Far to the south and east, beyond the great Lahnsgate Mountains, lies a land of sun and rocks. Most of that land is little more than dry desert plains of scrub brush and no water. Some small oases exist here, fed by mountain rivers to the north. Across the dry land does it wend its way, leaving pockets of life in its wake. Here and there are dotted small cities and villages surrounded by farms.
It is in these lands that the fearsome Amazons have made their homes. The largest and richest among them have great buildings of stone. The least of them live in smaller homes constructed of mud brick.
The women who make this land their own are the rulers and warriors here. Thickly muscled, quick, and agile creatures are they. Quick to push around their male slaves who tirelessly work the land and eke out whatever living can be had. Each city is ruled by a warleader and her elderly advisors. In days past each village made allies and enemies of who they willed and fought often amongst themselves. At present, however, they have begun to work together to face encroaching Orc raiders.
The Orc raiders are the antithesis of the Amazons, yet very much the same. Among Orcs it is the male who rules, the warleader and the advisors who make the decisions. The women and captive slaves perform all labor. Until recently, Orc and Amazon rarely crossed paths. Out past the reach of the life-giving rivers, beyond where the water spills into the great southern sea, are a series of scattered tropical islands. Covered in dense jungle and surrounded by waters rich in fish, the stone-age Orc tribes were well content with warring amongst themselves. It was common for bands in small boats to sneak up upon their neighbors and raid them for food, slaves, and good kills.
All of this changed when the great oracle appeared. He was a shaman so old and decrepit it was a wonder that his bones did not spontaneously fall in a heap upon the floor. He appeared in the night, his mute slaves pushing a rickety raft along with rotted oars. From island to island he traveled, speaking out his simple message which would change the world forever. For deep within the jungle of the large and forbidden island Kraksnik sat a treasure forgotten for centuries. The oracle had divined that the taboo forbidding access came not from the gods but from the tricks of an ancient wizard who wished to keep its secrets for himself.
Within the island's heart lay an old ruin of the forgotten Snake People. Their magics had been considerable and their metallurgy great. Within lay the most amazing cache of weapons seen outside the kingdoms of the North. Quickly did the old oracle bring together the Orcs and quickly did they seek out the wonders of this lost city. Armed and united they rode out to conquer.
The first to fall were the peaceful peoples of the coast. The Orc horde ravaged the villages and continued on. Their first skirmishes against the Amazons were devastating. Whole towns fell. But the others were quick to take up defense and the Orcs were repelled. Knowing they could not stand against the Orcs for long, the Amazons turned to their goddesses for assistance. From the deep desert came the answer. Great lizards loped forth to greet the surprised women. Each carried in its maw a long spear and on its back a saddle with axe and bow affixed.
With this divine help the Amazons were able to repel the Orc horde. Splintered but still strong, the Orcs continue to wage war against the Amazons, making surprise raids just as they used to amongst themselves. It is a volatile time.
As each village of the Amazons held independence from the rest, getting them all to work together was no small task. Forgetting old feuds, agreeing on strategy, and figuring out the logistics of managing such an army did not happen easily. But for the threat of the Orc invasion, such a thing would never have occurred. With the brunt of the Orcish warband broken, this alliance wears thin. Old grudges have begun to crop up and some have started questioning the need to continue working together.
- Haklos, City of Strength.
- Eklos, City of Wisdom.
- Methis, City of the Spear.
- Telnosh, the first village to fall. Its few survivors have only a smoking ruin to return to.
People of Note
- Hekla, warleader of Haklos. She is proud, decisive, quick to assert her dominance, and highly dismissive of those beneath her station (especially slaves.)
- Her advisors Neeleth and Pashtoth, who constantly try to soften Hekla's volatile and impatient nature.
- The slave Keth, trusted servant of Hekla, who has been plotting rebellion.
- Gennesha, hero of Methis who made a name for herself when she held the gates of Kasmath until reinforcements arrived.
- The martyr Savvishna, who sacrificed herself and her warriors so that the elders of Kasantish could flee.
The clans are no longer as united as they were. They have been split into 5 different factions, each following a strong leader with the largest warband. Occasional squabbles break out between the factions; sometimes it looks as if the entire Orc war machine will fall to itself. The old shaman fights against this as well as he is able, using his voice as the will of the gods and his own ability to divine the unknown to do so.
Orcs of Note
- The old shaman does his best to divine the movements of the Amazons. He considers telling the Orcs to move on to other, less difficult prey but also wishes to wreak the gods wrath upon the Amazons for their defiance.
- Shegrak, the war chief who goes berserk in battle and so inspires his clan. Some of the other war chiefs have begun to envy his popularity among the warriors and will likely turn against him at the first sight of weakness.
- The Black Snake clan, who look down upon all the other clans and refuse to do more than pay lip service to the old shaman. They are after their own loot and a new place to live and will happily abandon the rest of the Orcs once they have what they want.
The Lost City of the Snake People
The Snake People were distant relatives of the Lizard folk. Their city-state rose and fell millennia ago and was forgotten by all but the most obsessive of scholars. They were great workers of copper and bronze, far ahead of their time. Their temples doubled as centers of learning and the study of magic.
From the ruins of that lost city, the Orcs pulled many an enchanted blade, suit of armor (many of these mangled to fit the stockier frames), and other oddities (such as the fire-flinging staff, which conjures flames from the very air.) Much magic remains, especially the ancient scrolls and items that did not easily lend themselves to war.
This is an area of great hostility which has the potential to impact larger regions should the Orc threat fail to be contained, or if the united Amazons decide to become conquerers themselves after putting down the Orc threat.
As it stands, each side is fairly evenly matched. A strong ally on either side could easily turn the tide.
- This could be the basis for a campaign, where PCs play either Amazons or Orcs (or both if they really want to complicate things.)
- Even if they are outsiders, the PCs could get caught up in the war as soldiers of fortune (although any male PCs should expect rough treatment from the Amazons.)
- While traveling in the region, the party fights off a small group of Orcs. Looting the bodies reveals some ancient magical gear that the primitive Orcs must have liberated from elsewhere. This could lead into exploration of the Snake People ruins. Any mage in the group will be drooling over this find.
- Both the Orc and Amazonian armies are fragmenting. If either army breaks up completely, the other will have a strong advantage, and the PCs may be just the group to make that happen.
- While the women are away figting the Orcs, Keth begins his revolution, and the party gets caught up in it. Perhaps the PCs are just traveling through, or even slaves themselves.
Additional Ideas (1)
The gods of the Orcs say that Orcs were born in blood; therefore blood must be used to commune with their creators. The old shaman left his people long ago to seek out the original ways. The ancient ways long since forgotten. And he found them. By proving that he was willing to sacrifice all to the gods and their glory, the shaman was blessed with great knowledge.
To divine the unknown requires lengthy rituals involving blood. For something as simple as asking where to hunt the ritual might only require a small cup let from the arm of a slave. Greater questions might need the livers of an animal or the intestines of a small child. Many a lad or lass from the sacked Amazon villages has met an end at the blade of the shaman's knife.
Looking deep within the blood, pooled in a cup or slathered on organs, and then begging for the word of the gods through sacred chants, will reveal to the shaman's sight that which before was hidden. Such rituals may take many hours, even whole days, so they are not entered into lightly.
The Lizard Mounts
As massive as a warhorse, though closer to the ground, the great lizards known as Jetha had never been domesticated before this war. Little is known of their habits and diet, as they were only infrequently seen by those who cross the great sandy wastes. Even now their origins are a mystery. Who trained them? Saddled them? Outfitted them with weapons?
Jetha need no armor, as their scaly hide is tougher than most barding. They have great strength, large maws with razor teeth, and are capable of short bursts of incredible speed. Their claws can disembowel at a touch and their long tails are capable of devastating whiplike strikes. The Orcs learned quickly to fear these great beasts.
When they appeared to the Amazons, each calmly trotted to a chosen warrior. They respond faithfully to commands and show no fear in battle. Unknown to all is whether they will stick around after the Orcs have been repelled.