by T. Rob Brown (aka Chokra Broodslayer)
Even in the low light of the Golden Dragon Tavern, everyone can see her elven ears perk up as she hears that yet another passerby hasn't heard the recent turn of events that led up to the chaotic mess the Broodslayers Realms are in this time.
This elder elven woman begins to tell a tale so vivid that anyone around her would think they were seeing it unravel before them with their own eyes.
"Greetings, come and listen to the sad tale of the Broodslayers Realms," she says to a stout dwarf who nearly spilled his ale while stumbling to get a good seat.
"I love a good tale with me ale in hand," the dwarf quipps.
A shushing sound comes from behind him and one of the waitresses takes a break from her work to join the crowd in listening to the old woman's tale.
"Wise you are to hear this sad chronicle," the old woman continues. "It all began several months back...well, actually it began several generations back, I suppose...it was always the orcs...throughout the histories of the many kingdoms, problems arose time and again. Usually, the orcs were at the heart of those problems."
The dwarf scowled, "It would be orcs."
His tort was quickly followed by another round of shushing.
"The orcs aren't evil you see," the old woman said. "That's a common misconception. They're just extremely chaotic and they don't want to share land with any of us."
Despite the repeated shushing, the dwarf spoke up again, "Bah! I'll never like the dirty orcs. Who are you, old woman?"
She wrinkled her nose at the dwarf. "Dwarves! Weren't you listening? Oh well, perhaps I didn't introduce myself after all...I am Elronia Seline, an elven elder from the Broodslayers Realms. I know much about these lands and the struggles they have gone through. I am one of the few who have journeyed to nearly every corner of the kingdoms."
After a moment of silence, she began again, "What I wish to offer you is a bit of guidance about these strange lands. Be sure in this, you'd better watch your step. These are troubled times in the Broodslayers Realms. Yes...where was I? Oh...the orcs. They plotted and schemed against us for generations. They were living in the hills where the hill dwarves have lived for a great many years. This of course, caused a bitter rivalry and many wars between the dwarves and orcs of the lands. They are now extremely-hated enemies."
"Aye, this part I know all too well," the dwarf added. "But, how did it come to affect all of the kingdoms?"
"It may have just started as a hate war over land between the hill dwarves and the orcs, but the war spread," Elronia said. "Before long, human caravans were attacked by the orcs while passing through the Dwarven hills. Since the humans carry with them furious tempers, they allied themselves with the dwarves and joined the war against the orcs.
"Following the early wars, the orcs allied themselves with the goblins and other vile creatures that live beneath the crust of the earth. Before long, they had gone far enough to ally with things I dare not speak of in this safe haven. This was the final straw for my people. The elves could only stand by peacefully for so long."
The dwarf took another swig of his ale and looked back at Elronia, "Did they attack your people as well?"
"Actually, they did not," she responded. "I believe the orcs feared adding us to their list of enemies. But, by allying themselves with the dark ones from the chasms of hell, they made us their enemy. We joined the humans and the dwarves in the massive battles that ensued.
"War covered the land. Before long, even the halflings and gnomes had joined sides with us, the dwarves and the humans. And as for the half orcs, they tended to be on varying sides of the war. I'm sure a good many of the ones on our side were mistaken for the enemy and killed without question. War does that to people, you know. It takes away their thought and reason and replaces those things with bloodlust."
"Aye, but ye must defend yourselves against the common enemy!" the dwarf burst out, ale dripping into his matted beard.
Elronia chuckled at the outburst and said, "Any free people must do what they can to keep oppressers at bay. After months of war, a truce was finally made and each side went back to their homes, if they had one left to return to. It was decided peace must return to the land for the 100th birthday celebration of the Council of Kingdoms of the Broodslayers Realms."
The dwarf lifted his mug of ale high in the air, "A large birthday celebration! I'll toast to that!"
"Exciting yes, but not fun as intended," Elronia said. "While we were celebrating peace and our heritage, the orcs pulled the wool over our eyes."
Totally caught up in the story now, with a scowl on his face the dwarf said, "What did the bastards do this time?"
"The celebration was held in the largest of the human kingdoms, at Castle Cragg, which was led by King Theodore Polvar III," Elronia continued. "King Polvar failed to heed a warning from his spies regarding an alliance between the orcs and the thieves' guild in his kingdom. His foolishness cost him his life, as well as the lives of all our rulers."
Sputtering ale all over himself, the startled dwarf let loose, "Did you say ALL of the rulers?"
Giving him a stern eye, Elronia said, "Oh, yes. I most certainly did. During the large birthday celebration, the Assassin's Quarter from the Thieves' Guild poisoned the whole party. Hundreds of nobility from across the many kingdoms of the Broodslayers Realms were killed by a new, powerful poison. Strangely enough, it was odorless, colorless, tasteless, dissolves instantly in liquid and is one of the most dangerous poisons known to us."
"What a tragedy!" the dwarf blurted out.
"Tragic doesn't even begin to describe it," Elronia said matter of factly. "At first, everything was chaos -- which I suspect made the orcs just happy. No one knew what to do, all of our rulers were dead -- every last reasonable piece of nobility, gone. We all feared we would fall into another age of darkness. The beggars and peasants of the land began to wreak havoc across the lands, stealing, vandalizing and much more. Without leadership, most people panicked."
"Surely it was not the end of everything," the dwarf mused. "Weren't people trying to rebuild the monarchies?"
"Some tried, but even before this tragedy happened, the blood lines were already running thin," she said. "Most of the men of noble birth were sent into the orc wars to fight and died by orcish iron blades. There was only one thing left we could think of to do. We had an emergency meeting of the Council of the Kingdoms of the Broodslayers Realms.
"They decided we must start new lines of nobility. In order to do so, the council decided to list a series of quests for each kingdom -- things that need to be done to clean up the area and win the respect of the people that live there. The quests for some kingdoms also involve finding long-lost ancient artifacts that will help inspire the people and regain our failing heritages."
"You mean, a lad who completes these quests could be a king?" the dwarf asked.
"Absolutely," Elronia said. "We are looking for just, fair and good people to lead our lands to a new era of peace and tranquility. Kings and queens are needed here. Those with the will, bravery, strength and skills to rule shall most likely sit on our thrones."
The dwarf grabbed a glowing warhammer from his side and lifted it up, obviously proud of the mighty weapon, "I wonder if I could be a ruler?"
"It is possible, your future stands on the edge of a blade," she replied. "If you hold true to the morals and qualities of one who can lead us, it could very well come to pass. If this is your goal, I wish you luck in your journeys."
"Thank you," the dwarf told her. "I shall give it my best and hope to become a ruler in the Broodslayers Realms." He bowed low to her.
"Then I bid good day to you and godspeed!" Elronia said. "Oh, wait...one more thing...what is your name, master dwarf?"
He held the glowing warhammer higher in the air and threw it across the room, it whipped back around a table, flew around some more then its handle settled back in the dwarf's outstretched hand. "They call me DeathStalker."