Oringard part 1

On the eastern fringe of Damir is the vast forestland of Oringard.  Named by the dwarven immigrants who fled the kingdom of Paia, it means “Natural Fortress.”  Although it lies within Damir’s borders, it is a realm all to itself.  It is almost two hundred leagues long and just shy of a hundred leagues deep.  It stops up against the Golden Mountains in the north, and trails off into the barren land of Basmah in the southeast.  Oringard touches five different lands: Damir, Gronde, Kasmoon, Nubrince, and Basmah.  Running through the forest is the curvy Paia River in the south, and the much shorter Mourning River in the north.   

Legend has it that the forest is the creation of Hovaia, a dryad queen, who planted the many trees and shrubbery to shield the land from mortal invaders.  Despite her best laid plans, the forest was inhabited for several hundred years by the wood elves, a nomadic people who built tree houses and lived off the forest.  It is rumored the wood elves knew Hovaia and worked with the dryad queen to keep other mortals out.

Of course this did not work.  After the kingdom of Paia (a dwarven kingdom) collapsed during the Chaos War, thousands of dwarves ventured north to discover the vast forestland which they would so aptly name.  They began to settle the forest, burrowing into the hillsides, chopping trees down to lay foundations for small communities.  The dwarves had a network of villages spread about Oringard but they did not occupy all of it.  They left Hovaia and the wood elves to their own realm and interests.

For two hundred years the dwarves controlled much of Oringard, dedicating most of their time to mapping the forestland.  The maze-like paths of the forestland can be deadly to any person who isn’t familiar with them or doesn’t have a map.  The trees are thick and some areas look similar to the next.  Getting lost in Oringard is easy and a common occurrence; trails become overgrown with foliage, creeks dry up, trees fall over and block paths. 

There are plenty of creatures in the woods, but a lot of the big predators have been driven out or killed by the orcs.  Bears, wolves, and wild cats are still common, but the forest used to feature sasquatch and hippogryphs.  It was also home to a nest of gryphons.  The gryphons kept to themselves for several hundred years, even after the high elves invaded the forestland and drove out the dwarves and wood elves.  It wasn’t until the orcs took over Oringard that the gryphons were forced to leave their nests and go elsewhere.

The high elves infiltrated Oringard around 350 ACW, defeating the dwarves in the 2nd War of Damir and forcing them out of Oringard.  The high elves took over much of southern Oringard, built large townships and began to blaze trails all over the forestland.  Believing the dwarves would one day return and try to take Oringard back, the high elves set up a series of booby traps along several false trails that led to their town centers.  The wood elves either assimilated with their High Elven brethren or left Oringard all together. 

Descendants of the fallen elven empire at Jeriko embraced the rule of their leader, Prince Iteph, who was a very distant cousin of the royal bloodline, but the only known survivor who could be linked to the elven monarchy.  In their time in Oringard, Iteph had children who went on to establish a royal line.  But because of the massive orc invasion that would come a hundred years later, most of the records concerning the descendants of Iteph were lost.  When Kalliste gave her prophecy that an elven king would be born amongst them, many figured it would come from Iteph’s lost lineage.

Oringard part 2

In 460 ACW, the elves of Oringard were thoroughly dismantled by a large orc incursion from the neighboring land of Nubrince in the east.  The invasion came as a sudden surprise.  The orcs hit the elves on multiple fronts, destroying their defenses easily.  The orcs were battle tested, numerous, and absolutely ruthless in their attacks.  The elves, over the course of a couple of years of futile resistance, finally yielded Oringard to them and fled west into the fields of Merrimont.  The orcs then became the primary inhabitants of Oringard and have remained such for over three and a half centuries. 

For the next one hundred years, the orcs built up Oringard into their domain, spreading to as many areas as possible within the forestland, populating and conquering whatever stood in their way, like the gryphons.  They cut down large sections of trees, mined coal, built large training arenas and fortifications.  They mapped out Oringard, learning the secrets of the forest, locating good hideouts and lookout points.  As their population swelled, so did their confidence.  The orcs stayed quiet in Oringard for over a century, until the time of Phumbaas.

To protect herself and her community of immortals, Hovaia cursed a large section of forestland that would later be called the Bleak Woods.  Making a petrified forest, the wood there became lethal to touch.  White Bark is a common dryad trap, designed to petrify intruders.  This prevented the orcs from entering her small section in northern Oringard, which would later be dubbed Hovaia’s Cradle. 

Since Phumbaas, the orcs have begun to call their clan the “Nation of Oringard”, establishing it as separate from the rest of Damir.  Because of the thick woods and its internal maze-like structures, Oringard is almost impregnable by any army.  Even so, elven merchants will occasionally venture into Oringard to seek out rare herbs that the forest is known to grow.  Some adventurers continue to search for Hovaia and other hidden treasures.  Many do not return from these expeditions, but it doesn’t keep others from trying.  The kingdom of Damir sends scouts into Oringard year round, trying to decipher what the orcs are planning and when they might invade next.  Because Oringard is so dense and long, the orcs can strike from any point along the tree line.  It is standard orc procedure to deceive the enemy as to where they will strike next.  To do this, the orcs use the trees as cover while they shuffle legions from north to south, confusing enemy scouts, and leaving Damir’s military command holding their breaths.

Oringard is viewable as far west as Whitehood, and from Merrimont’s Peach Orchards the forestland looks like an endless ocean of trees and forested hills that goes on beyond what the eye can see.  It is an ominous looking domain to anyone who comprehends the danger and threat that lies beyond its forested curtain.

Notable creatures that can be found in Oringard (aside from orcs):

1. Shunjilas

2. Black-spade Bears

3. Gryphons

4. Owl Raptors

5. Saw-tooth Beavers

6. Red-eyed Condors

7. Mud Frogs

8. Shadow Squirrels

Doves of Merrimont

The white doves of Merrimont have been part of the city since its inception, a hundred years after the Chaos War.  Even the templar Lyndon noted that the doves there were extraordinary, as they communicated to him through telepathic powers.  Many see the doves as the city’s eternal guardians, but no one has been able to decipher what exactly they’re protecting.  It is thought, by the humans, that the doves are protecting riches beyond imagining.  However, the doves rarely communicate to humans, preferring the elves who moved into the Merrimont region in 460 ACW.  

Telepathic powers are found in some animals but not exclusively in particular species.  In other words, not all doves have telepathy but the doves in Merrimont do.  The doves seem to congregate around the city’s main and largest archway, the Dovial Arch.  Superstition over the Arch circulate from bird droppings landing on citizens passing under the archway.  It has been noted that anyone who is pooped on is doomed to die within a year’s time. Because of these deaths, many in Merrimont are fearful of the doves and believe they may have powers beyond telepathy.  In 721 ACW, an elven mason was utterly convinced the doves were evil and needed to be killed.  The stone mason managed to shoot down seven doves before he was arrested and later executed for bearing weapons and using deadly force within the city (elves were not allowed to have or use weapons within Merrimont until the Farm and Riot Act of 772 ACW).

During many of the wars, such as the 10th War of Damir where Merrimont was put in siege by the orcs led by the warlord Phumbaas, the doves served as scouts and messengers for the elves.  The doves only seem to speak to a select number of elves, including certain elven nobles.  Many elves try to tap into the secrets of the doves by feeding them or cooing at them, but typically the doves fly away when such obvious bribery is offered.  It is rumored that the doves were friends with Kalliste, the blind seer, and that it was they who gave her the prophecy about the Slayer.  Kalliste never mentions the doves at all in any of her works, but the rumors continue to circulate.

In elven lore, doves were the favorite animal of Troix, the Angel of Valor.  It has been passed down from legend that Troix had a special relationship with doves, and they would speak to her and no other.  In her battles, Troix used the doves to spy on enemy outposts and armies, relaying the size and readiness of the opposing army.  When Troix was killed in battle, abandoned by her allies, it is said the doves dispersed and were never heard of again.

Rossi Heights

The Rossi Heights have been a big part of the community at Whitehood since its inception.  Its name comes from the Du Rossi family: high nobles who were nearly exterminated by Ulric in 700 ACW.  Before given its now famous name, they were simply called the Southern Foothills, because they were on the road south to Merrimont.  The road that connects Merrimont to Whitehood runs through the Rossi Heights.  The Rossi Heights serve as a vanguard for Whitehood as they form a protective shield from the east and south.  The Rossi Heights have their own community, but it is mostly an outpost controlled by the military.  It has been the host of two major wars: the 6th War when the elves invaded from Merrimont in the south, and the 11th War, when Hathar the orc warlord made a run toward Whitehood.  In both cases, the humans won the war.  The orcs of Oringard often send small war parties across the Mourning River to terrorize the Rossi Heights but the hills are very well guarded.

Count Peter Du Rossi (570 – 621 ACW) was a very suave and very direct noble, who was exceptionally picky and confrontational.  He enjoyed swordplay and spent many hours of his youth learning the art of sword fighting.  As a young man, Count Du Rossi looked for every excuse imaginable to test out his skills on Damir’s best and most boastful fighters.  As a young boy he loved running through the flowery hills of the southern foothills to play, and that childhood memory inspired him to hold duels there.  It is unclear how many duels Du Rossi fought, but he claimed in his journal that he slew a hundred men there.  However, estimates from other records suggest the number is closer to fifty.  Whatever the number, Du Rossi was undefeated, and he settled disputes through these duels.  Now-a-days, duels must be approved by a magistrate to prevent any escalation or unnecessary confrontations.

The majority of duels are now fought on one of the hills of the Rossi Heights.  It is considered an ideal setting for a match because the ground is firm but not rocky, soft but not muddy.  It also allows spectators to gather and form a gallery, as the fighters duel high up where they can be seen clearly. 

Mt. Whitehood

The highest point in Damir (14,200 ft.), Mt. Whitehood was appropriately named by Lyndon himself.  The snow-capped head of the mountain is visible for well over fifty leagues; even the elves of Merrimont and the dwarves of Chance Rock can see it.  The mountain provides a high ground advantage for the city that would be built at the peak’s base.  In 440 ACW, the attacking dwarves of Duinmire were forced to take a wide angle of approach because of the steepness of the mountain.

The mountain has been mined thoroughly for its salt by the humans who settled under it, and then later, by immigrant goblins.  Some gold deposits have been found, but the mountain’s resources have been partly depleted after four hundred years of continual mining.  It was believed by critics for the unification of the human settlements (which became the kingdom of Damir) that the only reason Whitehood wanted to unite was because their resources were dwindling.  It is said Whitehood needed resources and the rest of Damir needed leadership.

There is a legend of the mountain which states that at Whitehood’s highest point is a cave, where a great mountain dragon slumbers.  The dragon was once believed to be the first ruler of the land, claiming Whitehood as its lair.  It would terrorize the indigenous cultures of primeval Damir, including the cyclopsians, but mysteriously ceased its devastating attacks just before Lyndon arrived in 106 ACW.  The legend was first told to the templars by the native humans, who Lyndon believed were trying to frighten him off from settling in Damir.  However, Lyndon did concede that Mt. Whitehood made him feel “uncertain” and wanted to move on from it. 

Argault the Builder, responsible for constructing the great fortress Gilstad, was commissioned by King Valimond in 564 ACW to make blueprints for a majestic castle built up against Mt. Whitehood.  Argault, having heard rumors, made a point not to build too far up the mountainside in fear of “waking the fabled dragon.”  In 675 ACW, a famed adventurer named Knippler made a daring climb to the summit of Whitehood.  Upon his return, Knippler claimed he came face to face with a sleeping dragon and provided some of its scales as proof.  But two years later, it was revealed that Knippler never found the cave and instead purchased some scales from a traveling merchant prior to the trek.  Knippler was proven a fraud and lynched by an angry crowd.

 

The Dovial Arch

Near the entrance into Merrimont is the Dovial Arch, a massive archway made of thick ivory that stands over a hundred feet high, seventy feet deep and almost two hundred feet in width.  It is a landmark and symbol of Merrimont that has stood the test of time since before the city was even established.  The arch is named appropriately after the large gathering of doves that perch themselves atop the structure and nest beneath its bow. 

The Dovial Arch has a lot of superstition surrounding it.  Anyone who walks under it and is hit by dove droppings is destined to die within a year’s time.  So far, every account of someone getting pooped on involved the victim’s untimely death that year.  This has led to some superstitious people to walk around the arch, even if it means walking through hedges or on flowers or in muddy grass.  Others (usually youth) dare each other to stand underneath the archway, tempting fate to see if the doves poop on them. 

The doves themselves are special, as they are not ordinary doves.  They are Merrimont’s watch and messengers.  The doves of Merrimont have telepathic abilities, permitting them to speak to anyone through thoughts.  The doves have been known to play games and perch on the shoulders of two lovers, telling each one what their lover is thinking of them.  They are also used in war time as messengers and scouts, even.  Yet no one seems to command the doves; they tend to choose who and when they’ll help.  Many feel they are loyal to Merrimont, though not necessarily to the elves

No one knows who built the Dovial Arch.  The elves claim that it was present when they settled the Merrimont region in 460 ACW.  This suggests that the elves built the city of Merrimont around the Arch.  If the elves did not build it, then it is assumed that the humans who pre-date the elves did, but no one can find any evidence of this.  Many argue against the human-built theory because none of the other structures the humans of Damir have built even somewhat resemble the Dovial Arch.  The ivory used in its construction is uncommonly tough.  It is impossible to chip and hasn’t a crack in it.  Such ivory has been known to have been found near Blood Coast, on the Ivory Peninsula, but that’s hundreds of leagues away.  Which brings up another paradox: if the ivory came from the Ivory Peninsula how did it get to Damir before international trade had begun in 643 ACW if the Arch existed before the elves settled there in 460 ACW?  It remains a mystery and a wonder.    

The Peach Orchards

Up on a northeastern hill outside of Merrimont are the vast Peach Orchards, which were at one time owned by a very wealthy elven noble.  The noble and his family were killed during the 10th War of Damir, during the orcs invasion of the Merrimont region, and the orchards have since become community property.  It is fitting that it is also the resting place of Phumbaas, the orc warlord who nearly destroyed all of Merrimont and  attempted to annihilate the elves

Because of how massive Phumbaas was (eight feet tall and five hundred pounds) they did not bother to move him to the burning pile of the other dead orc warriors.  The elves decided to bury his remains, and not cremate him where he lay for risk of torching the prized peach orchards.  His grave was unmarked, however, and every so often a skull hunter tries to find it to dig up his remains.  But so far nobody has.

As a result of Merrimont’s biggest offender being buried in the Peach Orchards, the grounds are considered tormented and hallow.  Ghost stories of the infamous warlord walking amongst the trees have circulated for over two centuries, but many scoff at this, calling it superstitious nonsense.  However, not even critics can deny that something ominous does occur there during full moons.  Every full moon, a peach tree dies.  Its fruit rots and the soil goes bad, making the spot unacceptable for planting.  No one has an explanation for this, other than the superstition that Phumbaas’s tormented soul is spoiling the orchards.

Despite the haunting, the great Peach Festival is held every summer in Merrimont at the orchards.  It is the largest elven gala in Damir where the social elite and common elves gather on neutral ground.  It is a favorite place for weddings, wedding announcements, and courtships to take place.  The common saying among elven gents associated with the Peach Orchards is: “Take a peach, find a peach, get a peach at the Orchards!”