Historic Vistas: Stor-gris
Table of Contents
Maps of Stor-gris
Map of the continent during the Stor-Gris era
Stor-gris fortress perspective
Stor-gris city plan
View of five towers of Stor-gris City
Cross section of five towers
This article details a historical place in ancient Farland, the goblinoid kingdom of Stor-gris. Stor-gris existed before human civilization; the continent was dominated by demi-humans (elves, dwarves, gnomes, and goblinoids), while humans gathered in barbaric tribes and lived in caves. Although Stor-gris long since fell and passed away, it left a lasting mark on the continent and on the histories and cultures of all the races thereon. The following article details these effects.
The word "Stor-gris" has multiple meanings: it refers to a fortress-city, a domain, and an era. The fortress community of Stor-gris, built on the western cliffs of a nameless bay (which later came to be called Goblin Bay in Orland), was one of the most secure castles in the history of Farland. Built under duress by a captured dwarven architect, its walls were constructed to deflect missiles from siege weapons, its location was carefully chosen for its defensibility, and its supply lines were well maintained. Indeed, the citadel was nearly as impenetrable as the mighty dwarfhold Wawmar itself, and it withstood multiple attempts to conquer it until it finally fell in 10,557 E.R., more than a thousand years after it had been founded.
The citadel of Stor-gris was the nerve center and capital city of the domain of Stor-gris, an area in the south of Siriand (the continent that would later be known as Farland) that at one point stretched from Lake Sarnegar in the west to the Lutanium in the East and as far north as Alandel Lake in the center of the Hinterlands. The domain of Stor-gris was populated almost entirely by dark folk: orcs, hobgoblins, goblins, kobolds, and later oluk orcs. At first Stor-gris only controlled the land immediately around the fortress, but as dispossessed dark folk flocked to the protection of Karoxfang the Vile, its influence spread. Several cities, satellites and possessions of Stor-gris, sprang up in the surrounding lands, and many small towns grew up around these cities until the fortress indirectly controlled a domain encompassing some 75,000 square miles. Because this kingdom was in existence for such a long period, its borders often changed as its enemies encroached and conquered the towns that lay on its edges or as the armies of Stor-gris returned the favor. Internal strife sometimes threatened to split the kingdom as well, but having learned the lessons of Rothnog, the few long-lived kings that ruled the Fortress City never allowed this friction to blossom into full blown civil war.
The policies of the domain of Stor-gris also fluctuated over its long existence, sometimes allowing trade with its enemy kingdoms, sometimes locking down its borders, sometimes persecuting or killing any non dark-folk found within its boundaries, and other times merely heavily taxing non-goblinoids. Stor-gris policy was consistent through the ages in several ways, however. It was always a slave kingdom, and often simply being a member of a demi-human race was reason enough to be sold into slavery. Stor-gris always brutally enforced its laws, often killing its citizens for what would be considered minor offenses in the realms of the elves and dwarves. Dark folk in Stor-gris were also always responsible for serving in the military at a moment's notice whenever their respective Lord ordered them to do so.
Having been founded by loyalists to the Dweller, the policies and rulers of the kingdom of Stor-gris were heavily influenced by the Wintervale. Often decisions that were seemingly non-sensical could only be understood by considering the interests of the Dweller, and the rulers of Stor-gris communicated with the Wintervale on a regular basis. As the Dweller recovered from her defeat at the Battle of Thunder Pass and slowly rebuilt her ruined capital city of Gorgwath (later known as the Nameless City), her influence became more pervasive and more insidious.
Last, Stor-gris was an era. Although not officially recognized or named by historians, if one were to ask any inhabitant of Siriand during the time period what most affected his life he would surely name the dark folk kingdom. The elven rulers in Alustel and the dwarven rulers in Wawmar rarely made a decision without first considering how it would affect their standing in respect to Stor-gris. The ceaseless wars that Stor-gris provoked caused untold hardships for the residents of Siriand during this period, and countless creatures died during the many battles. In the long periods when there was not open combat between the demi-human kingdoms and Stor-gris, a cold war of sorts was waged, and thus the origin of much military technology, weaponry, and spells can be traced to this period: fear of Stor-gris caused the elves to create new offensive magic, and it caused the dwarves to devise new weaponry and armor. It is theorized that the Khazak invented plate mail during this era. Indeed, the long existence of the southern kingdom of the dark folk, an era unto itself, changed the history of the World of Farland forever.
The Structure of the Fortress of Stor-gris
In 9330 E.R., the armies of Rothnog and the Dweller in the Vale were defeated at the Battle of Thunder Pass and were forced to flee, led by the evil Karoxfang, the Dweller's general. He saw the need for a greater, more magnificent castle in which he could amass a huge army and perform other vile deeds. He enlisted at sword point the rather unwilling services of Agralin X, the talented ancestor of the famed genius Agralin, Dwarf Engineer. Agralin was kept in chains, fed well, but nevertheless knew his chances of returning home to his family were small. He was forced to design the most impenetrable fortress possible. This went against his love for his people and his better judgment, but he knew that if he didn't, or if he failed to produce a mighty home for the loathsome half-breed, he would be killed and someone else would be forced to do so. So he resigned himself to his fate and decided to do his best, hoping that somewhere in the process, he would be able to pay him back.
He and Karoxfang searched the southern shores of Siriand (the continent that would eventually come to be known as Farland) and found a suitable locale between what would later be known as both Daven and Orland, along a nameless bay, to be of sufficient strategic position and geographically sound. Karoxfang set the parameters for the castle to be able to house 10,000 orcs, goblins and hobgoblins, segregating them by race; to have a grand courtyard capable of training and drilling the armies; to have imposing keeps; and to possess secret rooms and halls.
Agralin at first thought this to be a difficult task, but he was the latest in a long line of fortress designers and consultants. He knew that each inhabitant, even in the rigorous and Spartan living conditions of a military keep, would require about 200 square feet of living, housing and necessities. This calculated to 2 million square feet of quarters. Added to a massive courtyard and footprints of several equally massive keeps, he found it would take a castle of about 2200 feet on a side to accomplish what was required. Karoxfang balked at such a huge undertaking and almost killed the dwarf for his seeming insolence, but after it was explained to him sufficiently, he realized that the project was on the scale of the construction of the hated Wawmar itself. He consigned his army to searching the countryside to find orcs and hobgoblins in great numbers, to bring them to the site (as of this point, still undecided) to work. Agralin got to the work at hand, that of locating the exact site.
He searched a 100 by 100 mile area in a circle centered at the bay but found few places that would serve well. Most of the locale consisted of rolling hills and shallow valleys, but none of them were flat enough, and at the same time of strategic value, to warrant use. He came upon a flank off of the northwestern edge of the bay, however, where the hills were smaller, irregular and jutted out from the fields. The southeasterly side of the main field bordered on an impressive sea cliff, almost 400 feet above the water of the bay. His grandfather had taught him of some of the wonders of geologic formations, and he recognized this as a catastrophic seawall failure. The wall was semicircular, nearly vertical to a point about 200 feet down, where it began a gentle curve to the water's edge. At the edge was a beach, and about 200 feet beyond the quiet surf was a series of rocky peaks jutting eerily out of the water. It was as if a giant bowl of rock and soil had loosened from its perch, probably from constant wave action undermining it at sea level. It had slid with tremendous force and speed, rotating as it reached the water, then breaking up and depositing the large chunks of rock just beyond the beach. By sea, it was nearly inaccessible, as the surf roared between the rocks at high tide. This side of the fortress would be very safe indeed.
Satisfied, he returned to Karoxfang with the news of the possibility. The general was pleased, even elated, when he saw the bowl from a side bank. He imagined great halls beneath the ground, where he could employ dark sorcery to create armies of perfect soldiers, and secret passageways to remain safe. He quickly gave Agralin whatever help he would need to continue with the design.
Agralin and a team of several goblins began their survey. He realized that the hills within the 2200 foot square would be encompassed by the walls and would have to be removed. But since his captor was now so enamored with the venue, he knew he would have to incorporate the hills into the castle. He surveyed the base of the hills and the relative positions with respect to the proposed walls and calculated the amount of stone to be excavated. He assumed a certain percentage of rock that could be removed in blocks, and knowing he would use the smaller sizes of stone and dust to make mortar, he realized he would have enough rock to create a dozen or more inner keeps, double walls, and sets of towers along those walls.
He then translated the quantities into dimensions. Knowing that curved walls would deflect blows from siege machines, he gave the walls a sinister, sinuous look, curving them in and out several times along each side. The outer points would have towers to allow direct attack on marauding troops. This would protect against those trying to attack the inner curves, firing on them from both sides at the same time. A second wall, placed inside and parallel to the outer, would allow troops to fall back if the latter was breached. This structure, coupled with a large main gate, would enable Karoxfang to house enough workers to continue building the inner keeps and lower halls, while soldiers began using the castle as a base of operations.
He returned to Karoxfang, showing to him the plan view of the castle. The winged one was impressed by the scope of the project and knew his armies, returning with a huge labor force, could perform the work. He gave the engineer notice to proceed.
The dwarven engineer was blessed with a great understanding of construction and highly efficient organizational skills. He convinced the general that Karoxfang's time was best spent plundering and extending his reign and that he should relinquish control of construction to Agralin. He would run all decisions through Karoxfang but handle details and moot points himself, and his captor agreed. Agralin knew that generals are capable organizers but often are led astray and focus on minor points to distraction, and the dwarf didn't need that type of confusion. Besides, it would allow him the flexibility of design he would need.
The survey continued, this time not in a design-to-build mode, but in a construction phase. Topsoil was removed to locations outside the walls, and then the upper several feet of good, compactable soil was stockpiled within. This would provide a good base over the eventual sub-base of rock, allowing building foundations to be installed without ripping and carving rock for footings. After the two layers of soil were removed, his calculations became clearer, and the rock required for the walls balanced with the remaining rock. The final level of the ground and courtyard was planned and marked out on the ground, with stakes showing how much rock was to be removed from the hills surrounded by the walls.
Excavation began at the wall footings, an extensive platform created at the base of the proposed walls. At most locations, the bedrock was reached at the final footing elevation, but in some, most notably the western walls, earth was tamped to produce the desired footing. The built-up footings sometimes had to be tamped as deeply as ten feet, but final bearing pressures were achieved that would allow walls to be built.
The project turned from clearing and preparation to one of mining. The stripped hills were picked and drilled to release the limestone rock in blocks. The heavy, hard rock was removed in chunks as large as possible to maintain their structural integrity, and in as rectangular a shape as possible, to allow mortaring them tightly. Smaller stone and dust were collected, added to silica from the nearby beach and some iron deposits found nearby, fired over huge flames in several kilns built for just this purpose, and crushed to produce quite a strong cement.
The population of the workforce grew in the first year from a planning and survey crew of a hundred to about five thousand. Karoxfang extended his influence to dozens of miles, enslaving those who resisted and established treaties with other of the dark folk in the surrounding villages. He allowed quite a few farmers to keep their land and raise food for the effort-at sword point, of course.
The outer walls were built with millions of tons of rock excavated from the hills, hauled to the site and carefully laid in by masons who, during the course of their forced labor, had become quite skillful. The five-tower systems were built along with the walls, integral with their construction. Curved stairs of rock were built inside the towers, which were adorned at the top with arrow slits, murder holes and embattlatures typical of those found in better castles of the day, but in greater numbers and scope. It was estimated that in the twenty-seven outer towers, plus the main gate towers, a force of as many as fifteen hundred archers could be brought to play. This would be augmented by the eighteen rear towers and others stationed along the walls.
A "dead zone" of space was created between the outer and inner walls. This was used for housing for guard duty and castle maintenance crews. The annulus could be flooded with burning pitch if the occasion arose. The workforce expanded to eight thousand, and work progressed more quickly. As the workforce settled in and the land became flatter and grew in size, housing began to spring up. Wooden buildings were built from trees felled outside the walls, and the castle's inhabitants naturally segregated themselves according to race and social structure. The wood was eventually replaced with rock excavated for construction of the lower workings. This action was required due to fires that eventually ensued from later sieges with flaming projectiles fired by Gnomish trebuchets. The inner walls were built in much the same way as the outer, with two inner towers at each corner. After they were completed, there was still a sizeable amount of stone left for the keeps. The rock in the future location of the keeps was mined to produce the inner walls, leaving room for keeps to be built while mining progressed.
Another crew worked on the main gate. The main towers encompassed two huge gates, each pocketed into slots in the stone of the walls. The front, main gate was solid wood plated with steel on the front to prevent being burned. The inner gate consisted of a lattice-work of iron bars between which, in case of the first being breached, arrows could be shot. Both gates were counterweighted and extremely heavy, and the counterweights could be propped or disconnected if an attempt was made to lift them. Extensive embattlements were created, cantilevering out over marauding troops. Arrow slits and ladder repulsors were stationed along the walls to prevent the enemy from climbing the walls.
The main keeps were built in a square pattern surrounding the main tower. External stairs were built with rocks that could be pulled in from the inside to create a smoother surface to prevent climbing from outside. The four lesser structures would eventually house the lower officers and the city government, which would concern itself with the everyday workings of the castle and business. The inner keep was to exist as an entrance to the lower workings, which housed the more sinister doings of twisted military minds, as well as the quarters of Karoxfang himself.
The workforce brought with it the need for certain infrastructure. Rainwater was handled by sloping the castle floor toward the walls and leaving exit holes in the walls, grated closed. Sewage was handled through a set of troughs, later to be extended into the living areas. The troughs also coursed through holes in the walls to septic pits just outside the walls. Cisterns were drilled in the rock floor, and rain water that didn't get to the walls was collected for drinking. This was augmented by several wells dug during construction. A final set of eight towers was built from the main gate to the larger central towers. Each one was connected with arched spans to allow defenders to fall back as they were fighting, firing down on marauders. These "air bridges," as Agralin called them, would serve well in close fighting. The set of towers nearest the main gate consisted of five interconnected towers, serving to split the enemy into smaller, more easily defeated groups.
Agralin now began to focus on the lower workings. A main ramp was excavated downward from the main keep at a steep ten percent slope toward the cliff face. At several hundred feet horizontal distance in, a guard dwelling and station was built, measuring about two hundred feet on a side. There, the elite guards would train and quarter, being in close proximity to the General and in a location that would allow retreat and defense of a last-ditch nature. The ramp and surroundings was littered with traps and subtle defensive measures. A secret passageway was formed into the King's Suite (habited by the General), to be used for final battle. About four hundred feet further was the laboratory area, which later became the Oluk birthing keep. Wizards worked there, plying their sick and evil experiments, and their results, the Oluks, were eventually quartered there.
Four more hundred feet brought one to the military storage, an area for warehousing foodstuffs enough to feed troops during a siege, and for stowing weaponry. At the far end of this chamber was the beginning of about fifteen hundred feet of passageways, ramping up to the surface. They exited in secret doors in the ground, sheltered and hidden beneath kiosks and wooden guard posts. These passageways allowed defenders to suddenly appear in the midst of battle, at and even behind the lines, spreading chaos throughout the enemy's ranks.
Emptying to the right was a passageway to the King's Suite. To get there, one first had to pass through an intricate, almost insolvable maze carved into the rock, often rearranged by wizards to suit the somewhat paranoid rulers of Stor-gris. The walk then led through massive doors to the chambers and the treasure room. Another passageway exited the workings onto the cliff face, accessible only by flight. A six-acre persuasion (torture) chamber was next along the path, followed by an equally large cell block. Wails of pain and horror could often reverberate throughout the lower workings, even audible out the drainage holes to the beach and bay below.
At this point, Agralin had a suspicion that Karoxfang had no intentions of ever giving him his freedom once the castle was built. There was too much at stake to allow the engineer to go free with details of the structure, and both knew it. Agralin had a plan for the destruction of Stor-gris by sapping the walls, but it would be impossible for him to relay this information to the outside. So he began a psychological plan to allow some sort of contact. He became surly with construction managers below him, belittling them to Karoxfang and building himself in the general's eyes. The demon was made to believe Agralin was the only one who could direct such a workforce, and in doing so, he became indispensable.
When the time was right, Agralin feigned deep depression, a move that he knew would not change the heart of the despot but which might allow him some sort of contact with his people. It was a risk, but it worked. He was allowed to write letters to his family, under strict guidelines. The letters were routed through the general's officers to make sure they didn't have any clandestine overtones or outright information that could be used to overthrow him or destroy the castle. Agralin then wrote quite a few poems, one of which was "The Ode to Great Stor-gris." Karoxfang was perplexed at the imagery, but when it was explained how it described the feeling of helplessness of those in chains in the castle, and that it was a tribute to its greatness, the demon acquiesced out of foolish pride. The poem became a popular song among the dwarves, who guarded it carefully in their culture. It was reported that, upon the completion of Stor-gris, Agralin X was, in an unbelievable show of mercy, quickly and almost painlessly executed by the general himself. When the Clan of Kain eventually brought it to the elven philosophers of Lutanium, they decoded the lyrics and found that it contained hidden references to a method of destroying the seemingly impenetrable castle. These methods involved sapping the walls with acid, which ate away the limestone rock at specific places that were founded on rammed earth instead of bedrock. This poem, in a final posthumous act of irony and revenge, settled the score. Twelve hundred years later, Stor-gris was toppled with the help of simple acid at the hands of dwarven sappers, and the great castle was sacked by the dwarves and elves.
Military and Defense
Leadership, order and control were the keys to the success of the forces of Stor-gris. The growth of Stor-gris had ever been directly tied to their military leaders, from Karoxfang to Dantha'Sule. These leaders ruled with an iron grip, holding together vast hordes with their strength, cunning, and guile.
While the strength of the armies of Stor-gris was its vast numbers, so too was its weakness. With huge armies composed of undisciplined kobolds and goblins, leadership was essential. The great leaders of Stor-gris recognized this fact and set up a strict military hierarchy, with oluk generals, hobgoblins captains and goblins and kobolds as the driving force behind their attacks. Orcs were typically organized in groups of 20, known as "brutes," which were charged with keeping the lesser races in line.
Karoxfang established a standard for his armies to follow, a standard that lasted for nearly 1000 years and that brought unprecedented victory to the forces of Stor-gris. Ground troops always led the way in combat, with goblins and kobolds plowing into the enemy first. The most fortunate of these troops fought with weapons scavenged from the dead, although the majority of them were armed only with crude spears and clubs. In reserve were the orcish archers, vigilant watchers over battles. The first priority of these archers was not to destroy the enemy as many would expect, but rather to cut down any of the lesser ground troops who would try to flee the battle without the order of the generals.
Several groups of special forces were employed by the armies of Stor-gris, including the famed Worg and Wyvern Riders; powerful Ogres with their orcish handlers; vanguards of strong oluk orcs; and magic wielders of power, particularly the clerics of the dark lord Vornoth himself. These special forces were always under the direct control of the field generals and were always held in reserve until the masses of ground troops softened up the enemy.
The dark folk rarely constructed siege weapons, as the expertise and patience in crafting these was beyond most goblinoids. When they were able to gain such weapons, either by craft or capture, they were highly prized and controlled by the army generals directly and were typically manned by hobgoblin officers. While these siege weapons were occasionally used to knock down the walls of enemy structures, such as during the great siege of Wawmar, the favored tactics with this equipment was to launch captured prisoners--both living and dead--into enemy fortresses. The objective in doing this was not only to dishearten their opponents but also to spread disease during long sieges.
The fortress of Stor-gris itself was defended significantly different from a typical location, as the majority of the occupants of the citadel were the "superior" dark races, primarily orcs and hobgoblins. While Stor-gris did boast a large goblin and kobold population, the majority of these creatures were housed outside of the fortress walls. The fortress itself did boast several siege weapons, including catapults and ballistae. Large stores of missile weapons and foodstuffs were available, and the soldiers of the fortress were well trained with their weapons.
Special Weaponry and Its Relation to Stor-gris
As noted, the armies of Stor-gris generally did not develop special weaponry of their own; instead they relied upon overwhelming numbers and sheer ferocity to batter their opponents into submission. Sometimes they would use captured siege engines to assault castles, and to create more weaponry they would produce crude but working copies of their captured engines. This is primarily what occurred during the great siege of Wawmar.
Stor-gris did make some advances. The dark wizards of the Underkeeps of the Stor-gris fortress did produce new spells to terrorize their enemies. Historians report that the fearsome spells Weird and Wail of the Banshee were invented by Stor-gris mages. Such creations were rare, however, for the citizens of Stor-gris were generally not inventive.
Stor-gris still caused the production of special weaponry, though: they influenced their demi-human opponents to produce it. Because of Stor-gris' overwhelming numbers, the residents of the Hinterlands invented new and imaginative ways to resist the dark armies. Elven wizards also created new, tactical combat spells, such as Meteor Swarm, and their productivity far surpassed that of the goblinoid kingdom's evil wizards. Dwarves were driven to construct heavier armors, such as full plate mail, and more dangerous weaponry, such as the dwarven urgosh. Most notably, however, the dwarves produced weapons and siege engines powered by steam. These weapons were devastatingly powerful. Ironically the dwarves rarely employed such weapons, preferring to rely on their highly disciplined armies and mighty fortresses. The weapons and their plans were sold to the gnomish race in trade, and the gnomes, physically weaker and lacking large armies, employed them very effectively. Indeed, steam weapons operated by gnomes played an instrumental role in the final siege of the citadel of Stor-gris, lobbing missiles inside the walls and devastating the goblinoid infantry until the Dwarven Sappers could bring down the fortresses' walls. Since the time of Stor-gris, such steam weaponry and the secrets of their creation has unfortunately been lost.
The economy of Stor-gris changed over the many centuries that the kingdom was in existence. In the beginning of its history, Stor-gris was funded in large measure by the discovery of a rich load of iron ore in the south-eastern peaks of the Balathil Mts. (later called the Stonewall Mts.). This mine produced great income for two centuries and even encouraged trade between Stor-gris and the demi-human kingdoms, although this trade did little to bring about peace. In the third century of the kingdom's existence, however, the vein of iron ore was expended and the mine ceased functioning, sending the kingdom into a period of economic depression that encouraged the period of relative peace that marked the early middle period of Stor-gris' history; after all, fielding an army takes a great deal of money. But Stor-gris found a new source of income when the Wintervale expanded its control over the lands to the East of Siriand (later called the continent of Farland) and begin trading silks and other textiles, precious metals, and livestock to the kingdom of Stor-gris in return for slaves, weapons, timber, and crops. This wealth funded the Great Siege of Wawmar in 9779 E.R., which almost led to the downfall of the dwarven kingdom. This source of income eventually dried up as well, as the Wintervale over-exploited its new subject-lands, causing another recession and period of relative peace in Stor-gris' middle period.
Some things were staples of the Stor-gris economy even during its economic down-turns. The domain was always largely a feudal, agrarian society. The crops produced by the fields of Stor-gris were traded within the kingdom, to the Wintervale, and sometimes even to the demi-human kingdoms. Its agrarian foundation allowed the riff-raff of Stor-gris to pay, barely, the exorbitant taxes demanded by the rulers in the fortress city.
The fields of Stor-gris were worked by thralls. Most slaves in Stor-gris belonged to the lesser dark folk races like goblins and kobolds, although demi-human and human slaves were also common. The practice of holding slaves had two effects on the economy of the dark kingdom. The ubiquitous slavery within Stor-gris contributed to the high rate of unemployment that plagued the countryside during its periodic economic depressions, since slaves took the agricultural jobs that could have employed the citizens of the kingdom. Since the rulers in the fortress city did not care if the inhabitants of the kingdom starved, however, this was not such a problem. On the other hand, trade of slaves in great open air markets fueled the economies of the teeming cities, and slaves were a valuable commodity to be traded to the eastern lands.
The financial system of Stor-gris was further supplemented by constant raiding of elven and dwarven communities, and by the spoils of war captured by the massive armies of the dark folk kingdom. In fact, the entire economic apparatus was directed toward funding the domain's military machine, and often the treasures captured by the armies were simply channeled right back into the army. Still, the military was always the most reliable source of employment in Stor-gris.
Daily Life in Stor-gris
The quality of a goblinoid's life in the dark folk kingdom depended on which social position the goblinoid occupied. Those of the lowest echelons were often enslaved. Kobolds had it worst in this respect. Indeed, the tiniest of the dark folk were most often slaves themselves, although rarely did other dark folk bother to pen them up or keep a watch on them. It was cheaper to let one's kobold thralls fend for themselves, and if a few went missing, kobolds were plentiful and easily captured. It was well within the law of Stor-gris to enslave kobolds for any reason or for no reason at all, and everyone except the kobolds themselves agreed that they deserved this fate. Goblins had it little better, although they generally had to commit some sort of a legal offense to be enslaved. Often, however, the charges brought against goblins were of the flimsiest nature and were merely trumped up to enslave the creatures.
Orcs could also be slaves, although they could only legally be enthralled to other orcs, hobgoblins, or oluks. More often, smaller orcs were simply peons and workers, performing for a low wage heavy labor too difficult for the tiny dark folk slaves; or they were unemployed residents of the slums of the large cities, living by theft and murder. Larger orcs spent most of their lives as undisciplined infantry in the armies of Stor-gris, where they faced bare-subsistence rations (if they were lucky), back-breaking labor, and an early death at the hands of a dwarf, elf, or another goblinoid.
Hobgoblins and oluks had it somewhat better: while they were still expected to fight at the behest of their lord (something expected at a moment's notice of every resident of Stor-gris) and thus often faced violent deaths, while they were alive they could expect the best share of rations and the most comfortable living quarters available. Hobgoblins and oluks were the only residents of the domain that did not face constant starvation, for if they did, they would simply take the food from the weaker residents. Unlike the kobolds and goblins, who merely wished to survive, and the orcs, who only sought to inflict pain on others while avoiding it themselves, hobgoblins and oluks could actually aspire to something higher, generally a higher military station. Some fortunate members of these races actually became generals and rulers of cities.
Those who wielded any kind of magic also had a special sort of respect in Stor-gris, but dark folk priests, generally orcs and oluks, had a high social status in the domain. Because of their connection to the Dark Walker, the patron god of the entire kingdom and the direct commander of the Dweller in the Vale, these clerics tended to be revered, enjoying luxuries unknown to all but the highest ranking military leaders. In times of war, priests provided invaluable support to the dark armies. However, they were also expected to lay down their lives for the King of the fortress-city, and they would generally do so without hesitation.
Despite one's social status, however, all of the dark folk residents of Stor-gris had something in common: their lives tended to be "nasty, brutish, and short."
History and Fate of Stor-gris
The history of Stor-gris is generally divided into three long eras, the early, the middle, and the late period. Each period is defined by the king who ruled in the fortress city. The ruler of the early period was Karoxfang the Vile, the half-orc/half-demon who founded Stor-gris. Karoxfang was the Dweller in the Vale's trusted associate when she ruled Rothnog. When the dark armies of Rothnog were crushed in the Battle of Thunder Pass in 9330 E.R., Karoxfang was one of the few survivors of the massacre. He fled and soon gathered a force of wandering dark folk, refugees from East Rothnog who were fleeing the razing of the kingdom by the forces of Wawmar and its allies. Recognizing the burgeoning strength of the demi-humans, the wily orc-demon knew he had to retreat, fortify his position, and take his time to rebuild his strength. He knew he had to construct a mighty fortress, but he also knew he and his stupid dark folk slaves lacked the knowledge to do so. Karoxfang was lucky enough during his retreat, however, to waylay a party of dwarves from Wawmar and capture the dwarven king's best architect, the ancestor of the designer of Wawmar itself, the famous Agralin X. Enslaving this dwarf, the evil general brought him to the south lands and forced him to oversee the construction of one of the greatest castles history has ever seen. He called the citadel Stor-gris or "New-Start" in ancient Dark Speech. Agralin indeed designed the fortress to be nearly impenetrable, but the wise dwarf built a weakness into the design of the castle and hid the secret of that weakness in a poem that he addressed to his family. That poem would play a great role in Stor-gris' late period.
Karoxfang, nearly immortal because of his demonic heritage, took his time in strengthening his position. He fortified and refortified his citadel, aided by the discovery of a lucrative iron mine, and he then slowly and steadily attracted dark folk and monsters of all sorts to his new kingdom, overseeing the construction of teeming cities of goblinoids. Eventually the domain of Stor-gris grew to encompass nearly the entirety of southern Siriand (later known as the continent of Farland). At first the demi-humans did not see Stor-gris as a serious threat, and when they finally recognized their peril in 9690 E.R., a convenient plague came out of the east and decimated the dwarves and gnomes. The ability of the demi-humans to hinder the development of Stor-gris was thus set back for many years, and by the time the dwarves recovered their strength it was too late: Stor-gris had grown mighty. Its economy had been secretly fueled by profitable trade with the Wintervale and the lands to the east. The dark folk kingdom began in earnest its attempts to conquer Siriand. In 9700 E.R., Stor-gris started harrowing the Hinterlands and the Southlands, causing miles of desolation. Karoxfang unveiled his secret weapon: new, stronger orcs that he called Oluks. A force of these orcs marched north and completely destroyed the Elven ship-haven of Lannael. Karoxfang followed this vanguard action by leading north the entire army of Stor-gris, laying waste to all in its path. A battalion of dwarves from the weakened Wawmar marched out to meet the dark folk, but the dwarves were handily defeated. This battle began the Plague Wars. At the start of the wars, however, Karoxfang was betrayed to the enemy and slain. A brief civil war loomed for Stor-gris, but the rulership of the goblinoid kingdom was quickly usurped by the black dragon Bardanax the Voracious, Karoxfang's betrayer. This event began the middle period of Stor-gris' history.
Bardanax did not miss a beat in the Plague Wars, however. He masterfully picked up on Karoxfang's strategy to use the might of the new oluks, and he expanded upon it. Boldly pushing further north, he besieged the gates of Wawmar itself. Because of a civil disagreement among the elves, they failed to come to the aid of the dwarves for some time, and thus Stor-gris nearly conquered Wawmar, even managing to breech the outer gates. After one terribly botched attempt at aiding Wawmar, the elves of Alustel eventually settled their differences, however, and attacked Stor-gris. Helped by the dwarves, the Elhil were finally able to thoroughly crush the besieging army of goblinoids, primarily because the dark army was unsupported and their supply lines were overextended and gravely disrupted by Elven action. This military defeat set Stor-gris back for many years. The civil strife that had plagued the elves eventually resulted in their division, and a large group of Elven separatists moved south and settled the Lutanium, the vast forest that bordered the domain of Stor-gris to the east. This put new pressure on Stor-gris, hampering its military and economic recovery. The end of the trade routes with the Wintervale further exacerbated Stor-gris' problems. Meanwhile, Bardanax was quickly discovering the challenges of ruling the dark folk kingdom that had faced Karoxfang. He found that he could trust very few of his generals, for scheming and plotting to overthrow the ruler of the fortress city seemed to be a common past-time. It seemed to be a stroke of luck for the black dragon, then, when he acquired someone he felt he could trust: the mysterious hag Dantha'sule. This creature seemed to see to Bardanax's every need, including his appetites. Under Dantha'sule's ministries, the dragon king slowly grew fat and sick, although he still managed to rule for many centuries. Eventually, though, Bardanax the Voracious (and very obese) suspiciously died; many claim that it was due to old age and ill health, while others whispered that he had fallen to fouler means. Dantha 'Sule assumed control of the armies of Stor-gris and claimed the late dragon's considerable horde for her own. This event began the late period of Stor-gris' history.
The hag queen, understanding that Stor-gris' continued existence depended on the conquest of the demi-humans, quickly reopened war with the dwarves of Wawmar. She managed to orchestrate the abduction of the king of Wawmar in 10,002 E.R., disheartening the dwarves. This event ushered in a period of moderate military success for the dark folk kingdom, as they defeated both the now-smaller forces of Alustel and the disheartened forces of Wawmar. The orcish general known as Gudang Moth gained fame during this period for his ruthlessness and mastery of tactics. The goblinoids pushed the demi-humans back until the former controlled much of the Hinterlands. The Ranarim, the Elven separatists who dwelt in Lutanium, eventually decided to commit the entirety of their forces to the fray, however, but even this was not enough, and they too were defeated. The timely entry of a wandering group of dwarves, the Clan of Kain, though, heralded the beginning of the end for Stor-gris. The dwarves brought lore of the ancient poem of Agralin X to the Ranarim, who, using the vast stores of knowledge possessed by the Elven race, were able to unlock the poem's secrets. The verses revealed that Agralin had purposefully caused the fortress city of Stor-gris to be built on unsteady limestone foundations and that acid could be used in certain spots to dissolve the limestone and send the walls crashing down. The elves of Lutanium and the dwarves of the Clan of Kain joined forces in order to carry out the instructions given by the fateful poem. Heartened by a potential end to the millennia long conflict, the leagued forces of good were able to defeat the defending army of Stor-gris in the Battle of Mourning, although the former suffered heavy losses. Still, they pushed on and implemented Agralin X's plans, bringing down the walls and sacking the citadel in the year 10,557 E.R. Stor-gris' seemingly interminable reign of terror had finally come to an end.