“Yes, yes… as ready I will ever be” reposed the Brother of the Order of the Hirondelle, as he looked over his shoulders to the two large orcs that accompanied him.
The castellan had thought he had learn much more than he ever wanted to know about goblins in the last weeks, but the idea of a goblin Christian monk intrigued him. He would voice his opinion about this regard, if it wasn’t because he had become a castellan of the castle of Passage precisely for knowing when to shut up. And saying that the idea of the Marquis was stupid, was a sure way to lose his favour.
The March of Passage, sitting on top of the pass of Cirena -or Cirene- had been since its inception a bulwark of humanity, as it had been created to fulfill that express purpose: to be the shield of the Five Kingdoms from the menaces coming either from the north –from the Wilderness- or from the east, across the Dargoina Mountains, from the demonlands of Polforia.
As such, the men of Passage were used to fight either against the Free Clans of the Wilderness –as they called themselves. The men of the marches simply called them savages. Small clans of goblins, orcs, beastmen, kanovs and others, who had nothing in common with each other but their feuds and their animosity to the Northern Marches- or to the remnants of the Dark legions of Demons. These where much more dangerous.
In the past, in the time of the Great War –the Great War of the Power-, clashed the realms of men –aided by elfs and dwarfs- against the Confederation of the Free Peoples… the name that gave themselves the Dark Legion of Demons. In that Great War –now more matter of legends than memory-, the human-elven Alliance of the Whide Axis finally defeated the Dark Legion, capturing and imprisoning the Great Demon Princes –for they didn’t knew a way to destroy and vanquish them once for all-.
Without the demon lords, Humans and Elfs, high in their own hubris, thought their hardships were over, and that they could take for themselves the demonlands, settling colonies and new kingdoms. But while the Great Demon Lords were in exile, their lieutenants remained, first hiding and plotting, and later revealing themselves.
The colonies in the demonlands of Polforia –the Polforian states of the Outregam- had all but failed, the only exception being small holdouts. And without the colonies, again Passage was bordering the lands of the demons.
There was always rumours of the reunification of the Dark Legion. That one of the squabbling minor demon lordlings would be able to unify the warring factions. And while they were discard as rumours in Passage –without the return of the exiled great demon Princes the smaller demon lords would never stop their in-fighting, or so said the council of the Marquis-, they knew far too well the dangers that possessed charismatic leaders reuniting into a single force the Free Clans of the Wilderness or from the mountains of Dargoina.
The First had been Terrag the Scourge, a minor demon who had proclaimed himself King of the Wilderness only a few years after the Great War. While he was finally defeated by the Northern Marches, every few years when appeared a new charismatic orc chieftain from the Dargoina, an exiled demon lordling from Polforia or a shaman high on mushrooms was the fear of the proclaiming of a new King of the Wilderness.
Often was only this fear that made the Northern Marches stop their own petty squabbles –for there were many when the royal authority of the south, from the Throne in Huncle was weak-, to fight a common foe.
This time, a harsh winter had been the trigger. Hunger pushed the Free Clans earlier that year from their hideouts in the mountains and the highlands down, down to the lands of the Northern Marches.
These raiding and depredations finally meant that the Northern Marches of Goelathia, Vin and Lysandia gathered their forces to fight the Free Clans in the same way they had been hit. And their campaign had been vicious against the Free Clans: eye for eye, teeth for teeth.
As the Free Clans of the Wilderness saw their winter-raidings bite back with the northern marches armies burning their camps, hideouts and villages, hunting them down like wild animals, the clans grew desperate.
Most of the warriors of the Free Clans where used to fighting, but few had fought in pitched battles against armies, except for some of the clans of Green Orcs and Goblins of the Mountains, who had fought in some of the many untold wars between orcs and dwarves.
Zargulg –one of the chieftains of orcs-, having the experience on his shoulders and the muscle of his warriors became one of the most influent chieftains of the clans. Soon, there was talking of him becoming a King of Orcs, of him being a son of the Demon-Orc Vortigern, and other rumours out there to make him even more of a menace that he was.
For Zargulg wasn’t Terrag the Scourge… but he was reasonably competent and able to bully all the goblins, hobgoblins and orcs into going in the same direction. It was the sort of thing that could turn someone into a local warlord, or even carve out a small kingdom, if he could avoid taking an arrow in the eye.
Zargulg, King of the Orcs, King of the Goblins, Tamer of Wargs, Son of Vortigern and with some clear ambitions to become the next King of the Wilderness had the pitched battle he wanted between his disparate forces against the forces of Vin, Goelathia and Lysandia.
And he failed to avoid taking an arrow in the eye. The battle Zargulh had planned involved a simple and old feint –to feign a retreat, to guide the humans to a trap-. But as he got himself killed, the feigned retreat became a full route, and the Knights of the Northern marches rode over his army.
Without command, the hastily assembled army of the Free Clans dissolved like water, as they hurried to try to gain the mountains.
Passage hadn’t been part of this campaign up to that point. They guarded the pass of Cirene and watched closely the March of Haut, as again the Guilds of Haut and the Marquis of Passage began a tariff war.
And then, suddenly, they found an army of retreating goblins trying to force the pass, not as an invading force, but trying to reach for their hideouts in the safety of the Dargoina Mountains.
The Knights and the Militia of Passage caught the retreating goblins in the pass. The initial skirmishes made clear that it wouldn’t be an easy battle: the goblins were more numerous and were desperate, and while they couldn’t have hopes to win, the Marquis was weary of the cost of men that would mean for his forces…
Forces that he would need the more complete he could, with a triumphant Goelathia to the north, a hostile Haut to the west and the rumours of a new rising dark legion remnant on the east.
Then, the marquis heard the suggestion of one of his advisors, the chaplain of his court.
“Rather than making the goblins into your enemies, make them into your tools” the chaplain said. In the past, in the failed human colonies of the demonlands, as the remnants of the Dark legion encroached them, desperate times had called for desperate measures… and they tried supplementing their own forces with local mercenaries: humans first –demon servants heathens-, but as well blood elfs later, and at last, orcs, goblins and anybody willing to make a deal… “Why not to offer such a deal?”
So the Marquis ambitions made him see the trapped goblin army not as a foe to be exterminated on the pass of Cirena –as so many of his ancestors had done before-, but an asset. So rather than ordering the final charge to end the battle in a complete bloodbath, the marquis proposed an agreement to the goblins.
This had first puzzled the goblins. The chieftains bickered among them, thinking it was human trickery and a trap. Some heads rolled, and the ones who remained in their shoulders were of the chieftains that decided to talk with the humans.
Surprisingly to everybody, there was an agreement to be made.
For the safe passage –and leaving behind their loot and much of their weapons-, the goblins would be allowed to leave the Pass of Cirena for their mountain hideouts. In exchange, they would swear fealty to the Marquis of Passage –a move that clearly went way above the Marquis authority granted by the King of the south, down in Huncle, but nobody minded the King of Huncle in the northern marches anymore.
But the Marquis wasn’t stupid, and knew that he needed a way to ensure the goblins to keep their word –and goblin promises weren’t held in high regard-. While the common goblins left for their homes, he decided to keep the chieftains hostage, to iron out the details…
Which was basically to make the chieftains see it was in their best interest to do as told. He kept the chieftains and their closest retinues imprisoned in his castle of Passage, were he could identify the more ambitious yet servile of the goblin chieftains for the Marquis plans…
And that goblin was Tullok Stealbeard.
The goblin had some minor fame in the wars against the dwarfs, and wanted to become a goblin King –now that Zargulg was dead.-. The Marquis made him see how temporal was often the power of Goblin Kings and how much of a painful lesson had been the defeats against the Northern Marches. Then he made two suggestions to Stealbeard. First of all, that it would be easier for everybody avoiding raiding in the next years the western slopes of the Dargoina –specially as now so many of the other Free Clans had lost so many warriors and their lands were so under-guarded!-. Secondly, he told him how the best way to deal with the temporary nature of goblin kingship could be giving some spiritual power to it… and how Christianity would be a great way to achieve that.
After some secret talks, it was done. The Marquis allowed some chosen goblins to carry weapons within the castle “for the dignity of such eminent goblin nobles”. Goblins on the pocket of Stealbeard, who were quick to use said weapons against anybody expression their opposition to Tullok.
Then, the chaplain of the castle baptized Tullok Stealbeard… who then as he was crowned, became the first Christian Goblin King… a king who swore fealty to a Marquis.
The Marquis and the new Goblin King were all smiles then. But Tullok was eager to leave the castle to secure his rule on his new kingdom. But there was a problem. The other goblin chieftains, growing fat on the larder of the marquis, while converting too officially to Christianity, made the demand that they would only accept for preaching Christianity among their clans a Goblin Priest.
They were being cheeky, to piss on their new king, to piss on the plans of the Marquis, to piss on the plans of the Chaplain of the castle who had suggested this to the Marquis.
But what they wouldn’t have expected, was that there was actually a goblin priest.
“So, if you are ready… let’s go then?” said the Castellan to Sebastien.
“Remember that King Tullok is extremely proud and sensitive about his majesty” the castellan said, thinking that it was almost as he could resent being a puppet of the marquis with no power for now aside of the couple of blades of his bodyguards to use coercive force on the other chieftains. “Be sure that you bow accordingly” he added, as he opened the heavy door of the hall that had been given to the Goblin King Tullok Stealbeard.
Sebastien nodded, and went forward.
They wanted him to bow?
He could bow like no one before!
A scene of the mentioned battle between the Free Clans and the Northern Marches, and the following retreat:
Next on the goblin Changeling:
Someone else has 'risen' to the foot of the Goblin King! Doubtlessly the goblinette has her own story as well. Yeah, this is a political situation first and foremost. It needs someone calculating like Sebastien more than a 'fire of faith'. Not that force of belief isn't powerful or unnecessary, for that might be ultimately be key in the end--but, for now, how does Sebastien stay alive? How does this new goblin king stay alive to promote a new religion?
Add to this, we know that this is roughly 'Drow Trio Standard Time', but I'm not sure about the year. The demon lords have not yet returned? So it is pre-2434? A conversion of some Dargoina Mountain tribes might be a very short term affair? Well, it might be a matter of years, but short term might be a run of WEEKS, so Sebastien will have to walk a razor's edge.
Our new goblinette concubine might indeed have some enlightened self interest in seeing this religious gambit succeed and her king staying alive for a time? Sebastien could receive some help from that corner as well? We know from a certain goblinette princess that it sometimes the court eye-candy that, if not rules, can influence and provide continuity where the supposed leader cannot enact long term changes.
A big weakness of the demon princes is that, being immortal, they played a 'long game' of conversions of their own. But they all but abandoned that upon their return, reforming in only six years, as if the two centuries of their absence didn't happen or weren't important, not caring of the disruptions and deaths they caused in their return. This Christian conversion could be a small, but telling, counter to their claims?
That concubine looks familiar...
She hasn’t aged Much.
Fae Blooded Goblins stay Young longer?
That gets me thinking...
He’s going to have to explain to the King that Christians are allowed only one wife, no matter their status, and he will have to pick one.
IF she isn’t picked, she seems the type to hold Sebastian responsible. I’m VERY eager to see in what way she does that, and how he copes with it.
Humility is a deadly weapon, especially when used against men of excessive pride. Though Sebastien seems to be exactly what these plotters and planners need to accomplish their ends, this is good. If Sabastien where a more zealous man his interests might run contrary to those in power, but this is not the case.
My hope is for Sebastien to gain some measure of respect for his people and their culture while hopefully pushing them towards a better way of living. Of course their could be far more humerus ways for this all to turn out...