The Death of Typhus Marcolin

A little more than a month ago a messenger arrived at the House of Paupers, the long time home of my parents Typhus and Rossa Marcolin, with troubling news of our distant homeland. According to the letter, another Skiv elven band had appeared and again taken to raiding the mining trails and trade routes criss-crossing the southern most region of the Bearclaw mountains.

The Skiv had once maintained an expansive empire of their own on and within that massive 'U'-shaped mountain range that partially surrounds my homeland, the Iron Plains. In fact, at the height of the skiv elven dominance there, they nearly commanded control over the Bearclaw's entirety.

It was after a brief but extremely bloody war between the two mountain dwarven rulers that these elven demons leapt upon the more thoroughly weakened lord's holdings and began to drive him and his people down into the hills below. This first appearance of the Skiv in the Bearclaw occurred just over a thousand years ago. They did not rest long before once again making their presence felt among the various peoples that lived in and around the Iron Plains.

These twisted beings were elven by all physical aspects but their coal black staring eyes. No white or pupil did their gaze hold, just two black orbs of unfeeling death. Believed corrupted by foul magic and even darker religion, they captured and destroyed all that fell within their reach without mercy or hesitation. Their manner of assault was like sudden and unexpected lightning from a clear blue sky, and the results so brutal and ghastly that even the most hardened veteran of the goblin wars had cause to cringe.

For nearly two years the plainspeople left the dwarves to deal with these hateful invaders as they continued their advance on the blindsided dwarven ruler's remaining strongholds. Even the mountain elves of the far northern reaches of the range seemed to take little interest.

The Skiv elven advance was a shadow that would not be denied, or ignored, as it passed over the Bearclaw though. It wasn't until the fall of Tur Pac-nor, the last and mightiest of the remaining dwarven ruler's strongholds at the time, that the attention of all those of the plains was fully arrested. None had even imagined that the two great dwarven houses of the mountains, even at such odds as they'd become, could fall to any outside threat.

So began just the first of the great wars between the plain-speople and the Skiv. A thousand years of sporadic and always terrible warring were endured to reach the one hundred and fifty years of peace that has lasted since. The tale of the five legendary wars that filled those centuries with battle most fierce will be told another time. The key note here being that after the defeat of Gigax the Betrayer at my grandfather's hands, and subsequent end of the last of the great wars, it was thought that the Skiv had been decimated and shattered as a people. It was assumed that any that had survived had fled to whatever dark place they'd originally come from as there had been no further trace of them in the mountains...

...until about a year ago.

My grandfather Kale sent for my father then as well. I was invited to join him and did so. A small band of Skiv elven bandits had surfaced, raiding the mining villages high atop the southern reaches of the Bearclaw. My father and I and a small battle group under his command went up into the mountains to search them out and put an end to their raiding. When we caught up to the rogue band we were able to engage them in several skirmishes over several days, and while slaying many and never suffering a single casualty ourselves, were never able to do much more than give chase. Late in the fifth day, when it appeared we'd lost them to the treacherous terrain of the mountains, we stumbled upon what we later found to be an old dwarven guard station that had been unmanned since even before the goblin wars. Within, it was immediately apparent it had been the staging point for their raids. I was the first to find what was left of the bandits themselves where they lay in a wide circle of torn heaps about the blood-splattered floor of what must have formerly been the long gone original occupants' mess hall. After 5 days of hard travel through the mountains, we'd been left with no answers at all and more questions than we'd set out with.

So it was, that after receiving the letter from my grandfather, my father and I immediately set out for the Iron Plains and home the next day. I think, that at the time, we were both of a mind that we might finally secure answers to the many questions that had plagued our restless dreams since that macabre morning in that ancient dwarven outpost.

We arrived home to the good cheer and warm greetings of the people of Theomon Hold, the great walled capital city of our plains homeland. My grandfather Kale and grandmother Elisa were there to meet my father and I when we arrived aboard my great-uncle's special ship, 'Cloudrider'. The four of us were then immediately off to dinner within the gilded palace of my uncle, Lord Kesaire Tentallet. Typhus and Kesaire had been boyhood best friends, and some years after my father's departure here to the Landing he'd wedded my aunt Jahlissa, my father's younger sister. Recently my uncle had been crowned sovereign ruler of the plains after his own father's passing, and this was to be the first reunion of my father and he since. Also joining us was my uncle Skull, my father's dear older brother whom he'd not visited with in several months. So it was with much contentment that we arrived to dinner. Much news and merriment was shared by all over the feast, and as I departed the palace later that evening to search out my own childhood friend Sabrah... my heart warmed to be home again and to see my father so pleased to be in the company of his old friend and his long missed brother. How could I have known as I made my farewells and excused myself from their company, that these were to be the last moments I would share with my father while he yet lived.

I awoke to a late start, and shared a brunch with my grandmother and old friend Sabrah before making my way to meet my great-uncle and the battle group we were to lead up into the mountains that late afternoon. My grandfather and father had decided to leave much earlier, setting out for their more distant destination at dawn. It was already nearing early evening when my great-uncle and I and our command were finally ready to set out ourselves for our own more nearby patrol zone.

We tracked the areas in the lower slopes of the nearest mountains of the range to Theomon Hold for two days without so much as a glimpse of our quarry or sign of their passing. They'd been frequenting the area quite a bit more than any else, so their total absence from the territory dumbfounded us. A friend and I mused as we made the trek home that once again my father must have sniffed them out and seen to the issue himself, and that he was probably already telling the tale before a warm hearth in town by now.

Not fifteen minutes travel away from Theomon Hold, though, a small number of figures silhouetted by the sunset on the mountains were spied approaching by our scouts. Within minutes four Skiv warlords sat atop their mounts under a billowing white flag before us, their footmen moving to lay two shrouded plainsmen at our feet. The Skiv were silent as my great-uncle and I gazed upon the torn bodies of my fallen father and grandfather. Their bodies were ravaged and marred beneath the bloodstained shrouds as had always been the Skiv's gruesome custom of centuries past, yet left untouched were their faces for us to gaze upon. They'd even collected and deposited their lost equipment within their shrouds with them to accent an obvious statment of their knowledge of who they'd had the pleasure of slaying. Gazing upon my fallen kin in the dim early evening light, they both appeared to perhaps be embraced by some peaceful sleep to me. I begged silently for my father's eyes to flutter open, but they would not.

A shrouded heap that had originally appeared to be a large package of some kind was then pushed off the back of another horse to land into a seeping pile in the tall grass. The nearest warlord motioned toward the huddled form and then nodded, still never uttering a single sound. With that, the four mounted elves and their footmen departed back toward the mountains just as a black line of smoke began to rise on the horizon where the bodies of those men and women of my grandfather's command left unreturned would be burned.

The Skiv had purposefully allowed for a lone survivor to tell the tale of the ambush and following slaughter. They'd chosen my father's squire, Eleannor Greycairn. The young woman had been mauled beyond believe, almost beyond recognition. In barely whispered rasps, she related what events she could through her pain. My grandfather's command had come across signs of the raiders early on, following them along the old mining routes deep into the mountains. Tracking their path had been easy, she said. Too easy. The morning of the third day, they finally had caught sight of the skiv elves retreating through the upper wooded areas. The chase had then been on, and right into the Skiv trap they all had rushed. Details from her of the battle itself were sketchy as she began to pass in and out of consciousness. It had been a whirlwind of death, those last moments my father knew. This much was made clear. My father's poor squire was beyond any healer's help, and could not be moved in her condition. We did all that could be done to ease her suffering in those last hours. I chose to sit the night with her there amid the tall grass that she might not pass alone, as my great-uncle and a few of our command went on to the Hold and the preparations ahead. Eleannor lived just long enough to see one last sunrise the next morning.

We had been wrong in guessing that we were dealing with any small number of errant bandits. The small raiding parties had just been a decoy, to draw us into their web that they might make a statement and example of us. They knew that our overconfidence from that previous year's mindboggling encounter and the relaxed mentality of over a century's peace would allow us to be so blind and careless.

The Skiv must not have counted on how beloved my grandfather and father were by their fellow peoples of the Iron Plains though. For this huge oversight, for their own overconfidence, they would pay dearly.

Within a month, the Skiv were to find themselves face to face with Marcolins again.

Three days ago, atop the southern most peak of the Bearclaw range... upon the gradual slopes just south of the ruins of Tur Pac-nor, my uncle Skull and I made the first charge with my late father's fellow Valkari knights on the forefront of those shattered battlements. We did not rush them alone.

Both the mountain and hill dwarven rulers had lent a division each of their famed heavy infantry to join the assault on the ancient stronghold. Within a day of my father's death the House Til'Randil, sovereigns of the mountain elves, had ordered and sent a legion of their finest light infantry on their way to join the merging armies also. Even the sylvans hadn't forgotten the great warring of centuries before, as small bands of archers from their northern forests had appeared among those gathered as well.

For nearly two days the battle raged within the ruins of the old fortress. The fighting was an angry sea over the southern slopes of Fury's Fist, its red tide washing back and forth through and about the shattered ruins. By the end of the second day though, neither side had seemed to be able to sway the other enough to claim a clear advantage. Then, late in that evening, just as it seemed the plainsmen warrior mages might break their Skiv elven counter-parts...the enemy commanders ordered out the warlocks.

I was atop the broken south tower of the fortress as the three sorcerers took their stance upon the war-torn battlements below. Slain already were those defenders that had tried to keep Skull and I from the tower's upper reaches, their crumpled corpses littering the rooftop about our feet. From this distance, I could do not but watch in horror as the trio of warlocks obliterated the charging Valkari knights below. Arcane fire seemed to ebb and flow outward from them in waves that rolled down over the slopes, crushing whatever fell before them. Hunching there atop the tower parapet, it seemed then that the battle must be lost.

Before we could make our way down the tower steps to rejoin the fighting a faint shimmering atop a ridge far across the battlefield from Tur Pac-nor then caught my eye. A lone figure was there; so small it seemed at its distance from me. It was barely perceptible in the blackness of that night but for the odd shimmering lights flickering in dance about it. My uncle then whispered almost inaudibly the name of the older brother he had only ever heard stories of, "Caliban.."

Within seconds, the entire night sky became day in an awesome eruption of forbidden power so dazzling that I could do not but gape at its purity. I knew then that the mighty necromancer Caliban Marcolin had indeed returned from exile to avenge the death of one of the few of his family he'd ever cared for, his younger brother Typhus. I cannot begin to describe in words the nightmarish beauty of what transpired over the next few minutes. Whether these images of what descended upon the enemy so arrested in my mind's eye will be the stuff of bafflement or pure horror for me in days to come I am not yet certain, as the sheer shock of those incredible moments have not yet loosened their grasp upon me. I can say only this with certainty:

...There are no Skiv elves left drawing breath amid the cool mountain air of the Bearclaw range any longer. Of that, this time, there is no doubt.

As the sun rose slowly into the morning horizon yesterday, I leaned heavily on my battle-worn claidhmore and let all the rage wash away from me with the last of that calming sea's fading storm. The ominous Lord Skull was not much farther from me than he had been throughout the entire battle, leaning in exhaustion also. All about us on the slopes before the smoking husk that had been made of most of Tur Pac-nor lay the broken remains of so many that fought and died there. Small groups of usually brash dwarven soldiers mingled here and there, speaking in hushed whispers with their equally quiet hill dwarven kin. Mountain elves and sylvans wandered the lower slopes in silence as well... searching for their lost dead among the thousands of fallen. The surviving plainsmen warriors and mages stood aghast near where the mighty gates of the old fortress had once stood. Our Valkari knights had been decimated to a man in that final charge on the warlocks.

Of my late father's eldest brother Caliban, there was no trace. He had disappeared immediately after those tumultuous few minutes without a trace, leaving we survivors with the haunting images and horrific results achieved by his display of such unfathomable power.

My uncle Skull would not return from the ruins of Tur Pac-nor with me either. He had not left my side during the duration of the great battle of those previous days. After though, as we had rested in the wamth of the rising sun, he'd just sort of nodded his farewell to me... and then disappeared without a word into the deep forests below.

I am sure that my father Typhus is now hunting with the Raging Great Bear on the high plains of the neverending tomorrow, and that I shall one day have the chance to hunt with him again when I make my way there myself. The Iron Plains and the mountain range that embraces them are now restful once again. My father fought and died with the same honor he'd always tried to impress upon me. He dreamed of a day that this land here in the north would one day know the same peace his own had always known during his lifetime. I never got the chance to tell him how much I thought of him... admired him. One day, when I again join him... perhaps I'll be able to tell him. Until then, I will always return here to this home away from home that he made for us in the Landing. I know that his dream is worth fighting for here...