Longetalos writes "One of the lucky few who made good on his escape from the hellish lands of Iuz speaks, telling of the town of Law's Forge. Founded in nobility, the town now suffers the blight of Iuz's priests within it's walls, forcing the master caftsmen to work for the Old One's foul armies. From this survivor's words, much can be learned about the town's current state of affairs.
by Richard Di Ioia (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Used With Permission. Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.
"So you are a bunch of adventurers and wish to speak to the survivor of Law's Forge? Instead of wasting your time preening, why don't you go use those pretty weapons of yours to free the rest of my clan from there!"
Before the adventurers could respond to this insult the gnome held up a hand and spoke again. "My apologies, you must forgive a bitter gnome his hastily spoken words. Let me tell you my story and then you might understand..."
Law's Forge was the heart of the Shield Lands. Some nobles or Knights of the Holy Shielding might argue otherwise, but know that no other city had the renown that Law's Forge had then. Being the owner of items created from Law's Forge was a source of pride for the people of Ket to Nyrond and all the countries in between. A noble worshipper of Heironeous founded Law's Forge as a place to outfit himself and members of his faith back in 387 CY. He hired the best armorers, weaponsmiths and fletchers from the surrounding regions for this task. This was back before there was a Shield Land and bandits still overran the countryside. Ronendard, that was the name of the noble, built his keep in consequence. He named it Law's Forge to represent that he was now the Law in the region and the forge part, well there was a forge there. Can't say that the followers of Heironeous had any more imagination back then they do now.
The keep itself is built of stone, with a keep squeezed in between two immense square towers. The keep proper is on a small butte overlooking the countryside. Jutting out from the front of the keep is a curtain wall surrounding a rectangular area. Before the forces of Iuz conquered the town, the artisans lived inside the area surrounded by curtain wall and the lord and his men inside the keep itself. We were several dozen artisans at this time consisting of a mix of dwarven weaponsmiths, gnomish armorers and human fletchers. We even had a few elves and halflings among us. One thing we all had in common was our love of crafting. No matter our differences in race or religion, our view on life was a mad devotion to our craft. We were the best in our field and constantly competed against each other to prove it. Merchants employed by Lord Ginterin, the lord of the town, sold our goods for princely values. Life was excellent for us and many of us had lived there for a long time. One of the dwarves was the son of one of the original weaponsmiths employed by Ronendard and had been there his whole life.
That of course was before the town fell. I imagine you are interested in hearing how such a town fell since you adventurers are always looking for bloody stories. Lord Ginterin had heard distressing news from his northern relatives and seen the large number of refugees fleeing southward. He ordered some of his most trusted men to go north and to ascertain the extent of the threat posed by this current batch of humanoids. They returned a few days later and spoke of a fiend-led host that was devastating everything in its path. The knights of Holy Shielding had been shattered on the battlefield and there was nobody between this army and Law's Forge. Sensing his impending doom, Lord Ginterin did the only thing a man of his character could. He ordered all the non-combatants to flee southwards towards Admunford. Lord Ginterin and his troops would stay here and delay the enemy by holding within the keep and forcing a prolonged siege. To this end he gave those that would flee all the horses available within the town, including the war horses of his knights. Knowing the knights and their relationship with their horses I was impressed with the sacrifice this entailed. Of course, they probably figured their cherished horses would have a better chance of surviving with us then as potential food in a sieged keep.
So we fled south...right into an ambush. That blasted Bakluni knew what was going to happen and set a trap for us. I tried to escape using my gnomish gift of invisibility, but there were fiends among the enemy and they easily saw through my petty illusions. We were quickly rounded up and surrounded by a force of humanoids. I couldn't get the exact number but the townsfolk numbered around 700 and the humanoids easily double us in numbers. We were force marched back within site of Law's Forge and a dozen priests of Iuz walked ahead of the crowd. They gestured to the keep and called for the surrender of the knights and men at arms within. To prove what would happen if Lord Ginterin refused this ultimatum, the priests slaughtered a dozen townsfolk and had some giants throw their corpses towards the keep.
What happened next has always perplexed me. The gates to the keep were thrown open and with a resounding battle-cry the hundred men-at-arms and knights charged into the horde of humanoids! Without steeds and only on foot the defenders of the keep created a wedge with the knights at the points and proceeded to fight their way through the army of Iuz. Slowly forcing their way closer towards the prisoners. We were pushed back by the hobgoblins holding us captive and away from the berserk knights. Eventually it was over, all the knights and men-at-arms were dead, killed without asking for mercy and fighting to their last dying breath.
I have often asked myself why they left the keep. Had they stayed within the walls, they would have had a better chance to survive and perhaps kill more of the humanoids. The only reasoning I could come up with was that they had seen the slaughter of the townsfolk and knew that had they stayed within the keep the priests of Iuz would have slaughtered us to the last woman and child. To surrender to those monsters would have been too dishonorable and futile as the priests may still have slaughtered us regardless. But to live with the knowledge of the death of your charges without you putting up a fight would have been a blight on the knights' immortal souls. This vain and reckless charge was the only choice left to men of honor.
So it was that At-Ur Rehmat walked into Law's Forge and declared it part of the Horned Society. He left shortly thereafter to continue with his conquests but not before he left behind five hundred hobgoblins and over two hundred goblins to keep the peace under the supervision of the priests of Iuz. The dozen priests had already taken over the keep and placed the artisans within the walled courtyard. The townsfolk were scattered among the hobgoblins and giant-kin as slaves outside the walls. To prevent us from fleeing, the priests animated the men-at-arms that were slain and bid them to stand on the inside of the courtyard near the walls. Exactly one hundred undead zombies stood watch over us as we went about our daily chores. I had plenty of occasions to count them in the years I was held captive. Our protectors had become our jailers. The two dozen knights and Lord Ginterin, the priests animated as ghouls and wights to serve as their personal guards when they went out among the hobgoblins. In addition to the dozen priests, there were eighty human mercenaries and a dozen mages also living within the keep. All the humanoids were encamped outside the walls and patrolled the surrounding region. But, the most dreadful of all our captors were the dozen fiends that lived in the upper levels of the towers. Each time one of the artisans escaped the keep and fled into the countryside the priests would send the fiends to hunt us down. Nobody made it to safety - every escapee brought back was placed on display for a full day. The next morning, the escapee, whether living or dead, was eaten publicly by the fiend who retrieved him.
We had lost all hope, we had no news of the outside world and after time could only imagine that the combined army of Iuz and the Hierarchs had conquered all the countries that bordered on their lands. And then one day, as we went about our daily chores we heard such loud shrieks of intense pain that they were heard above the sounds of our hammers beating on anvils. I rushed outside to find out what could make such a loud cry. What I saw were the fiends, writhing on the floor in pain. Their bodies slowly dissolving into multi-colored ooze as the sound of their bones snapping filled the air. It was the sweetest music my gnomish ears had ever heard. The guards were all entranced by this spectacle and the priests were in a panic. The mages were running for the protection of their towers with cries of magic gone amok. It was the perfect opportunity. With a quick glance to the open gates, I cloaked myself in invisibility and ran.
And here I am in this small village speaking to you while my friends are still trapped within that jail of horror.
Note: Iuz, Shield Lands"