Depicted as a towering menace clad in unholy armor, with weapons larger than many a foe, the orcish warlord must have been an impressive foe. Rather than the gaudy armor of an unholy champion, he wore armor forged from the breastplates of half a dozen human lords, tied together with chains and belts, or perhaps adapted by a captive smith, a helm adorned with the horns of a sacred turom, and a red plume, a totem pole with the black-and-red banner of the Bloodstrider clan, the shield of High King Maldarnieth he ripped off along with the elven lord’s arm for defense, and Stormcall, the blade of Corthanar the Missionary, a crusader paladin, in the other.
According to legend, his face bears two rows of four parallel scars across the eyes, from when Authelima, the Arch-Druid of Everwood, scratched him in her tiger form before she was put down.
Besides uncounted scars his body was home to several tattoos signifying his rulership over the tribes on both arms, and one he didn’t show off too often, an acolyte’s tattoo of the priesthood of Vershnath, the greenskin goddess of… duh, nature.
Wealthy was he beyond many a man’s dream, and glistened with stolen gold and jewels, the crown of Silvermoon forged into his helm in his later days.
The bard’s greying hair and wrinkles in the corners of his eyes might have spoken of his age, but the fire in his eyes, ripened with age, managed to captivate the audience more than when he was a youth, and win the charm of many a young lass. His voice filled a corner of the otherwise, surprisingly, silent tavern.
“Today, I shall tell of Morgobondor, the Scourge of Silvermoon, the Headtaker, the Knightslayer, leader of the Hordes.”
A listener interrupted: “Those tales are a load of bull. An orc would never manage that!”
The bard just smiled, and added silently: “I met him in person, a few years ago. The guy they hanged in Devania? That was just some scapegoat. The king made a deal, and Morgobondor went free…”
Gasps were all the audience had to say, a war veteran’s face telling of his memories of the time when orcs swarmed the lands.
“But let me commence…”
“During the Green Tide, some twenty years ago, a comet streaked across the skies, a herald of changes to come. In the dreaded Fimbul-Winter, wave upon wave of savages stormed down the valley of the Demerlay, laying waste to Silvermoon, the kingdoms of Arthane, Melerond and the coastal realm of Barag Nor. Not a loose band of howling barbarians they were, but organized rank-and-file, bearing banners and marching under the bellow of horns and thunder of countless drums. At their head was a terrifying orc, tall as a mounted knight, and his will drove them forward like a cruel taskmaster's whip. None stood in their way, and soon between the Fircam and the Delvehome Mountains no single human was alive.
Where did this tragedy originate? Hardly anyone knows, but to me, Morgobondor spoke the truth, and I shall impart it upon you now.
Once, he was but a very content orc chief. Every day he applauded his decision to leave the priesthood and lead a band of his tribesmen away when the old chief died of acute knife poisoning.
The hold of Karak Hardru was undermanned, or in this case, underdwarfed, and they took it easily.
Morgobondor had it all: nice axe, mithral helmet, good armor, a stone roof over his head and a stone wall to guard his hold, two wives, a halfling, elf and human slave for when the wives got on his nerve. His minions had to be erdgub (‘enthusiastically educated’, meaning that you bash them on the head until it no longer amuses you) quite rarely, and budgrz (bashing them until they stop being stupid) was necessary only so often. He even had a trough where he could take a hot bath, a pleasure introduced to him by his human pet.
Morgobondor was doing exactly that when he heard a rustle from a dark corner of his chamber. Cursing himself for being spoilt and longing for the days when he even slept in armor, he snatched his axe and leapt from the bath, his orcy highness clad in naught but foam.
The shadow in said dark corner rustled once again, intentionally, like the first rustle had been. A cloak he could make out, under it but blackness. Which was strange because an orc’s eyes, though aesthetics they may lack, pierce darkness like their spears run through the hearts of their enemies (this alegory being used with the permission of Morgobondor himself).
When two lavender eyes flashed in the blackness where the face was supposed to be, all was clear. He had, somehow, angered the Lords Below, and they never give a second chance. He prepared for a desperate charge, but the dark elf showed no sign of aggression, a latent threat, and then, he let the hood slide back, revealing finely chiselled features hinting at cruelty with their sharpness, and at a carefully bred family line or cosmetic magic with their flawless symmetry.
“I wish but to speak, chief” the intruder smirked. “Please, be seated.” While Morgobondor wished nothing more than slicing the damned black elf from head to toe, he knew all too well that even if he managed to finish without coming in contact with his poisoned blades (which was none too certain, as those girly features might have hidden several hundred years of combat experience), then his fellows would come for an unpleasant visit when he least expected it.
“What is the wish of the schwartz-alfar then?”
The elf just smiled and said: “Why, we wish that you be great, the greatest of all.”
Flabbergasted, Morgobondor was at a loss for words.
“Must be our philanthropy, actually our first attempt at it. It’s just an experiment, but if we fail, we might well go back to our old ways.”
Considering the elf’s convolute words, he slowly nodded, knowing too well that every deal offered by the drow would be to hiss loss, and the only choice he’d have to make was how big said loss would be.
“Well then, care about telling me how I and my ragged band of greenskins can be great?”
Another enigmatic smile later, the elf added: “Why, what about toppling the aeons old spires of Silvermoon?”
For the first time during their conversation, Morgobondor had to laugh.
Likewise, his minions laughed when, the next day, the chief announced they were going to train, do pushups, run over obstacles, and even do ‘stuff’ like banners, and, most of all, no bickering and bitching at the boss when he issues a command. A healthy dose of erdgub and a truly tiring display of budgrz later, he had all convinced of his ways by the power of his arguments, both the left and the right argument carrying equal power.
Hardly any greenskin went through that sort of drill as Morgobondor subjected his subjects to. When he knew that their anger was hot enough to melt steel, his boys approached the next neighbour, some chief named Snaagdar. Not long did it take until the unprepared clan threw down their weapons, leaderless, for at Morgobondor’s command, crossbow bolts ripped through the exposed orc, felling him where he stood.
Morgobondor demonstrated the virtues of skarguzakh (loping off heads and sticking them on poles until all stop being stupid) until everyone understood the benefit of his words, from the most onerous brute to the lowliest grot (an especially scrawny and useless kind of gobbo).
Morgobondor took the leaderless tribe into his fold, and taught them the way of Mugra Nubrz, loosely translated as ‘fighting smart’. In the spring, he felled Skagerblork, Gromthusz, Kirmbandr, and the great boss Hungrabogt, and many, many more, and likewise, their tribes swore to be one with his, lest death them part into many (hard to identify) parts.
When he examined his forces, the green of their skin mostly covered by armor, banners flying above their ranks, he knew: they could take ...them… Anger welled up within him remembering how the humans pushed them from the lowlands, the elves denied them the forest’s bounty and the dwarves the riches of the earth. The schwartz-alfar who had helped him in his early days by training his forces, healing the wounded and disposing of a few annoying orc personages withdrew after they had imparted some of their skills on his warriors, and Morgobondor was left with an army itching for a fight.
So fight they did. The first human outposts fell like dry grass to a flashfire, so did the mining towns. Perhaps most difficult was not killing all who dared to raise a sword, but rather keeping the army from putting the farmsteads to the torch: the slaves the army took tilled the fields as they did before, to feed the many hungry mouths, and the herds of the mountains came into the lowlands, to feed upon the bountiful pastures.
Silvermoon stood ready, yet still not prepared for what came: Orcs that would not charge blindly into a trap, orcs who had prepared ballistae to take down any daring great eagle? The guardians of the trees were put to the torch, and the last elf ferreted out the most distant corner of the wood, chains binding their majesty even as huge bolders of coordinated catapult fire battered down their ivory walls.
The pride of Melerond, Knights of the Resplendent Griffon, fell to rows upon rows of pikes and wicked bolts hurled from orcish crossbows, while the steel legions of Arthane drowned in burning oil upon their assault of the Cloudchill Pass, whose floor is made of charred bone to this day.
When Morgobondor dammed up the Malvaren river, threatening to drown Barag Nor, those dwarves who did not flee threw open the gates and charged to die in battle rather than drown like desperate rats.
Morgobondor took the throne of Barag Nor and placed it upon a pedestal under the open sky, and a hundred thousand fists rose into the air, accompanied by a hurricane of voices, applauded him, and called him king.
That eve, when he called for the elven lass who had been with him at the start of the conquest, she came in but walked differently. Alerted by the swaying of the hips which was normally absent in the silent elf, he gazed at her with a piercing gaze, only to see through the glamer to discover obsidian skin. The impostor’s eyes glowed, a will tried to
force itself into his mind, but, hardened as he was, he managed to resist until the crown he had taken for his, the one that ensured that the rulers of Silvermoon were always of a clear mind, flashed with searing light, giving Morgobondor more time than he needed to gut the intruder.
Feasting on her, he worried about the retribution to come, about the purpose of the attempt to control him, yet no vengeance came, no explanation, the sole threat the armies of King Wilhelm IV in the north, across the Fircam.
Let me tell you, the Justice Crusade was far less glorious than they make you believe, a hastily assembled force from several duchies with no common leader, a desperate attempt to shatter the fledgling orc realm before it could grow strong. Doomed it was from the beginning, much like this keg of ale” the bard smiled, and took a hearty swing from the thick brew, dark and sweet, just as how he liked it.
Giving an OK sign to the ‘keep, he spoke on, voice becoming darker: “When he called for his forces to assemble for another war, cheers echoed from all sides, and he marched to the Fallow Field to face the crusaders.
Yet, the blackskins had enchanted his subordinate generals, or taken their place; sometimes they replaced just a lowly soldier to be the proverbial spark in a critical spot. Three years after its founding, civil war erupted in the orc kingdom, and Morgobondor found himself with one and a half thousand footmen against an army of three thousand knights and several thousand infantry. They were stomped into the ground, one and all.
Morgobondor fought on, having led a good life, he was happy to die a good death, his only regret the failed hope for an actual greenskin nation. Piling on a mound of bodies, he hacked away at the human host, until nets and ropes hurled at him bound him and held him fast, for he was to be tried, and shown, a sign of the triumph of man over the beast.
At Wilhelm’s Landing, a different orc was hanged though. The lords, greedy for riches of fallen kingdoms Morgobondor had amassed, let him go after he provided them with the locations of some treasure and promised them more. Though the lords lied, intent on hunting him down after he divulged all gold he had, Morgobondor slipped away… it is a common misconception of humans that a huge orc must necessarily be slow of body and mind, and Morgobondor was neither. A few of the pursuers he ate, the rest ate dust.
He accessed a hidden cache of his and vanished from memory. The lords claimed to have executed the right ork, and did not draw any more attention to the matter.
What became of his kingdom? Well, the dark elves certainly intended to use the orks as tools, and enslave them once their unity was shattered, but all of their spies were discovered and eaten, with a caraway sauce, if I remember correctly. Some of the land was retaken by humans and makes for hotly contested forts like Lebnena and Firehold, while much of the Demerlay valley is still territory of the clans, who, except for the usual skirmishes amongst themselves, are ready to beat the crap out of any foreigner. Curiously, the orcs retained some of the organization they had learnt; more understandably, the valley houses many an ork with more than a bit of elven or human heritage.
And Morgobondor? Well, he is an old ork today, but a content one. He bought himself an inn in a secluded locale, where he is more than happy to serve thick broth and brew sweet ale. See, he was no youth when the Green Tide began, and the inofficial hunt for him wasn’t over for a decade.
Except for the occassional reminiscing of days past, he longs for fighting no more. But you never know which inn houses Morgobondor, the greatest leader of orcs man knew and feared; what do you know, perhaps he is training a successor, to lead the tribes again.”
The bard bowed, and reached out with his hat to collect a few coppers and the occassional silver, and then spoke: “Thanks again for listening, I will retire for today, my throat needs less words and more ale.”
He sat at the bar, the barkeep, a bald bear of a man, scrubbed at a glass, and smiled slightly as the bard emptied his hat onto the table. “This should cover it, thanks a lot. Let me tell you, your ale is the best. As is your tale.”
Today, Morgobondor needs no plate nor banner. What he has got is a Merciful Club, taken from an elven cleric. The club deals hefty blows, and is more than enough to beat someone blue and senseless, yet its enchantment keeps it from actually killing anyone. Morgobondor uses it to administer erdgub and budgrz amongst rowdy guests, considering it educational. He also retains the Crown of Silvermoon, hammered into a simple tarnished headband. Other than that, he carries a Wand of Greater Dispelling just in case, and a potion of invisibility should the need ever arise.
His features are covered with a spell that has lasted for decades and is so settled that only the most sensitive mages perceive a hint of a glamer.
Certainly, Morgobondor could, in true Sean Connery style, return to his realm, and unite the orcs again, and the PCs may either be on his good or bad side.
A young PC of orcish heritage could seek him out either to learn, or to petition for support in some important matter.
Bounty hunter PCs could learn of him, and try to track him down, either to uncover the lies of the nobility, to get a reward or to learn the location of a treasure deep in the orc lands.
And let’s not forget the Lords from Below, for they still hunger as ever, and might have a word or two to speak with an aged orc. Likewise, Morgobondor holds agrudge against them and knows all too well that an orc nation cannot come to power as long as they pull the strings. Are you a dwarf who lost a family hierloom in the Green Tide? A barkeep has found it and all he wants for it is the head of some drow high priestess. A double win, right? You get your stuff and kill a few sissy elves too!
Also, why dwell on the present? A campaign may take place in his glory days, and the PCs might fight a desperate battle against the Green Tide, or lead the greenskins down into the valley to put a few elves to the torch.