The Red Hand of Doom

For centuries following the collapse of Rhestilor, the dry and dusty Wyrmsmoke Mountains were home to dozens of goblinoid tribes. In general the Wyrmsmoke tribes posed no significant threat to the nearby human towns and settlements other than the occasional bloody raid.

Yet deep within the mountains lay hidden something that would spell doom – an ancient temple dedicated to Tiamat, the Queen of Evil Dragons.

Built hundreds of years ago to serve as the hidden redoubt of a despicable cult of dragon worshippers, the temple was eventually cleansed by a band of heroes from the human city of Rhest. For several centuries the complex lay empty. Then, eighty years ago, the young half-dragon hobgoblin warrior Azarr Kul discovered the abandoned temple and was awed by the teachings of Tiamat he read on the walls therein.

Over the next twenty years, Azarr Kul grew into a powerful warlord and a mighty priest of Tiamat. Early in his rise to power he struck up an alliance with his sire, the blue dragon Tyrgarun. Aided by this powerful ally, Azarr Kul converted his entire tribe into fanatical worshipers of Tiamat.

After a long season of rebuilding his strength, offering bribes to many of the intelligent monsters in the region, and cementing the power of his Red Hand warpriests over the disparate tribes he ruled, Azarr Kul finally turned his attention to the lands beyond the Wyrmsmoke Mountains. What he saw whetted his ambition for power; no city or state within hundreds of miles could field an army as strong as his. The High Wyrmlord dreamed of carving out a hobgoblin empire stretching from the Sunset Sea to the Golden Plains – and the first step was to crush the human towns in Elsir Vale.

While a few brave souls and bands of scattered soldiers managed to slow the army at a river or mountain pass, the host moved forward, bringing with it an inevitable doom. It seemed that nothing could stop the advancing army. The Red Hand spread through the eastern plains of the vale, right to the gates of Brindol. Members of the farm communities surrounding Brindol fled inside its walls for protection. A company of adventurers, who came to be known as The Diamond League vowed to protect Brindol and save the Vale from Azzar Kul and the Red Hand.

The walled city was the first real obstacle the army had faced. They laid siege to the town and wore down its defenses relentlessly. Large amounts of the population of Brindol fell defending the towns walls, and countless more died of starvation and plague from the crowded conditions. It seemed that the folk of Brindol, and by extension, the Vale, were without hope.

Then, as if by a miracle, the army of Azzar Kul tore itself apart. For no reason the people of Brindol could immediately divine, the leaders of the army suddenly began fighting amongst themselves, vying for control of the host.

The great army splintered, with large parts of its forces simply heading back to the Wyrmsmoke Mountains. In response, the forces that had rallied to the defense of the Vale quickly shifted to the offensive. Disjointed and surrounded, the goblinoid tribes were pursued, isolated, and crushed. The host of the Red Hand was no more.

Shortly thereafter, a host of brave adventurers reappeared, prominently displaying the body of Azarr Kul. They had skirted around the main army and ventured all the way to the Fane of Tiamat in the heart of the Wyrmsmoke Mountains, and struck directly at Azzar Kul himself. With the charismatic leader of the Red Hand dead, the various factions and tribes that made up the Kulkor Zhul fought amongst themselves for supremacy and proved their own undoing.

The threat was over, but the damage wreaked by the armies of the Red Hand were significant, and it would take a generation before life returned to normal. Even now, there are places in the Vale where the scars of war have not fully healed… outlying communities remain abandoned, dwarven outposts which once were manned by a few brave soldiers now lie in ruins, and the dangerous creatures that inhabit the Blackfens are bolder than they once were. Some whisper that while the Red Hand was defeated, the scales have tipped in favor of darkness.

Forty years have passed since the fall of Azzar Kul, and in that time the Vale has enjoyed peace.

The Red Hand of Doom

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