The Rise of Ngozi (Part Three)
- It is sometimes said that all of history is graven in the walls of the Well of Souls: past, present and future. While I give it little credence myself, it is not difficult to imagine a correlation between this supposed knowledge and the behavior of the Gargoyles over the next few years. From their solitary posts across the land, the Silent Ones began their slow migration home to their citadels, the Well of Souls and the Star Chamber. History would not find them ill prepared to defend these bulwarks when the time came.
- It was a scant few years before Ngozi's actions began to hint at her future greatness. At the age of eleven, the Toebleeds, consisting of a couple hundred Imps sent north to round up slaves and lunchmeat for their masters in Volgaria, ambushed her clan. Showing a presence of mind that was to become her trademark in future battles, Ngozi forged a plan to free her people. Feigning terror to give her story credibility, Ngozi offered the Imp leader directions that would give him the quickest route back to Volgaria in exchange for her life.
- Knowing that the Imps would never honor their end of such a bargain, Ngozi had directed them towards a large band of Human mercenaries that she'd heard rumored to be returning to the Badlands from an extended campaign against the Misfits around Omistad. After two sleepless nights being driven forward by cruel Imp lashes, Ngozi remained alert enough to smell the campfires of the mercenary band while they were still miles away. It was her shouted warning just outside the perimeter of their campfires that gave the Humans the few moments they needed to ready themselves for the fight. Within a few minutes of vicious nightfighting, the Imps were exterminated. Two met their deaths at Ngozi's own bound hands, one strangled with his whip and the other beaten to death with a rock. Who knows how many she would have killed if her hands were free?
- Ngozi remained with the mercenary band for four years, tempering the steely edge of her skills as a warrior. Finding herself pregnant with the captian's child, Ngozi became concerned that personal attachments might compromise her skills. She left the band and struck out north in search of the Farouki clan of Acheron, known far and wide for their martial prowess. In awe of her battle scars and skill with the short sword, Fahdoun, Weapons Master of the Farouki took her into his household. He added his knowledge of tactics to her own individual skills, and became all but father to her infant son Ozande.
- With a group of Farouki legionnaires, Ngozi's clan embarked on a series of expeditions against the Misfit bands that roved the foothills west of Acheron. After coming across a hunting party led by Fingle, the legion's commander became lost. Weeks of indecision cost him the loyalty of his troops, and seeing the iron hot Ngozi struck. Assuming command of the legion, Ngozi led them on an forced march across Misfit territory and around the Claw Lakes that returned them to the Badlands early the following year. It was this display of leadership that earned her the title of Warlord at the age of eighteen.
Against the Silent Ones
- Somewhere along the way Ngozi had come across a copy of Volume 11 of the infamous A Brief Study of the Politics of Dwarven Succession in Refutation of Hana'udhi's Parastatic Dominance Tensors. Subtitled On the Role of Gargoyles in Geographic Determinism, the work told how the various regions of Grehen were allotted to their inhabitants when the Gargoyles sealed the Pact of Mystery, each according to lifespan. Since Humans only lived 50 or so years, it said, they were relegated to the Badlands, where at least the short-lived creatures would not suffer long. With her heart inflamed with hatred for the callous judgement of the Silent Ones, Ngozi spent the next several years gathering and drilling her army in preparation for their extinction.
- Three years later, with her army gathered around her, she set off for Acheron, which she planned to use as a staging area for her upcoming campaign. Upon her arrival she found Auberol's troops attempting to drive her people out of the fertile plains around Arboria and back into the Badlands. Enraged by the persecution of the Humans, she attacked the Elven city of Thurmagol, and within four days had razed it. The devastation was so swift and unexpected that when Aruberol found Ngozi's army at his own gates, he was forced to cede Acheron to the Humans permanently.
- Fahdoun, wounded in the fighting at Thurmagol, remained at the Seelie Court with Ozande where he recovered from his wounds. Ozande's training in swordplay continued there under his guidance, and was complimented by the training in archery he received from the Elves.
- Over the next seven years, Ngozi besieged the five Gargoyle citadels she was destined to take in her campaign against the Silent Ones. During that time her ranks were swelled by the hundreds of Human Justicars who broke their bonds of servitude and abandoned their vows as Minions of Order. It was during the long winter months of these sieges that she authored her now-famous opus, The Book of War.
- The casualties of this war covered the lands beyond the Hero's Gate, a mountain pass named to honor those countless soldiers sent into the lands of Justice who never returned. Bes-Kandra assigned the important Gleaning duties to a young embalmer named Khobai, who was charged with the proper burial of the countless dead. It was Khobai's tireless work that was to gain his Keeper followers the glorious name of the Jackals in recognition of their accomplishments. Following Ngozi's army and taking the casualties under the Keeper Code, they are considered responsible for the proper burial of more corpses than any other Gleaners in recorded history.
- Following the fall of the five Citadels, Ngozi led her massive army against the assembled might of the Star Chamber itself. To tell the full tale of that battle would take a book unto itself. Suffice it to say that after a terrible struggle outside the very gates of the Chamber, the overwhelming numbers of the Gargoyle army were able to hold off and eventually overcome the Human assailants. Concentrating their forces here since the comet had announced Ngozi's birth, the Silent Ones were too well prepared for War's Daughter to dislodge them from their fortifications. The Home of Mystery was safeguarded, and Ngozi was driven from the battlefield for the first time in her short life.
- Retreating to the southeast, Ngozi determined to make a stand at the fortified town of Groven's Weald in the northern reaches of Arboria. As she arrived, her vanguard stumbled across Khobai and his Jackals, sparking off one of the most complicated battles we have record of to this day.
- For you see, Ngozi was not the only one to catch sight of the Keeper horde. Lord Auberol accompanied by his Host had also come across the Keepers while hunting the white deer through the northern reaches of his realm. Alarmed at the possibility of yet another incursion into his forest by the dog-headed minions of Death, he immediately raised his army and set upon their flank. The Jackals found their sacred duties interrupted and were not long in exchanging their stonecutters tools for those of warmaking.
- By the time the main body of Ngozi's followers reached Groven's Weald, the Elves and Keepers were already in the field. Finding herself caught between the battle ahead of her and the implacable Gargoyle forces pursuing her across the foothills, she gathered her troops within the scant protection offered by the town itself. When the Speechless Ones arrived upon the scene, the chaos was complete.
- I will refer my reader to the excellent accounts of one Ragnor Vela for the specifics of the Siege of Groven's Weald. Renowned for his bravery in the face of overwhelming odds, he is recognized as one of Ngozi's most capable commanders, and his retelling of the conflict is one of the finest. For a Human, he shows remarkable perspective throughout his memoirs, and in this battle he proves himself to be a particularly gifted storyteller.
- When the soldiers of the Star Chamber arrayed themselves before Ngozi's impromptu fortifications, many in her legions who so recently betrayed their vows as Justicars suddenly recalled them, and, compounding betrayal upon betrayal, left their positions and rejoined their stony masters. Faced with the anihilation of her army, Ngozi approached Khobai and the two of them worked out a truce that would allow them both to save the lives of their loyal followers. While the black wicker chariots of Death harassed the Gargoyles flanks, jumping in an out like a pack of dogs worrying a bear to death, Ngozi formed up her ranks inside the town. With Groven's Weald in flames around her, she made expert use of the distraction and made directly west, using her shieldsmen in a tourtoise-like formation to smash through the Elven lines at their thinnest point.
- The Elven arrows found no purchase on the interlinked shields of her legions, and she opened a hole in their lines nearly half a mile wide. Many an inexperienced Elf met his end trying to go toe to toe with Ngozi's hardened veterans that day. Seeing his salvation, Khobai rallied his charioteers and they shot through the gap in the Elven lines before Auberol could bring up reinforcements to stop them. Using the Jackals as outrunners for her main battlegroup, Ngozi methodically burned a scar across Arboria from Groven's Weald to Acheron. Assisted by a mysterious electrical storm that roared up out of previously clear skies, Ngozi and Khobai made good their escape.
- In Acheron, legends hint that Ngozi gave birth to a daughter at this time, who was sent to the Farouki to be raised. While history has lost track of the daughter herself, Jan Palczred, a Human mercenary of some renown in later years, is said to have been the daughter's son. Following the birth, Ngozi returned to the Badlands with the tattered remnants of her army. I fear that soon the flames of war will engulf us again.
~ Borethu, Dwarven historian, envoy to the court of Auberol
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