Campaign Background

History of Koldukar and the Hold of Belkzen

Just over 9,700 years ago, during the Age of Darkness in –4987 AR, the dwarven empire of Tar Taargadth rose up out of the deep earth, broke surface and so achieved the great Quest for Sky set for them 300 years earlier by their gods. Unfortunately the dwarven people found the sky to be shrouded in darkness and the land overrun by the ancient foes they though they’d already defeated: the orcs. Under the banner of legendary King Taargick Mithralheart, the dwarves eventually triumphed over their foes an founded ten great Sky Citadels, with the greatest of them being that of mighty Koldukar. With this victory, the darkness receded from the sky and the sun’s light shone upon a thousand-year dwarven golden age.

It was not to last however. 8,423 years ago, during the Age of Anguish in –3708 AR, a legendary orc warlord named Belkzen succeeded in uniting the orcish tribes into a unstoppable horde that overran mighty Koldukar and slew all within in the Battle of Nine Stones. Only a few dwarves managed to escape the slaughter to flee into other lands or shelter in hidden crags. Belkzen led his people to conquer many lands across the continent of Avistan and founded a terrible empire with lost Koldukar, now renamed Urgir, as its capital. Luckily for the other races, Belkzen’s empire fell to infighting within a few short decades following the warlord’s mysterious disapearance. Routed from the lands they’d conquered, the orc tribes fell back into the lands surrounding Urgir, now known as the Hold of Belkzen, where they have remained entrenched to this day.

The strength of the orcish tribes waxed and waned over the ensuing millennia, only unifying haphazardly to defend the Hold against incursions by dwarven crusaders, intent on reclaiming lost Koldukar, before quickly falling apart to infighting upon achieving victory. In the year 1 AR, a great human wizard named Aroden the last Azlanti, raised the Starstone from the bottom of the Inner Sea and, through its power, ascended to Godhood; the first but not the last mortal to do so. Setting the Starstone down upon an Inner Sea island, Aroden founded the human city of Absalom; thus beginning the Age of Enthronement and the count of years known as Absalom Reckoning. Beneath the protection and guidance of its patron deity, the fledgling city-state rose in prominence and spread human culture across the breath of Avistan over the following centuries into what would become known as the empire of Taldor. Although Taldor repeatedly attempted to conquer the Hold of Belkzen to increase its territory, these attempts never entirely succeeded.

Then, in 3827 AR, a horrific undead wizard known as the Whispering Tyrant, rose from his grave and sought an army with which he could conquer the continent of Avistan. Seeing orcs as the perfect foot-soldiers, the undead abomination began to forcefully recruit the tribes of the Hold of Belkzen. Those who fought him and died were raised as undead warriors; further bolstering the Whispering Tyrant’s ranks. Eventually the tribes fell into line and with the entire orc horde and its undead counterparts at his command, he began a campaign of conquest to enslave all of Avistan. Entire armies fought against, died and were raised by the undead wizard; further swelling his ranks. For centuries, the shadow of the Whispering Tyrant covered much of the continent. In 3754 AR, beneath the auspices of Aroden, the remnants of the free nations of Avistan united to stop the Whispering Tyrant and so launched the Shinning Crusade, eventually resulting in the Whispering Tyrant’s permanent imprisonment beneath Gallowspire 73 years later in 3827 AR.

With their Tyrant gone and the orc horde’s power broken, the Hold of Belkzen’s borders shrank to their smallest size in more than 8,800 years as huge swaths of land were claimed by the newly formed Taldor province of Lastwall. Forces from Lastwall established a line of forts known collectively as the Sunwall across the plains of Belkzen to pen back the remaining tribes of orcs. The newly claimed territory beckoned for settlers and many veteran human crusaders and dwarven expatriates eager to reclaim parts of their ancient homeland flooded into the area. It seemed only a matter of time before not-too-distant Koldukar might be reclaimed.

Since its border was first established after the defeat of the Whispering Tyrant, the Belkzen orcs’ strength steadily increased once more; pushing against the Sunwall and threatening the new settlements with nearly constant raiding. Though bolstered by Lastwall forces, line after line of defenders fell in the ensuing centuries with the Sunwall’s complete collapse 410 years later in 4237; leaving countless miles of shattered border fortresses and abandoned ghost towns to rot within the orc-held territory. A new border, called Harchist’s Blockade, was quickly established along the southern bank of the Esk river by the Lastwall hero General Harchist. His forces dug in and proceeded to build a new line of strongholds, joined by a long, low stone wall connecting many of them to stand against the advancing orc tribes.

The Founding of Trunau

In 4515, beleaguered soldiers and farmers pushed to the limit by nearly 300 years of active war were forced into another southern retreat as Harchist’s Blockade finally collapsed. They fell back to a hastily erected border along the Kestrel river dubbed the Hordeline; a sad affair consisting of little more than earthen ramparts and wooden palisades. Still, it held long enough for those communities behind it to feel some measure of hope that the orc menace had finally been halted. It was not to be. Only two short years after the Hordeline’s construction, its western stretch fell, and orcs flooded south towards Lastwall. The commanders of Lastwall reluctantly ordered yet another general evacuation, pulling back to a new border farther east, and leaving those residents in the relinquished territory to flee to safety with whatever they could carry, desperate to stay one step ahead of the rampaging orcs.

Yet not everyone fled. Enraged by what they saw as Lastwall’s cowardly abandonment, a few stubborn clans of dwarves refused to run. Positioned on top of a rocky and naturally defensible plateau (called Bloodmarch Hill after a battle fought there centuries earlier during the Shinning Crusade) the stout folk dug in. Sharpening stakes and digging trenches, the dwarves’ numbers quickly swellled with human refugees and soldiers unwilling to retreat and abandon their lands. When the orcs inevitably arrived, they found their ferocity more than matched by that of the unyielding defenders and, after taking heavy losses assaulting the cliffs and log palisades, the invaders retreated south to loot vacated settlements. This was the very beginning of the settlement the dwarves called Trunau; meaning ‘pure water’ in their language, after the prodigious wellspring at the community’s heart. Heady with victory, the surviving residents made a pact, known today as the Standing Vow (or simply “the Vow”): to hold their land against all comers, paying tribute neither to raiding orcs nor to the armies of neighboring nations. They would stand their ground and live free, no matter the cost.

The Age of Lost Omens

Just over a hundred years ago, an important prophecy known as the Starfall Doctrine suggested that the human God Aroden would manifest in 4606 AR, marking the beginning of a long-awaited Age of Glory. Instead, at the appointed hour, Golarion was racked with three weeks of storms. When the weather finally broke, the clerics of Aroden found themselves disconnected from their god, and all presume Aroden to have somehow perished. A new threat also arose to threaten the entirety of Golarion, what would become known as the Worldwound; a rift to the infernal Abyss far to the northeast of Belkzen that warps the land and disgorges demons into the mortal realm. With the Starfall Doctrine and all subsequent prophecies coming to naught, the currant age dawned: the uncertain Age of Lost Omens. With the loss of its patron, the empire of Taldor’s power has wained across the continent; with formerly subjugated lands gaining their independence. Yet, the Worldwound threatens, and many nations of Avistan send crusaders northward past the Hold of Belkzen to battle the Abyssal fiends.

The current year is 4715 AR.

Campaign Background

Dwarves of Lost Koldukar Aubrey_