The Legacy of Ykesha
Troll clans have long fought amongst themselves for the right to rule their race. With the creation of the Night Keep, the Grobb clan firmly established its dominance over the trolls. The Broken Skull clan was driven from the city and built a stronghold of its own. Years later, in a flood of brutish strength and cunning the trolls of the Broken Skull clan returned, and by their actions forever changed Norrath.
Prophecy of Grozmok
In the Elder Age the trolls followed one god: Cazic Thule, their creator. They grew and evolved under his guidance, and the blood of Fear beat strong through their hearts. The unity of the trolls was broken when Innoruuk, the Prince of Hate, touched a young troll mystic named Zraxth.
Zraxth's deviation from the followers of Cazic Thule was small at first. He would gather small groups of other mystics in secluded camps far away from the troll cities. There they would perform ceremonies to channel their hatred, and through it give power to the trolls who were being oppressed by the dominant forces of the Rallosian armies. Hatred drove the trolls, making them more bloodthirsty and savage, but their might was still not enough to confront the will of the Ogre Empire that dominated Southern Tunaria. Zraxth saw that his efforts were futile, and asked his new lord, Innoruuk, when the trolls would see the power they were promised. The knowledge he sought came with a price; Innoruuk demanded a blood tithe in exchange for a vision. Zraxth was instructed to slay the high priests of Cazic Thule so their blood could be used to grant him foresight.
Zraxth and his followers did as the Prince of Hate demanded. Cloaked by the night, he and his disciples crept into the camps of their brethren and killed every elder priest to yield the blood to be used in the rite. The blood of their kin on their hands, Zraxth and his disciples set about performing the rituals described in Innoruuk's instructions. A great stone tablet was brought before Zraxth, and the ceremony began. Zraxth meditated for days without sleep or food, trying to transcend his mortal mind and see what Innoruuk had promised him.
On the eighth day, Zraxth spoke. The disciples tried in vain to record his words but found that no ink would hold them; the words ran like quicksilver off their parchments.. Zraxth, still in a deep trance, took the stone and began to record his words with the elder's blood and a chisel made from their bones. As he laid each symbol into the stone, it blazed with dark flames and then settled. As the stone cooled, the disciples saw that the words appeared as though they had always been a part of the stone, rather than carved and painted into it.
Zraxth's visions foretold the coming of the Grozmok. The Grozmok would be the greatest of all trolls and would unite the troll clans through Fear and Hate. Through his knowledge of war and magic he would topple the empires in Tunaria. The stone would be the symbol of his power. No true Grozmok would rise without the stone, but many false Grozmoks would die because of it. This was the prophecy, the curse and the legacy of Grozmok.
The ceremony killed Zraxth. His body was burned, and his ashes were scattered. His disciples returned to their tribes, each assuming their old positions among the mystics, teaching their people of the prophecy of Grozmok. Zraxth's first disciple was given the stone, as his tribe was the strongest and most likely to give rise to the Grozmok. They protected the stone and its secrets for many generations, until whispers of the prophecy spread to the Rallosian Empire.
The ogres did not fear the trolls; however, they did fear the power that the stone might grant them. To stifle any hope that the stone may have provided, they raided the home of the tribe that held the stone. After slaughtering all who lived there, they returned the stone to their vaults, attempting to end the prophecy and any power that may have been drawn from it.
The stone remained in the fortified strongholds of the Ogre Empire until the curse of the Pantheon struck the minions of Zek down for their hubris. The fall of the empire created a void of power in Southern Tunaria. The two largest troll factions, Clan Broken Skull and Clan Ykesha, began to battle for rule over the once conquered lands. As their war raged, knowledge of the stone faded from the trolls' minds. It lay forgotten, until marauders from Clan Ykesha found the stone hidden in the vaults of a decimated ogre fortress. The lore and memory of the stone's true meaning had been long lost to the trolls; still they recognized the stone as an artifact from their ancient history, and presented it as a tribute to their clan leader, Warlord Ykesha.
The ancients of Clan Ykesha eventually managed to translate the writing on the stone; this revealed the lost prophecy of the Grozmok to them. Warlord Ykesha took his capturing of the stone to mean that he was destined to be the Grozmok. Rumors of the stone spread throughout the Clans. Meanwhile, the power of Clan Ykesha grew as other tribes joined them to fight for the Grozmok.
Innoruuk, seeing the hate among his children fade as more and more joined Ykesha, planted seeds of doubt in the Warlord's mind. Ykesha grew reclusive, moving deep within his compound to protect himself from attempts to usurp his power. This growing insanity weakened him. As dissention grew within Clan Ykesha, other clans grew bold and struck the might of the Ykesha. It was Clan Broken Skull that managed to finally overthrow Ykesha and lay claim to the stone.
The remnants of the Ykeshan clan regrouped slowly, rising under the might of Warlord Jurgash, and formed Clan Grobb. The new clan grew under the direction of Ykesha's descendent, while the stone remained hidden on Broken Skull Rock. Innoruuk, again seeing the hate among the trolls settling, granted one of Grobb's mystics a vision that revealed the location of the Grozmok stone. Clan Grobb invaded Broken Skull Rock and recovered the stone. The victorious clan returned the stone to Southern Tunaria.
Today, the Grozmok stone rests hidden and well protected deep within Grobb. Knowledge of the stone and the prophecy it contains has once again begun to fade as new generations pursue their own dreams of power. The young consider the old stories of the stone and the first great warlord, who rests in his fortress now swallowed by the swamp, to be campfire myths. Yet, many of the clan elders wait with the hopes that one day the Grozmok will rise from their ranks and fulfill the legacy of Ykesha.
The Stone is Stolen
An unnatural fog fills the small cove. It brings with it a numbing quiet, which is only broken by the rhythmic sound of waves washing against the shore and slapping the hulls of several small wooden skiffs. The cove is devoid of life, since most of its typical residents have moved aside to make room for the chilling fog. The morning sun will eventually rise, and the cove's residents will return to their swampy homes. Yet, these things will all wait until the fog has receded to the ocean, carrying its dark cargo with it.
For now, the fog continues to creep up the shore and into the marshlands that lay beyond. The small cove fills with dozens of wooden skiffs. The small boats seem to cut through the water in almost perfect silence, relying only on magic to propel them ashore. A single figure in each rises and pulls its dark hood over its smooth, finned head. One motions toward the dense swamplands to the east. The strange figures seem even more out of place silhouetted against their bulkier, less agile troll allies; yet their authority is unquestioned.
The trolls push quickly through the low tangles of the swamp, their savage strength easily clearing a path. It has been some time since they moved through terrain such as this. Their clan has long avoided this place, but today's activities should remove those old fears. Once they have acquired the stone, the tides will quickly bring a new era with them from Broken Skull Rock.
As the groups reach a clearing near the city of Grobb, they are brought to a sudden halt by the figures that lead them. The robed creatures gather near a small pool. A grotesque webbed hand draws back the robe's hood, revealing the amphibian's face.
"Prepare your soldiers," the strange amphibian says softly, addressing the trolls in their guttural native language. "The doorway we create will not last long and we must have time to follow you in... unless you wish for us to leave you inside with them." The creature pauses, a slight smirk appearing on its face. "This is not your desire, correct?" A defiant grunt is its only answer.
The largest of the trolls turns to face his soldiers as the robed luggalds begin their incantation. All around them, the ankle-deep water comes alive with energy. A small growl surges from within the ranks of the luggalds to become a cacophony of battle cries. The water before the sorcerers rises in a tall, thin sheet. Through the portal can be seen a large wooden bridge, the surprised faces of several guards and, just behind them, a sign that reads: Night Keep. As the last of the invaders climb out of the moat, which acted as their entrance into Grobb's fortified walls, the raid's leader shouts, "We only leave when we have the stone! Once you have it, burn everything else!" This command echoes through Night Keep's halls, barely audible over the crushing sounds of combat and the surprised cries of unsuspecting guards.
The trolls' cruel nature is apparent as both sides of the battle paint the scene in the savage reds of death and flames. The trolls of Grobb, now fully aware that the unthinkable is in progress, drive the invading clan back to the moat. The clan from Broken Skull Rock, however, has what it came for, and its members fight their way into a position surrounding the crimson moat. From within the cramped formation the murmurs of despicable incantations begin again.
"Your lives, for the fulfillment of prophecy," a voice shouts from within the dense circle of raiders. A shimmering red portal rises from the moat below, engulfing the Trolls and their foul mentors. Those Broken Skull trolls left behind perform their task well and thwart any disruption to the clan's escape. Even as the portal collapses back into the moat, the thieves are well on their way back into the fog that surrounds the cove.
The morning sun is now rising, finding the wind pushing a strange fog and several large ships to the west. This same wind carries a cargo of smoke and confusion through the swamplands of Innothule. The fires in Grobb are extinguished, and the descendants of Ykesha prepare for war.
Mithaniel Marr’s Blessing
The trolls are clumsier than usual, their hurried movements carrying them between Grobb and the seashore. They pour forth from their city's walls, distractedly searching, almost as if it were all in vain. Knowing that what they seek is beyond their immediate grasp, they continue to act out the role in an effort to pass the time. The curious frogloks are uncertain about the nature of the trolls' loss, but they understand that they are certainly no longer a priority.
Deep within the damp walls that lie beneath the swamp, a mail-clad amphibian stands within the semicircular gaze of the council. He speaks in the tongue of his people, confident and proud, yet devoid of emotion. "We watched them as you requested. It is confirmed. They have sent their soldiers to the sea. The crusaders have left their home. Only a small force remains to defend it. All that you have sent us to observe has occurred. We have nothing else to report."
The elder frogloks nod and the scout quietly leaves the chamber. Silence lingers in the room as they all think about the inevitable future they share. Their wait is coming to an end. Again they will stand before their champion in prayer. Only this time it will be to confirm their destiny as a people. The elders move in silent preparation and in unison they begin their prayer, "Lord Ralthazor, Champion of Marr, Herald of Prophecy, hear us as we are prepared...."
The soft echoes of activity fill the halls with an energy that agitates the stagnant air. There is movement in every corridor, as bodies pour towards the epicenter of their fate. Tonight is like no other they can remember. An assembly of all of the castes is unheard of in their society, and perhaps the elders had this in mind when they announced it. There may be some logic in shaking things up prior to an even greater upheaval.
As the room falls into silence, the elders from each caste rise before the crowd. The room seems to dim as they begin to tell the story of their people. Their history spreads out before them. The story and the visions it conjures dance above the crowd. The elders speak for hours as the decades move across the walls of the great hall. The massive gathering begins to understand; this must be what it is like for a stone to watch life travel by. The understanding that stems from the elders' words begins to speak to the crowd and the elders move aside, as the pale flames of purity rise and begin to illuminate the room.
The white and blue flames dance along the walls A voice fills the minds of the individuals that make up the crowd. "Do not fear these flames, for they are the sanctuary that will protect you from the darkness. Your task will be to wait on the edge of destiny, peering into the darkness in search of a light. This light, the light of destiny, already shines within this room. It radiates from within your ranks."
While the bulk of the crowd stares, mesmerized by the movement of the flames, several of the listeners begin to make out an image. It steps out of the flames and speaks only to them.
"There are some among you that see my true form. You see me for you are the chosen. I speak to you, because you have found true understanding of yourselves. It is only through that understanding that you may march forward and dispel the dark grasp of fate. You shall carry with you the destiny of your people and act as beacons for those who will wait, safe from the hate and fear that surround you. You will be the lance of valor that pierces the heart of those seeking to oppress your people. You are the seeds of a new age."
These words follow the chosen frogloks as they make their way to their quarters. Unable to sleep, they find themselves thinking of Grobb and the trolls that reside there. Images of battle begin to fill their minds. Feeling drawn by the night, many of the witnesses to tonight's activities leave their quarters and begin to filter towards the cool comfort of the swamp. Perhaps they will find peace there or at least some sign of what they should do next.
The Fall of Grobb Only days before, they had walked from the murky comfort of Innothule, bringing with them a message from their god. The elders waited for them in the glow of Guk's stony mouth, anxious yet unaware of the dramatic change they were about to discover. The firepots' aura met the first of Mithaniel's chosen as they stepped out of the water's dark grasp and made their way ashore.
The elders were mesmerized. Their eyes were transfixed on the glory that their lord had bestowed upon their fellow citizens. Still, the fully transformed frogloks seemed natural, though the evidence of their blessings was far from subtle. They were, after all, merely an evolution; a reminder of the power that the heavens hold over the mortal realm.
Within hours of their return to Guk, the chosen of Mithaniel moved frantically to prepare. Several days of prayer, fasting and planning allowed them to convey the urgency of their visions to the elders and citizens of Guk. They had emerged from the swamp with not only a new form, but also a plan for what would become a new age in the annals of froglok lore. They had been given a clear vision of conquest: Grobb would fall beneath them.
Weakened by the loss of their relic and the disappearance of their greatest heroes, the citizens of Grobb sat unaware in the morning gloom. Their minds were on the ocean and the black waters that were swallowing their kin, a crucial distraction for the interlopers' plans. The trolls of Grobb were wading through the quicksand of despair, blind to the final blow that was gathering in the shadows just outside their city's gates.
Not unlike the froglok elders, the Bashers were mesmerized when their eyes first caught sight of the faces that emerged from Innothule's waters. However, the enthralling sight was not glorious to them, but rather a horrific vision. The first thoughts that came to them were of their god. An epiphany occurred simultaneously among the small crowds of trolls. As they stood on the familiar shores of Innothule, each one began to understand... they must have somehow angered their god... and the assault that was coming towards them must be his final act of retribution.
The battle lasted only hours. From the first call of alarm, to the moment the last of the terrified trolls scurried into the Feerrott and the sands of Ro, the frogloks were clearly blessed. The trolls were reduced to an almost primal state. Those that stood and fought were quickly reduced to a smoldering and broken mass, evidence of the true power of what would be called the Guktan army. The Lance of Mithaniel could only triumph in their mission. Grobb stood decimated before them.
Gukta, the outpost of Marr... The visions that awaited them in the waters of Innothule that first night were not wrong. As the first light of morning broke through the haze and smoke of battle, the frogloks worked quickly to erect proof of their victory. Before the noon sun reached its pinnacle, the city was transformed. Grobb was no more.
The Exodus to Neriak
Moving under the concealment of night, the trolls made their way towards the sanctuary of the dark forest. Elder masters, long settled in as trainers and city leaders, found themselves leading the weary droves north along almost forgotten routes. Many had not seen the lands beyond the Serpent's Spine in decades. The events that transpired during the morning's battles served as a reminder to the trolls: defeat lies ever in wait for the unwary. Those same events offered many of the younger trolls a first glimpse at the raw savagery and unbending will shared by their race in battle. These scenes filled their minds and fueled their hatred, a burning focus for the days ahead. For the trolls, their primal need for revenge smoldered, uncontainable. Every step they took to the north magnified their hate.
Only as the travelers approached Neriak's dimly lit mouth did the realization of what had transpired begin to solidify for many of them. No conflict so tumultuous and savage had occurred within the memory of the young trolls. Stories of loss are rare in troll lore, and thus their culture lacks a true point of reference. Weaned on the fruits of cruelty and spiteful savagery, these refugees left more than their homes behind as they fled the swamp's shelter. Taking refuge in their dark allies' city left a brutal hole in the trolls' pride... and Neriak is a poor haven for the weak and wounded.
To further their own goals, the elves refrained from showing their complete disdain for the vanquished swamp-dwellers. Allowing the trolls to settle in the already crowded district of the Foreign Quarter provided many opportunities for monitoring this strange series of events. A mild tolerance would be the most hospitality they would offer, as weakness had little place in their damp, hate-filled halls. Only the innately malicious intelligence of the Tier`Dal restrained their cruel nature... and anyone could see that something strange and new was afoot. The trolls and their predicament needed to be studied.
As the trolls settled in, they found themselves to be a curiosity amongst Neriak's dark citizenry. Rumors of the events in Innothule had circulated long before the displaced trolls arrived. Many agents of the shaded paths had witnessed the events in the south. Even before the first of the refugees had settled into their small piece of Neriak's Foreign Quarter, shadowy agents were sent to prod them for information. Neriak is not a hostel to be entered for free.
Stories of trolls intelligent enough to sail out of the gulf and enter Grobb through the use of magic earned the royal house's curiosity. The theft of the artifact and the transformation of the frogloks were minor details to the dark elves. Their main priority was to determine the nature of this lost tribe of trolls and their cloaked companions. If the rumors held true, this new brood from the sea might possess something more significant than the troll stone. Perhaps Broken Skull Rock contained secrets that could help the Tier`Dal to increase their power? It was hard for the strategists to keep their minds from drifting towards the nearest harbor town and the tactical advantage they would have in taking it, should they seize control of the ocean to the east. If something within Broken Skull Rock gave trolls the ability to command the seas, what power could it offer a more intelligent race?
In Pursuit of the Stone
An icy breeze whistled across the hills, parting the fog around a worn dock. The ship creaked and groaned with with the efforts of the salty crew to bring her to shore. A slight elf quickly nodded to an Erudite captain before disembarking the ship. He nimbly slipped past a Kejekan fisherman, completely unnoticed, before disappearing into the mountains.
The midnight journey through the black waters had been nerve-wracking for the elf. Throughout the voyage, the crew had muttered charms of warding as they worked, their eyes searching the darkness for signs of marauding ships. The cargo hold of the old ship had been cramped, and the food bad, but he had made it. The trip was well worth it, as he had made a marvelous discovery and needed to bring word to Kelethin at once. He had found a way to the island.
As the Teir`Dal turned their thoughts to the sea, so did many keen minds across Norrath. News of Grobb's fall, along with rumors of piracy and great powers, spread to the far reaches of the realms. Councils were held amongst city leaders and factions, debating what should be done in this changing time. It had been so long since an event of this magnitude surfaced that the oldest sages were called forth to address this development.
The once peaceful seas had become places of danger and robbery, and the power emanating from the Gulf of Gunthak could conceivably pose a threat to all of Norrath. Trade lines that crossed the sea were severed and packages were not reaching their intended destinations. Communication between the continents would have been lost without the powers of magic. Many factions sent scouts to the Gunthak region, with orders to bring back information on the prophecy, the Grozmok stone, and the mysterious Broken Skull Clan.
Travelers quickly realized that passage to Broken Skull Rock would prove most hazardous, as the pirates now ruled the seas. The increasing power of this renegade band had spread through the Gulf of Gunthak and the Buried Sea, making travel all but impossible.
One particularly astute scout of Tunare sought a safe route to Broken Skull Rock. In his travels, he happened upon a smuggler transferring goods to the island, departing from a remote dock in the Stonebrunt Mountains. This was far from the normal routes the pirate ships patrolled. After a bit of bargaining the elf procured passage on his ship. This proved to be a reliable method for reaching Broken Skull Rock, though the journey was dangerous and there was no guarantee of safety upon arrival.
When the scout returned to Kelethin with the news, messengers were sent at once to other key figures across Norrath. To aid the cause, the Academy of Arcane Sciences and the Druids of Surefall devised new magics for swift travel to the Stonebrunt Mountains. As copies of these spells made their ways into the hands of some of the shadier merchants in the Commonlands, adventurers of all sorts began heading to Broken Skull Rock. A variety of motivations drove these aspiring heroes to Odus: Some sought treasure, some looked to exact revenge upon the clan that had wronged them, and some felt the call of a higher cause.
In Faydwer, many feared that the Dark Elves might gain possession of the stone and warp its power for their own, twisting and bending the world to do their bidding. This must not be allowed to happen, the elves of Faydwer swore. If the hand of Innoruuk had reached this island and empowered such foul creatures, what other horrors could be in store for the civilized realms? What new tragedies would befall the ever-changing world of Norrath in the years to come?