Category Archives: Urduuk

Splitpaw Down Under, Part Two

The Splitpaw gnolls proved to be a more dangerous adversary than the Rallosians had suspected, although not exactly for the reasons one might suppose. In Part Two, Gippy tries to play both sides.
“So General Urduuk arranged a guide through Splitpaw, eh?” The Rallosian lieutenant considered this thoughtfully and for so long that Gippy thought the trick was up for sure. Then the lieutenant nodded and yelled, “The General provides for us! All hail Urduuk, the Arm of the Avatar!” The Rallosians took up the cry and Gippy joined them wondering whether he’d ever get his hearing back and what the General was doing with the arm of the…what was it?

The Rallosians outfitted Gippy in better armor. It was still a cast-off piece from a fallen foe, but at least this time there wasn’t a gaping hole to leave his chest exposed. Gippy was liking the ogres better and better already. They invited him to play a game of thrown bones, but Gippy declined. “I need to go back to Splitpaw; keep them off their guard,” he told the lieutenant. “You know how some gnolls are.” The lieutenant didn’t, but he wasn’t going to gainsay someone working for the General.

Gippy walked slowly away from the Rallosian camp until he was out of arrow range, then ran toward Splitpaw as though the entire Army were at his heels. “What have you gone and done now, Gippy?” he asked himself over and over again as he ran. He tried out various ways out of the mess as he scampered along but they all had the same unfortunate ending — Gippy with his throat slit, or Gippy burnt at the stake, or Gippy for dinner.

As soon as he reached the lair, Gippy headed for his room. He’d best pack up now before anyone knew he was there. Unfortunately, Muddy had known Gippy from the time Gippy was a pup and he knew all of Gippy’s tricks. When Gippy flung open the door, two gnoll guards were waiting for him and they marched him back through the winding halls to meet with Muddy.

“Well? What are them ogres up to, Gippy?” demanded Muddy rather sourly. “They’ve destroyed the aviak town,” Gippy said, adding, “They’re heading this way next. We’d best pack up and leave.” Muddy curled his lips back, baring his fangs. “Why are you in those clothes, Gippy? You’re wearing the enemy’s colors!” Gippy glanced down and shrugged, “I’m a scout, sir…it was the easiest way to slip in amongst the troops. Camouflage, you know.”

“All right, we pack up and leave. Gippy, I don’t know what you’re trying to pull off or what sort of scam you’ve got going now. You’re not telling us everything, or I’m a goblin,” Muddy snapped. “You can stay behind with the rear guard and make sure the ogres get a traditional gnoll welcome.” Gippy stretched his lips back into a smile. “Yes, sir!” he said with a crisp salute. What, he wondered, was a traditional gnoll welcome?

“Wait, what’s that?” Muddy asked suddenly, his ears twitching and his tongue tasting the air. Gippy heard something, too, a faint, rhythmic thrumming sound that rose out of the lair’s floor and into his paws. “I’m not sure,” Gippy said, “but it sure is catchy!” Muddy thwapped Gippy on the back of the head and snarled, “You idiot, them’s war drums! Those ogres are coming!”

The gnolls were not known for keeping their heads in the best of circumstances. With the ogres’ drums getting louder by the minute, the lair was thrown into complete chaos. Gippy managed to pick quite a few pockets as gnolls rushed hither and yon, trying to figure out the best way to save their skins. With the pockets of his new armor filled with silvers, Gippy headed out of the lair’s unguarded entrance and watched the Rallosian Army advance.

At this distance, all the ogre units looked the same. Gippy furrowed his brow, wondering how he would locate the lieutenant who’d bought into his story about being their guide. Perhaps returning to the lair had been a bad idea. Gippy decided not to run through different plans in his mind; they always ended unhappily and he wanted to face this crisis a little more optimistically.

To the Rallosians, all gnolls looked alike. It wasn’t until after the Army had ransacked the lair and slapped all the gnolls they found (including Flemm, who’d fallen asleep in the kitchens) in irons that they realized their guide was missing. They found Gippy’s body later, still wearing his Rallosian armor and as full of arrows as a pincushion, beside the entrance to the Lair.

Splitpaw Down Under, Part One

The Splitpaw gnolls proved to be a more dangerous adversary than the Rallosians had suspected, although not exactly for the reasons one might suppose. In Part One, we meet Gippy, a Splitpaw gnoll scout. Sort of.
It was Gippy’s turn to watch that day. Gippy had paid Flemm to take his shift. Flemm forgot. And so the Rallosian Army was within a day’s march before the gnolls of the Splitpaw Lair were aware of them. Over the years, the name of the den changed constantly depending on which gnoll clan was in the ascendancy; this season, the Splitpaws were in charge and they were not happy with Gippy.

“Look at them, there are rows after rows of them in armor and with weapons,” grumbled Muddy, the current Splitpaw chief. “No thanks to you, Gippy.” Gippy kicked Flemm, who said nothing. Muddy continued, “We can’t trust you father than we can throw you, but we can throw you to the ogres now. Gippy, your job is head on out there and find out where the ogres are going. They best be going elsewhere, if you know what’s good for you.”

Grumbling the entire way, Gippy went to the armory and selected some gear. Many gnolls owned their own armor, but Gippy never saved enough to buy some and he was too lazy to make his own. Fortunately, the gnolls hoarded what they found through the Plains of Karana and lent it generously to its soldiers. “Can I get one without a hole in the chest?” Gippy asked the armorer. “You’re just lucky I don’t give you one with a target on it,” the armorer grumbled. “Now git!”

Gippy felt the other gnolls did not appreciate his abilities. There was not a single copper that Gippy could not find a way to increase somehow and use to his benefit. Sure, he had nothing saved up, but he was generous. Why, half the gnolls on the scout team were on his payroll with tasks such as responding to his name during roll call or standing watch. Although, Gippy reflected, now he would need to find someone to replace the irresponsible Flemm who had let them all down.

The ogres were making no secret of their progress. Gippy watched in a fascinated horror as they circled the aviak town and razed it to the ground. He was so busy watching them and fretting that he did not see the Rallosian scout until the scout had him by one of his ears. “Ow! Ow! Let me go!” Gippy yelped in anguish. The Rallosian laughed, “No, you come with me and we’ll see what you know.”

“This doesn’t look good,” thought Gippy miserably as he and the Rallosian scout marched toward the Rallosian Army. For one thing, Gippy knew there weren’t enough coppers clinking in his pockets to pay off anyone, let alone an ogre. He turned over scenarios in his mind and each of them had the same unfortunate endings — Gippy on a stick, or Gippy roasting on an open fire, or Gippy for dinner. It was a sobering walk.

The scout pushed Gippy to the ground before the ogre lieutenant. “What’s this? Who brought their pet dog to war?” laughed the lieutenant with a snarl. The ogres laughed with him and Gippy tried to laugh as well, but it came out as a nervous, high-pitched whimper instead. “What were you doing looking at us, dog?” snapped the lieutenant, yanking Gippy closer. So close that the ogre’s most unpleasant breath wafted over Gippy in a suffocating cloud.

“Why, I’ve been waiting for you! You’re late! The boss said you’d be here two days ago,” Gippy said, throwing as much anger into his voice as possible. The ogre curled his fist and asked menacingly, “What do you mean, the boss? Do you speak of General Urduuk, dog?” “He’s the chief, ain’t he?” said Gippy saucily. “You’re lucky he’s not here or he’d flay you alive for the way you’re treating me. I’ll be sure he hears about this!”

The ogres glanced uneasily at one another. They knew that General Urduuk had made contacts and advances with various folk to speed the Army’s advance…but a gnoll? A gnoll wearing an ill-fitting old hauberk with an enormous hole in the chest? “You don’t seriously mean you don’t know about me?” Gippy said, seizing their moment of confusion. “I guess General Urduuk doesn’t trust you. Ah, me.” He heaved a dramatic sigh and gave the lieutenant a pitying glance.

“Of course he trusts me!” shouted the lieutenant so that all his men could hear. “We’ve been at war and I…I forgot for a moment. We were just having sport with you, fuzzy face.” The lieutenant gave another laugh, this one more cautious. “So why were you waiting for us?” Gippy brushed off his legs and straightened the old hauberk before responding with a haughty look, “I’m your guide.”

3rd Lieutenant Gerrog – Logbook

3rd Lieutenant Gerrog – Logbook
Second Edition

This is the journal of a very important Lieutenant in the Second Rallosian Empire.

Entry 14: We march through the Feerott. It is a good march. It is a quiet march. Nothing lives within the Feerrott since we have last passed through. The General personally leads us. The Arm of Vallon marches behind us. The Rathetear Mountains is our destination. We will stomp on the bones of the gods we once defeated. This time they cannot stop us.

Entry 17: We have changed course in the march. The forgotten temple of Cazic-Thule is within sight. The General tells us in command that the Amygdalans will join our ranks or they will be destroyed. I pray to Rallos that they refuse to join us.

Entry 32: We have entered the foothills of the Mountains of the fallen Rathe. The Amygdalans have refused to add their numbers to our ranks. Let them hide in the temple for as long as they wish. It will be their tomb. For now, we will take the land of our forefather’s defeat and turn it into victory.

Entry 40: The General has detached us from the Arm of Vallon. The Arm, hundreds of scores in number, will continue marching north. They are to cross the Lake of Tears. Then they are to annihilate the gnolls. The Arm of Vallon will conquer the Karana plains. There is no question this will be done.

Entry 57: My command, led by the General himself, have easily taken the Rathetear Mountains. The Hill Giants recognized our superiority and bowed to our will. The lizardmen have been eradicated. If I listen closely, I can still hear the sound of the dead gods of the earth weeping. The Rallosians are conquering Norrath. Their curse has failed.

Entry 61: Taking the Hill Giants with us, the General will no longer tolerate the insolence of the Amygdalans. Their claims of counsel received from the Avatar of Fear are worthless lies. Their Avatar would never have allowed us to capture the Gate leading to their dead god’s plane. The only true Avatar is the one that inspires us – the Avatar of War.

Entry 67: When I was a runtling, my mother’s mother told me of the temple of Fear. She claimed it was filled with unimaginable nightmares waiting to destroy the world. She was wrong. NOW it is filled with nightmares. Us. The Rallosians.

Entry 79: The final Amygdalan has fallen to the black blade of the General. The ones we have captured have been forced to watch as we begin to tear down their precious temple. They incessantly chant prayers to the god of green mist. If their god cannot stop us from tearing down their place of worship, what makes them believe their god will save their worthless hides?

Entry 83: This great temple lies in ruins. All that stands is the sacred tomb the Amydalans pray to at the center of this temple. We received word that Guk is being scourged as we speak. The split-pawed gnolls have been exterminated. The Plains are ours. Freeport is about to fall. The General is about to enter the heart of the temple and personally defile the tentacled one’s most holy of all relics – the Forbidden Sarcophagus. When he has done so, the Rallosian Empire will know that we have conquered one half of the world. The other half will follow.

Entry 84: Bring this journal to your commanding officer, Rallosian. They must know of the fate of General Urduuk. When the box was opened, a green mist oozed out, crawling into the General’s nostrils. He barely had time to grasp his throat before falling over dead. One by one, thousands of Rallosians suffered the same fate. I sealed myself away inside a nearby stone coffin before the vapors reached me. It will not be long before I run out of air, for neither air or Green Mist can enter this casket. I will die as a Rallosian inside this tomb. I will not die as a forever-cured ogre outside to the Green Mist.

1st Lieutenant Dergud, 263 AS

1st Lieutenant Dergud, 263 AS
Second Edition

This is the journal of a very important Lieutenant in the Second Rallosian Empire.

Day 72, 263 AS: Urduuk has granted me great honor in making me his first Lieutenant. He has chosen well. I will not fail him. Today marks a glorious day. I will make the first true warriors of our people. I will learn from the Avatar and thrust that learning upon all ogres.

Day 159, 273 AS: Training goes well. I see flaws and I know how to fix them. The Avatar has granted me insight and shown me the truth of weakness. If a soldier does not succeed, other soldiers will learn from his mistake. Second chances are for the weak.

Day 390, 274 AS: The General Urduuk has brought us weapons as he promised. Shaped in the image of his holy sword, we now bear weapons worthy of our kind. Bronze no longer belongs in our hands. Our enemies will feel death from fine steel. A soldier will be bound to his weapon, for he and it are the same.

Day 114, 275 AS: Drilling will continue for the next two days. Disobedience will not be tolerated. Those that die during the lessons will be ogres. Those that pay in blood and sweat will be true Rallosians.

Day 276 AS: Our Rallosian army strengthens. I have chosen two of the most obedient to be Lieutenants just as I am. The General designed the armor to be given the troops. I am to inform every soldier they must forge their own armor. The heat of the forge must come from the peat of our home. The water that cools the metal must be their blood.

Day 48, 277 AS: The General and the Avatar demand a demonstration of the troops. If the men fail, this will show that I have failed. The General will grant me the honor of severing my own head from my shoulders, for I am his Lieutenant.

Day 49, 277 AS: The wargame has proven me as a true Rallosian. The shock troops have shown they will die when told to. The support troops have shown they will kill their own when told to. The Rallosians now number one hundred score. Training must be doubled.

Day 212, 278 AS: The General will take the first legion and will destroy the surrounding undead. No longer will we suffer them. We are not ogres. We are Rallosians. Their brittle bones will become as dust under the boot of the Empire.

Day 215, 278 AS: The lizardmen were no match for a handful of Rallosians. Their group could not flee, for we kept coming. We will kill more lizardmen if they interfere. The Avatar was pleased to see this. The General nodded his head in approval. We will bring our might upon the Frogloks. They will be annihilated. I so swear upon the name of the General and the name of The Warlord, Rallos.

Deep Marshes

“Deep Marshes.” After the sudden invasion of Gukta by the new Rallosian Army, a band of frogloks heads north to seek help.

Without the aid of the Avatar of War, the ogres could never have planned such an attack. Gukta had been the site of many battles over the years, but the force arrayed by General Urduuk proved strongest of all. Now, though they were loathe to do so, the frogloks were on the run. The ogres had never before had such a force, despite their brute strength. No, it was not a newly intelligent ogre that bested the froglok, but the Avatar of War itself.

Down into the tunnels they ran, many clutching the eggs which would be a new generation of froglok. They had had time to clear the hatchery before flight. Though retreat is not the froglok way, the elders knew that living to fight another day and bearing away the eggs would be the better thing for them to do. A small garrison was left to distract the ogres and defend Gukta. The rest hurried into the dark.

“The ogre army will not be content with taking a swamp,” said Agakk, one of the elders. “We must send word to the outsiders, to warn them of the danger these ogres cause.” “I will go,” said Guruup, bowing deeply. “My unit and I will make our way out to Freeport. The Overlord must hear of this villainous turn of events.” Agakk nodded. “Yes, I agree. Go at once, Guruup and may Mithaniel Marr protect you.”

There are many ways through the woods and so it is with the swamps. Guruup’s unit was small, for speed would be their best defense. At Innothule’s northernmost point, the froglok unit conferred quickly. If they traveled up through the river valley, they would then need to cut east across the Commonlands to reach Freeport. Or, they could turn west to Qeynos instead. The direct route through the Desert of Ro was not favored, but it had the advantage of being the most direct route to Freeport.

“We must make haste, Guruup,” whispered Barab, one of his lieutenants. “Though the Desert is dangerously dry, it would be the way anyone would least likely expect us to take.” Guruup nodded and said, “You speak the truth, Barab. Through the Desert of Ro!” They caked their skin with mud to protect it from the hot desert air, then pushed onward. To increase their chances of survival, they subdivided into smaller units that one by one crossed into the unforgiving desert.

Traveling by night to keep out of the sun, the frogloks struggled through the swirling sands. Their skin was soft and supple by nature. Even with a layer of dried mud upon it, the frogloks felt the oppressive dryness in the air that seemed to suck every last ounce of energy from them. Gusts of wind drove the sand into their faces, rubbing them raw. As their skin cracked from lack of moisture, some of the frogloks picked at the scabs that formed almost instantly in the heat, licking their wounds to moisten their tongues with their own blood.

They were a tired, footsore and bedraggled group when they reached Freeport at last. Though many had not survived the harsh crossing, between the heat and the sand giants, more than three-quarters of Guruup’s was still unit intact. The frogloks paused briefly to take rooms at a local inn and to cleanse themselves, then they hurried to gain an audience with the Overlord.

An audience with the Overlord is not always granted, and certainly never at the first request. Guruup and his lieutenants waited three days before the Overlord would see them. Even then, it was clear that he was doing so for his own hidden purpose. He met with Guruup in the long hallway and Guruup had to complete his petition before the Overlord reached the opposite end of the hall.

Guruup was unable to convince the Overlord of the seriousness of the ogre forces. “Come now, little one,” the Overlord said upon reaching the hall’s end. “You have been fighting everyone for control of Grobb — that is, Gukta — for many generations. This is another petty squabble; I’m afraid Freeport’s military cannot be spared on something like this. You’ll have better luck elsewhere.” Guruup bowed, concealing his anger as the Overlord exited the hall.

“The Overlord will not get involved,” Guruup told the frogloks. “We have rested here long enough; let us proceed now to Qeynos. May the hand of Marr guide us.” “May the hand of Marr guide us,” Guruup’s unit repeated reverently. And so, the frogloks prepared for their next journey: across the Commonlands and through the plains of Karana to reach the city of Qeynos.

Scroll of Froglok Flesh

To General Urduuk of the great Rallosian Army, Medic Chief Gorza reporting. I regret to inform you that the entirety of your 3rd Specialist Regiment has fallen deathly ill and has now been quarantined to the western section of the City of Rallos, and that you will be without the reinforcements of this unit for the foreseeable future. We are unable to determine the cause of the sickness. The priests of the Warlord have been ineffective in removing the infirmity and many die each day as we search for a cure. It has been whispered that many believe that this is retribution for your defilement of…” The rest has been worn away.

Tome of Destiny – Chapter IX – The Battle of Defiance

The pendant glowed like blue fire around his neck as the ranger called lightning down from the sky, striking the throngs of orcs and ogres. He fired arrow after arrow into their ranks, felling one after another of the cruel beasts.

But he knew it wasn’t enough.

The army of Qeynos was vastly outnumbered. Though storms raged above them, the Rallosian legions were drawing closer. Giants from the east uprooted boulders and used them as weapons, hurling them against the city walls. It seemed certain the gates would soon be breached, and then all would be lost.

The ranger signaled for his archers to fire at the giants, but the massive brutes were difficult to take down. And the orcs… the orcs were everywhere.

“For Qeynos!” shouted the ranger, and his troops cheered. They fight bravely, he thought to himself.

“For nothing!” replied a loud, hissing voice from the center of the Rallosian ranks. The ranger looked up. The wall of giants parted, and there, above the orcs and ogres, towered a being that seemed to be made of fire itself.

Niffet drew close to his leader. “What is that creature?”

“The Avatar of Flame,” the ranger replied. “The chosen of Solusek Ro.”

“Oh. Well, I have no doubt you can defeat it,” that halfling announced, a hint of uncertainty in his voice.

The ranger drew his swords. “Keep taking down the giants. The city gates must hold.” He began slashing through the mass of orcs, making his way toward the being of fire.

“The Militia is falling back, General. Freeport will soon be ours.”

Urduuk smiled. “As I told you it would, Ignara. I will have Lucan’s head on a pike by nightfall.”

The ogre surveyed the battlefield. His troops swarmed everywhere, overpowering the city’s defenses in both number and ferocity.

“Beautiful,” he muttered.

“Indeed it is,” a familiar voice replied. Urduuk turned to face the massive being.

“Avatar!” he exclaimed. Have you come to witness my victory?”

“You have done well, Urduuk. This chaos is extraordinary. I look forward to your army decimating the other continents as well.”

“This is only the beginning, I assure you. When Antonica is cleansed, we move to Faydwer and–”

“General!” Ignara shouted. “We are being attacked on our southern flank!”

Urduuk looked toward the desert. A small but powerful force was cutting into his ranks, striking at the Rallosians with considerable power.

“The cursed monks have joined the fray,” he muttered angrily.

“Why weren’t they eliminated already?” The avatar asked. “The servant of the Tranquil will be imparting them a strength your oafish legions do not possess.”

“I ordered them to be destroyed, but my incompetent lieutenant betrayed me! I will show her the price of failure!” Urduuk drew his sword and advanced toward Ignara.

“Wait, General!” Ignara cried. “Something else approaches from the south!”

Urduuk turned. A thick cloud rolled rapidly across the sands, darkening the sky with a dense green haze.

“What have you done, Urduuk?” the avatar asked him. “What did you do to unleash this madness?”

The cloud was moving quickly toward the Rallosians. As it reached the edge of the army’s ranks, the ogres it touched fell lifelessly to the ground. The general watched them gasping for air one moment and twitching on the ground the next.

“My steed!” Urduuk ordered. “The son of Zek must live to fight another day. Bring me my steed!”

But no one was left to obey. The mist encircled the general, killing all those around him. Ignara struggled to breathe, reaching out to her leader. Finally even she collapsed.

“Fool!” the avatar shouted at Urduuk. “It is you who brought this fate onto your own people! The orcs are my only hope now. I will deal with the monks myself.” The massive figure marched toward the center of the orc army.

The mist coalesced around Urduuk, leaving him no escape. He swung his sword at the green cloud, but there was nothing solid for him to hit.

Defiler! it whispered to him. The time has come to pay for your crimes.

“What… what are you?” Urduuk stammered.

I am the voice of the one you betrayed. Your pride has brought your people to their downfall, just as it was in ancient days. But this time, retribution shall be mine.

“I betrayed no one!” he shouted back, swinging his sword wildly.

Liar! Fear could have been your ally. Instead you entered its temple and enslaved its children. Your insolence shall be the death of your people. But your soul, defiler, will know Fear for all eternity!

“No!” he screamed, but there was no reply. The green mist enveloped him, seeping into Urduuk’s lungs and stealing his breath. All around him the general could see his fallen soldiers, the lost remnants of his once unstoppable army.

The mist pulled at him, lifting him into the air. Below, Urduuk saw his own body crumpled on the sand. He tried to cry out, but had no voice. The mist carried him southward toward the darkness that lingered hungrily.

The defenders of Qeynos cheered as the mist receded, leaving the bodies of the ogres strewn across the grassland.

Aimara felled another orc and called out to her husband. “That cloud did half our work for us, Murbeck. Now all we’ve left to do is wipe out the orcs, giants, and goblins!”

“Child’s play for a Halasian!” shouted Murbeck. “We’ll finish these beasts up in no time.”

She laughed and swung her sword again. She relished the battle, but knew the odds were still slim. The orcs were off-balance and confused, but they still held the advantage in numbers. Soon they would realize this fact and resume their advance.

Aimara looked across the field of battle. The Avatar of Flame towered above the orcs, rallying the Rallosian forces and directing the giants to hold their ground. The avatar waved its hand, and suddenly a line of gnolls covered in flame charged toward the Qeynosians.

“By the Tribunal!” Murbeck shouted. “That beast set those pitiful gnolls on fire to use them as living weapons!”

The gnolls yelped in pain as they charged madly into the defenders’ ranks. The tactic had its desired effect as the army of Qeynos began to fall back.

“Enough!” cried a booming voice, louder even than the thunder. “You will pay for what you have done to the children of Brell!”

The battle grew still for a moment. The voice seemed to come from the ground itself, as if every rock had suddenly been given a voice.

“Who dares speak to me this way?” hissed the Avatar of Flame.

“The one who will make you pay for looting the dens of Brell’s creations!” answered the voice. “In your hunger for power you sought to consume the entire world, but now it is you who will be devoured!”

The earth shook violently and tore open huge chasms beneath the feet of the Rallosian army. The orcs screamed as they fell, their cries muffled as the fissures sealed up and buried them alive. Orc after orc was swallowed by the angry earth.

“No!” hissed the Avatar of Flame as its remaining forces began to scatter and flee. “Hold your ground, I command you!”

The ranger signaled to the knights waiting upon a nearby ridge. They charged down and circled the flaming creature. “Now,” said the ranger, “we finish this.”

“So you think the Avatar of Below has turned the tide, monk? I will show you that the power of Zek cannot be denied!”

The monk circled the massive being, fists clenched. “It was the pride and ignorance of your own armies that led to their downfall. Urduuk defiled the Temple of Cazic-Thule and made an enemy of the Avatar of Fear, while the enslavement of the gnolls caused Brell’s avatar to strike back at the orcs. Now all that remains is to put an end to you.”

“Fool! You cannot best me in battle!” The avatar drew his flaming sword. “If all else fails, I will at least have the pleasure of grinding you to dust.”

The monk leapt into the air and struck first, kicking the Avatar of War and knocking him back. The avatar swung his sword but missed, leaving him open for a series of punches.

The avatars clashed, striking at each other with the power of their opposing planes. The ground on which they fought began to rise, forming a plateau beneath them. On the flatlands below, the Ashen Order and the Knights of Truth fought the remnants of the Rallosian forces. The Freeport Militia drove the orcs away from the city walls and advanced upon the site of the battle, a helmeted figure in dark armor leading them forward.

The knights slashed at the fiery creature with their swords while the ranger called down winds and storms against it. The avatar was weakening, but it still struck with deadly fury.

The ranger looked around. Most of the remaining orcs were fleeing northward, though a few pockets of resistance held out against the Qeynosians. He could see a fierce battle going on between a group of barbarians and some of the stronger orcs.

“Yield to me, knights!” hissed the avatar. “I will share all the truths that the ranger is keeping from you!”

“Enough of your lies!” cried the leader of the knights. “Back to the abyss from whence you came!” He drove his sword deep into the center of the avatar’s chest. The creature crumpled to the ground, flames sputtering as its essence began to fade.

“Fools!” it hissed weakly. “Your victory means nothing. The people of Norrath have not yet begun to suffer!” The avatar collapsed into a smoldering pile of ash.

The ranger touched the pendant at his neck and calmed the storms overhead.

“What did it mean?” asked the leader of the knights. “What suffering is yet to come?”

The ranger didn’t reply. He drew his sword, the blade inlaid with ancient runes. He offered it to the knight. “For your service, I give you Maelstrom, Blade of Storms. It will serve you well.”

The ranger turned and walked slowly toward the gates of Qeynos, stepping carefully over the bodies of the fallen that lay all around him.

The monk unleashed all his fury on the avatar, striking him down with a final blow. The Avatar of War slumped to the ground, defeated. The monk knelt on the ground to recover and heal his wounds.

An armored rider on a black horse reached the top of the summit and dismounted. He walked to the body of the fallen avatar and lifted the sword from its lifeless hand. The blade burned with unholy fire as the dark knight held it aloft.

“D’Lere!” the monk called out. “That sword doesn’t belong to you.”

The Overlord removed his helmet to reveal a scarred, smirking face. “Of course it does, fool,” he replied. “Soulfire is now where it was always meant to be. I thank you for bringing it to me, and for delivering the true enemies of Freeport to justice.”

“True enemies? What do you–”

Lucan walked to the edge of the plateau and faced the army below. “Citizens of Freeport,” he called out in a booming voice that carried across the battlefield, “your Overlord has brought you victory this day! Now is the time to bring justice to the criminals who have returned to our lands! Turn your swords against the Knights of Truth and the Priests of Marr and let none of them escape!”

“Are you insane?” the monk asked angrily. “You have a chance to wipe out the rest of the orcs, but you’d rather feed your petty desire for revenge?”

Lucan laughed as he donned his helm again. He climbed atop the black steed and pointed the edge of Soulfire toward the monk. “Be grateful I let you live, Avatar. Don’t think I have forgotten our history. I suggest you return to the desert and show your face in my kingdom no more.” He turned the horse and rode down the side of the plateau.

The monk stood wearily. “It never changes,” he told himself. He clenched his fist and hoped he wasn’t too late to aid the followers of Marr who had risked their lives by trusting him.

The ranger wandered the battlefield looking for survivors. There were so many fallen, so many who had lost everything for this cause.

He saw a barbarian kneeling on the ground, her face stained with dirt and tears. She cradled the fallen man in her arms, rocking him gently back and forth. His armor was cracked by arrows that stuck out from his lifeless chest.

“Are you injured, milady?” The ranger asked softly.

The barbarian looked up at him. “Murbeck chased after the orcs, even though I told him we’d already beaten them. He didn’t notice the archers taking aim. He never saw the arrows coming.” She dropped her head and sobbed.

The ranger looked down. He had no solace to give, no answer for her pain. He knew that soon he would leave this realm, and that it would be left to mortals like her to prepare for what was to come.

“You fought well, my husband,” she whispered to him. “You died as a Halasian, and one day your name will be sung in the great halls of our people. You will never be forgotten.”

The ranger swallowed hard and turned away, leaving the barbarian to her sorrow. The price was too high, he thought to himself. And this was only the beginning.

Tome of Destiny – Chapter VIII – Gathering Storms

Urduuk stood atop the crest of the hill and gazed out across the grasslands to the south. The scattered orc villages that dotted the landscape were completely obscured by the legions of ogres and orcs that made up the Rallosian Army. As far as his eye could see were soldiers awaiting his command. This pleased him.

“They are ready, Lieutenant Ignara. Tomorrow we begin the march across the sands that lead us to Freeport. And when we arrive, we will burn it to the ground.”

“Aye, General,” she replied. “Spies sent by the Rujarkian Orcs tell us that Freeport is ill prepared for our arrival and will fall quickly. Still, I think it unlikely that Lucan knows nothing of our army’s approach. He may be baiting a trap.”

“Ridiculous!” Urduuk growled through bared teeth. “D’Lere is a fool, and his city will crumble as easily as Gukta did. I will defile his throne just as I desecrated the Temple of Cazic-Thule. Rallos Zek has ordained our victory and promised this world to me. I will rule over the ashes of Norrath until my father returns.”

“Your… father?” she asked hesitantly.

“Of course. I am the son and heir of Zek, given the unholy blade Vel’Arek as a symbol of my power. Do you doubt my lineage and birthright, Ignara?” Urduuk drew the sword and locked his burning eyes on hers.

Ignara watched him breathlessly. She knew what fate befell those who disagreed with Urduuk.

“I have no doubt, my lord and master,” she said, bowing her head. “You are the true son of Zek.”

He gripped the dark blade tightly in his hand. She believed he might swing it at any moment, leaving her head on display to show how he rewarded those who failed him. Instead, he sheathed the sword.

“Order the troops to camp. We leave at first light and make our way across the Desert of Ro.”

“By your order, General,” she replied. “Do we march on T’Narev?”

“No,” Urduuk replied. “Laying siege to the Ashen Order’s mountain fortress would be a waste of time and resources. Let the Rujarkians take them when Freeport smolders in ruins.”

Ignara dared not question him again, even if she thought it unwise to ignore the threat posed by the monks. “It will be as you command, my lord.” She saluted and headed down the hill.

Urduuk surveyed his army again. He knew the others in the west were ready as well. “Mine,” he told himself. “Soon it will all be mine.”

“They’re coming!” Niffet cried as he approached the gates. “They’re coming!”

His horse was still at a gallop as he rode in, but the halfling pulled hard at the reigns to bring her to a quick stop. He jumped off the horse’s back and yelled again. “The Rallosians are coming!”

The city guards circled him. “Identify yourself!” the captain ordered.

“I am Niffet of Surefall, commanded to stand watch over the plains. I was ordered to bring word when the armies of darkness approached.”

“Ordered by whom?” the captain asked.

“By me,” a voice replied.

The captain turned and saw the ranger standing before him. He was dressed in dark green chain mail, a longbow of ornate wood slung on his back. The buckle on his belt bore the symbol of the Rainkeeper.

“Avatar,” Niffet said, kneeling, “it has come to pass, just as you said it would.”

“Arise, Niffet,” the ranger said. “Tell me what you saw.”

The halfling stood. “I was camped in one of the old guard towers, watching. I saw dark shapes lurking on the horizon. It was as if the mountains themselves were drawing closer, but it was not mountains. It was a wall of giants coming from the east, and from the south came ogres with their gnoll slaves. There were so many, so very many.”

“You have done well. My watchers to the north have informed me that the orcs control Blackburrow and are starting to come through. The Rallosians have begun their march toward Qeynos.”

The guard captain nodded. “Lord Bayle told us you would come to lead us, Avatar. Our forces stand ready to defend the city.”

“Good,” said the ranger. “Seal the gates and put all your troops on alert. I will attempt to give us some more time.”

“How?” asked the captain.

The ranger reached up and took hold of a pendant around his neck. He whispered an incantation and the blue gem began to glow. In the distance, thunder rumbled across the plains.

“The storms will slow them down, but not for long. We must prepare.”

“Seal the gate!” ordered the captain. The giant doors of wood and steel began to slowly draw closed. The captain turned and gave instructions to his men.

“There were so many of them, Avatar,” Niffet said to the ranger. “How can we hold them back?”

The ranger said nothing, listening as the thunder drew nearer.

Betrayed! it hissed. Betrayed!

It stirred in the darkness, locked away for so long. Shapeless. Lingering. Cold. Alone.

You have forgotten. You shall be made to remember. You will be taught just like the others who harmed his children.

The ritual was complete. The gift was unsealed. The lesson was coming.

Defiler! You will know Fear until the end of time!

It seeped out. Billowing. Rolling. Moving. Growing.

His gift will find you. His gift will find you all.

The green cloud arose in the temple’s stale air. It moved through the corridors, slowly at first, then faster. It would touch the first of them soon.

Betrayed! it hissed again. But now you will learn.

It would have smiled, if only it had a face.

Tome of Destiny – Chapter VI – The Fall of Gukta

“By the sacred name of Marr… there are so many of them!”

Kyruk stood atop the gate and surveyed the carnage below. The Rallosian Army seemed endless, extending as far into the swamp as his eyes could see. Over the last few years the ogres had sent many raiding parties into Innothule, but nothing close to this.

Captain Gormuk signaled his archers to fire another volley at the Rallosian cavalry and turned to his friend. “Numbers do not matter, for these devils have no honor in their hearts. They will fall as other invaders have.”

Kyruk shook his head. “I do not think honor will be enough this day. They will soon breach the walls of Gukta and enter the city. If they reach the hatchery?”

“No!” croaked Gormuk, firing an arrow of his own. “Do not think such things! Marr will preserve us as he always has!”

Kyruk chanted an incantation and gestured. Comets of ice rained down from his webbed fingers onto the ogres below. But for every ogre that fell, it seemed three more took its place.

“The tunnels, Gormuk! You must order the constables to gather the eggs and take the civilians into the tunnels, or all will be lost.”

The captain fired more arrows, muttering a prayer with each. The ogres brought catapults to the front of their ranks as their mages summoned huge spheres of flame to launch at the walls. Gormuk could see the fight slipping away from them. “We have fought long and hard for this place. So many battles with the trolls… so much bloodshed. How can we just abandon it? How can we do that to the one who gave us his sacred blessing?”

Kyruk cast bolts of lightning at the ogre wizards, but they were shielded from his attack. “This is just a place, Gormuk. The swamp will preserve us and we will grow strong again. But to stay would be prideful, and such pride brings dishonor. If they stay in the upper tunnels the civilians can safely reach Guk, and the Rallosians will not be able to bring their war machines inside its narrow passageways. There we can make a stand.”

Gormuk shot more arrows, but his efforts were futile. The ogres kept coming, and more and more fallen frogloks lined the battlefield. The catapults fired, sending huge globes of flame crashing into the city walls, setting them ablaze.

The captain turned and shouted to the guards below. “Go to the council and tell them that we cannot hold the wall! You must take the eggs and hatchlings into the tunnels. Gather all the civilians and guide them to Guk. We’ll seal the tunnels behind you.”

The guards saluted and rushed to obey the captain. Gormuk turned to Kyruk. “The elders say some dark power has arisen in the depths of Guk. I pray they are wrong, and that the ancient citadel will protect our people.”

“It’s the right thing to do, Gormuk. On my oath to Marr, we will hold these monsters back and give our people the time they need to escape.”

“We will do more than that!” shouted Gormuk. “The swamp will flow with ogre blood this day!”

Gormuk fired more arrows down at the Rallosians, then dropped his bow and unsheathed his sword. “Make sure the tunnels are sealed, my friend!” With one mighty leap he jumped from the top of the wall down to the battlefield below. He threw back his head and let loose a mighty croak. “For Marr!” He charged into the fray and swung his blade back and forth, cutting a swath into the ogre battle line.

“Gormuk, fall back!” cried Kyruk, casting a protective spell upon the captain. But Gormuk charged into the endless ranks of the ogres and disappeared from view.

“Your sacrifice will not be in vain, old friend.” Kyruk wove his strongest spell and unleashed all his power onto the ogres below. The Rallosians drew closer to the wall as the catapults launched again. Kyruk gasped and whispered a swift, fleeting prayer.

“Where are the rest of them?”

“We are not sure, General. The hatchery has been emptied, and we can find no trace of the civilians. They just seem to be? gone.”

Urduuk dismounted and walked over to the sergeant, fixing his gaze upon him. “Gone? Gone?” Urduuk clenched his mailed fist and shot it forward, crushing into the jaw of his subordinate. The ogre crumpled to the ground, as much from intimidation as from the blow itself.

The general turned and surveyed the burning rubble that had been Gukta. “I ordered you to wipe all trace of these abominations from this wretched swamp, and yet somehow they managed to escape. How? And more importantly, to where?”

A burly ogre stepped forward and saluted the general. “I swear to you that they did not break our line, sir. But whether through magic or some form of trickery, I believe there is only one place they would go. Back to Guk, to the ancient tunnels they once called home.”

Urduuk considered the junior officer’s words a moment. “Yes, of course. The frogloks would seek the only safety they could find. You, lieutenant, what is your name?”

“Danarg, my lord.”

“Lieutenant Danarg, gather your soldiers and go to the mouth of Guk. Take them into the tunnels and cleanse that cursed place of the froglok pestilence once and for all. Do not emerge until this duty is done. Am I clear?”

Danarg saluted again. “I will not fail you, General.” He turned and motioned for others to follow him.

Urduuk climbed atop his steed and addressed his troops. “As planned, the rest of you shall divide into two wings. Those of you who bear the mark of Tallon will secure Innothule and move northward to rendezvous with our orc allies in Southern Ro. Those of you who bear the mark of Vallon will ride with me to the Feerrott and prepare to take the Mountains of Rathe.”

One of Urduuk’s advisors drew close to him. “General, the Arm of Vallon incurred heavy losses in the taking of Gukta. They need reinforcements.”

Urduuk nodded. “We will enter the Temple of Thule and add the forces of Fear to our ranks. They will make a useful addition to our army.”

“But General, the Amygdalan were unwilling to join with us before. What will change their minds now?”

“Their minds are irrelevant, for they serve a weak and silent god. They will join us or I will destroy their crumbling temple and shatter the Fear gate.”

Urduuk signaled his legion to march westward. He knew his troops had a taste for conquest and they would quickly grow hungry for more. “The Avatar was right,” he said to himself as he rode toward the Feerrott. “This world will soon be ours.”

Tome of Destiny – Chapter IV – Awakenings

Urduuk woke up feeling much the same way. More, perhaps. Definitely not less.

He rubbed his eyes and looked around, noticing that Karna was cooking breakfast. He shook his massive head. “How is it that we live like this?” he asked aloud.

“What?” she grunted back at him. “Live like what?”

“This place,” he said, rising to his feet, “it’s nothing more than a jumble of rocks with some crude rugs on the floor. Yet we’ve lived like this for years and never thought twice about it. Doesn’t that seem odd to you?”

Karna was baffled. “This place is our home. Oggok is as it has been all of our lives. I don’t understand this sudden… change in your thinking.”

“Dissatisfaction, you mean? Don’t you feel it, Karna? Don’t you feel something rising up within you? It’s as if a fog has slowly been receding and my mind understands things for the first time. We are a race of kings, Karna. Once we held all of Norrath in the palm of our hand. Yet for centuries our people have lived in a city that is nothing more than a shambling pile of stones and rotting vines. Doesn’t that seem ridiculous to you? Doesn’t that seem absurd?”

She bared her teeth and slowly shook her head. “My mind… it’s fuzzy, Urduuk. It scares me a little. I know of what you speak, but still… it’s like I’m trudging slowly through deep water. I want so much to move faster, but I simply cannot.”

He wrapped his huge arms around her and pulled her close to him. “I’m sorry, my love. I do not mean to upset you. But I can see it in myself and in the others. I can hear it in the way we speak. Something about us is changing, Karna. We are not what we once were.”

“I think you are right, Urduuk,” she said, almost vulnerably. She squeezed him because it made her feel better to do so.

He kissed her brow. “That’s enough nonsense out of me for now. What about that breakfast?”

“Pathetic,” he muttered angrily to himself. Then, to the old man, “Are you sure this is all of them?”

The silver-crested ogre slowly shook his head. “I have told you twice already that it is. We simply have not kept many written records of our history, young man. Those scrolls and tablets are all that our shamans have scribed over the centuries.”

“Ridiculous!” he hissed to himself as the old man sat down. “It’s as if our entire civilization has been in a stupor. Stories have been passed down from one generation to the next through the telling, but there is so little concrete information. And this shambles of a library is laughable. Even the cursed frogloks have better books than these.” Urduuk pushed the scrolls and tablets away and clenched his fist.

“What’s that, young one?” the old ogre asked. “Did you find the answers you seek?”

“Sadly, I think I have, old one.” Urduuk shook his head. “At least, the only answer there is to find.” He stood up and walked out of the library, his feet pounding angrily on the crumbled cobblestones of the street.

“Be careful how you speak to your chieftain, Urduuk. My word is law here in Oggok.”

Urduuk held his tongue a moment before speaking again. “I meant no offense, Chieftain Orrek. I simply feel there is a better approach.”

“My plan is sound. We will expand our farmlands and feed our bellies. We will strengthen our outposts in the Feerrott and ensure that our borders are safe. Oggok will grow and prosper under my hand.”

“We need to do more than survive! We are not a race of farmers, Orrek. We are a race of warriors and kings. Norrath knew our domination once, and it must know it again. But we will never see that glory if we till the soil like oafish farmhands.”

“Your tone offends me, Urduuk. Say another word and I’ll have you in chains before this assembly.”

“Assembly? Are you joking? Look around you,” he said, gesturing at the crowd in the square surrounding them. “The center of our city is nothing more than broken boulders and fetid ponds. How can this be enough for you?” He looked at the other citizens. “How can this be enough for any of you?” Many of the ogres murmured in agreement.

The chieftain sensed the dissent growing around him. “Enough! I lead this city, and I determine its course. This meeting is over.”

“It is not!” Urduuk growled. “It is time for us to show the courage to embrace our destiny.”

“Those are the words,” announced a deep, booming voice, “that I have waited for one of you to speak.”

Urduuk turned and gasped, as did the crowd. Out of nowhere a massive figure stood, twice as tall as any ogre, with a thick, imposing frame. It wore dark metallic armor that seemed to faintly glow with power, and a horned helm that hung just above its burning eyes. It was like an ogre but more than an ogre, a creature of power and terror and death.

Urduuk stood transfixed for a moment, then stammered a question almost in a whisper. “Lord… Lord Rallos?’

“No,” answered the voice, echoing throughout the square. “I am not your maker, but rather the one who has remained behind to carry out his will. I am the hand of Zek while he must be absent. And I am the one who will guide you to once again dominate all of Norrath.”

Urduuk looked over at the chieftain, who stood awed and terrified. Urduuk sneered at him and then turned back to the dark figure. “Avatar of War, emissary of our maker, we live and die at your command. Tell us what to do.”

A dark smile seemed to cross the being’s otherworldly face for a moment. “You will build. You will waste no time growing wheat or baking bread. You will take what you need from others and make this a city fit for kings. You will expand your knowledge and relearn the dark arts lost to you for so long. You will raise a new Rallosian Army that shall conquer the world and wipe out the children of the lesser gods once and for all. This is your destiny, son of Zek. Will you make it yours, or will you wander about the jungle with lizards and toads?”

Urduuk stepped forward and stood in front of the avatar. “We will seize our destiny. We will build a new city of Rallos that will be grander than any other on Norrath. One by one the lands of those who oppose us will be burned to the ground. On this you have my blood oath. We will not fail.”

The avatar reached to his side and drew a runed, flaming blade. He touched it to Urduuk’s shoulder and watched as the ogre refused to flinch. The avatar nodded. “You, Urduuk, will be my general. You will lead your people to their rightful destiny. By the touch of Soulfire I ordain this to be so.” He sheathed the blade and drew a second weapon from his belt. “This sword was blessed by Vallon Zek and forged in the fires of Drunder. The unholy blade Vel’Arek must drink the blood of the weak, and in turn it will make you strong. Use it to claim what is yours, Urduuk.”

Urduuk took hold of the massive weapon and felt its weight. It looked as if it would take two hands to wield it, but he could easily swing it with one. It had a long, dark blade with ancient words inscribed down the length of it. He looked up at the avatar a moment, then turned and walked to Chieftain Orrek. “Would you still have us be farmers, chieftain? Would you still have us be weak?”

“I… have devoted my life to the service of Zek,” he stammered nervously. “I will not fail him.”

“You are correct, chieftain, for your death shall serve him as well.” Urduuk thrust the blade forward suddenly and drove it through the chieftain’s chest, staring into the ogre’s eyes as he crumpled to the ground. Urduuk withdrew the blade and lifted it to the sky, watching as it seemed to drink in the blood of the fallen chieftain.

“This,” boomed the voice of the avatar, “is the force of will necessary to rule these lands. Even now my ally, the Avatar of Flame, is bringing this same message to the orc legions. Together the children of Zek will conquer this world and cleanse it of elves and men.”

“The word of Zek shall guide us, Avatar,” General Urduuk proclaimed. “We will build this city and your army. We will learn the dark magics and once again become the masters of this realm.”

The avatar watched as the ogres knelt before their ruler. Urduuk narrowed his eyes and looked to the east. “And when the time is right,” he said with disdain, “Gukta and the wretched frogloks will be the first to fall.”