1. The Legacy of Konima

The Legacy of Konima

Chapter 1: Waves of Blood

And so they came.

At first a trickle, and then a flood. Waves upon waves of them, in an orgy of never-ending bloodthirst, they conquered with ease, plundering with malice and burning everything left behind them with subhuman glee. The Twisted Wood, once merely a wary place to tread, became a deathtrap overnight as the encroaching Orc armies crept closer to the walls of Tos, until the evil ilk set up their moth-ridden tents within kissing distance the gates themselves, in a shameless mockery of civilized man.

Our men fought with valor, with desperation and with their backs to the city walls, and the masonry was deeply stained with the blood of orc and man. Finally, our generals realized that we had barely enough men left to man the walls, and the retreat was sounded. We ran for the city gates like craven dogs. I was the last one in. I watched in horror, as we closed the gates on the stragglers. Their fates were sealed, but at least most of them had the satisfaction of a quick and painless death. Those of us inside were not so lucky.

Chapter 2: the Siege of Tos

Tos is the oldest of the great cities, formed by settlers weary of the barbarity that ruled the land before we were blessed with civilization. Since the enemy of man was other men, our ancestors chose a place that was defensible to the north, in hopes that the Badlands to our north would thwart our enemies. Not twenty years ago, we proved these defenses were still strong, when we used magic to make the canyon walls collapse on our Barloqian enemies. Hundreds died.

Now that we faced a threat from the south, though, this advantage was turned against us. The other great cities had heard of our plight, and sent aid, from Jasper, from Cor Noth, even from our mistrustful brothers of Barloque. But the orcs had the city of Tos surrounded, and were quick to move a contingent north, where they defended the border of the badlands by hurling rocks from the canyon walls.

Meanwhile, in the city walls, we found ourselves on the losing end of the waiting game. Once the orcs had forced our armies into the city walls, they blockaded the gates, and seemed quite willing to sit outside until the time was proper. Inside, we had nothing better to do, but to tend the wounded, weep, pray, and die. Mostly, we died.

Water was the first thing to go. Tos was not built near a river - it gets its water from deep wells fed from mountain streams. The orcs found those streams, and poisoned them with rotting flesh. We found out when our children died.

Then the plague came. Orcs don’t believe in burying their dead on the battlefield when they die, much less ours. And so the smell, and the disease that came with it, piled over the city walls. We realized this was happening when our wives and elders died.

We were sick, tired, grieving, and one shade away from death. Several times, we spoke of surrender, and we would have, too, if we weren’t so absolutely certain that they would have killed us all.

Chapter 3: Konima’s Return

On the third night of the seventh week, in the middle of the night, an explosion, followed by an earthquake rocked the town of Tos. I sat up, certain it was the orc’s final offensive, somewhat thankful that the end was finally here, when a child ran up to where we were sleeping, and shouted, “It’s him! It’s him!”

And so it was.

From the city walls, we watched, as our saviors, a band of no more than twenty men, took on the orcish army who had been taken mostly by surprise. And our saviors brought with them the sword of vengeance, the magics of the Gods, and an unrestrained fierceness. Bursts of flame leapt across the sky, leaving ashes where whole squads of orcish armies had once been. The sun mysteriously shone at the pitch of night, and the orcs seemed to wither before its purity. The earth opened up, and swallowed the tent of the orcish leaders whole.

But the most incredible thing on the field was him. Him!

I had never met Konima. I was a mere lad when he had left his homeland of Tos on his great pilgrimage, and yet, there was still no doubting that this was Konima. He waded through the orcish hordes, standing a head above the tallest of them, an ebon blade in each hand that seemed to strike effortlessly through anything that stood in their way. He was magnificent.

And we, those of us in Tos, were inspired. So inspired that we, starving, thirsting, weary, sick and hopeless, somehow found the strength to pick up our swords and rush outside and press the attack from another flank. In retrospect, it was a horribly foolhardy thing to do, seeing as is Konima had the task well in hand, but at this point the orcs were in full retreat. Furthermore, the main force had retreated to the south, leaving an auxiliary force to the north - we could take them from behind, and we could once again get fresh supplies through the badlands from the rest of the world. Tos was saved.

We cheered, we clapped each other’s heads, and we embraced our saviors, each other, even the trees, and the green foliage of which we thought we’d never seen again. But Konima wasn’t smiling, on this, the day of his greatest victory. He raised his hand, and we all were quiet. And then he spoke. He said, “Those orcs didn’t just appear. They had to come from someplace. We have to find out where.”

Chapter 4: Sacrifice

The next night, Konima took back the northern pass. He didn’t kill them all, though. He let them escape to the south, and then he followed them. We watched him go by as we buried the dead on the battlefield. I didn’t expect to see him again, not for months, perhaps ever. But he came back the next night. He got all of us from Tos together in the Town Square, and he said, “I want you to bury me alive.”

He led us to where the orcs had led him - to a cave on the eastern rim of the Twisted Wood, where I had played often as a child. He said, “There is a gate in there - a doorway into the depths that was somehow opened. We must close it.” He paused, and then he said, “but first, I must go in.”

He was certain that the brunt of the orcish army was within, and that it was now reinforcing itself. “We can close the gate, but then they will merely open it again. My comrades and I must strike in the heart of the orcish warrens. You must seal the door, in case we fail.”

I said, “but we can’t bury you alive!” He smiled, and said, “Tos is my homeland, nothing is nearer to my heart. If Tos falls, I am not truly alive anymore.” And then he threw me a wink, and said, “besides, do you think a mere wall of rock can keep my sorcerers out?”

And so he gathered the strongest men and women he had. Jeremiah of Cor Noth. Shal’ille’s High Priestess Marianna. Raph Korsten. Melissa Ravenblade. Garron Damodred. Even old man Froz himself stumbled into the darkness. And, ever dutifully, a mage mystically closed and warded the gates behind them. There was weeping, there were best wishes, there were fervent prayers to Shal’ille.

All of which must have gone unheard, because we never saw any of them again.