Runewars Mega, Year 3: Corridor of Red
News of the Uthuk defeat by a pack of dragons spread across Terrinoth faster than wildfire—much faster, since wildfire could have taken years. Now the Uthuk were the momentary laughingstock of the continent, owing to the natural desire that folks have whenever a world-ending threat appears on the fringes. People wanted to believe the Uthuk advance had been clipped short, but they were forgetting that the Uthuk Y’llan already held the ancient Dragon Throne and the city of Forge, and while reasonable men might have encountered their first great defeat and faltered, the Uthuk knew little of fear.
The nation that seemed least concerned about Uthuk tenacity was the Latari elves. Devoid of Vyrah the Falconer’s counsel (who was, as you may recall, still trapped in Uthuk territory), the Latari began to cast about for ways to wage war without having to actually wage war. So while their troops made minor gains in the north, routing hellhounds and marching to the borders of Dawnsmoor (though no closer), they decided that the most prudent course of action was to strike at a location that would hinder both Old Man Waiqar and the Uthuk. Thus they spent the months of spring trading influence for the assistance of the Wizards’ Council, which when bought they combined with their own magics to rain fires down on the city of Greyhaven. The city was engulfed in wildfire (for true this time) and its dragon rune was buried in the smoldering rubble.
There were plenty of detractors of this strategy among the elves, who pointed out that Latari ambitions might be better realized by promoting war between the Uthuk and Waiqar, and that removing the one dragon rune that lay between the two was likely to decrease the chances of conflict rather than engendering it. The elves who had been proponents of the Burn Greyhaven Project were soon proven the fool, as the Uthuk abandoned most of their defenses of the now-ashen city. Even more concerning were Waiqar’s troop movements. His army had stood on the border of Greyhaven, and everyone had assumed that within the year he would declare war on the Uthuk and beeline for the Lost City. Now his forces were shifted. Without the enticement of the dragon rune in Greyhaven, Waiqar’s attentions were drawn westerly instead—towards the Latari.
The elves had felt confident that their eastern borders were secure. A vast mountain range protected many of their eastern lands, and a region known for its dragon population lay between them and Waiqar. Of course, the Latari should have remembered that dragons are intelligent creatures, the onetime soldiers of the dragonlords who had created the runes and the throne that bore their name. They should have also recalled the small detail that dragons have always had a tendency to align themselves with dark lords. Which was exactly what happened: Waiqar soon sent his lieutenant Mad Carthos, who had been marshaling his undead legions outside of Tamalir, to negotiate with the creatures.
The dragons gladly joined with the Old Man. This prompted a panic among the Latari, who raised many troops in the east rather than marching and occupying Dawnsmoor, despite the fact that the dragons were ill-prepared for war and would not likely be ready to mobilize until the next spring.
Far to the north, the Daqan Lords were also worried by these developments. They had been counting on Waiqar to invade Greyhaven and the Lost City in hopes that Uthuk pressures on their lands would be curtailed. Now, however, they were more aware than ever that the Uthuk still maintained a large army on their borders, despite their earlier failure to march reinforcements through the mountains. So worried were the Daqan that they spent much of their time recruiting soldiers and seeing to their defenses, many of which were overseen by the mercenary One-Fist. They were so busy in their labors that they entirely ignored the passage of Grey Ker, Waiqar’s second lieutenant. Ker had been sent to spy on the Daqan homeland to assess their military readiness and hopefully loot their vast vaults of artifacts.
Grey Ker accomplished both of these goals, spending a great deal of time watching the Daqan and raiding their storehouses. The few lords to notice his passage reported such, but One-Fist was so busy with preparing defenses that he could not respond, and Andira Runehand, usually not one to turn down a brawl or a duel, was away on a very different mission.
While intelligent, the dragons of those days had developed certain unhealthy fixations. The ancient dragonlords had rewarded their service with vast mounds of wealth. While the dragons could do nothing with these riches (dragons lack any sense of economy), they would lounge atop mattresses of assorted treasures. When the dragonlords departed Terrinoth, they left creatures with a love for gold but no means by which to mine or mint. Thus they took to raiding towns and caravans, stockpiling an entire world’s worth of treasures in a few locations.
Dragons only rarely left their hoards, but after the Uthuk incursion they were amassed on the border in the event of another attempt. So Andira Runehand decided that now was the best time to make an attempt on their treasures. She hoped to find some sort of artifact that might aid humanity in the growing struggle, so she departed Vynelvale, intending to be gone only a season, and climbed the broken crags that were home to the dragons. She was wounded during a close call with a fiery pit (dragons trend toward such locations), but managed to steal a few items of worth before making camp in the mountains. She settled in to rest and heal before traveling back down to Daqan lands.
At the same time that Andira was mending, Vyrah the Falconer was escaping the Lost City. It was still hot there despite the mysterious rejuvenation of the land, and Vyrah was feeling a bit mad after having been stuck there for almost a year. As he finally escaped to the south, he was informed by messenger falcon (who he named “Yasha,” which was apparently a tremendously clever elven pun. The falcon’s name was actually Cat, but the falcon could not communicate this) that a large gathering of neutral creatures had begun to feel angry at being displaced by the Latari. Vyrah felt that he had picked up a few skills of the spymaster variety after nine months of dodging Uthuk hunters, so he decided to make a brief stop to observe these creatures and try to learn their plans.
The original inhabitants of the region were a tribe of beastmen, but two cabals of non-guild sorcerers and a pack of giants had been driven from their usual lands by the expanding Latari forces, and now they were conspiring together to strike back against the elves. Vyrah listened to their rambling plots for a few hours and decided he had heard enough. But after spending so many months in the desert, Vyrah had grown unaccustomed to the sounds of the forest (a shame for any elf) and as he crept away his clumsy foot snapped a twig.
Vyrah and his falcon were able to escape the angry beasts, though he was severely wounded when a giant batted him off a ledge. Happily, this also proved his salvation, as his pursuers took a winding trail down to where he had fallen. Vyrah finally reentered Latari lands in a much worse condition than when he had left. He vowed that his adventuring days were over, though of course the first news he heard was of how the Latari leaders had burned Greyhaven and perhaps prompted Waiqar to declare war on them, which made him postpone retirement yet again. For the Latari, it appeared that direct conflict was imminent.
Old Man Waiqar was indeed feeling all shades of put out at the burning of Greyhaven, and was preparing a force to put those arrogant elves in their place. Having secured the friendship of the dragons, he sent an army west with intent to ally with some sorcerers. The sorcerers viewed the invading army as a threat and began casting a whole mess of magic spells, so Waiqar had no choice but to kill them all and grant them new life as skeleton archers. This finished the process of realigning his forces to invade the Latari, and only a miracle could save their undermanned borders. Waiqar spent a whole day cackling on his dark throne.
On the other side of Terrinoth, other priorities were also shifting. Thankful that Andira Runehand was gone, the Daqan Lords were busy seeking glory. Rather than keeping their forces in Vynelvale, they sent the bulk of their forces to wipe out the dragons who inhabited the nearby region. They managed to rout the dragons, and immediately attributed this to their manliness (in actuality the dragons made a tactical retreat across the mountains, but a Daqan Lord could strike you dead for such insinuations). One-Fist vaguely remembered that Andira had ordered him to ensure that their forces stayed put in defensible positions, but the Daqan were his paymasters, not she. As the Daqan celebrated their victory, they all but ignored the Uthuk, deeming them a declining threat.
But the Daqan were due a rude awakening, and the Latari a miracle.
While every other nation distracted themselves with other matters, the Uthuk had been growing at double speed in the west. They raised troops at astounding rates as thousands of nomads flocked to their cause. Led by Battlemage Jaes, their new army marched into the same mountains where they had received their previous humiliating defeat, and the dragons that patrolled the borders were dead within weeks. This marked the first actual defeat of a dragon army in the last thousand years, and also meant that the Uthuk had succeeded in connecting their empire to the Lost City. Magical energy poured through the land as though some sort of ancient promise had been fulfilled, and across the mountains an early and terrible winter ravaged the earth itself.
The ice that tore at the ground rendered the region’s forests frozen and totally worthless for years to come, but unearthed a buried dragon rune. Though the Uthuk did not control it, its proximity to the baked lands made its eventual conquest a certainty. Andira witnessed all this from her camp atop the mountain, and channeled the powers of her rune-touched hand to send a message to the Daqan: a corridor of red now snaked from the baked lands to the Dragon Throne. The Uthuk were more threatening than ever.
And so it was that the end of the third year of the War for the Dragon Throne brought more changes to Terrinoth. While the Daqan Lords were faced with potential disaster, the Latari breathed a sigh of relief—for Waiqar had little interest in rune-poor elven territory now that he saw the true strength of the Uthuk Y’llan. He once again pointed his forces in the direction of the Lost City and prepared for vengeance against the race that had once imprisoned and broken him.