I believe I was mistaken in believing, when I accepted the challenge of helping my friends build a kingdom, that its leaders could keep the people from bearing the burdens and facing the dangers that such an endeavor entails. Just because no great land has ever succeeded in this, to my knowledge, did not deter my optimism that the innocent need not suffer. But as I sit and write amongst rubble and ash, in a tent built to house the wounded that myself and Antwer have been seeing to, I realize I have perhaps never been more wrong. These poor people who came here seeking refuge and safety, seeking new lives and bright futures, seeking glory and opportunity, accepted the risks of our venture along with us, and have felt the consequences of our mistakes even more than we.
There have been many troubles to consider, and seemingly no time to handle them. Grigori, that, that… MAN, and the thieving Imbroglio, have abandoned the Iron Lands and made their way North. What they knew of this destruction Iron Hold would face we can not be sure, but we can certainly suspect. While we wished to pursue them, Jubilast Narthopple and, apparently, the powers available to Lord Surtova, had discovered trolls in the old abandoned Dwarf Fortress. Since getting the Regent’s letter and the mostly redundant information therein I have, admittedly, regretted trading the position of Martial to Jubilast in exchange for this same news. At the time I tried to assert that positions among the Iron Land’s leaders were not for sale, but the others disagreed. Not that Jubilast seems incompetent nor under-qualified, for his familiarity with the wilds and secret places of this country is superb, and he has been charting the terrain for some time. It’s just… the principle. And well, maybe I have grown too accustomed to relating to big people. I don’t really know how long it’s been since I was in the company of other Gnomes. I’m not entirely sure how much time I lost in bleaching. I can remember my family, my companions, they were explorers like Jubilast and his group. Then the next thing I knew, I was wandering all by myself, talking to sticks. For all I know it could have been a decade, or longer. I don’t even know what year it was in the last memory I have of being with my people…
I guess my point is that I’ve become, perhaps, a bit intolerant of the idiosyncrasies displayed in the character of most Gnomes. But I am certainly rambling now, and I will try to stay on topic.
We decided to pay the trolls a housewarming visit, but not before dropping in on our new Fey friend Tiressi, in the woodlands to the West, to get her advice in regard to the traumatized animal companions of the Iron Tide, Bones and Noble Steed. She told us to have them drink from the waters there and wait until the next full moon. Though happiness is not among Rufus’s frequently favored emotions, I could tell he was relieved that his wolf would be healthy enough for battle again soon. Sir Thorne, however, decided that Noble Steed had been bearing him into battle for long enough, and deserved a comfortable retirement from combat. He asked Tiressia if there might be a beast in those woods worthy to replace Noble Steed. She was confident that she could find one, but once again displaying the patience and deliberation of her kind, asked Sir Thorne to give her some time and return.
Sir Thorne chose a horse from his stables for our mission, and we made our way South. The fortress was not hard to find. We were able to get the drop on the trolls, and with experience on our side and a little fire to keep them down we slayed them and their hounds, including one two-headed monstrosity, and even the infamous Hargulka.
Hargulka was smart, and lured us deeper into the fortress while pelting us with fireballs. We caught up to him in his “throne room”, but as the final blows were being delivered Hargulka uttered ominously that though we might have won this battle our city would soon meet its destruction. The name he gave for this doom was Gohji Raah. It sounded like gibberish at the time.
When he was finally dead we scoured the area and found the tattered uniforms and belongings of several men from Rufus’s Iron Watch who had gone missing scouting this region, including those of our friend Kesten Garess. There was also a poorly drawn out map with red X’s in several locations, including Iron Hold. Overtaken by grief for the dead, and the fear of what might be happening to our city at that very moment, we made haste for home.
Along the way we found a trail of gigantic footprints headed in the direction of Iron Hold, each wide enough for a house, but we were confused when Rufus told us what kind of creature he was sure they must belong to. Our confusions were abated when we reached the city. The wall had been trampled. There was fire and rubble and din. Some people were screaming and running, and some wandered around aimlessly, shocked and completely blackened by ash. Gohji Raah was a giant owlbear, wearing a breastplate, and when we finally reached him he was rummaging through Bokken’s shop through the roof and devouring potions. Daeron flew upward, Rufus drew his bow, and Sir Thorne charged headlong. As Sir Thorne passed me I knew I would never keep up with him, and cast a spell on him so that I might be able to share whatever harm was sure to befall him. The massive monster lifted Sir Thorne into the air, horse and all, but he fought even from the grip of its claws. I continued to close in on foot while feeling half of every blow Sir Thorne sustained and briefly regretted the decision. But it kept him fighting, and after an impassioned assault by lance, arrow and lightning bolt, Gohji Raah eventually decided he’d had enough. He tossed Sir Thorne and his beast of burden across town into Daeron, who luckily kept himself from falling out of the sky, and leaving immense bloody footprints fled the scene of his destruction. I was able to quickly heal myself before Sir Thorne hit the ground, keeping us both on our feet, and was relieved to realized we had driven the bastard beast off. I stood in that spot, near the very heart of what was once a proud new city, overwhelmed. Time seemed to have frozen still. Then I sat in the street, feeling as if I were about to cry as Sir Thorne, Rufus, and Daeron approached me.
The whole city was in flames. The castle and two blocks were totally destroyed. In the coming days our fellow leaders and many of the friends we’d made across the lands came to our aid, helping to put out flames, rescue people trapped by debris, gather the wounded and try to restore order. Ultimately it has proven to be quite… moving. But we’ve lost many. Fifty citizens are dead. Sal fell shielding Svetlana from harm. Ruven also fell, and Bokken, who’s body Daeron carried himself from the ruined shop. I am worried about Daeron, to whom Bokken was a fatherly figure.
Antwer has left now to offer last rights to the dead. Kundal is here among the healing tents assisting the wounded. It is a most welcome gesture, as Gnomes are not known for their physical prowess and many of these poor people must be moved carefully by stronger arms than mine. His appearance here came as a surprise, and I must say I have been impressed at the compassion of this warrior from the wild lands to the North. He claims his presence here is part of his debt to me, but I think there’s more to it than that.
In a way this ordeal has brought us all together like never before, and I have been truly impressed and moved by our citizenry. There has been anger and sadness, but also a great showing of love and strength. When normalcy is more restored I fear we will see accusations thrown at us, and a great deal of discontent. But few of our people, even the discontents, have LEFT. They’ve come together to bring each other back from the precipice of despair. And perhaps that means even those who will lose faith in us at least see hope for Iron Hold, and for the Iron Lands. The unbreakable spirit of this place we’ve built with our own hands is a source of great pride for me.
We will all get past this.