Voran. The Hadab avoid this part of the continent, as it is a inhospitable place without any resources worth to exploit. Mongrelfolk especially despise the Ratkin, laying them blame for their creation and exploitation firmly at their feet. While the Ratkin had nothing to do with it – as it was their accidental creation which led the Formorians trying again and the Beastmen know this.

A visual mishmash of horrible half-beasts, covered in the armor of history’s fallen, their scavenging is second in scope only to the Ratkin and their armories feature weapons and tools from every known race. Although vicious and deadly, Mongrelfolk warriors never really become attached to any specific weapon, preferring to have skills in many different types. For this reason, it is difficult to gauge what to expect, or which style of combat to prepare for, when you confront a contingent of these mongrels. They will steal weapons from the dead, swapping their maces and axes for polished steel, if they think it will improve their chances in the next battle.

Mongrelfolk Warfare
Since the days of their slave revolt and escape from the clutches of the Formorian, the Mongrels have been looking for a fighting style which suits their physical build and state of mind. Function tends to follow form and in this way, the Centaurs used by the Formorians as beasts of burden have become the Mongrelfolk army’s mobile force. The prsence of a Minotaur, the powerhouse of a Beastman force, on the battlefield will inspire and motivate heroes and champions to follow them. Mongrelfolk warriors are fast and vicious but will not stand up well to a long fight. This has been compensated for in recent times with the training of new legions who fight in deeper formations with the added sting that they throw javelins into the oncoming contingent just before contact. Mongrelfolk Berserkers, who have lost all sense of reason and now exist just to fight, are herded into units for use as shock troops. These Fanatics almost always die in the attempt to demoralize the opponent army, but not without taking a dozen of their enemies with them. It is said that those Berserks kill themselves after their bloody rampage if they run out of targets.

Mongrelfolk Military
To come across a battlefield after it has been gone over by victorious Beastmen is a gory and disturbing sight. Any piece of intact clothing or footwear and all weapons and shields are gone, stripped from the corpses. While it disgusts the other races, angry as they are that the Mongrels show their dead no respect, the Beastmen themselves have no qualms about ransacking the losers – or even eating them on some occasions. It is not an evil act to them but rather a logical progression of their belief that it was their victim’s time to die and that the dead have no further need of equipment, clothing or gold.

Occasionally, a Mongrel will emerge from the ranks who is considerably sharper than his comrades and it is this intelligence which pushes them into the role of a leader. They realize that the better they are at commanding their forces, and the more successful their skirmishes and battles, the more they will be rewarded. Consequently, Leaders will do almost anything to remain at the top and will amply reward those who follow them. Large tribes will only gather if they have a particularly strong and charismatic leader. These gatherings rarely last, though, and while you will see tribes numbering in the thousands, it will be very rare indeed to find an army composed entirely of Beastmen.

In the past, Minotaurs more often than not were solitary creatures who kept to themselves, hating even the company of their own kind. When the Mongrelfolk appeared in their world, they were encouraged by the opportunities to bully and control them. They gradually came out of their shell, as it were, as they realised that they could use the easily manipulated Beastmen to their own advantage. Being excellent fighters themselves, the Minotaurs discovered that they were very effective in combat and with a little help, the Mongrels were too.

The only problem was that their style of fighting didn’t lend itself to military tactics. A tactic they developed in early battles which they still utilize is the so-called Horns tactic. Basically, a main mass of Mongrels in a centre field of battle would slowly march towards the enemy. To each side of this main block would either be Boar Riders or Centaurs. The idea being that the main block would engage and swarm into the enemy and the flanks – the Horns – would close in about the rear. While the tactic worked, it was not a tactic they could use repeatedly and they are continually developing their military skills.

Wizardry & Religion
Fatalism, the Mongrelfolk religion is a dark, clouded subject and is never discussed or openly practised outside their own ranks. They believe that all events are predetermined and controlled and that the individual can do nothing to change it’s destiny. This belief structure makes them formidable opponents as they do not panic if a campaign goes wrong, or a battle is lost, and they waste almost no time on grief for fallen comrades. They just keep thundering on. The fact that they are a created race, and they know it, probably has a lot to do with their choice of faith.

Although from the opposite side of the battlefield, they might appear to be allied with the Formorians, they have no allies and desire none. They will serve as mercenaries for the duration of the campaign, the ones paying them are their allies. However once the battle is concluded, so is the alliance…until the next time.

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Norlon – the Shadow Elves

“Yes, it’s true. I am a first order scout of the southern reaches and I wear the black rose cluster. I took my first token of flesh at the battle of Areon plains and I wear it still, encased in silver around my left wrist as it is the fashion. They call me Imuril Derabel and the Zanimar labyrinth is my home, as it was my father’s and his before him. The markings you see on the wall, the intricate patterns and outlines, tell the story of when we first made these caves and others like them our home. This is our history, as place of beauty we have shared with the earth spirits for a thousand years. Do not believe this forest dweller, the pale-skinned wild elf, when he tells you that we were cast out of the forest. Hah! We were not cast out, we left by choice, stifled by the woods and leaves and animals! We knew that if we stayed with them we would never advance, never be a true power, so we headed out on our own to write our own destiny. A destiny of accomplishment and adventure! What hope did they have? Hiding in the trees, afraid of their own shadows and talking to men made of wood. Were we wrong to desire a more structured life, a world surrounded by the strength of impenetrable stone, a world of glorious darkness? I think not.

And their magic users, the Naru? What can they do if they have no wood to play with, no leaves from wich to make their poultices? Nothing! Our sorcerers can strip the flesh from a man’s bones and then reduce the bones to powder, all with a sideways glance and a flick of the wrist! They are nothing and we are everything!

You want to hear of our victories? They are many – have you the time? During the battle of Mal Yei we fought the Orcs of Goriath for the first time. That was a welcome challenge. The caves below Kirek ran bright scarlet that autumn morning, the ice and snow stained with orc blood, so we now wear a crimson crest upon our shields. That morning was like no other and while I feel great pride in having been there, our losses were great. I am positive that the Goriath knew we were coming! There is no other way they could have surprised us on the beach like that as we emerged from the cave mouth. If we ever find out who sold us over, they will feel a wrath like no other they have every experienced. But I cannot dwell on that. There is Voran to consider and we only have a few days to prepare. We are to accompany Lord Azarfar on what is referred to as a “diplomatic” mission. The mere thought of diplomacy is distasteful to my clique but we shall honor the assignment, riding the hidden, underground river to the meeting place so that no spies may report on our progress. There, Lord Azarfar will work on strengthening our alliance with the Hadab, supportend them in their fight against the Sun Elves. Although we appear to have similar goals, I still don’t fully trust them. They seem overly friendly and I feel they may have something up their sleeves. Or on those carpets their Sorcerers ride through the air. They spook me with their silent approach and I shall keep my hands near the hilt of my blade throughout the meeting.

I cannot say that I am entirely comfortable with these recent overtures at “friendship” with other races. We do not need them, they do not appreciate or respect us, so where do we go with this? It is better that we stay as we are, sequestered in our places of strength. Let them come to us, that’s what.”

Norlon – the Shadow Elves

With harsh features and a reputation to match, Shadow Elves are a particularly nasty race who believe that they are the only true elves. They do not see themselves as nasty or evil, their view is simply that it’s the other races which have strayed from the right path. A popular Shadow Elf saying which succinctly explains their philosophy is “those who allow others to pass will soon be left behind”. Suffice it to say that Shadow Elves are continually pushing forward.

The Norlon despise Humans and their ways and feel that the other elvish races are far too Human in their outlook, at times ignoring their elven heritage. This statement is actually not true, in any sense of the word, but that doesn’t stop the Shadow Elves from believing it. It is rumored that they cut the tips off the ears of elves they capture, “humanising” their appearance to match their actions, but this is believed to be apocryphal. While it is true that there are subtle and not-so-subtle color variations in the skin tone of every race, there are none so extreme as the difference between the Norlon of the south and those who live in the northern regions. Southern earldoms have deep-red skin like the color of molten lava while those of the north have blue skin and often dark-blue or purple hair. There is no clear reason for this regional difference but it is believed to date back to the time of the first age. No record exists which details what happened back then, but cave drawings and pictographs deep in the Zanimar cave system, as yet undeciphered, may hold the key.

When actively engaged in war, they enjoy inflicting as much terror and death as possible in their efforts to rout the enemy. Their Sacrificers follow them on every campagin to ensure regular offerings to the gods of war. They have been known to torture captured scouts and slaves en masse before a battle, using their terrified screams and agonising wails as the precursor to a disturbing battle chant of howls and shrieks. This caterwauling is sure to strike a nerve in even the most battle-hardened opponent.

Although they would better be classified as sadistic torturers, Shadow Elf scouts are very successful at finding out information from the other side, by whatever means necessary. They don’t bother to disguise their profession and will often have various implements of pain-infliction hanging from their belts, dangling from their saddles, or attached to an captive. Their arrogance is perceived to be one of their strengths as they exhibit no fear or dread regardless of the severity of the situation. They wear blackened chainmail and dulled partial plate, often adorned with bright red or blue flashes, and carry blackened scimitars and longbows. Norlon are proficient with a variety of contact poisons and paralyzing agents and their herbalists will pay highly for new plants and grains from distant places, hoping to create unique new potions of liquid wickedness.

Although Shadow Elves are known to use many different animals for their mounted troops, they tend to shy away from horses in favor of giant reptilian creatures manipulated and changed by their sorcerers. These beasts have been bred with a craving for human flesh and once they enter a battlefield, human opponents have as much to fear from the mounts as from the riders. Sorcery is a powerful element of Norlon culture and the several sects are highly revered. Witchcraft, although rare, is also practised by Shadow Elves, their Sorceresses and Witches are exceedingly beautiful, their spells making them irrestibile to males of all races, with two notable exceptions: Eszmerian Knight Templars and Undead.

As with all elven races, the strategies and tactics of the Norlon forces have been tried and tested over many centuries of constant war with most of the races which make up the world of Ascendallion. Thier standard formation will include a wall of warriors mixed with crossbowmen who fire home the charge when an enemy becomes disorganized. Labyrinth Guard will often leave their underground posts to either lay in ambush or to seize a dominant terrain feature. Beast Riders and Sacrificers are normally held in reserve and used to finish off a broken opponent.

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