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Friday, November 30, 2012

Teaser from Chapter 2 of /The Scroll of Mirimar/

21st of Earhar

The road connecting Gleasi and Tloi is an ancient road. Passing as it does between the foothills of the Tloi mountains to the north, and the Tol mountains to the south, it sits in a natural avenue of passage. Bypassing the wild forests to the north, where Orcs, Goblins, and other creatures of darkness dwell freely, it provided the early Elven and Human inhabitants of the land with a relatively safe and defensible path for trading and traveling. During the First Elven Rule, Elven King Esvaran (the King of Tloi) would guarantee safe passing to any merchants along the road, provided they allowed the King to sample their wares and agreed to the Elven Guard for their merchant trains. After Esvaran's murder in FER 60, his son Mindrath endeavored to pave the portions of the road that lay within his kingdom, and set about patrolling it regularly to keep it free of brigands and cutpurses. The first Orc invasion of Tloi came near the end of Mindrath's reign in FER 81, but even a massed Orc army chose to avoid the road, which gave the defending Tloi army a great advantage in that the road remained open and supplies could be moved. This mistake was not repeated during the second Orc invasion of FER 90, during the rule of Mindrath's nephew Hradiu, when an enormous army of 250,000 Orcs and allied Goblins attacked Tloi. The rearguard of the Orc army interdicted the road, and nearly cut off the kingdom of Tloi from the Eastern Way. A desperate plea from Hradiu for aid managed to break past the blockade, and the human king Gion Terror-bringer of Gleasi's predecessor Gion, a darkly-complected man of some 90 years old, answered the call personally with 10,000 cavalry and some 4000 levee infantry. With Gion himself leading the charge, the human army smashed through a well-equipped and veteran force of some 25,000, slaying nearly 20,000 on the field.

After Gion's breakthrough, the invaders found themselves in a desperate strait, with a bloodthirsty and effective human army behind them and Hradiu's beleaguered but tenacious elves gnawing at their front and they abandoned their leaders, scattering into the Tloi mountains, the Northern Forest, and underground. Hradiu was so taken with the stunning aid he received that he subjected his kingdom to Gion willingly, thus ending the First Elven Rule and beginning the First Rule of Men. Gion ruled the joined Kingdom of Gion until his death at 124, in FRM 34. Gion's firstborn son Gleami moved the seat of the kingdom from Sirtho, in the foothills of the Gion mountains, to the new city of Gleasi, which he named for his own eldest son. King Gleami the Wise, as he would later be called, constructed a formidable castle in the center of the city, from which the current Road of Kings to Tloi now originates. Along the road he built defensive structures, designed to prevent the road between the two kings' cities from ever becoming impassible during what was perceived to be an inevitable third invasion from the Northern Forest.

The first, and only, significant test of the joined kingdom came from the southern reaches, however, when an army from the Zinnan Combine marched over the Tol mountains during FRM 45. The Zinnan Army consisted of some 75,000 Orc infantry and cavalry, 55,000 Goblin cavalry and archers, 35,000 zombie infantry, a cadre of wizards both living and undead, and the great Demon General Zzosozoth. More fearsome than the size of the army was the Demon General himself, who stood at ten feet high and was seen to kill fifty men at a single blow of his great Fire Sword, and the Lich Mage Kzadzu, who turned the dead bodies of both sides into zombie and skeleton warriors, effectively turning any melee into a breeding ground for the Zinnan army. As the advancing army moved on the Road of Kings, and turned toward Tloi, a last-gasp force of Elven archers and infantry, maybe 5000 strong, put up a defensive front along the Road and within firing distance of Elven Ballistae stationed in the Towers of the Tloi wall. Just as the battle was being joined, the human Mage Mirimar cast a spell which vanished away the Demon General, his Lich Mage assistant, and a half-dozen or so of the General's demon lieutenants. As the Demon disappeared before the eyes of the assaulting army, the Orc and Goblin soldiers lost heart and fled, being cut down by a human army led by Gleami which was coming up the road to relieve the pressure on Tloi's defense. The Lich's disappearance broke the magic of the undead soldiers, who disintegrated on the field, and the army fell completely apart.

Today, the Road of Kings is host to a long list of trains, caravans, trade routes, and the occasional traveler or adventuring party, including one party in particular, working their way on horseback along the Road to a gap in the Northern Forest that Tey and Emker have used in years past to escape detection from the maurading bands of orcs, goblins, ogres and trolls that sometimes spirit travelers from the Road into the forest for food or, occasionally, sport. For reasons neither of them can explain, none of the denizens of the forest take much notice of this gap, though they have noted the occasional remains of camps around the surrounding forest.

“The shadows grow very long, Tey. We should find camp soon before darkness makes it impossible” says Emker. “I can see C’ra Tlino in front of us where we can take shelter for the evening.”

C'ra Tlino is a cut in an otherwise non-descript hill north of the road, where the Mander Dwarves made their headquarters for a short time while assisting in the relief of the Tloi elves during Gion's relief of Hradiu. The dwarves made use of a natural rock protrusion in the forest edge, constructing a series of defensive outposts which connect through shallow trenches. The denizens of the forest don't use it much, since the defensive works are facing the wrong way for the most part, defending the road from a distance while facing in toward the forest, but it works well for the occasional knowledgeable traveler. Most travelers don't know it exists, however, since the Mander dwarves are well-known for creating their works to blend nearly completely with their environment. It is said that only a Manderian can find them, and even they often need maps.

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