Alea Iacta Est
Timeline and History
For centuries, the dry and dusty Wyrmsmoke Mountains were home to dozens of goblinoid tribes. Travelers skirted the goblin-infested hills by a generous margin, but the Wyrmsmoke tribes posed no significant threat to the nearby human townlands and settlements, other than the occasional bloody raid. Yet deep within the mountains lay hidden something that would spell doom – an ancient temple dedicated to Tiamat, the Queen of Evil Dragons.
Built hundreds of years ago to serve as the hidden redoubt of a despicable cult of dragon worshippers, the temple was eventually cleansed by a band of heroes from the human city of Rhest. For several centuries the complex lay empty. Then, eighty years ago, the young half-dragon hobgoblin warrior Azarr Kul discovered the abandoned temple and was awed by the teachings of Tiamat he read on the walls therein. He abandoned Maglubiyet, the traditional deity of his people, and dedicated himself to leading the rest of his nation to Tiamat’s worship.
Over the next twenty years, Azarr Kul grew into a powerful warlord and a mighty priest of Tiamat. Early in his rise to power he struck up an alliance with the blue dragon Tyrgarun, his own sire. Aided by this powerful ally, Azarr Kul converted his entire tribe into fanatical worshipers of Tiamat. He ren amed the tribes that had fallen under his wing the Kulkor Zhul and began to lay his plans for conquest of Elsir Vale.
Dedicating themselves to the Queen of Evil Dragons with the fanaticism of the recently converted, the members of the Kulkor Zhul grew strong, stronger than any Wyrmsmoke tribe before them. Adopting the standard of the Red Hand of Doom, an ancient symbol of Tiamat’s cult, Azarr Kul created an elite caste of warpriests, monks, and dragon-favored champions to lead the Kulkor Zhul.
Eventually, Azarr Kul and his dragon-worshipping zealots destroyed the last opposition to his supremacy over the Wyrmsmoke tribes, slaughtering the Black Knife Goblins and the tribes allied to them in a ferocious onslaught. The survivors accepted his sovereignty and were absorbed into his realm. Azarr Kul named his new kingdom Harg Kulkor, or “Land of the Dragon.”
After a long season of rebuilding his strength, offering bribes to many of the intelligent monsters in the region, and reinforcing the power of his Red Hand warpriests over the disparate tribes he ruled, Azarr Kul finally turned his attention to the lands beyond the Wyrmsmoke Mountains. What he saw whetted his ambition for power; no city or state within hundreds of miles could field an army as strong as his. The High Wyrmlord dreamed of carving out a hobgoblin empire stretching from the Sunset Sea to the Golden Plains – and the first step was to crush the human towns in Elsir Vale.
The civilized folk of Elsir Vale, long used to avoiding the Wyrmsmoke mountains, were completely unaware of the host marching upon them. Kul’s generals sent well trained scouts ahead to silence any that might alert the Vale to their approach. But the Vale was not without its own skilled warriors. Only a band of heroes know known as the Heroes of the Vale could stop the hordes of Azarr Kul. As the evil forces besieged the city of Brindol the hereoshad skirted around the main army and ventured all the way to the Fane of Tiamat in the heart of the Wyrmsmoke Mountains, and struck directly at Azzar Kul himself. With the charismatic leader of the Red Hand of Doom dead, the various factions and tribes that made up the Kulkor Zhul fought amongst themselves for supremacy and proved their own undoing.
The threat was over, but the damage wreaked by the armies of the Red Hand were significant, and it would take a generation before life returned to normal. Even now, there are places in the Vale where the scars of war have not fully healed… outlying communities remain abandoned, dwarven outposts which once were manned by a few brave soldiers now lie in ruins, and the dangerous creatures that inhabit the Blackfens are bolder than they once were. Some whisper that while the Red Hand was defeated, the scales have tipped in favor of darkness.
Over a decade has passed since the fall of Azzar Kul, and in that time the Vale has enjoyed peace.
Gradually, the people spread back out into the shattered hamlets and farmsteads. Dwarven mining settlements in the foothills on the south end of the Vale expanded, and trade picked up.
Today, the war of the Red Hand is little more than a story told by old timers to frighten schoolchildren, a fading museum with an elderly caretaker, and a local holiday occasioned by picnics and revelry.
All is at peace. At least for now…