In time, the battles waged against the Orc Nation by the Durinshold Dwarves in 886 TA and 887 TA under the leadership of King U-Gene and his able general Dugald Axeworthy will be known as Dwarven Thunder and Lightning, the time of the great Dwarven invasions. And, indeed, it was at the end of the campaign season of 887 that the long-time ruler of the Orc Nation, Gruumsh, was cast from his throne. Leaderless, the orc warbands disbanded their alliance. Swept by both war and plague, it is estimated that over 50% of the able-bodied orc warriors were lost during this dark period in their history.
The tale begins, as it often does, during the long winter months when a message was intercepted. Scouts near Rivershaw Castle shot down a large black condor which was spotted heading south over the River White towards Riverrun. When the bird hit the ground, it disintegrated leaving only a strange copper tube where its corpse should have been. Inside the tube was a string of numbers and slashes. Not knowing what the message meant, it was sent to the Dwarven Hall at Dwarrowdelf. The message contained a random string of numbers and slashes.
23035064307131040513019130140651030/00802460/002401780131040501430/0016 9301605210483010/00716304480125041830106491480/0031510301204710/0063048 4016502013190/004013150183042801720621031510/00431090151030187040/00602 420/001310580416102320/00140271044031202501341024209210402431220/004521 0242023020170210314050/004240210/00202420/00231054201403210921024203220 2150103417013210/0015017410/00322102240513017103102513014910101232120/0 040521071402320/00204240/002201520131020901230/004012202240/00317022012 03415012330103210/003129042201230412501071302215420/0019210350321071304 0/00202240/001510920212304520/001230170151203014901310513107203220/0041 25012091304012510302217420/001310502129022402102310/00402220/0045103107 1502014309204123020/001052310713401051902213240/00220105020/00130410/00 2710924012032501230422012402710501239015410/0031093210/0072210422051307 1301504319012510701232140/009130120470213012054130/00202240/00921030215 1035401301253021702213420/002201920319020105410/0042402301451023240/001 50210/003022010741024301025021470234201254120
Vince and Hylax, using their time-honored tradition of code breaking began the arduous process of decoding the message, eventually arriving at a simple string based on all even numbers and all odd numbers representing the same symbol.
-. .. --. .... - ... .... .- -.. . / - --- / -- ..- ... - . .-. / .-.. .- .-. --. . / ..-. --- .-. -.-. . --..-- / .... . .- -.. / -. --- .-. - .... / - .... .-. --- ..- --. .... / -.. . ... . .-. - / - --- / ... .- -.-. -.- / .- -.. -- ..- -. ..-. --- .-. - --..-- / -.-. --- -. - .. -. ..- . / --- -. / - --- / -.. .-- .- .-. .-. --- .-- -.. . .-.. ..-. / .. ..-. / .--. --- ... ... .. -... .-.. . .-.-.- / - .-. ..- -.- / - --- / -- ..- ... - . .-. / - .-- --- / ... -- .- .-.. .-.. . .-. / ..-. --- .-. -.-. . ... --..-- / ..-. .. .-. ... - / - --- / ... .- -.-. -.- / .-. .. ...- . .-. ... .... .- .-- / -.-. .- ... - .-.. . --..-- / ... . -.-. --- -. -.. / - --- / -.. .. ... - .-. .- -.-. - / . .-.. ...- . ... --..-- / -- . . - / .. -. / -.. .-- .- .-. .-. --- .-- -.. . .-.. ..-. / .. ..-. / .--. --- ... ... .. -... .-.. . .-.-.- / ... .- -. -.. .- .-.. / - --- / .-. . -... ..- .. .-.. -.. --..-- / -- ..- ... - . .-. / --- -. .-.. -.-- / .. -. / . -- . .-. --. . -. -.-. -.-- .-.-.-
From here, it was a simple task to decode the alphabet substitution. The message read as follows:
Nightshade to muster large force, head north through desert to sack Admunfort,
continue on to Dwarrowdelf if possible. Truk to muster two smaller forces,
first to sack Rivershaw Castle, second to distract elves, meet in Dwarrowdelf if possible.
Sandal to rebuild, muster only in emergency.
Armed with such knowledge, the allied war plans were drawn up.
In March 887 TA, a small army of orcs were mobilized on the southern edge of the Orc Nation, near the vital Rivershaw Castle. A quick siege of that garrison by the orcs failed, thus beginning a long string of bad portents for the greenskins. Another small orc warband mustered on the eastern side of the Shadowyarn Mountains in an attempt to pass through elven territory and reach Dwarrowdelf for a siege. Joining the orcs were two fists of terrifying giants. In the south, the Undead armies under the command of the Tomb King Nightshade began their long march north.
Meanwhile, the human, dwarves and elves, united in their efforts, mobilized almost all available troops and began mustering them at Admunfort in the south and Dragonsford in the east. For the first time in recorded history, an army of gnomes marched forth from the Land of Bogs and the Little People. Led by gnome mages and including giant mutant snails, the gnomes were a colorful, but terrifying sight moving along the shady lanes of the Eastern Reaches. It was late in March that a combined force of dwarves and elves marshalled a force and broke the siege of Rivershaw Castle. The first victory of the season was secured.
April saw the Undead hordes arrive at Lechlade Keep, mysteriously unguarded by the knights of the Realm. The castle was quickly sacked, treasure taken and the structure extensively burnt. It seemed that the battle in the south would be hard-fought. In the north, the orcs, disrupted by early losses to the dwarves, retreated mustering additional troops for defense. Their target shifted towards a lightly-defended Pass of Lar. In that high mountain pass, the dwarves had erected a small garrison fort in the hopes of building a more permanent structure there in the future.
May was unnaturally dark and stormy in the Southern Reaches, thunderstorms ripped the land and the people were afraid. Repelled by an overwhelming force of knights and elves, Nightshade's army moved south, sacking Crossgate Castle during the second week of that month in a siege that lasted only three days. It was the second major loss to the newly-crowned King Fleetwood.
By June, the dwarves correctly predicted the orcish plans for the Pass of Lar, garrisoning the stronghold with several legions of dwarven thunderers and crossbowmen. The orcish offensive was broken as they fled from elves in the south and dwarves in the west. It was during those early summer months, that the fates would begin to smile on the Army of the Reaches in the south. Their smile would be brief. Although Nightshade was able to easily sack the small village of Peppercorn early in the month, the vast human and elven army met the evil host outside that village. The First Battle of Peppercorn was an overwhelming victory for the Army of the Reaches. Nightshade retreated, seemingly fleeing south towards Sandal.
However, everything is not always as it appears. Nightshade ordered his troops to bunker down in the rolling hills south of Peppercorn. He reasoned that the humans and elves, overly confident from their victory would march single-file along the road to the south. With the trap laid, the Tomb King waited.
The allied army split their forces. A small force was sent to Whitehall to siege the Sandal castle. Arriving in early August, the siege of Whitehall was unsuccessful. Meanwhile, the main allied force marched triumphantly down the road toward the retreating undead forces. There, they were ambushed in what was in later years to be known as the Second Battle of Peppercorn. Coming from their defended position, the evil hordes routed the allied army. The Second Battle of Peppercorn was a turning point for the Tomb Kingdom forces, who teetered on the brink of rebellion.
Meanwhile, the gnome army, having crossed the Shadowyarn Mountains at Dwarrowdelf struck out into the Sands of Time. The dwarven offensive, unable to capture the ever-moving orcs, sacked the castle at Broken Wood, another nail the orcish coffin. The dwarves plundered the ancient seat of evil, carrying off treasure and leaving rubble in their wake.
In September, with the bulk of the Army of the Reaches broken and fleeing north, Nightshade attacked the sieging force at Whitehall. A short but brutal battle left both armies decimated. The Tomb King watched as the last of the Reaches Knights fled north. Meanwhile, the dwarven siege of Dourwood failed. With only two months of fighting remaining, both sides had seen more losses than expected. The snows of winter could not come soon enough.
September saw some heavy fighting in the northern Hagglethorn Forest. The elves, by sheer numbers, overwhelmed a small black orc invasion force, a minor incursion. However, a larger army of orcs and goblins had moved into the forest, and a final battle was yet to be fought. Meanwhile, the giant eagles were mustered in the south. Along with the gnomes, they attempted to hold off the remnants of the Sandal army who were again moving north looking for easy villages to sack.
In October, the campaign season concluded with the Battle of Hagglethorn Forest, where an army of elves defeated the orcs and goblins, helping the greenskins slide into revolution. In the south, the gnomes and eagles posed enough of a threat that both Sandal and the Tomb Kingdom retreated to fight another day.
In the end, the Orc Nation lay destroyed. It's leader overthrown and the orc warbands in disarray. The orcish castle at Broken Wood lay in ruins. The once-proud capital of the Orc Nation at Dourmoor is in shambles. In addition, the dwarves have started construction of their own strongholds at Stonefist and the Pass of Lar. It will be years before the warbands of the orcs will be powerful enough to challenge the Reaches.
In the south, however, the human Crossgate Castle and Lechlade Keep are in need of significant repairs. Teufeldorf Castle, destroyed by Grim during the Hastur Rebellions, is still in ruins. Dragonsford Castle, likewise, is in need of extensive repairs from the damage done by Atli the White and his brother Harek the Red. It is here, in the Southern Reaches, that the war will inevitably turn. But for now, the Reaches is at peace.