GRANITE HOLD at the Eastern Gate, as the sun touches the tree-tops of Davokar Forest and the bells of the Church of the Sun ring out their warning for folks to flee home before the evil darkness falls…
Twenty one years ago the war against the Dark Lords and their undead hordes was finally over, and the warrior Queen Korinthia stood tall in victory. But the land was ravaged, and the Queen and her people had to find a new place to call home. So the Ambrians spread north, back to the lands their history told them had once, long ago, been theirs. They found virgin plains and new lakes, as they expanded beyond the Titan Mountains towards the dark forests of Davokar. The Barbarians and elder peoples who were already on these lands (the Ogres, Goblins, Elves and similar folk) were either subdued or didn’t resist the expansion, although some – most notably the Elves – just faded away into the forests and were seldom seen again. The great city of Yndaros was founded, and northern outposts established. The likes of Thistle Hold, Karos Fen and Kurun sprang into life.
Granite Hold was founded too.
Granite Hold was even further north than these settlements and was more closely entwined with the forest of Davokar than even Thistle Hold. Resting near the Ravens mountain range (to take advantage of the rich mines that lay within reach) and on the shores of the newly named Korinmere, in honour of their beloved Queen, trade was brisk while the mines were productive.
But scratching a living from the hostile forest and iron–hard mountains was tough, and it wasn’t long before the noble families and trading houses of Ambria found the struggle wasn’t worth the coin: they slowly took their attention, their interest, and their investment elsewhere. Twenty years after it was established Granite Hold found itself alone, an outpost forgotten by the very kingdom that had urged her citizens to break the frontier and build a new life far from the warm Ambrian hearths they left behind. Life was hard, and justice was harsh.
When Amla and Elgore, two young Goblins travelling with the first settlers, arrived at the clear ground that would become Granite Hold they found four things that made this place special:
- first, the great natural stone bridge spanning the angry river that rolled from the mountains to feed Korinmere;
- second was the immense tree, surely thousands of years old, standing alone like a silent guardian overlooking the lake;
- thirdly, what appeared to be a statue, or perhaps a poor creature turned to stone by some evil magic – a mother Ogre, perhaps, standing in defiance of something unseen and long departed;
- and finally, a lone Ogre, sitting in the shadow of the statue, lost and confused.
Stirred by the plight of this creature, Amla and Elgore took him under their protection. As the settlers built a defensive wall around the tree and the stone bridge, the two Goblins felt sorry for the poor Ogre, for he didn’t want to live inside the new walls, and kept climbing out to sit by the statue. Against the advice of the mission’s leader, an old Ambrian called Master Abel Rendina, the goblins started construction of their business, a brewery and inn, outside the new walls and beside the statue. They named their place in its honour, “The Inn of the Lonesome Ogre”.
Those early years were good for Granite Hold: new settlers arrived every day; land was cleared for farming and livestock; the river was tamed, and another small settlement, Tymal Mills, was established a few miles up the river; mines were opened in the foothills of the mountains and stone and iron flowed back down the river to Granite Hold, and onwards. The money rolled in and the Hold expanded, with new walls that finally encircled the Inn of the Lonesome Ogre as well.
That first decade was good, very good.
Then things began to turn.
Reports filtered back of strange creatures lurking in the mines, then skirmishes with mountain Ogres became more and more common. There were even rumours of giants coming down from the heights of the Ravens. The upshot was that miners disappeared, the mines started to shut, and the production dried up. Now only some foolhardy Goblins continue to try to mine the upper levels of those mines closest to the Hold: many question the wisdom of persisting, as these mines are of poor quality and have largely been mined out already.
Then the Darkness began to settle over the Hold.
Some said the Forest had finally had enough of the Ambrian incursion, that they had pushed too far north. Others claimed that the Elves were behind the evil that was now stalking the land.
It started far out – hunters and gatherers, who would only rarely delve deep into the Forest anyway, reported things in the undergrown gloom watching them, following them. Then some just didn’t return. Livestock started disappearing and crops would fail. Soon, people were afraid to leave the comforting confines of Granite Hold’s wooden palisade, although it’s meagre protection was not well–built to resist a determined attack. The Hold’s Watchmen, low on numbers, low on skill and experience, but high on willingness to serve, have tried to reassure the people that life can go on.
But matters haven’t got better, they have worsened, until even the walls were no defence: the unseen evil now stalks the very streets of Granite Hold itself when the sun goes down. The sound of the Church of the Sun’s bells, ringing out when the sun touches the tops of the Forest to the west, has become a daily clarion call to flee home and secure your doors and windows, and hunker down to await the sunrise and survive the night.
During the hours of daylight life seems to go on almost as if nothing were wrong.
But at night…
Potboy, the lonesome Ogre
Potboy, the lonesome Ogre found at the site of Granite Hold, has made the Inn of the Lonesome Ogre his home for nearly 20 years. From the early days when Amla and Elgore laid the first foundations next to the statue of the Defiant Mother Potboy quietly watched Granite Hold grow and grow, then stagnate, then fall under the evil dark that prowls the streets after sunset.
What Potboy remembers of the days before he arrived in this place, what he can remember of the statue and how it came to be in the middle of nowhere, what he can remember of the days before Amla and Elgore, only he knows. What is his true memory? What is his mind playing tricks? What is wishful thinking? Can he be sure? Only Potboy can answer those questions.
But one thing Potboy does know: the Goblins Amla and Elgore have treated him like a son from the day they found him. Despite their youth when they met him, despite being a different race of Elder, despite all the problems they must have carried with them, they offered Potboy protection: they brought him inside the first defensive palisade even though he gently resisted; and when it was clear he wouldn’t live anywhere far from the statue they moved outside the walls to be with him, risking all the dangers that the Davokar forest, the Ravens mountains and the waters might bring, sharing them with the Ogre. They built their home outside those walls, to help protect him…
Since then Potboy has found a place at the Inn, the Inn that is as much his home as it is Amla and Elgore’s. He sleeps in the warm and comforting gloom of the old Barrel Cellar, and spends his days keeping the Inn running. In recent months, since the coming of the evil to the streets of Granite Hold, Potboy has taken on the job of making sure the Inn is secure come the nightfall. When the Church of the Sun’s bells toll, calling in the night, he ushers the patrons home then secures the doors and windows, keeping the Inn, and all those sleeping within her, safe.
In recent weeks Potboy has shared the old Barrel Cellar with a Changeling waif that the beneficent Goblins took in, called Radomaramei. The two have formed an unlikely bond, sharing odd-jobs around the Inn, and leaving the jobs that Potboy is too big or too heavy for the Changeling. This bond held even after the Goblins brought in a second Changeling that had been cast aside by the Granite Hold community, called Grendal. In the few days since his arrival they have settled into a uneasy routine, sharing the chores of the Inn with Amla and Elgore, the cooks, Bernard (a human) and his son, Adalbert, and Ragnild and Mariam, the human house maids.
Radomaramei, the Changeling
The Inn of the Lonesome Ogre is his new home. Amla and Elgore didn’t hesitate to take him in when he was cast out, his parents deserting the creature as soon as they learned of his Changeling nature. Radomaramei knew the Goblins had a charitable reputation – they were with the original settlers and rumour says they rescued the Ogre who lives at the Inn with them, Potboy.
As Rado grew it became clear to him he wasn’t human. His parents were horrified, and distraught – where was their real boy, their real child? The comfort of his childhood was suddenly swept away, and the most important thing in his life – the rock to which his whole world was anchored – his family, was gone. They disowned him in a heart-beat: his little sister, Rubie, was no longer his sister; his big brother, Boris, now looked at Rado with shock and hate in his eyes.
Why the Elves chose to do this to him, to his so–called “parents” and siblings, is a mystery. Since the Ambrian push towards the Davokar forest the Elves have slipped away, into the depths, hiding in the dark. So why they choose to play games with peoples’ live is a mystery. Radomaramei knows nothing of his true heritage, knows nothing about the Elvish motive for this behaviour.
But one thing he does know: the Goblins Amla and Elgore treated him with care, consideration and generosity from the day they met him. The first words these aging Goblins said to him were: “you are not alone – we can offer you a place in this world.”
And Radomaramei needed a place.
Grendal’s parents tried so hard, but the people of Granite Hold wouldn’t accept it: keeping a Changeling as your own child wasn’t strictly illegal (in fact, no one could remember it ever being a possibility!) but it was against all Ambrian precedent and custom. Grendal’s father, Tanna Tannaris, and mother Bonnie, fought to keep him as their own, and the goblins of Granite Hold were behind the idea. Indeed, while his parents were in the custody of the Watch Master, Grendal was taken in by two – Amla and Elgore, of the Inn of the Lonesome Ogre. He was given a place to sleep in the old Barrel Cellar with that other Changeling, Radomaramei, and the Ogre, Potboy.
The Watch Master wasn’t working on his own initiative, Donnard Rendina isn’t that clever. But he was pressed to act by the cabal of Ambrians who think they rule Granite Hold: Brother Magister and his priestly colleague, Kenaniah Areli, hounded Grendal’s parents; Gwadar Hourig, the High Judge of Granite Hold, ruled against them on a point of law that he seemed to have just made up; and Ivan Tor, a local Ambrian nobleman, was vocal as he didn’t want people to think he couldn’t control his household servants (as the Tannaris couple were).
Eventually Tanna and Bonnie Tannaris were banished, slipping away into the night and leaving Grendal in the care of the Goblins. They loved Grendal and didn’t want him to share their terrible fate. The journey to Karos Fen, through the wilds of Davokar, is dangerous when undertaken with a well-armed escort: being forced to go alone is all but suicide.
Why the Elves chose to do this to Grendal and his “parents” is a mystery. He knows nothing about his true heritage, nothing about the Elvish motive for this behaviour. Grendal simply knows that he misses his parents.
He resolved to find his parents, and set off after them as soon as he knew they had been banished. But he was soon lost in the dark embrace of the hostile forest. Wandering amongst the shadows, the noises and calls, the spirits and lurking evils, Grendal eventually succumbed to his hopeless fate. He fell to his knees and slumped to the mossy ground, only glad that soon he would be free of the tearing pain in his soul…..