Morglin Ironfist's letters to King Ragnar
23rd Day of the Month of the Raven,
Common Year 632
To my great and munificent lord, King Ragnar, from his loyal cousin Lord IronFist – Greetings.
It has been thirty days since I crossed through the mysterious gate which opened in the Varnal Hills and thus found myself in this strange and uncharted land. I wish my dear lord and cousin, through this missive, to dispel the ugly rumors about me, which I fear you might believe.
I was deeply shocked, dear cousin, by the attempt of the wizard Guthbert to slay you. I heard that upon the rack of pain, shortly after you had his arms torn from their sockets, that he cried out my name as the one who paid him. Dear cousin, it has injured me me grievously to hear that you believed him. You know my loyalty to you is undying. Even though you took the hand of fair Ewine to be your queen, though I loved her dearly, still it is wrong to think I would wish harm upon you. That wretch Guthbert must have forged my signature to the letter you found in his chamber. As for the satchel of gold bearing my mark, I know not how it came to be in Guthbert’s possesion. I belive some dark enemy must have planted it to cast blame upon me for such a dastardly crime.
Please trust me on this.
I was sorely grieved to hear that your barons had set out to arrest me. I am deeply hurt to hear it being said that I fled like a coward up to the Varnal Hills to escape your justice. I was merely going on a hunting expedition, dear cousin – an innocent trip to escape the heat of summer accompanied by a few trusted servants. The fact that I took my family jewels with me was simply to keep them safe, for there is always the problem of thievery on the part of the servants while the master is away.
How I came into this strange land is still somewhat of a mystery to me.While wandering in the Hills, I, and my few retainers, stumbled into a narrow pass on the borders of your realm. As we walked into the pass, a strange glowing light engulfed us for a moment. We turned to go back from whence we came, but an invisible barrier was now in place. Try as we might, we could not penetrate it.
So we continued on, passing out of the Hills down into a strange uncharted land. All seemed different in this new place. The sun is not like the red of our land, but rather has a strange yellow hue. It seems that objects do not fall quite as fast when dropped and the air holds more moisture to it.
We wandered for many days and found no trace of pillars marking boundaries, no rulers, or any hint of kings and laws. All was wilderness, untamed, and untouched by the hands of thinking beings.
Of course, my dear cousin, I immediately realized that here was an opportunity to extend your realm and win for you greater honors and treasure. Thus did I erect boundary markers and raised up your banner to lay claim to, in your name, all the lands as far as my eyes could see. Please accept this as a sign of my fealty and family loyalty and ignore any disparaging rumors about earlier events.
My dear cousin and liege lord, after wandering for many days I bethought it appropriate to try and return through the gate and inform you of my great discoveries in your name. I wished to bring word of my discoveries to you personally, before other barons tried to do so first. But my lord, the mysterious gate was still closed and I could not pass through it. Thus did I erect a pillar next to it, and shall place there this letter and those that I I will write afterwards, to show my service to you in extending your realms. I shall keep you informed of my progress in service to you and your undying glory.
Please extend my most humble respects to the fair, gentle and lovely Queen Ewine. Tell her that out of my loyalty to you I think of her each morning and night and wish her happinesss at your side. Loyally, Ironfist.
4th Day of the Month of the Dragonfly,
Common Year 632
My dear lord, King Ragnar,
It has been more than a month since my last missive was sent up to where the mysterious gate was located. There, my most trusted servant waits in hope that the barrier preventing our return dissipates and he may deliver my pronouncements of fidelity and news of your growing estate here personally. I have moved my headquarters a dozen leagues down out of the hills and into a fair valley filled with game, great trees and swift running streams.
It is a curious place and at first I thought the lands were devoid of all those who walk upright and can speak. For days I pondered what next to do. I wondered if all around me was thus. And then on the seventh day after arriving in the valley, a wandering peasant came through the woods and I thought, here at last is our first new minion.
I tried to put him to work chopping down trees so that he might plant grain to make my bread for me, but he was recalcitrant, as are most peasants. Finally I deemed it necessary to lower myself to speak to him at length. We had here a great problem. My retainers, being men of arms, of course could not be asked to work and our one peasant refused to labor. Though tempted to kill him I realized we would starve next winter, if there is a winter here, if we did not reason with him.
I asked him where were the people and creatures I needed to serve me. He bargained long and hard for the secret, something I found distasteful. Finally I agreed to pay him if he would tell the secrets of this place and reveal a way to bring in those who would serve me. He then gave me this cryptic answer:
“If you build it, they will come.”
I was andgry at such a stupid saying and prepared to slay him and then he explained.
The following dat I set the peasant and my men to building huts. It took some reasoning with my men to convince them that this was not peasant labour, but rather the simple building of shelters in the same way that they would prepare an encampment. Even with this logical explanation, many were reluctant to work beneath their station. I was forced at last to bribe them with some of my jewels to convince them of the dignity of what they had to do.
Lo and behold, on the morning after the huts were completed I awoke to find a deputation of peasants outside my tent, begging me for the right to occupy the homes that had been created.
I thought long and hard upon this before lowering myself to speak to them. I explained to them that by living upon the land I had claimed and living in the huts I had made for them, that they owed me the obligation of their liege lord. They were to cultivate the ground, offer a tithe to me and that the mend were to serve in time of war. In exchange I would offer them the protection of my sword. They willingly accepted. Marks were made upon a piece of parchment and the agreement was struck. The peasants moved in that same day and began to work.
This set my mind to thinking and I asked the crafty peasant for more advice.
Heeding him, the next day I set my men to building huts of straw and huts of sticks. This cost me more money in payments, but that was offset in a small amount when I demanded of the peasants and received rent payments, even if it was but a few coppers. The huts of straw and sticks were finally completed and to utter amazement goblins and orcs appeared from out of the woods, willing to serve me in exchange for the places of dwelling. We struck the same agreement as I had made with the peasants.
Frankly my lord cousin, these seem to be foolish creatures who are in need of a leader and hero to provide them with places to live. They seem not self-reliant at all but expect some form of liege to provide everything for them. I heard them exclaim that such a thing was their right and their ruler should provide to them all things. I gladly gave it to them and easily convinced them that I am their all-knowing leader. Now they are mine to use as I see fit, for they are fearful of losing what I have given them.
Thus I have started the building of a town, which we are considering naming after you. My only fear is that it will not become great enough to be worthy of the name. To ensure you would not lose faith we have chosen our family name, so that should the town fail all will think it was named for your humble servant. It cost much to begin, but even now a small but steady amount of money is starting to trickle back, for these creatures do have pieces of copper in their pockets, though I wonder who out there is minting the coins.
I will keep building all sorts of structures and see what else will come.
Please extend to Lady Ewine my warmest thoughts and tell her I have found many fond memories of times I spent with her. She'll know what I mean.
18th Day of the Month of the Unicorn,
Common Year 633
Dear Cousin Ragnar,
It has been nearly a year since my last missive to you, but I have been preoccupied with many things. I should add that my messenger reports that the gate is still barred shut and no one may pass it. After some month he felt it necessary to cease his vigil. He told me as well that the last two letters I left for you atop the boundary pillar I erected have not been taken, but I shall continued to write you nevertheless.
Through my leadership and strength much as changed in this valley which I now control and have named the Valley of Ragnar in your honor. Where once forest stood, now there is a thriving town. I continued to build things, using all my wealth, but I know my lord that you will be pleased with what I gave done to honor you, and that when the time comes you will pay me back the difference in what I have spent here so far. A full accounting of the cost is enclosed. All income has gone to maintenance.
As to the management of my barony, I felt it important to build the population of the realm first. Therefore, I set out to construct many different buildings to bring under my banner a great host. With the building of a brick house mighty ogres have come to live in the valley. When I commanded that a bridge be placed over the River Morglin, I returned there the next day to find a troll having taken residence beneath it. As each of these creatures came I presented them with parchments to sign, recongnizing me as their liege, which they gladly did.
Wolves are always worthy allies and they can scent trouble from afar, therefore I commanded that dens be made. The following day massive, intelligent beasts came out of the woods and offered onto me their service.
Next I sought men of skill. The peasants had spoken of wizards and such many time. With the digging of a well, to provide cooling spring water for the tempering of steel, a blacksmith and then a rank of pikemen came into my service. A field was then cleared and the grass cut short. Target butts were set up and archers appeared to offer their services. A tavern near the bridge was build and from within its rooms swordsmen drink their fill and have fun bloodying each other as they argue about dice and mates.
There are more plans afoot here as well, my lord. Even now I am building a most curious structure, tiny houses set up in the trees to rally the fairy sprites to my side. Cottages near the side of the mountains are being hewn of stone so that dwarves will serve me, while in the woods I have been advised to set up targets so that elven archers may come to try their sport.
Once the elves and dwarves serve me, I am told that they will help me make such things as great stone circles for the pleasure of druids, fenced meadows for unicorns and fearful red towers for the mighty phoenix.
Already I have created a dwelling place for users of magic and one is now in my service. He is expensive though, my lord, for to master his spells is a costly process. My funds have run short and I have made the decision to let the arcane arts of magic wait. For the price of but one spell I can marshal a host of peasants. I remember as well the fool Guthbert, your court magician. He wasn't worth very much if memory serves me well.
Speaking of money, I should point out to you the tens of thousands in gold that I have spent so far in this venture, which was started solely to glorify your name. My pocket are not bottomless, cousin, and though my servants now bring in some small income, still it is not enough. Therefore, if you read this letter, I would ask of you to send more money to me, for after all this has become quite and expensive proposition. Your flag does not fly over this realm, cousin, without incurring some obligations in return.
Oh yes, I should add that I did erect a modest dwelling place for myself, which I call Morglin's Keep. I have tastefully appointed it as befitting the honor of one of your servants.
Once the spring planting has been finished I plan to take part of my new host and go adventuring, for I am told that this land is vast and that if one looks carefully there are riches to be found and glory to be won. Of course, my lord, whatever I find shall be for the glory of your name.
Do send my best to Lady Ewine.
29th Day of the Month of the Aardvark
Common Year 635
It has been more than two years since I sent my last missive up into the hills to be placed near the gate where I first came through into this world. I am informed that my previous letters are gone but that no reply was waiting. I am not sure if you or a servant of yours found the gate and came through, or if thieves violated the boundary pillar placed there.
I embarked upon my expedition to explore the new lands and gave endured two long and hard years of campaigning. At first all was uneventful, though by careful looking I found occasional deposits of rare metals, burial mounds containing treasures, and other such things. I also met strange and terrible creatures. Near an ancient graveyard I did battle with ghosts. I met wandering beasts with fearsome skills and bested them in single combat to the glory of my name.
After wandering for many weeks I came at last upon another town. As I approached it the inhabitants barred the gates. They then climbed upon the battlements and made rude gestures. They made strange noises while sticking out their tongues and said many coarse and vulgar things about your lineage. Of course I attacked them at once. At first I was thrown back, losing many of my peasants and some swordsmen. Then I laid siege to the place, having my men construct engines of war. The catapults I constructed finally cast down the walls of the town. I was tempted, since my honor had been insulted, to burn the filthy place to the ground and slay all within. Before I could give such and order my advisor, formerly the old peasant and now and honored chamberlain, pointed out that I could turn the town to my use and wealth.
It was there that I discovered much about this land. The town I had thus taken was a barbarian town and was filled with creatures unique to such a place. There I brought into my service more orcs, wolves, ogres and trolls, along with a powerful cyclops. I found out as well that there are many other towns scattered about the lands. Some are towns of humans alone. Others are controlled by a sorceress and magical creatures reside there. A few towns, which are hard to find, are ruled by warlock and have within their wall powerful and dreadful creatures such as minotaurs, gargoyles and even dragons. I am not even yet prepared to deal with such and shall avoid these boroughs.
I found out as well that there are other kings who lay claim to all the lands and wage war. They have heroes of great skills in their service and I am warned now that my power is considerable, attention will be drawn onto me in an attempt to block the growth of my strength. It appears I have no choice but to act against others before they cause me grievous harm.
I plan now to go forth and seek out these other kingdoms, to humble them, and place your standard upon their battlement walls.
Say hello to Ewine for me and ask her if she still has that curious birthmark.
11th day of the Month of the Lizard,
Common Year 641
I have survived the last three years, no thanks to you. I thought for a time that all was lost. I had but one town, my capital, that the residents insist on calling Ironfist Keep. Twice I was besieged and twice I repelled the attacks.
Both times I captured the hero leading the attacking hosts. The first of these heroes was the same one I had captured before. Thinking that I could gain great wealth I held him for ransom. I received a paltry offer the first time and reasoned that I had but to hold out and his master would offer a great sum. I never heard from that skin flint of a king again. I asked the hero then to serve me but he refused. I was bound by the code of royal blood and could not execute him and thus had to let him go. I had lost a hero and had no ransom money to show for my effort.
The second time I was wiser and upon capturing the hero of the next attacking host I immediately made an offer to him and he gladly accepted the right to serve me. He has become a powerful ally. While still protecting the source of my power I sent him out and he recaptured the town I once held to the south. I built my wealth up, investing in yet more structures to bring various creatures and brave warriors into my service. I had found that moving forward aggressively at the start of things might win great glory and honor, but also left one vulnerable to attack from the rear.
The next time I was attacked I repulsed it easily, driving my enemies before me and hearing the lamentations of their loved ones.
At great expense I built jousting arenas to attract great and powerful knights into my service and then at even greater expense I erected a holy cathedral so that mighty paladins would rally to my banner.
I did not neglect the realms of magic either, for it was due to a weakness in such spells and powers that I had nearly been bested the first time I ventured out into the broad and dangerous world. Though they are expensive to develop, they are worth the investment.
The powers of those who wield magic are many. They have mastered arts here that your useless court magicians can barely imagine. There are various spells of protection and attack. There are spells that can burn an opponent into cinders or turn them into ice. My magic users have spells that can enchant and spells that can block the strikes of swords and spears, while there are yet other spells that can aid greatly in the difficult art of siege craft.
At great expense I commissioned my magic users to master such subtle arcane arts as the ability to turn undead, to provide protection against the magic of others, to cure, to bless my warriors so that their strength increased, and to blind my opponents so that they could not see where to attack.
I think I should add here that the pathetic wizard, Guthbert, who caused me so much trouble in your realm with his loose tongue and could not strike a mouse dead, would have been burnt to a crisp by the rivals he would face here.
I also developed my contacts with the thieves’ guilds and thus learned many secrets from them to help me in the campaigns I now planned.
After thus consolidating my powers I set out on an expedition that brought another hero into my service. I now had three armies. One, under the command of a trustworthy hero, I left to protect my homeland. The other I sent south to sweep back down to the sea, while I marched eastward across broad open plains.
My hero in the south reached the coast where I had first marched years before, and taking a town there, he greatly strengthened it. A lighthouse was constructed to aid in the sailing of ships. I commanded him to move upon the flowing waters with caution for there were many dangerous creatures, brigands, and rival heroes upon the sea.
He guided his ships up the coast, taking the town of a sorceress and thus did my power wax greatly. Islands were next taken and their wealth added into my coffers, denying at the same time such wealth to rivals.
And then disaster struck yet again. A shower of great stones, trailing fire, plummeted from the heavens, smiting down the host of my hero. It seemed as well that as I grew more powerful an alliance was formed between the rival kings to turn their combined strength against me. As a result all that I won in the south was lost.
I knew that if I stayed on the defensive the enemy would march to my gates. Therefore, I set out to meet the new threat. But this time I did not make the foolish move of stripping my capital and the towns close to it of their defenses. My reasoning was proper, for through some great and powerful magic an enemy army appeared, materializing out of thin air, near my capital. They were repulsed but at great loss of the city’s warriors, wizards, and wealth.
I now realize as well that I had neglected to build up strength with the great and dark creatures such as Gargoyles, Minotaurs, Hydras and the dreaded king of all, the Dragons. Thus I set out to bring the towns of warlocks under my control.
I found that though a Paladin was indeed a mighty warrior he was, as they say, ‘burnt toast’ when confronting an army with dragons. I shall work hard in these areas and then all shall tremble before me.
I am curious to know, is Ewine’s breath as disgusting as I now remember it to be?
21st Day of the Month of the Rat
Year One of the New Age
Ragnar the Ursurper,
It has been five years since my last missive, I can imagine how things must fare you there, sitting fat and blotted like a corrupt spider upon your cheap web of a throne, which you wrongfully assumed and which you have wrongfully held.
My strength here has indeed risen like a phoenix from its earlier ruin. Many and great battles have I fought. Citadels have I cast down, cities I have taken and raised MY banner over. Heroes aplenty now flock to my cause. I wonder what have you done of late, sitting safely behind your castle walls. While bards shall sing of my name, your memory will be nothing more than sayings and drawings about you and your so-called queen carved on latrine walls.
After long years of consolidating my strength in all areas, raising levees of peasants and pikemen, mounting warriors on horse, legions of ogres, goblins and trolls, marshalling the strengths of magic users and placing in the van great creatures such as hydras and dragons, I set forth to sweep all before me.
Three of the high kings of this realm united against me. They laid cunning traps for me and placed great strengths in their cities. Many were the heroes they arrayed against me so that at one time I faced six different armies closing in upon me from all points of the compass.
It was then that the great investment I made in magic was rewarded. Twice I was able to teleport entire armies clear across my empire, placing them behind the advancing foes to crush them. I was able to control an Oracle and through her and by way of the thives guilds I learned the secrets and intentions of my enemies. This was no small thing, for it enabled me to place my armies to parry their thrusts, and throw my armies into lands where they were weak.
The cost of such campaigns was great. I spent in a month what but a short time ago I would have believed to be undreamed of wealth. But if one wishes all, they must risk all.
I cast down two of my great rivals and finally there was but the great Lord Alamar to face my powers. Ragnar, you are but a grovelling beggar compared to such as he. Long we struggled. He launched one attack that swept all the way into the heartland of my realm, forcing me to teleport back to deal with the threat.
Finally I was before his great and wonderous capital city. My siege engines smashed down his high towers. Dragons struggled in the air overhead. Hydras wrestled upon the ground. Great legions of swordsmen, archers, dwarves, orcs, and peasant levees gave battle so that the ground was covered with the slain. With my magic welders(wielders) around me I gained the wall and there did I fight with spells, fire and sword against the great Lord Alamar, and his wizards that has already become a myth told by peasants around camp fires. He was cunning, mighty was his sword arm, great his magic, and brilliant his strategies. But they availed him for naught, for in the end I cast him down and my only disappointment was that he was able to flee into distant realms .
So now Ragnar the pig, I own all this land of Heroes. All creatures within it acknowledge me as the rightful king. I shall rule it with justice and wisdom. I shall guard its borders well for I have heard yet more rumors of wars in distant lands, and evil kings that plot their return to overthrow me.
Let me add here that I view it as fortunate now that the fool Guthbert failed so miserably in his attempt on your life. If the plot had succeeded I would have been but a petty lord, in a petty realm, which is all you now have. Your father murdered his brother, my father, to take the throne and you took it from him. I was forced to flee, with but a handful of retainers into unknown lands, and here in the realm of Heroes I have carved out an empire to which a few paltry counties pale in comparison. To those who risk all, all may come as the reward. This shall be the last of the letters I will post at the gate. If you hear from me again it will be because the gate has opened and I shall come through it, sword in hand, seeking justice.
PS. If Ewine is still with you tell her I have married and am quite content. My companion has all the attributes that she did not, trustworthiness, intelligence, beauty and kindness. Beyond that, she bathes more then once a year and is not surrounded by a cloud of flies, something I find to be most refreshing after having known Ewine.