I feel like I must have posted this (or at least linked to) before, but since I can’t be bothered to search the depths of CYS right now, I easily found it on IS instead.
Anyway here @Green44 This is all the lore I created for the collaborative story over at IS which never actually got off the ground. It'll probably be better if I use multiple posts.
The Xolan Kingdom Statistics
Geography and Economy
The Xolan Kingdom is a cold almost barren place. Mountains and rough terrain are the norm, though long stretches of flat plains do exist for farming. Farming is difficult and food is almost always supplemented by hunting. Not learning how to hunt is usually a sure way to face starvation in the harsh winters. Rozloks are always in supply; small furry creatures that live in burrows and breed at a respectable rate. They taste terrible, but the Xolan favor survival over comfort any day.
Forests are present, but becoming increasing smaller as the productive Xolans cut them down in the name of progress.
The Xolan Kingdom is rich in natural resources and its economy is mainly driven by its factories that now dot its landscape though mining is still a major contributor. Its trading is usually with the small Dwarf clans living in the nearby mountains, though it does sometimes trade with the “friendlier” barbarian tribes to the east and there has been contact made with small fiefdoms located on another piece of land across the Sea of Ice to the north east. Trade with the Empire is limited. No major trading is done, though a few traveling merchants here and there may do some minor business.
One thing the Xolans will never trade in to anyone are weapons, particularly their own.
Pollution which is practically an unknown problem in most places is very much a problem here. Even the much larger Empire does not produce as much. This is due to the factories that continue to belch out black smoke through the day and night, making the Xolan Kingdom an even grayer place than it already is. (Though the forges are said to be a relief from the cold) One river, The Serpent’s Tail is completely polluted and discolored from toxins dumped in it, though much to the chagrin of the Empire this river flows downstream, causing more problems for them than it does for the Xolans. The Xolans of course have no intention of stopping their activity let alone for the likes of the Empire.
Another landmark of Xolan landscape are the large craters in parts of the ground. Some of these can range from small, to nearly the size of a village. Weapon testing is a dangerous endeavor.
The Xolan Kingdom is nowhere near as big as the Empire, but it’s a respectable size for its population. Most of its population is human, but is starting to include a number of Dwarves as well. The Kingdom is congruent geographically speaking though there is one small island off the coast of their territory where yet another new factory of the largest size has set up production.
It is unknown what exactly is being built there.
The Xolan Kingdom spends a lot on defense though it can afford to. Training is often harsh, but creates very disciplined soldiers. Swords, axes or maces are standard issue. When recruits master the art of melee only then are they allowed to practice with firearms. The Xolan military wants their soldiers to be able to defend themselves properly not overly rely on a “wonder weapon”. Arquebuses are common, but high powered repeating crossbows are still used, in fact the better the shooters get those instead as it takes some time to reload an arquebus. Whereas a sharp shooter with a repeating crossbow can do a lot more damage within the same amount of time. Regular bows aren’t used at all anymore.
The Xolan military of course also use their cannons whenever possible, but other siege engines like catapults and ballista are still in use, they’ve just been improved upon.
Xolan Calvary is small mainly due to the lack of horses in their land, but the Xolan prefer to rely on foot troops armed with crossbows and arquebuses shooting from afar rather than foolishly charging into the enemy anyway. (A favorite tactic of the Xolan when the enemy charges at them with cavalry, is to aim for the horses) Generals and officers are usually mounted on horses since they need to move quickly to give various orders their troops.
Xolan Navy is also small, but powerful. Experimentation with building ships completely of metal has already begun and their existing wooden ships usually have reinforced hulls with metal plating on the inside. Naturally cannons are mounted in the ships, probably making them most the powerful in the known seas. Only monstrous sea creatures like Krakens and Megalodons usually dare attack such ships. The navy is mainly assigned to defending Xolan shores and the trade ships to the Northeastern fiefdoms.
Other inventions used to serve the military are flying balloons, but these are mainly for lookout purposes, though rumors of other “airborn” designs are being studied and researched. The newest Xolan “weapons” are probably the clockwork golems which have now become a familiar sight in Xolan factories and cities. These metal giants are difficult to manufacture, so for now only a few have been made for important location defense.
Magic and Religion
Even before they embraced technology the Xolan were never a magic loving people, indeed they never really seemed to be particularly inclined to it. Mages in general are becoming a rarer sight in the Xolan Kingdom. However there was one branch that their ancestors embraced once strongly, the art of Necromancy. Records of the time before the founding of Xol are sketchy at best, but tales tell of a Xolan necromancer named Zalin the Black who saved the future of the Xolan from a cult of Elven druids that lived in a nearby forest who were stealing Xolan women and children to sacrifice to their gods and all efforts to send people into the forest to root them out ended in failure. Angered by seeing his people slaughtered, Zalin announced that he would take care of this problem once and for all, and told the Xolan not to come out their homes until daybreak. Xolan traveled to the forest alone and summoned the spirits of the victims back to this world so that they could avenge their own deaths, but that wasn’t enough, he also cast a strong wither spell turning the murderous elves’ beloved forest into dust as the spirits of their victims wrought their terrible revenge. After it was all said and done, nothing was left, but the price Zalin payed for such a powerful spell was high, and he wandered off in the wilderness somewhere to die. His body was never found; presumably he was eaten by a wandering beast. Though obviously the Xolan think of him as a hero
Because of this tale, Necromancy has never been seen as an “evil” branch of magic by the Xolans. It is merely a tool nothing more, though one that they do recognize that it can be abused, as such all Necromancers are required to register their right to practice it and only then in the service of the Kingdom. This mainly includes working in the factories or mines to supervise the workers that have chosen to sign the “death contract”. This agreement involves the worker allowing the necromancer to raise him from the dead so that he may continue to serve the Kingdom and if he has a family to still provide for them. (Family receives half the pay that they normally would get if the worker was still alive) Of course the worker is now a zombie and merely a shell, but many workers will sign such an agreement, though there is a limit, since the necromancers can only hold control over so many dead at a time. (It is a tiring business after all)
Other branches of magic are practically non-existent in the Kingdom though a few Elementalist specializing in Earth or Fire are welcomed due to the large amount of work done in the mountains.
Healing magic has largely been replaced by natural medicine, though the Xolans might benefit a little more from it since the health rate isn’t exactly the best due to the pollution.
Illusions are considered to be a waste of time (Why trick your opponent when you can blow a big hole in him?) and Natural magic is shunned altogether, presumably the memory of murderous elves lurking in forests still lies in the minds of the Xolan.
As for religious practices, most Xolan have even less use for them than magic. This is probably due to their acceptance of necromancy (Which manipulates life after death) and now science and technology (Which operate on natural law rather than some other worldly source).
However there is no law against those that wish to practice their own private worship of whatever god or gods they may believe in, as long as it does not harm the Kingdom in anyway.
Society and Culture
The Xolan are a serious minded people and while they did come to power through the help of old Dwarf inventions since that time they have made improvements and created their own designs in every effort to “make it their own”. As a general rule the Xolan are accepting of most races provide that they aren’t trying to kill or eat them. Though of course they still harbor suspicion in elves (Another reason why Dwarves are fond of the Xolan) Villages and Towns are usually simple and have only what the people need though walls of some sort are always erected around them. Cities resemble small fortresses rather than cities. (Especially the capital) Slavery has never been institutionalized in the Kingdom mainly due to their “do it yourself” outlook on life, plus it seemed much more costly to keep slaves and a risk to security. (And after visiting the Empire, their position on it has only been reinforced)
Things like art, music and other humanities are not actively pursued on a large level; even the King’s palace isn’t very ornate looking. Not that they aren’t creative, the Xolan just see little reason to decorate things with jewels or pave them in gold. Precious gems and metals are meant for trading not to uselessly wallow in one’s own opulence. The closest the Xolan have to “art” are their inventions. Architecture is valued, but only so it functions, not so it looks “nice”. The Xolan would rather have an ugly looking building that never falls than a nice one that will collapse at the slightest touch. Arguing over philosophical things like “If a tree falls down in the woods, what color is it?” is just the height of pointlessness to the Xolan, they’d much rather argue over more important things like “If I put this much gun powder in the cannon will I still kill the enemy without blowing myself up?” History is still important to them though and they try to keep records of ever important event that goes on in the Kingdom. Most books are dedicated to more practical subjects, but some fiction exists. Usually these involve tales of dedication and self-sacrifice for the greater good of the Xolan Kingdom. Learning about one’s enemies and how they think is a worthwhile endeavor, so strategy and tactics always rank highly, because of this, some “games” have been created to fuel this interest. (But mainly for learning rather than entertainment purposes)
The Xolan seem like joyless people to most, but that actually isn’t true, they just experience joy in simpler pleasures. Indeed with the coming of the Empire they’ve seen what overindulgence can do to a civilization, and they vow to never become like them.
The Dwarf Clans
When nearby Dwarf clans first discovered the Xolans finding one of their long forgotten ancestors’ factories, they were alarmed. If they’d had records of such a place existing they would’ve moved in long before the Xolans could. They thought about launching an attack, but by then it was too late, the Xolans were already using the Dwarf cannons they found on the barbarians and monsters that harassed them and were beginning to make more of their own. The Dwarves were not in the numbers they once were and the humans were abundant and growing more so every day, they could not hope to defeat the Xolans in a victorious war. So they made contact instead, to determine their intentions. As it turned out the Dwarves found they had much in common with the industrious and practical Xolans. They were relieved that the Xolans didn’t seem too interested in conquest (Which surprised the Dwarves given what they knew of humans) so much as they were interested in defending themselves. In time a friendship and was struck up and still exists to this day.
A mutual respect for each other is what keeps the alliance going, the dwarves simply ask that their territory not be encroached on, which the Xolans abide by (The Dwarven territory doesn’t cover much anyway). Other than being a trading partner the Xolans don’t really ask anything in return for the Dwarves. Even when Dwarves offered to help them in their war with the Empire, the Xolans declined and said they’d take care of the problem themselves…and they did. The Dwarves couldn’t ask for a better neighbor that placed a high regard for self-reliance.
Lately though the Dwarves are somewhat restless about the increased weapon testing and all the new invention designs that the Xolans have been engaging in ever since their war with the Empire, particularly the designs that the Dwarves once abandoned because they were thought to be too dangerous. This might be the reason for the recent number of Dwarves migrating to the Kingdom to help as engineers. They can’t stop the Xolans from doing what they want, but they at least want to try to guide the Xolans in a direction that won’t cause THEM trouble in the future.
In the past these were very much a problem for the Xolan, but nowadays they are merely a nuisance. In fact barbarian raids are becoming rarer against the Xolan Kingdom mainly because of the strong military presence and increasingly bleak landscape. Raiding the Empire to the south is a much more attractive and lucrative option. Still that doesn’t mean the tribes are friendly and they will attack the occasional merchant caravan if they think they have good odds.
Lately one particularly large barbarian tribe called Grishrak’s Horde is attempting to unify ALL the tribes in the area under the rule their Warlord Grishrak. This inevitably involves wiping out half of the tribe and then wiping out the other half if they don’t surrender and swear loyalty to Grishrak.
Grishrak is a half-orc of the largest size and seems to be trying to build a Kingdom of his own. Besides the Empire they see this Horde as the next biggest threat to their security, however despite his brutality Grishrak seems to have a sense of honor and has no love for the Empire either.
Steps have been made to discuss this matter further with him.
There are a few beasts that lurk deep within the mountains, but those are rare. The only monster threat comes from the northern reaches of the Kingdom when the occasional group of ice trolls come wandering down in search of food, on the really rare occasions, a Frost Giant appears. When either of these events occur, no effort is spared to eliminate these threats immediately.
Viktor was born in the town of Orminsk, not the most prosperous town, but better than some in the Kingdom, still Victor's father Ivar wanted better for his wife Natalia and Viktor and farming wasn't going to cut it. When news that a new factory was going to be built nearby, Ivar saw his opportunity to improve his family's life, or at least earn enough to send Viktor to a proper school in Xol as he saw that his son was a bright boy even at a young age. Ivar believed such talent should not be wasted; his son deserved a chance for a better life, perhaps with Viktor's intelligence he would grow up to become an inventor for
So it came to pass Ivar went to work at the factory and Viktor was sent to a school in Xol. Sadly after a few years of working in the factory an accident occurred as they normally do in such places and Ivar was killed. It would've been the end of Viktor's higher education had his father not signed a "Death contract" which permitted Xolan Necromancers to raise him as a zombie so that he may continue to work to support his family (And the Kingdom) in death. Viktor came home after hearing the news and said he would quit school, as the Death pension wouldn't be enough to support his education and his mother, but Natalia would not hear of him quitting school she knew how important to her husband that Viktor make something of himself and it was important to her too, so she took a job as a barmaid. Viktor's mother told him one thing before he left for school again.
"Remember your father's sacrifice. Remember mine. Succeed."
Viktor vowed that he would and redoubled his efforts in school.
Viktor excelled in his classes, and even in the martial training requirement. He had a fascination with places outside the Kingdom and made every attempt to read more about them, especially about the Great Empire to the south. The war with the Empire occurred long before he was born, but he'd heard nothing but bad things about the place, so unsurprisingly what little he read about it, was also negative, still he wondered what it was like to actually be there. To this end he sought out one of his professors who had actually traveled to the Empire and asked him all he could hoping to get a more balanced perception.
He did ?to an extent. The Professor Petrovich explained that there were wondrous things about the Empire such as their art, music, philosophy and things of that nature. Most things that were considered frivolous in the Kingdom. However, the professor felt the need to reinforce the idea that all the things that Viktor heard about the Empire were also true. The Empire was a dangerous threat to the Kingdom. Viktor wonder about this remark; he couldn't see how the Empire could harm the Kingdom especially when he always heard how badly they lost in the war against them. Petrovich became even more serious?
"Viktor, I have traveled to many places of The Empire and while I saw wonders I saw much more unnecessary hedonism and tyranny. The Empire is a plague on this land, indeed its influence can be felt almost everywhere. Its decadence and oppression spreads wherever it plants its flag. It is worse than barbarians or monsters; at least they merely attack and kill. The Empire chooses to not just attack, but to suck the very life from people and continue to use them until it has no more need of them. What it cannot assimilate, it conquers, what it cannot conquer it destroys completely. It couldn't do the first two to
us, so what does that leave?"
"But, aren't we at peace?"
"Hah, a mere set back for them. Make no mistake, the Empire IS powerful, we should never underestimate it and we must be ever vigilant to maintain our way of life and our identity. A way of life and identity that the Empire hates because it is not their own? but I believe my words cannot truly do justice to the place. You have to know evil before you can spit in its eye. Would you like to travel to the Empire and see it first hand?"
Viktor didn't need to be asked twice, he jumped at the chance. Petrovich still had government friends to set up such a trip and also spoke highly of Viktor's academic achievements to them. Of course the agreement was that Petrovich had to attend the trip.
The trip to the Empire was uneventful, but Viktor was overwhelmed just to be outside of the Kingdom, he noticed how much nicer the land looked, much greener too. Soon they arrived in the Empire port city of Veno. Petrovich was familiar with the city and noticed it hadn't changed much, so he had little difficulties in getting around to show it to Viktor. The first thing Viktor noticed was how much bigger the city was than the average Xolan City and he saw things that would've never held a place in the Kingdom. Magnificent structures and statues made with ornate material, merchants going about their business
wearing heaps of jewelry, an open stage like area where people were speaking to each other and the audience while another played some sort of instrument. Petrovich saw the wonder in the Viktor's eyes, he and many others that had also visited also felt that wonder for a fleeting moment, but only for a moment.
"Yes, this is the nice area of the city, but there are other parts of it to see." Petrovich said.
Petrovich took Viktor to the slave docks where Empire troops were bullying their latest captures which consisted mainly of a group short people in chains.
"Hey those aren't Dwarves are they?"
"Dwarves? No my boy, I'd wager any Dwarf worth his mettle wouldn't allow such a fate befall him. Those are Halflings."
"Oh yes, I remember reading about them now! Were they at war with the Empire?"
"Not at all, they were minding their own business, much like we were and the Empire just attacked them for their own gain. Except unlike us, these poor creatures were unable to defend themselves. Look upon this and know that thanks to our way of life, we were strong enough to repel the Empire to avoid such a tragedy. You remember those wonderful monuments you saw earlier? Who do you think built them? These slaves. Most of this Empire is built upon the backs of slaves."
"Why don't they revolt or something?"
"The Empire is quite adept at breaking the will of people, oh sure there have been a few minor revolts here and there, but those are usually a small group of slaves that have planned for their own escapes, nothing on such a grand scale that would damage the Empire on a permanent basis. And more often than not those escaped slaves are caught and made an example of, to discourage further disobedience. It gets to the point that the slaves accept their fates and are content to live as mere chattel. Madness I know, though you'll see that even its own citizens do not fare so well, let's look at where the regular commoners live, I suggest you keep alert; the law isn't too enforced in such places."
The second part of this tour involved walking around in the poor area of Veno. The first thing Viktor noticed was the crowdedness. It was almost like all these people were being stuffed and forced to live in this area. Another thing that stuck out was how much dirtier it was there than the other parts of the city he visited. Granted the Xolan Kingdom struggled with its own pollution problems, but the reasons for them were due to the very practical need to produce defenses and other things for the Kingdom. This uncleanliness was more due to lack of care and apathy; there wasn't a reason for it.
"I don't understand why they're all crammed together like a family of Rozloks, this city is huge, and there's plenty of room to support the entire population and there really isn't a good reason for these filthy conditions, it's a breeding ground for disease." Viktor said as a rat scuttled past his feet.
"Because the upper class wouldn't allow that. They don't want these commoners living next door to them, yet they don't want to spend the money on public works to make life easier for them either, they'd rather spend it on foolish things like a gold hat or something."
"I understand there is always going to be people with more than others, but the government can only function like a well oiled machine if everyone is doing their part. Don't they realize that this isn't good for morale if their own poorer citizens are blatantly disregarded and treated this way?"
"Oh they have ways to appease the masses, see that large circle like structure that everyone is going to? That's an arena where the government holds bloody games and slaves, prisoners and captured monsters all fight to the death. Its sole purpose is to keep the population occupied for awhile so they don't dwell on how miserable their life is, not to mention rob them of what little money they earn. I suppose the commoners get some sort of satisfaction that it isn't THEM getting their guts stabbed and pulled out in the arena"
"But that doesn't even make sense! They're paying to escape reality!"
"In my experience, the citizens of the Empire wallow in escapism. The reasons vary, but none of them are good ones. Look around, you notice how many drunks you see passed out in the streets? How about the number of harlots? You see that man sniffing the contents of that small bag over there? Yet another new form of escape. I recently heard about a new addictive drug spreading in the Empire. Looks like its spread here. Heard that it's highly addictive and deadly."
Prostitution wasn't unknown or exactly illegal in the Xolan Kingdom, but like other things that could cause potential problems, it was regulated by the government. Kingdom sanctioned prostitutes mainly serviced miners and workers from the factories and considered to be working for the good of the Kingdom. Here Viktor saw no such regulation. Spirits and ale existed in the Kingdom, but rarely overindulged in to the extent Viktor was seeing here. Such drunken revelry on a mass scale would be unheard of before Xolan Guards would come to break it up. As for the drug, there wasn't anything like that in the Xolan Kingdom and most likely never would be. It would be considered a dangerous threat, though it would be highly unlikely any right thinking Xolan would take such a drug, Viktor certainly wouldn't want to when he saw the wild yet empty like state on the face of the addict after inhaling the drug. He looked away and shook his head.
Petrovich noticed that Viktor was now starting to see how truly poisonous the Empire was.
"And just think Viktor, you have just seen a taste of how the Empire functions, it is like this all over and in some places even worse."
"It seems like something should be done, I mean all the Empire seems to be is a large parasite draining the world."
"Hmm, you're talking about a war, and you wouldn't be the first to suggest it, however even in its current state, the Empire is much too big and powerful for us to handle by ourselves, though the day will come Viktor. The day will come when this bloated pig gets carved up. With all of its problems, it is inevitable that it will fall and when it does, we shall be there to pick up the pieces and properly avenge those that died in the village of Nosovalik so many years ago. That act of destruction will never EVER be forgotten. Come, you've seen enough of this decadent place; let us return back to the Kingdom."
Soon they were back in the "nice" area of the city of Veno again, accept now the things that Viktor saw looked less wondrous to him. Now he saw them as most Xolan would, symbols of arrogance and oppression. Viktor saw another merchant; a very fat one probably wearing as much jewelry as he weighed being carried by four very tired and abused slaves.
"You lazy slaves, move faster! Watch it! Hey! You two, get outta my way, I got important business to attend to!"
"Alright, calm down." Viktor replied which caused the fat merchant's eyes to narrow as if he'd never been spoken to in such a manner.
Petrovich watched closely to see how Viktor would handle this situation.
"How DARE you speak to me in such a manner?you?you?you're a Xolan aren't you?"
"Of course!" Viktor said proudly and getting more annoyed.
"Hmph. Figures you don't know your place. Don't know why they even let your type in Empire lands, you barely even trade with us."
"Maybe that's because you don't have anything worthwhile to trade."
"Hah! I'd say it's the other way around boy. You lot don't produce anything, but smoke up in that little kingdom of yours."
"And all you're doing is producing is hot air, you could be one of our balloons with how fat you are and how you're being held up, the only difference is our balloons are much more useful and serve a purpose!"
Somehow this last remark made one of the slaves laugh even though he tried hard not to, this in turn caused him to lose his grip and the fat merchant's own weight caused the now unbalanced palanquin to fall over and now he was sprawled out on the ground along side his slaves. While Petrovich pushed Viktor towards the City gates before anymore trouble was caused, the fat merchant cursed everyone around him, Viktor, his slaves, and the gawking onlookers.
There was something very symbolic about this to Viktor. His mere words caused the slaves to falter from their subservience for just a moment which caused the fall of the fat Empire merchant. It's possible something like this could be applied on a grander scale. He remembered back to the earlier words of his professor saying how the Empire is built upon the backs of slaves, if mass slave revolts occurred it would surely cripple the Empire, but why stop at just slaves? If enough of the citizens weren't so distracted and spoke out against their own corrupt government, anarchy wouldn't be far behind.
Yes words could be weapons as well and it was at that point that Viktor decided he would fight the Empire with words. Get inside its bloated belly, explore it all, pin pointing where it was at it weakest, strengthen where the dissension already exists, and create dissension where it doesn't, all to create a domino effect of total collapse and destruction of the Empire.
More information on Viktor
Viktor is a man of average height and build, though he is skilled in combat, he prefers to use his intelligence to get out of problems if necessary. He carries a sword and a pair of custom pistols for protection. (Flintlocks) His pistols are currently the few in existence as one-handed firearms are still not available on a wide scale, usually only reserved for high ranking officials. Viktor tends to dress in dark colors as is the custom of most Xolans who have lots of contact with things like soot, gunpowder and smoke.
Viktor tends to be serious minded, but having contact with the Empire, Dwarves, and barbarians has allowed him to "fit in" when the need arises and as necessary for an Emissary from Xol, though in cases of the Empire he still seems a bit standoffish with the ruling class and some of the richer merchants. He of course gets along much better with the common Empirites when he's dealt with them.
After he completed his education and recommendations from his professors, he proved himself to be a skilled diplomat to Xol when dealing with various barbarian tribes. The Xolan can come off as "scary" to less developed places, and typically when tribes are scared, they attack. This would result in a waste of time and resources for the Xolan and a waste of life for the barbarians. Thanks to Viktor though, many of the tribes were dealt with in a peaceful manner and some joined the Xolan Kingdom, or at the very least they could be traded with.
Other accomplishments was Viktor's trip to the Najord Fiefdoms which reinforced trade routes there, and an ongoing good relationship with the Dwarves after he fought along side them during a small surprise goblin invasion when he was currently there to just discuss strengthening their mutual protection pact. Of course this deed caused the Dwarves to agree to it.
After these deeds, it was then decided that he would be best employed to deal with the Empire. Past Xolan ambassadors only just barely kept the peace, indeed many hated being there in the middle of the decadence, and that was mainly due to the fact that they still maintained a "Xolan mindset" Viktor however had proven to be versatile when he needed to be, so he was dispatched and he gladly accepted the assignment.
Other than dealing with the arrogant Empire ruling class, he quickly began his plan he always thought about since his first visit. He began to find out through bribery, listening, and exploration where the "rebellious" folks of the Empire were. The Underground as it were. It was his goal to help, encourage or fund these small but growing factions whenever possible. He was reminded of how one Rozlok doesn't do any damage, but if thousands can lay waste to a farm. Eventually that's what would happen to the Empire.
He is very careful about these dealings, most often only dealing with a single "rep" from such underground resistance movements when necessary. While the Empire government doesn't trust him, there is no evidence so far that he's been doing anything wrong or damaging. Fortunately the Empire is also lazy and corrupt, if it was still half as vigilant as it once was, Viktor's activities might be discovered. This is one of the few times Viktor appreciates the decadence of the Empire.
The Xolan Kingdom doesn't exactly want to know all the gruesome details of what Viktor is doing, just whether it's making some sort of headway as far as the big picture is concerned.
As of late The Xolan Empire has also been opening up talks to Grishrak's Horde. Discussions have been non-violent, but not really making an impact. Viktor may be called away from the Empire to talk to Grishrak. In fact its very likely, but if this can in anyway harm the Empire, Viktor will do everything in his power to make sure these talks go successfully.
Grishrak is the current Warlord of the largest unified barbarian horde North-East of the Empire, though its unification is only due in thanks to Grishrak's leadership and ruthlessness.
Grishrak is a half-orc, but his birth was an unusual one from an unlikely pairing. His mother was an orc outcast and his father was human soldier of the Empire.
Grishrak's father Dominicus was part of a legion during one of the Empire's forays into barbarian lands. The battle was one of the bloodiest, and Dominicus in particular was in the thick of it. Having had his own family killed in a barbarian raid, he cared nothing for his own life and fought with reckless abandon and paid no attention to his surroundings other than where the next attacker was coming from. Eventually Dominicus became embroiled in a small battle of his own with two ogres. He prevailed, but was heavily wounded and his battle with the ogres had placed him far from the original battlefield; he soon heard the sounds of orcish grunting nearby. Finally having a sense of self-preservation, Dominicus staggered into a nearby wood and
eventually collapsed. He was found by the female orc, Traga, who was living alone as an outcast from the Blood Rock tribe who nursed him back to health over the course of several months.
One can only speculate what happen in those months, while Traga was skilled in natural herbal medicine, she did not have any magical powers of any kind, so whatever feelings that developed, occurred naturally. Perhaps they were both lonely, who can guess the matters of the heart in cases like these? What was certain is that Dominicus never returned to the Empire and stayed with his new family after Grishrak was born and for awhile they were happy in their secluded part of the woods for awhile. He learned various skills from the both of them as the years went by.
Of course as with most things, this was not to last. One day an Empire advance squad lead by a recruited renegade scout from the Pure Hills tribe discovered them. Traga was gathering herbs and attacked instantly by the blood thirsty scout before the Empire troops could even react. Being an orc of course she wasn't entirely defenseless, but the scout killed her before he and Grishrak arrived after hearing her cries.
Upon seeing Traga's body, Dominicus reverted back to his once quelled rage except this time it was towards the Empire and their lackeys. He slew the scout, but the Empire troops subdued him, they would've flat out killed him had one of the soldiers not vaguely recognized him. Going AWOL was a serious offense, it was decided that he was a criminal and as such would be taken back to be tried properly, which in essence meant that he'd be executed at worst, or sold into the gladiator pits at best.
As for Grishrak, who was kneeling by his mother's body the whole time, the Empire troops decided that he would be sold into slavery, but this was not to be either. before Before being walloped on the head unconscious, Dominicus shouted to his son to run, to live free and never a slave to anyone. Grishrak, always one to obey his father, he complied, by biting off the fingers of one the Empire soldiers that tried to grab him and disappearing deeper into the woods. There was a chase, but Grishrak knew the woods better than the Empire troops and soon lost them. Only when he knew he was safe, did he allow himself to
weep for his parents.
He survived in the woods for a long period of time, but eventually again more interlopers stumbled upon him, this time it was a pack of goblins. Thinking they had found easy prey they attacked, but Grishrak had been living out in the woods for a long time at this point, fighting dangerous wild animals for food, not to mention he knew it probably as well as an elf might have. One by one he dispatched the goblins save one, who begged for his life and came up with proposal, that his own tribe could use a great fighter such as himself. As it turned out the tribe that the Goblin was speaking of was the Blood Rock tribe. He'd heard about them from his mother, he was curious, and had enough of the solitary life in the woods, so he took the goblin up on his offer and headed north.
His acceptance into Blood Rock tribe wasn't easy; the fat Orc Chieftain Klag wasn't as impressed as the goblin was especially given that Grishrak was obviously half human. Klag insisted that if Grishrak was truly a warrior, he'd have to fight as many orcs as he had goblins to the death. Grishrak barely won, but he'd managed to earn a place in the Blood Rock tribe.
It was during this time that Grishrak participated in countless raids and battles with other tribes. It was fun at first, it made Grishrak come to appreciate the comradery of others. However, it wasn't enough. The battles seemed pointless especially since the other tribes never had much more than they did. Up until that time Grishrak had only fought for survival, he was tired of just fighting for mere survival and scraps, he wanted something bigger. Something more for himself. He began to think about some of the stories that his father told him about the Empire. To him it sounded like a magical place filled with riches.
Of course it was also the place that took away his father and mother; he hadn't forgotten that, he hadn't forgotten a lot of things. The more he dwelled on things that angered him, he also remembered that it was THIS very tribe that exiled his mother, probably by that barely competent fat fool Klag too no doubt. He also remembered how his father told him not to be anyone's slave. And while he wasn't actually a slave here, he was following someone else's orders; he wasn't livingas "free" as he might've liked. Grishrak picked up his axe?.
Grishrak became the new chieftain of the Blood Rock tribe and Klag's head was put on a spike.
Grishrak being brighter than his predecessor (and the rest of the tribe for that matter) began to think of the bigger treasures that lay within the Empire, but he knew in order to gain those he'd have to gather a larger group than the tribe he was in control of now. So he waged war on the neighboring tribes like what was done in the past, except this time, they were wars of conquest. The time of simply raiding other tribes was finished; it was time to play for keeps. One by one surrounding tribes were conquered and united under Grishrak's banner. Eventually the Blood Rock tribe was renamed Grishrak's Horde and it began to push back to the south towards the Empire where he began to organize raids again, but this time on Empire caravans and border towns.
It still wasn't enough for Grishrak though; the "meat" of the Empire lay further within and in order to get to that, he'd need an even bigger army, so he began conquering more minor tribes, (Most of which had heard of him already and gave little resistance in exchange for mercy) and it was at this time he'd come across the tribe of the Pure Hills.
Remembering that the retched scout that hacked down his mother had a similar tattooing as this tribe, he wasted no time in declaring war on them, especially when it was obvious that they consorted with the Empire. In this case, Grishrak seemed less interested in their submission (Even if they'd given it) as he was in total annihilation of the tribe. A genocidal war he's currently winning. After they're finally gone the next step is most likely the city of Drevlin.
More info on Grishrak and his horde
Grishrak takes after his father somewhat, in that he actually stands erect rather than the "hunched" appearance that most orcs seem to favor. Though his muscular build and skin tone are more in line with his mother. He is tall, and gives off an air of leadership that most orcs want to follow despite him only being of half-blood. He's lead them in victory after victory, so they've already looked past that. Victory in battle and gaining loot are more important to them. He favors a large battle axe rather than a sword.
Grishrak is a grim individual, though not without a sense a humor (albeit a violent one) he tends to take great joy in victory in
battle. His horde consists of orcs, goblins, ogres and even humans. (There are also a few other odd creatures in the mix) Orcs and goblins make up the majority, but that doesn't mean he particularly has an affinity for either of them. He respects orcs in that they're great warriors, but he wishes most of them thought more about the "bigger picture". If it wasn't for him holding everything together, they'd most likely all be still fighting each other. As it stands now, in-fighting is kept on a smaller scale and localized (Grishrak wouldn't want to eliminate ALL of it anyway, as it does weed out the weak)
Goblins he finds annoying, (Always has ever since his first encounter with them in the woods) but they're a little brighter than his orcish followers and they do most of the jobs nobody else wants to, so they serve a vital purpose.
Pure humans he flat out distrusts as in his experience, (as well as tales he's heard of the Empire) they're certainly the most treacherous race he's ever dealt with, in fact it was usually the human tribes that gave him the most trouble in subduing. Subduing orcs and goblins is easy; a show of superior strength usually ensures loyalty. Not so with humans, they're more than likely to say they're loyal and then try to assassinate you in your sleep. (As with what happened a few times in the past, though Grishrak obviously taught the would be assassins a severe and fatal lesson) Of course it is this human deviousness that probably has allowed him to get as far as he did (A fact he's aware of which is why he distrusts humans!)
Other "mixed bloods" he finds no more affinity to other than the superficial fact that they also have a mixed heritage, mainly because they were raised like barbarians so they act accordingly. Nobody born in the barbarian lands had a childhood quite like his, so he wouldn't find anything in common with them. He truly is unique and alone in this way.
Oddly he tends to like ogres. Despite them being simpler than orcs, they tend to be very loyal which he greatly appreciates; in fact he personally has four elite ogre guards.
Most of his army consists of foot troops, but has a sizable "Calvary" as well, if you count goblins riding giant wolves as cavalry. Most of these goblins are also skilled in the bow and can be devastating as they ride and shoot at the enemy. (Another reason for their usefulness)
Grishrak has never turned down the usefulness of magic in combat, but he doesn't particularly like to rely on it. The few "wizards" under his control are untrained "Hedge wizards" who have some natural ability, but nothing formal. Most of them are able to cast a few combative Elementalist type spells, and of course Nature magic. Healing magic is minor as being a bunch of barbarians, they use a lot of natural herbal medicines, though after a big battle with lots of wounded it's used more extensively.
Illusions are not used (Too wimpy) and Necromancy is right out. (Too creepy)
Religions amongst the individual tribes can vary, but most of them believe in burning their dead. (To prevent necromancy no doubt!) A simple form of ancestor worship exists to an extent, and a few warrior type gods exist in the pantheon. Grishrak himself isn't particularly religious, and that's probably due to his childhood. Though he does acknowledge that they do exist. He leaves such matters to Shaman and others who place more faith in their favor.
Grishrak also has many wives and offspring (And probably more offspring since he's also taken many mistresses in the past) and just like his horde they range from human to ogre.
He definitely has aspirations for something greater, but he sometimes wonders about the desire for a kingdom of his own. From what "civilized" contact he's had with the Empire he's not too impressed with them as warriors and considers them soft, weak and spoiled from civilized city living. He'd hate to turn into one those fat Warlords who allowed themselves to let their skills deteriorate (Sort of like what happened to Klag)
Still, part of him (the human part no doubt) does like some of the things that civilization has to offer. He wouldn't mind a little
stability and relaxation every once in awhile as while he'd never admit it to anyone, even he gets tired of ongoing violence all the time. The other attraction is a few of the more cerebral things that come with civilization, most under his banner have no interest in books and such, but Grishrak has a curiosity about them probably from his father teaching him the Empire alphabet by drawing symbols in the dirt and some of the stories he told him. Currently one of his human wives (who was an escaped Empire slave) is teaching him how to read with a few of the books he's managed to stop his overzealous from destroying when they raid merchant caravans.
There are no challenges for his leadership of the horde yet and probably won't be for a long time, but he knows there probably will be a day when one of his sons will challenge him (perhaps even daughter, as a few females have been known to fight alongside the males) While Grishrak doesn't exactly have a problem with this, he just doesn't think it'll last after he dies. He sees the horde splintering into several factions and dissipating soon after his death. This is another reason why he would prefer to establish a proper kingdom. Organization, succession, and legacies are a few more of the things civilization got right. After all he's accomplished he'd also hate to die only to be forgotten soon after his death like so many other "barbarian warlords".
At this point his holdings are greater than any other barbarian tribe and the territory stretches from a great distance with several
villages dotting its landscape, it is also home of several nomadic tribes as well. Landscape varies greatly, ranging from hills,
mountains, forests, woods and plains. At one time it was called the "barbarian lands" but in recent years it's been called "Grishrak's Dominion".
For the most part, Grishrak allows everyone to go about their business, with just a few rules.
No major warring between the tribes under his control. If he needs them to fight or extra supplies for a battle they must comply.
Other than that, it's relatively the same life they all lived before. If anything the land has become more peaceful under Grishrak's rule as he's managed to direct all that fighting to outsiders like the Pure Hills tribe and the Empire.
Besides the obvious enemies, Grishrak's also had skirmishes with Dwarves, but this has lessened somewhat due to the Xolan Kingdom intervening and helping their allies. The Xolan Kingdom is one enemy that Grishrak doesn't take lightly. In fact he finds them to be quite unusual for humans as they don't seem to have let civilization allow them to grow lazy and corrupt. They even seem to have a code of honor of sort. (Unlike the Empire) He hopes in some ways to emulate their success in this regard.
However, he finds the strange machines that they build to be in the realm of insanity and completely unsporting. While he doesn't doubt that one his would be worth ten of theirs in a straight up fight, he also knows one of theirs has the power to kill ten of his with one shot of their cannon things. Not to mention that they seem obsessed with defense and from what he's heard their land is poisoned from all their industry. (And their practices in Necromancy don't sound too good either) It certainly doesn't appear like its worth attempting to conquer for such a little prize. No, the Empire is much more attractive. As it stands there are no formal hostilities between Grishrak and the Xolan and given that the Xolan aren't exactly friends with the Empire either, this has resulted in some Xolan ambassadors to be sent to talk with Grishrak about a more formal "peace treaty" with hints of a possible alliance. Grishrak is VERY skeptical about such matters, though he has been willing to listen rather than having their heads lopped off, after all, stranger pairing have occurred.
His own existence is proof of that.
That's pretty much it. If I was rewriting it now, I'd probably change the Xolan Kingdom into a different government system. I feel like it wouldn't be a monarchy with their mindset. Probably something a little more Soviet.
Here's all of it, along with a map