Many strange and unusual creatures walk the land of Tirotha, each with its own peculiar habits and traits. Most of them share one commonality though, they all move with the divine spark of life. This life that compells them to feed, hunt, spawn and do all manner of things that animals, and even humans do. This document, however deals with a class of creature made far more interesting in that they lack this spark, or at least they lack its full intensity. I speak, of course, of the undead. Those that once walked this dirt in life, and somehow still stalk it in death.
But what drives these creatures to move if it is not life? For some of the lesser types, it might almost be said that it could be pure magical animation, anamotons driven only by the constant attention of their creator. But examination of other types, such as the ghoul, the wraith or even the lich shows that their can be a diabolical intelligence behind undead as well.
My studies have lead me to learn that even the lowliest animated skeleton is directed by the spirit of some dead soul. Experimentation has proven that this is not always the soul that inhabited the body in life. Indeed some correspondence with associates among the Church of Zakath have lead me to believe that most of the lesser undead are the souls of those who were judged and found wanting. The more powerfull undead are more and more likely to be souls remaining with their own bodies (for the corporeal undead, at least)
But where do Undead come from, you ask? From many sources it seems. In the studies of my art, I have discovered several arcane spells that can imbue the undeath onto the bodies of the dead. While I find the use of these spells rather distastefull, I have first hand raised skelatons and zombies of assorted creatures in my studies. Some of my associates who delve further into the Arts of Necromancy have assured me that wraiths and ghouls can also be created through arcane paths, but I've found no indication that wights, spectres or ghosts have ever been created this way. My knowledge of the workings and theories behind Divine magic (such as there are) are limited, but I've heard nothing of these creatures originating there either. This forces the idea that some undead must originate of its own accord.
This, in fact, is supported by other evidence, tales of skeletons and zombies rising of their own accord from the grave. While terminology in this field can often be quite fuzzy, these self-motivated skeletons and zombies are known as wights. These wights, along with ghost and spectres are created by the embodiment of spirits who in death have somehow managed to cling to the mortal realm. Lesser wights behave much like skeletons or zombies, and remain dormant for years at a time, rising forth only when the living approach, or they see means to fulfillment of some uncompleted task. The greater undeads of this class seem to remain active more or less continuously, and seem to more actively seek their goals.
The greatest undead are of course the Lich and the Ghelst. Lichs and Ghelsts are both powerful wizards who sought to cheat death permanantly. Through obscure magical feats these wizards manage to separate their souls from their bodies, while maintaining the link to the material world, and the ability to continue their studies indefinately.
The moral and ethical issues involved in the creation and use of the undead are touchy. Working with dead bodies is not a pleasant experience for most people of sound mind, and the common man tends to be uncomfortable with Necromancy, seeing the animation of the dead a disrespect to the bodies of the departed. That the church of Quolen also teaches strongly that undead are an abomination reflects to many that the undead bares an indelible taint of evil. Even most priests of Zakath resort to Necromancy rarely, and insist that the guardian spirits of their High Priests are performing their services voluntarily and thus are an exception to normal rules. It is my theory, however that while distastefull, the animation of the dead is a safe and morally neutral occupation. The bodies of the dead are just that, dead, and are of no further use to their former owners. The bound souls seem more to be deserving of the punishment of enslavement to the Master, and may almost seem to have been intentionally chosen for such by Zakath. And while many of the "natural" undead are indead malicious and evil spirits, there are cases where beings have maintained strong grip on the mortal world in order to fulfill some noble and selfless goal.
I leave off with a brief discussion of the various types of undead. Where there is ambuguity in the common terminology, I shall use that which is most frequently used among the dedicated Necromancer, rather than that used among commoners and dabblers such as myself.
Since millenia past when our ancestors first descended into the earth, to work the stone and metal that is our home, our defense and our tools, the dwarves have been an insular and reserved race. We traded our products where we could for food, cloth and other essentials hard to come by under the mountain, but we sought little else from the other races in terms of companionship, culture or support. It is because of this nature, that few outside our halls can begin to understand the richness of our history and cultural wealth.
The dwarves are like the stones of the earth, standing unchanged strong and unyielding through the elements. We've endured through the millenia on faith in the Gods, faith in our crafts and faith in the strength of the stone.
By our reckoning it was 2051 years before the coming of the elves that the first Record of the Age was carved into the wall of the cavern that would become the Temple Deep of Kurek in the city Thotigar. It highlighted the events of the year, as the orcish and human hordes on the surface pushed the first true dwarves below the surface. The cavern of Thotigar offered the dwarves refuge in the form of an easily defended entrance, abundant clean water from an underground spring, and a literal forest of mushrooms. Later that year, a second entrance was discovered opening into a high mountain pass where sturdy mountain goats grazed, providing meat and milk to the growing city.
The first few years below ground were difficult, the mushrooms had to be tended and composted, the goats herded, and the entrances defended. The cavern was cold and damp and shelter difficult to buid without proper tools. It was only after 8 years below that Kurek and Elarkta bestowed upon us the gift of steel. Walking among us, they showed us how to find the ore , and the techniques to smelt it into iron.
With the discovery of steel, we were able to mold the caverns around us to our desire, build stone shelters, bar the entrances with sturdy steel gates. We were also found a way to preserve our limited food supplies. The orcs and humans were both extremely interested in the steel tools and weapons we crafted and soon traded us food, pelts and other things unattainable for us beneath the earth in exchange for our crafts.
Thus was the birth of the Dwarven Nation, and soon we were so strong and rich that we had outgrown confines of Thotigar. Expansion was necessary, and a new cavern was sought and built into a city, Danithot. More were soon to follow, Thanigak, Markinok and centuries later, Raggaduk.
But we were to learn that we were still bound by events on the surface. Though we had largely ignored them, the civilizations of orcs and humans had changed. The humans were prosperring and the orcs were not. The humans began to spread out along the coastal planes, pushing the orcs back into the mountains as had once been done with us. At first we took pity on the orcs, and taught them some of the secrets to living in the mountains and below the earth, but our trust was betrayed. Orcs living in the city of Danithot rebelled and sought to take the city for their own. The Great Bronze Gates, pride of the city were torn down and hordes of orcs crawled their way inside. The few surviving dwarves made their way to the other cities, but swore grudges against the orcs. This was not to be a lone incident, the orcs had grown desperate and had chosen to take what they needed rather than work for it. Our caravans and outposts fell to orcish attacks and several cities felt the sting of orcish raids.
It was shortly after this that the Council of Kings gathered and signed the Accord of Danithot, in which we vowed to never trade with, ally with or aid the orcish tribes or forget the sins they visited upon us until they had atoned for their actions. Millenia passed and it has yet to come. We also chose to send out ambassadors to the human tribes, seeking similar agreements from them, but at that time their was no unity among the humans, they had not yet even converged into their historical Nine Tribes, so the work was long and taxing.
For many hundreds of years, anger grew slowly among several of the dwarven clans. The priests of Vrackor began preaching and advising for the extermination of the orcs and goblins, and a push to keep the humans forever out of our lands. More conservative leaders, urged a more defensive stance. Tension in the Council of Kings slowly built until in 1027, King Radank of Markinok demanded that the council bring full scale war against all intruders in the mountains. The kings of Thotigar, Thanigak, Raggaduk and others urged otherwise and a brawl broke out in the hallowed Hall of Council in Thotigar, Radank and his supporters were ejected from the council, and in the years that followed several battle broke out bringing dwarf against dwarf. Even the priests of Vrackor, bloodthirsty as they are were appalled at this, and in 1029, Radank and three other kings took their followers from their cities, and any who wished to come from the other cities, and departed the mountains, headed southeast toward the Agnarthid chain. The Council of Kings did not conveign again for 50 years, and when it did it lacked some of the authority it had had in days of old. Sporadic communications continued with the breakaway dwarves, and we were to learn that slowly worship of Vrackor was replacing that of any others of our gods.
A millenium after the break in the council, the great maelstrom surrounding this continent lifted, allowing a fleet of delicate ships to pass from the west to the shores of this land. Of course, content in our cities far from the sea, we had no immediate knowledge of their arrival. Or even of the maelstrom that had kept them away for eons before, and returned 20 years later to keep them here ever since. These ships of course were sailed by the first elves to step on this land. Our best historians estimate that this landfall occurred in the Age 2051 as we counted time. The first contact between the dwarven and elven peoples came 2 years later, as dwarven explorers from Kagarkan were probing the wooded northern foothills for new iron veins, that would eventually become Marthak, a group of elves were admiring the wooded splender. The first encounter was short but peacefull, and after a few more meetings between these two groups, an agreement was reached to arrange a council between their respective rulers. Thus in Thaw Moon of Age 2054, King Ardus of Kagarkan met with the High Duke Airellar Lorin (Who would later declare himself king after losing contact with his homeland).
For years, the elves lived above us and visited to trade and share knowledge and advise. But as the centuries wore on, the elves became more and more demanding and forceful in their "advice". By Age 2700 the relationship had changed with the elven "advisors" claiming titles of Governor, and collecting taxes instead of gifts. The final straw came as the elven emperor formally denied the sovereignty of our kings. Starting in Thanigak and Agganthon and spreading from there, the dwarven nations slipped into revolt against their elven oppressors.
It was in Thotigar that, when the elven advisor declared himself Baron of Thotigar and named King Rattan a mere governor, that our people rose up in anger. Fighting in the city was intense, but Thotigar easily expelled the elven forces. The revolt spread to other nearby cities, and soon most of the south was free of elven repression. It was at this point, we turned our eyes to the humans in the plains, and found that they had taken our lead and revolted on their own. We sent several columns of soldiers to help the humans win their freedom as we directed our focus to our brothers in the north.
Before the start of the war, the great Runesmith Thikar Kohrren visited each of the dwarven cities, collecting supplies of mithril, high-grade steel, gold and fine gems. He then retreated into the mountains, not to be seen for 4 years. As the war erupted, he reappeared bearing 7 great swords strongly enchanted and blessed by Kurek. He visited with King Rattan, and the two of them descended to the plains to meet with the human Kings. Rattan and King Vartran of Leahat strike an alliance against the elves, and as a show of good-faith Thikar presents the 7 swords to Vartran and his generals. Armed with these seven swords, the humans broke the elves' spirit in the south, and turned north to defeat the elven King and force the elves to retreat, their empire shattered.
Though our relation with the humans of Belfiad have largely been peacefull, or indifferent at worse. There was an incident over a century ago, that brought us to arms against the humans in defense of our honor. The humans remember little of this incident, but a great insult was visited upon the King of Thanigak by a human Duke. The Duke, treated with honor and given audiance in the King's great hall, insulted Thanigak's finest beer and demanded wine. Still unhappy with what was presented, the Duke overturned his table and marched out of the city. Several of his underlings took the opportunity to vandalize or loot in that great city. Thanigak demanded formal apology, but when none was given armies marched to force one. The fighting continued off and on for nearly 40 years before, King Telfier II of Belfiad personally went to Thanigak, bearing a fine magic waraxe, a set of mithril ale-mugs and a pair of priceless rubies as a token of peace. Telfier went on to visit several other large cities with smaller tokens of apology. His peace was accepted, but relations have remained cool between our peoples since.
In the millenia after its fall, the lost city of Danithot has remained a reminder of the treachery of orcs, and many have been the attempts to rebuild it. But until 90 years ago, all attempts had been fought off by the orcs who had infested the ruins. In 3045, strong dwarves from over a dozen cities joined together, ready to march again on Danithot. The fighting to take the cavern was long, hard and bloody. The fighting to hold the city while defenses were built was worse, but this time all the dwarven cities continued to devote resources and men to holding what was so long ago taken from us. In Age 3051, a new set of Bronze Gates were finished and lifted into place. Klefon Stoneblock, a cousin of the King of Markinok who claims to trace his line back to a survivor of Danithot, was crowned King of Danithot, and still rules to this day.
You are of course, intimatly familiar with the most noble race of the elves, and most likely passing familiar with the mid-races of humans, dwarves, halflings and perhaps even gnomes (though they are becoming harder to find of late.) This volume is directed not at these, but toward a discussion of those lesser races which still elude our attempts at civilization and council, specifically concentrating on goblins, orcs, ogres and trolls.
The most widespread of these races are the goblins. They are also noted as being the most intelligent of the Lesser races. The goblins swarm over the inner plains of the continent in a semi-nomadic lifestyle. Those goblins toward the south have seemed to settled down into an early agricultural life, farming the fields with crude implements, stone or wooden plows drawn by dogs mostly. Contact with humans has given the goblins some of the basics of metal craft and this is likely to bring the goblins closer to a stable civilization. Hopefully by then they will be more able to accept our guidance and advice. As of now, the goblins have been very difficult to control, having no central government the best we have managed is to control individual warlords and chieftains, requiring us to spread our resources out far to thinly.
Goblins are short humanoids, roughly the same size and build as a halfling. Their skin ranges in color from reddish orange to yellow, depending on family and region. They are generally hairless, though some of the northern tribes have developed light body-hair over their shoulders and arms. Our attempts at civilizing and controlling the goblins have shown that they are quick-witted and intelligent, able to quickly learn the skills of basic agriculture, but without a strong leader in attendence, they seem to lack real work ethic. Goblins seem to favor a communal living style without much concept of individual property, the chieftain (usually the biggest and strongest goblin in the tribe, but on occasion a powerful holy man or a dabbler in the arcane arts) generally takes a much larger share of the food and resources of the tribe, as do his core warriors, but there is little concept of trade or barter among them, and no monetary system.
Goblin religion is bewildering. Among only the few goblin bands I have communicated with, I have heard of upwards of 3 score gods, of everything from the hunt, to goat-milk, to tent-raising. It is difficult to tell how many of these are unique and how many are merely known by several names, but I have seen magic performed by at least 5 priests following what appear to be distinct gods, and a half score more that might seem likely to be. The average goblin seems reasonably religious, stopping several times a day to pray to whatever god might look over his current activity. This often seems to be from fear of retribution, rather than any expectation of aid.
Orcs and ogres are almost as problematic. While stronger and more violent than goblins, luckily both races seem to lack the ability to organize themselves, and are rarely found in tribes larger than 30 or 40. They are intelligent enough to realize they have not the strength to win a direct assault on the cream of the elven army. They do however, strike often and hard in raids on small villages near their homes.
Orcs tend to live in hilly and mountainous regions, surviving on a combination of hunting, gathering and raiding. They do not have any metalworking skills, so most often use tools of wood and stone, though when they can they steal metal weapons from the dwarves and the humans. Encounters with orcs are almost universally violent, and they seem to be completely resistant to civilization or council of any kind. They are ruled by the biggest, strongest orc who keeps his position for as long as he can keep his inferiors from killing him.
Like orcs, ogres are a vicious tribe-based people, valuing little other than strength and battle-prowess. They do have a fondness for gold, however, and have been known to sell their services as mercenaries to a suitably talented employer. They are still violent and argumentative, and don't work well in large units.
Most ogres share the same mountains and hills as orcs, often joining their tribes or fighting them over hunting ground. Further east, the ogres seem much more common, and some of my associates say slightly more intelligent.
The goblins have been known to gang up and enslave ogres for use as heavy labor, though the large numbers of gobln necessary to control and guard an ogre make this practice questionable.
Trolls are the strangest of humanoids we have encountered on this continent, at least physically. Large as an Ogre, if slightly less stoutly built, trolls are mose noteable for their uncanny regenerative cabilities. The most grevious of wounds will simply heal in a matter of a few minutes, and even detached limbs or heads will regrow. Only acid or fire will deal permanent damage to them. The trolls know of their abilities and vulnerabilities and will certainly make an effort to exploit them.
Trolls are violent and territorial, which combined with their abilities and size makes them extremely dangerous. Luckily they keep mostly to swamps and high mountaintops, so we rarely have need to come in contact with them. The humans and dwarves wisely keep their distance from the trolls, as they have little use for these inhospitable regions in any case. (Though the humans' rapid expansion and search for agricultural land will undoubtedly lead them to conflict with trolls or worse.)
Culturally, the trolls live in close-nit, but thankfully small, family groups, tending to be matriarchal in nature. They hunt and fish for food, including humanoids of all shapes and sizes (except trolls, their regeneration makes them unsuitable as foodstuffs). One of my bravest men infiltrated a troll lair, and was amazed to find, among piles of litter, bones, and animal pelts, amazingly well drawn pictures on the walls, aparently in clay and charcoal. He surmised that the drawings were made by human slaves of the trolls, but there has never been any evidence that trolls keep slaves of any type, eating any captives they take before they'd have time to create such art.