Campaign Background – Red Hand of Doom
following the collapse of Rhestilor, the dry and dusty
were home to dozens of goblinoid tribes. Although travelers were forced to
skirt the goblin-infested hills by a generous margin, in general the Wyrmsmoke
tribes, depleted by the battles surrounding the collapse of Rhestilor, posed no
significant threat to the nearby human towns 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
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 his
sire, the blue dragon Tyrgarun. Aided by this powerful ally, Azarr Kul
converted his entire tribe into fanatical worshipers of Tiamat. He renamed 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, an ancient symbol of Tiamat’s cult, Azarr Kul created
an elite caste of warpriests, monks, and dragon-favored champions to lead the
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 cementing the power of his Red Hand warpriests over the disparate tribes he
ruled, Azarr Kul finally turned his attention to the lands beyond the
. 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
to the Golden Plains
– and the first step was to crush the human towns in Elsir Vale.
folk of Elsir Vale, long used to avoiding the
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
But the Vale was
not without its own skilled warriors. A band of adventurers who had travelled
to Brindol from the City of
of treasure was exploring ruins at the base of the
who would in time come to be known as the Diamond League, were alerted to the
presence of the army by nothing more than sheer chance of happenstance.
However, this simple bit of luck would in the end prove the savior of the Vale
and all its peoples.
Realizing they simply could not fight an
army by themselves, the members of the Diamond League set about delaying the
army in any way possible. To that end, they destroyed the ancient dwarven
bridge at Skull Gorge. Upon succeeding, they immediately headed for the nearby
Ferry, raising the alarm and giving the people what time they could to prepare.
the warnings of the Diamond League saved countless lives, and the destruction
of the bridge slowed the advance of Azzar Kul’s host, no force in the Vale
could stop it.
While a few
brave souls and bands of scattered soldiers managed to slow the army at a river
or mountain pass, the host moved forward, bringing with it an inevitable doom.
time, the Diamond League proved themselves valiant defenders of the people.
They led raids on the Red Hand supply lines, garnered allies from neighboring
elven and dwarven settlements, and ruined more than a few of Azarr Kul’s war
As time went on though, it was evident that not even the Diamond League could
stop the advancing army. It spread through the eastern plains of the vale,
right to the gates of Brindol. Members of the farm communities surrounding
Brindol fled inside its walls for protection.
The walled city was the first real obstacle
the army had faced. They laid siege to the town and wore down its defenses
relentlessly. Large amounts of the population of Brindol fell defending the
towns walls, and countless more died of starvation and plague from the crowded
conditions. It seemed that the folk of Brindol, and by extension, the Vale,
were without hope.
Then, as if by a miracle, the army of Azzar Kul tore itself apart. For no
reason the people of Brindol could immediately divine, the leaders of the army suddenly
began fighting amongst themselves, vying for control of the host.
The great army splintered, with large
parts of its forces simply heading back to the
In response, the forces that had rallied to the defense of the Vale quickly
shifted to the offensive. Disjointed and surrounded, the goblinoid tribes were
pursued, isolated, and crushed. The host of the Red Hand was no more.
Shortly thereafter, the Diamond League reappeared, prominently displaying the
body of Azarr Kul. They had skirted around the main army and ventured all the
way to the Fane of Tiamat in the heart of the
and struck directly at Azzar Kul himself. With the charismatic leader of the
Red Hand dead, the various factions and tribes that made up the Kulkor Zhul
fought amongst themselves for supremacy and proved their own undoing.
Stories of these
brave heroes and their unlikely deeds spread like wildfire, spurring the good
people of the Vale to further action. The military forces, as meager as they
were, went on the hunt and killed thousands of the remaining goblinoids,
crippling their numbers for a generation. Hunting down the more powerful
members of Azzar Kul’s host themselves, the Diamond League defeated Tyrgarun
the blue dragon, their third dragon kill in as many months.
The threat was
over, but the damage wreaked by the armies of the Red Hand was 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.
And what of the Diamond
League? They worked alongside their neighbors and friends, restoring what they
could, until finally, there was nothing left for them to do in the Vale.
They were wealthy heroes, retired adventurers,
middle aged now, some with families. Several of them settled down in the Vale
and lived out their years in peace. Others would never settle down, and so they
moved on in search of some new adventure in far off lands, never to return to
their humble birthplace in Elsir Vale.
Ten years have
passed since the fall of Azzar Kul, and in that time the Vale has enjoyed
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.
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…