Yeesh, I have been a bum about this site again lately. In the interest of dialing things down a notch and letting myself not take things too seriously (don’t worry, there will be rants aplenty coming) I am just putting out some fanfic sort of stuff. Nothing too serious. This is a bit of unspoken back story to an older campaign setting, From the Ashes, that TSR, the original owners of Dungeons and Dragons, put out. This should be particularly fun for those familiar with the World of Greyhawk and the Pomarj, but hopefully the rest of you will like it too.
The Rise of Turosh Mok
Crowded encampments litter the field under a starlit sky barely visible through the glare of so many fires. They part, just a little, as the latest arrivals walk among them. The well groomed, well trained goblins, bugbears and hobgoblins of the Silent Howl sneer with controlled contempt toward their kinsmen and the orcs, hyena like gnolls, and ogres assembled. The small camps shift to make a large clearing for Dargivrek and his mercenary band. In a crowd of killers he is perhaps the most feared and envied, and the fleeting glances of rage from the others gives testament to his reputation, as well as that of his tribe.
He marches at the front, not in the middle of the ranks surrounded by guards as so many other leaders in this motley gathering do. He fears no man, woman, beast or demon. His Silent Howl were the only survivors of the last battle between the Horned Society and Furyondy. The shining, armored men fell upon the great host of the Society like a winter gale and when all was said and done he was left with half his men, ten times what any other goblinoid battalion left with. He cut down a prince or two before his employers turned tail back for their lands and when the contract was thus nulled Dargivrek and his troops cut their way out acre by acre, man by man, horse by horse and paying with blood for every step. They survived because they were strong, because they were cunning, but most of all because they were disciplined.
Each member of the tribe knew their place. Each performed their duties with an almost religious zeal, even the small and weak goblins. Efficient and relentless, there was no one tribe that they could not roll over and each other present knew this. Dargivrek respected discipline far more than strength. Yes brute force had its place, but untrained, unfocused, untargeted, a wise foe could turn it against you. Few among his kind, and even less among the children of Gruumsh or the braying hordes of Gnolls understood this. That is why he appreciated his rival marching next to him.
Nogirist had been a captain in the Silent Howl during the leadership of Dargrivek’s father. Rather than stay when Shulmut the Guileless betrayed Durgimuk Nogirist left and founded his own, much smaller tribe. The Crimson Knife did not enjoy the reputation for glory that the Silent Howl did, but they were as orderly and the band was well liked among slavers, smugglers and pirates who needed muscle in their ports of call. So when Nogirist told Dargivrek he needed to hear what this new player in the Pomarj had to say, he gave him the benefit of the doubt. As his men broke ranks and set camp he wondered if he should have. The two mercenary bands stuck out like a rose on a snowswept field among the ragtag hordes, tribes, clans and parties gathering under the Drachensgrab Hills.
Only once the camp was made did he take a seat in the center near the great fire they would build. His friend, and one time tutor, sat next to him silently. Nogirist knew that Dargivrek had an unfavorable opinion of many of their kind, and looked even more poorly on the other races present. For his part Dargivrek just watched the others through the lane his men left toward hills. He saw the others in drunken revelry. He held his cloak close to himself against the winds as others stumbled about shirtless. His soldiers would not be so foolish. Too many of their kind took willingness to suffer harm to mean an eagerness to suffer it. It was rank stupidity and the reason the other races ran rough over them. He snarled as he observed them, and more so as the bumbling half breed brought their wood.
The cart was rickety and worn, the mule haggard, but each looked as sturdy as the Spine of the World compared the hunched and nervous creature unloading the firewood. Several times he dropped an arm full before he reached the pit. Once he dropped a large piece very near to Dargivrek. He cowed as the hobgoblin growled low, but neither said a word. Was the wretch expecting a reaction from him? Dargivrek wondered if he should give him one. The boy was clearly a spy. Perhaps he should give him a show? Sensing his former pupil’s intent it was Nogirist who started the conversation.
“You should listen to me cousin,” the graying, one eyed goblinoid grunted, “a new wind is blowing and it is blowing our way. You need only pay attention and you’ll notice it.”
“Am I supposed to be impressed that some upstart managed to get these fools to gather?” Dargivrek coughed.
“You gathered.” Nogirist laughed.
“Because I trust your word old man.” The words were spat with an thinly veiled warning. “I will listen to this boy, this Turosh Mok, and then I will mock him, and any who would follow him, and then go my way. I hope you have the sense to do the same. My men could do with the laugh, and so could I.”
“Not every band gathered is a waste.”
“Most are.” The mercenary took a pull from his wine skin.
“You’ve heard the stories. He’s won quite a few campaigns. He brought the Wild Death gnolls to heel. Not many could do that. Could you?”
“No, I’d cull them like the mad dogs they are. They bring their race lower than it already is.”
“Still, he managed it. He turned an elven war party away in the north when the scrawny bastards came down on their damned winged horses.”
“I’m not saying he doesn’t have strength,” Dargivrek nodded and eyed the half-orc as he struggled to light the fire, “it takes more than strength to do what you say he is trying. All the Pomarj under one banner? Besides, the Silent Howl hasn’t been part of the Pomarj properly for decades. The Crimson Knife never was.”
“Almost time sirs.” The half orc whispered nervously to them. “You come to hear Turosh Mok?”
“Yes, boy,” Dargivrek grunted, “we come to hear, and to mock.”
“Because I have seen it before, and they always fail. The tribes of the Pomarj will never find a leader to unify them. He is a child scrambling for his sire’s approval, and thinks he will find it in this mass of chaotic mess. He thinks he can carve an empire for himself. He will carve his place in the humans’ history books to be certain. The fool will be remembered for spending the lives of countless orcs, goblins, gnolls and ogres on the walls of the human and elven cities. Now go ahead,” Dagivrek stood and through a piece of wood at the bent servant, “go tell your master what I said you little spy!”
The half orc gimped his way from the hobgoblin captain, looking over his shoulder the whole time. As he did so Dargivrek slapped Nogirist on the shoulder. His friend, his only friend, went about their camp to reassemble the troops.
“Gok opf!” He shouted and the soldiers filed into their ranks. He pointed at two bugbears and yelled “Juey vek reys” and they took their places tending the growing fire. The rest followed the two tested warriors who in turn followed the limping servant as other camps rose behind them.
Eight abreast, save for the two captains at the front, the Silent Howl and Crimson Knife kept a slow, orderly, pace behind the wretched slave. They laughed and hurled insults to speed him along, until the “discipline before all else” Dargivrek looked angrily back at them. The rest of the walk was uncomfortably silent as others marched along side them. To his left was Umish the Wide, a mighty orcish warrior to be sure. The mercenary leader knew he could never take this brute in a fair fight, but then, he never intended to ever be in a fair fight. To their right was the tribe of Velenough, the Ghost Dogs of the Pomarj: long snouted, drooling gnolls who once even gave the Silent Howl a decent fight when they were sent to clear the savages from the outskirts of a pirate town. A grudging respect was due these two, but no others among the horde following them, certainly not the whimpering, whispering fool ahead of them. As they neared the foot of the great hill a stage came into sight.
Standing in the light of the great torches was Nughroon, newest leader of the Wild Death. On the other end of the stage, decked out in shining jewelry and a gaudy crown was a goblin. This had to be Mugerut. So the boy convinced the Emperor of Burrows to join him. What did this prove? At the center stood a bare chested orc, his left tusk broken but otherwise he cut an even more imposing presence than Umish. Certainly this could not be the mighty Turosh Mok? He had been told the young captain was a half breed. The orc glowered down at them, gripping a mighty weapon with an axe at each end. He took his measure of the warrior who watched the limping servant. It was then that Dargivrek noted the change. The slave was no longer limping, but striding, and as he reached the stage nearly as high as himself he vaulted upward using one hand to pull himself into the air. With one smooth motion he grabbed the double headed axe, hefted it above his head as he let his hood drop, turned around and shouted:
”I am Turosh Mok!” A great roar from the crowd rose on either side of the Silent Howl. Their leader smirked. It was an adorable ploy to be certain, right out of the humans’ fairy tales. The boy was not as tall as he imagined, but he was also no runt. The cacophony around them no doubt came from those already loyal to the half blood. Did he intend to make them fight their way out if they did not swear themselves to him? If so, they were ready. In the middle ranks their archers already had arrows ready to fly to force the hordes toward their waiting spears. This was one beast that would not be easily trapped.
“I am Turosh Mok!” The half orc repeated. “And I am here with a gift unlike that you have ever had: a kingdom of your own!” Again the crowd shouted its approval.
For his part Dargrivrek smirked: so far nothing new. What do you have to offer boy? How will you keep these rivals who so readily kill each other and themselves in an orgy of bloodlust and hatred under your heel?
”There are those that doubt.” Mok paced the stage. “I cannot say I blame you. Look at us! We are so eager for blood, ready to fight, and if no foe presents itself, then why not kill each other?” Now this was something different. “but I tell you there is already a foe and you know it well. How long have we been chased from our homes by the so-called “fair” races? How long has it been since orc or goblin have returned without molestation to the Lortmills that are our birthright?”
”There are those that doubt,” he glanced only briefly at Dargrivrek, “those that believe I am child scrambling for my father’s approval! I tell you now, even if I wanted it is no longer his to give!” He reached into a bag offered by the tall orc and pulled out a fat, rotting orc head.
”My father was weak, and foolish. So he died a fools death, at my hands. Every orc, every goblin, every gnoll and ogre must know their place. My father did not know his, so I took it from him.” The captain of the Silent Howl felt the words strike him deep in his soul: each in their place.
”We can do this, together, if we finally stand unified, if we learn to order ourselves and our mighty passions. We can make the Pomarj, our rightful home, a mighty empire, and carve new borders for it. We can take by right of force the lands the weakling races squat on with stupefied contentment. We are more than servants, more than minions! We are not the brutes that many a necromancer or half demon mad man would throw on elven swords. We are the true masters of the Flanaess and it is time to we began acting like it!
”We will rule! We will remind the soft races why they have nightmares about us! We will only do that if we come together and learn our rightful place: taking our rightful place, to make our place!”
There was a long pause and an unbearable silence. Turosh Mok made a point to not look toward the Silent Howl at all. The words sunk in. The idea sunk in. Each in their rightful place, just as Dargivrek commanded of his soldiers. He could do it, this cunning and mad boy, with a well trained commander helping him remind everyone of their place. Their land, and the elves, gnomes, dwarves and humans would soon know their place: running from them. They would do it.
”For the Pomarj!” Dargivrek raised his fist in the air and Turosh Mok smiled down at him. He understood who he needed, and now he had him. All others would soon fall in line.