“They move like watery shadows, moving into focus far too late. They are a mockery of the light – and I will gladly give my life to see them perish beneath its glory.”
– Tirion, ‘The First Orc War’
To the north of Stromgarde, beyond the Lifewell, lay a cast-iron shadow. This spiked mountain range – devoid of the comforts of the light – seemed insurmountable. Jagged, tooth-like stalagmites erupted from calloused grey stone which skewered the avian creatures that strayed too close to its borders. Darkness with such depth seemed to almost consume the light around it.
To the angels of fate who held these lands, the sense of dread which emanated from the mountains was enough to halt their advances for expansion. “The Archangels themselves have cast the Lifewell as a line in the sand. These lands to the south are ours, and we must work to perfect it in their image.” This wisdom was stalwart enough for most, and rallied the hearts of these angels. The region of Stromgarde’s capital – of the same name, no less – was established on the edge of the Lifewell’s banks. The antithesis of darkness, Stromgarde stood in defiance of the land to the north which the light could not touch.
Hidden away in these mountains, the shadows started to take shape.
Horrible parodies of humanoids, shadow incarnate dripping off their coiled limbs like wax, began to crawl their way from the darkness. Wretching and contorting, these terrifying beings were few in number at first, multiplying with each cycle of day. As day turned to dusk, the haunting screeches of unlife would birth itself from the shadows.
Over centuries, these creatures began to take on a more tangible form. Shadows gave way to flesh; hardened by the constant fighting and rage that was so endemic in these creatures. Deep-set red eyes awoke in their sockets, and the shadows themselves began to mimic sweeping inky hairs that sprouted from their heads. As their bodies developed, so too did their hunger. The ravenous, unending hunger that plagued them for centuries was given an answer, but there was no food in sight. Fighting and squabbling turned to hatred and bloodlust, and soon these beings were clawing at one another for their flesh.
Huge uneven protrusions of bone within their gaping maws – as sharp and deadly as the mountains they stood upon – tore flesh from bone and bone from body. Genocidal mayhem tore across the mountains, annihilating the weak until all that was left were the victors. Still more of the brood came into being and clawed their way through the shadows like a beast caught in a web, some rising to the challenge of their race and some falling victim beneath it.
Perhaps the final “kingdom” to be born of Lothien. The Orcblight.
Cannibalism and strength reigned supreme in this primitive race. “Orcs”, as they are called in the Lothien tongue, formed clans and leaders. In a constant state of chaos, these arbitrary kinships did little but to even up the fights they held between each other, before bloodlust swept over them and they continued to fight amongst one another.
One Orc, however, towered over the rest. He stood almost as tall as the peaks of The Orcblight itself, crushing his brothers and sisters with neither pity nor remorse. Fear was not native to the Orcs, but this being evoked it with his very presence. As clans continued to war over their base desires and hatred, this sole Orc ruled silently. Imperiously. Challengers were few and far between, and each one became a meal befitting of a king. With each conquest, the blood he consumed made him stronger, taller and more cunning.
And that is why the Lord of the Undead knew that it was with this Orc that he would make his pact, and silence the arrogance of the light once and for all.