The Dawnglare saga
Chapter 1: mayhem in the mountain
The Red Dawn mountain, with its steep peaks, and windswept highlands, was never a place of peace and quiet; Mountain elf clans, far from their civilized brethren in the Eversong forests and Silvermoon, were harsh and merciless as the cold winds of their homelands. Uncured hatreds and tales of vendettas which passed from father to son, over lands, lost heirlooms or affairs were very common, especially within the two bigger clans of Dawnsong and Skyridge; and between both of them to the Dwarven clan of Zirganar, which made it clear (with blood coated axes, if needed), that no elf (or non Zirganar dwarf) will ever set foot in the deep Thor’laran emerald mines.
As the 17th century BC (before the opening of the dark portal) came close to its middle, the clan wars were getting more and more out of hand, as the pressure of the Amani from the south worsened. Then, in 1652 BC, it burst in one of the worst bloodbaths remembered in tale and song, even in the questionable standard to the mountain elves.
The Gonheriel massacre:
One of the most feared elf elders that lived in those times, was Roslyr Dawnsong, also called “The eternal”; tall, grim looking elder, known for his untypical long white as snow beard – a rare feature indeed for a mountain elf; for his frost-scorched, windbitten visage, which inflicted fear even in his own clan. He was rumored to possess great, shamanistic-like magical powers, and was often leaving his people and venturing alon for weeks or months, crossing the highest slopes and (as rumored) communing with the icy winds themselves.
Like many other elves from Dawnsong and other clans, he frowned as a messenger of king Anastarian came into the mountain, tying to convince, or force the opposing clans to a grand council of peace making and and mutual holy rites, to honor the ancient light spirit of the the Gonheiriel peak… but as the other elders kept protesting and tiring the messenger with tales of all the wrongs they suffered from the rival clans (before reluctantly agreeing to do the will of the high king), Roslyer simply walked away, fading into the bitter winds blowing outside of Dawnsong’s stronghold.
Then, it was Roslyr that re-appeared, emerging from the mists as the ceremony in the gonheriel shrine was starting, with a single, spirit-empowered spear clutched between his long, frostbitten fingers. Down and far away in Silvermoon, king Anastarian could order what he will… but the old mountain caster had a long bone to pick with Valren Skyridge, the eldest son and heir to the Skyridge leader, which was blamed in harming Roslyer favorite granddaughter, about 200 years ealier.
The old mountain elder neither forgotten, nor forgiven… and while the chanting of the ceremony began and strong wine was poured into the mugs, he came with a burst of bone chilling winds, flung his ice-spirit embued spear at Valern, inflicting him with a cursed mortal wound.
Though later, the Dawnsong clansmen claimed that the Skyridge elders were the first to violate the holy ceremony, as they mocked their rivals and poured frost-swine’s blood into their win mugs, thus defiling the holy ritual, it’s hard to question the fact that the holy ceremony had quickly turned into a blood bath, and the holy shrine of the light spirit was sacrileged. Even the royal Silvermoon messenger was badly mauled, then chased out of the mountain.
After the bloodbath, which quickly derailed into an open war between the mountain clans, the defiled high temple was abandoned, and the dark energies left within, serving as an atrocious conduit of evil magic, luring dark creatures, and finally drawing the attention of the Amani shadow priests.
Step by step, the ancient stronghold looming high over the main mountain passage descending to Foredawn vale and Eversong forest, became the nest of untold horrors, its round towers now covered in vile, thick mists and holwing echoes, unleashing tremendous ice storms into the highlands.
And from deep inside the defiled peak, came the Gral’rung – huge, previously unknown monstrosities, which started to spread over the red dawn picks and highlands.
Stories tell the the Gral’rung is a twisted entity created by ancient loa magic, which deformed a forgotten kind of huge winged creatures – half bird, half reptile, twisted their form and forced a spirit called forth from the darkest spirit realms into its body.
The Gral’rung looked like a vaguely humanoid shape, hovering to the height of 12-18 feet; round, feathered body with twitching, crued ice-covered legs, and long gnarled armes, ending with six or seven boney talons; the head was long and flat, slightly resembling a tiky mask covered with flesh and feathers, with dim, purplish lidless eye holes, a pair of faint-bronze hornes, and a crude, toothy, ice-dripping beak-like maw emerging from its midst. Some of them were rumored to grow wings as well, though their flying ability was heavily limited.
It was also rumored, that the Gral’rung had limited forces of ice magic, and some kind of affinity, or the ability to tame lesser winged mountain pests, which were often found crawling on their master’s hugh feathery back, and even weaving so obscure, sticky crust, which could serve the Gral’rung as an additional layer of armor.
The defeat of Gon’tryl
Few years later, as the mountain was thrown into total havoc, struck by storms and monstrosities and suffering from a brutal war between the mountain elf clans to themselves (and sometimes between them to the dwarves as well), the Amani made their move; as though the great troll wars ended long ego, there were many trolls that ran into the higher grounds, far from the main armies of the high kingdome and their human allies.
Warlord Gar’tagga, a great bear shaman and (as some stories claim) surviving general from the troll wars, led an combined force of five different forest troll clans, quickly capturing much of the red dawn highlands, vanquishing the remote, weaken elven forces, and chasing them into their own strongholds.
Many elves fell, slaughtered or sacrified to the troll gods, as Gar’tagga and his underlings left huge stone monument of their victories, littered with “forests” of decapitated heads skewered on stakes. And as the beaten elven clans retreating to the northern part of the red dawn lands, or running down to foredawn vale, Gar’tagga prepared his forces for the next challenge, which he knew that will soon come – a high elf army that will no doubt be sent from Silvermoon, bolstered with arcane casters.
The trolls were right, as the elves did sent a large counter attack force… which marched straight into its doom up in the curving slopes of the mountain passage (not far from the place in which the current mountain lord fought the scourge, more than 1600 years later), thus granting the Amani a sweet revenge for their former great defeat in the troll wars.
The marching elves were greeted by a massive ice blizzard, summoned by the troll priests and shamans, and filled with screeching flying pests, that launched themselves in hundreds on the elven casters; and from the swirling, bone chilling mists, came the Amani, storming down from from the higher slopes, and with them came huge, shrieking Gral’rung, roaming down on the elves like hugh, living feathery siege towers.
The high elf army was crushed; two of his three commanders falling, and more than half his soldiers slaughtered, and the rest scattering and escaping down, back to Foredawn vale, as the trolls chasing and tailing them.
Gar’thagga chased his retreating opponents into the eastern edge of the Foredawn vale, and ended his journey in the holy troll ruins of Rustusk, there the victors threw a great feast, their warriors boasting each in his own deeds, while dozens of war prisoners were scarified in that night, to honor the loa spirits.
The remaining elven armies were reluctant to march upon the mountain again, and were mainly fortifying under the shelter of the walls of Kul’Glorel city, in the western part of the Foredawn vale, while other elves were working to fortify the road leading to Eversong.
And while Gar’thagga had no plans to march to Eversong or challenge the fortified elven armies in the vale, he made their life a living hell in hit and run tactics, as troll raiders, encamped in the mountain passage or rustusk, raided deep into the vale, just to kill, loot, and vanish again into the chilling mist hovering upon the higher lands. At one time, the trolls were bold enough to raid and burn an elven noble estate in the outskirts of Kul’glorel itself, killing a well known lord and dragging his wife to slavery.
However, Gar’thagga missed a single fact, or else deemed it not significant enough… on regiment of the high elf army of Gon’tryl not only survived the onslaught, but also stayed in the red dawn mountain. That regiment were nor knights in shining plate, neither arcane caster, but farstriders – toughen rangers, which handled themselves, even in the extreme, darkened frost that now lingered over the highlands; and their commander was an troll-wars veteran, a ranger maned Varlanthir Dawnglare; and while the trolls were busy raiding the vales below, he led his rangers amidst the storm and darkness, into the stronghold high on the snowy conifer forest, where the remnants of the Skridge clansmen still held.
Varlanthir Dawnglare and Ferlindra Skyridge
The ranger captain which would soon be known as the founder of the mountain lords line, was hailed by his descendants as a true hero, a far-seeing commander and strategist, and a just ruler. In spite of those remembered values, old tales remember his as more complex character, which aside his many talents, also shown some of the weaknesses that will later cause much grief in the family’s history.
After longs years of service to the high kingdom, including some brilliant yet ruthless victories in the troll wars, Varlanthir was forced to retire from the elven army, and spent the passing years in his estate on the hills overwatching Tranquilin (in the Ghostlands, as it is called today); it seemed, that the bright ranger captain was not doing so well in days of relative peace, mainly due to his own impatience and hot temper.
It was rumored, that he had seen himself to be entitled and the best deserved to take the post of the ranger general, but lost any chance to get such a glorious promotion due to his ill relations with fellow commander and some influential nobles, with a solid work close to the throne room. Either way, it seems that they convinced the high king advisors, that while Varlanthir is no doubt valiant in small battles, he is too young, rushed, and his crude manners fit more to send him to instruct the new human allies, rather than be appointed to the high rank.
As Varlanthir heard, that another candidate from another (and maybe high-ranked) line was preferred over him, though he hadn’t done half of the valiant deeds of Captain Dawnglare in the troll wars, he got enraged and reckless, and talked in public (means, while drinking with his sergeants and other elves), saying many ‘juicy’ quotes about the high king and the nobles in his court.
As a result, he was dismissed from service, and was ‘hinted’ that it is better for him to stay in his estate, rather then placing a foot again in the high king’s court in Silvermoon.
After spending long years in travels in the south (some tales claim he had close relationships with at least two different human women in the kingdom of Storm, and maybe even left one of them with a ‘reminiscent’, he ventured back to the high kingdom, and as the years passed, he found himself badly bored and frustrated.
Then, several hundreds of years later, he pushed his way back into service: in the start, it wasn’t even official: it was told that the rumors about a troll incursion in the mountains to the east caught him on his way to visit an old friend near Kul’glorel… and he just rushed into the opportunity, calling some of his “old boys” back to his side, then offering to replace a friend, which was reluctant to march to war again, least of all in the frozen mountains looming over the vale.
The army commanders were not too thrilled, as Varlanthir’s reputation exceeded him, but since they felt the battle is going to be hard, they refused not, and allowed him back into his old position of a ranger captain.
Facing a devastating attack from two sides, Varlanthir used the cover of the storm sent by the trolls themselves to turn his rangers into the shelter of a rocky crevice, luring a small Amani force to chase him into the narrow rock passage, then throwing them off the cliffs and killing their commander and the huge snow bear he used as a mount.
Then, instead of running back into the crushed, chased elf army, Captain Dawnglare used the cover of the storm and snow to march his elfs to the opposite direction – up, into the snow covered conifer trees above the mountain passage, and into the darkened, dark magic infested highlands.
Not too far afterwards, while patrolling with a handful of rangers before his main force, he ran into a small group of Skyridge clan locals, which one of them was a young, red haired elf maiden named Ferindra, cousin of the slain Valren Skyridge… the well-known version of the sage claims, that he had first ran into her when he was all by himself amidst the blackened cricking pines… while the red haired maiden had risked herself far from her people to gather some silky-sweet snow plums… then she was chased into a tree by a monstrous twisted bear, a beast infested with vile spirit from the shadowlands, turning it into a deformed killing machine – one of many dark creatures roaming the mountain in those old days.
Varlanthir had slain the beast, then called the girl to climb down the pine, scolding her for her recklessness, as young girls, armed only with a shortsword, should not linger away from safety. Instead of blushing or bursting in tear, is told that Varlindra had only laughted, saying that she is not a fragile maid from the soft, magic-imbued plains below, but a daughter of the mountain; and now beast will cause her to keep her from her favorite plums. The pine was tall and strong, and twisted bear brutish and brainless… she could escape anyway, any time she wished to.
Either that way or another, the gatherers that Varlanthir met, helped him and his rangers to find their way into deeper parts of the high forest, where their people – the remains of the Skyridge clan – were hiding.