News travels slowly across the Barrens, and when word finally reached the West that a furious war was being waged between the Eastern empires and several invading orc armies, the fighting had been steadily escalating for nearly three years. The exact origin of these invading armies is disputed among Western scholars, but most sources from the East seem to point towards somewhere beyond the northeastern Belemar Mountain Range. Some accounts claim the orcs rose up like hell spawn out of the ground near these mountains, with entire field armies emerging without warning from hidden cave systems to do battle. The learned men in the Western Conclave of Wizards have dismissed these claims as typical Eastern superstition.
One by one, the great empires of the East crumbled into dust. Within a matter of a few decades, these ancient nations, some of whom had stood for millennia, were reduced to nothing but ashes. Refugees fleeing to the West brought with them horrible stories of orc cruelty, but still the Western kingdoms did nothing.
Finally the orcs laid siege to the great city of Kheld, largest in the East and capital of the Provesthalan Empire. Kheld had been the cultural and economic center of the East for as long as anyone could remember, and if there was a single city in the world that could lay claim to being the spiritual capital of the entire race of men, Kheld was it. Soon Kheld's magnificent golden towers were being bombarded into rubble by orcish siege engines. Then, when it looked as though the city could hold out no longer, it vanished.
Few humans outside of Kheld witnessed the event, but those that did speak of a great blue flash. Where the city had once been there was now nothing but a huge, gaping crater.
Most agreed that the city's disappearance must have been the result of some incredibly powerful arcane ritual. There had been no recorded instances of the orcs wielding the powers of magic, but there had been rumors of mysterious orcish battlemages and whispers of a secret alliance between them and the Hexmasters, an ancient Eastern cult known to dabble in the darker sides of the arcane. Kheld had also been the seat of the Eastern branch of the Conclave of Wizards, and some argued that the mages themselves made the city vanish in a final, desperate attempt to save it from destruction.
Regardless of the cause, the loss of Kheld signaled the end of any significant human resistance in the East. Only now the Western kingdoms felt compelled to act.
The League is Born
The small, insignificant hamlet of Innendale is noteworthy only for its geographic location near the center of the Western lands. This strategic position between the borders of several larger kingdoms has made it serve as a neutral meeting ground many times in the past, and now was no different. The poor peasants watched in silence from their fields as a seemingly endless stream of luxurious carriages escorted by knights and squires rolled into their small town. Kings, dukes, barons and lords from all across the West convened in what was to be dubbed the First Council of Innendale. For five days and five nights they debated what was to be done about the carnage taking place in the East. There were those who favored doing nothing for fear of provoking the orcs, but in the end an unprecedented covenant was agreed upon. Every nation, from the largest kingdom to the smallest barony, would contribute to a united army. The League of Innendale was born. This army was to be placed under the command of Lord Visinbale, one of the most experienced generals in the West. His charge was no less than the complete expulsion of every single orc from the Eastern lands and the reinstatement of the fallen human empires. Even now, Eastern titles were bestowed on many of the nobles in anticipation of future conquests and there were those, including Lord Visinbale, who secretly dreamed of being crowned as a new Eastern emperor. The crusader army was assembled with great speed as an enthusiastic fervor gripped the West. Many volunteered, some out of hatred of the orcs, others out of genuine compassion for the plight of the peoples of the East, and others still for a chance to liberate some of the precious Eastern silver from the filthy hands of the infidel orc. Battle on the Plains of Ossana The march across the desolate lands of the Great Barrens went slowly, but finally, after three weeks, the crusaders' advanced scouts reached the outskirts of the former territories of the Provesthalan Empire. The decimated remains of a few imperial regiments joined the crusaders and guided them towards the main body of the orcish horde. Battle was joined on the legendary Plains of Ossana, not far from the very spot where an Eastern deity allegedly compelled the Great Azurian to found the First Empire. The exact nature of the battle is still largely unknown, since there were few survivors and many conflicting reports. Lord Visinbale maintains that the brave crusaders were overwhelmed only after cutting down four times as many orcs as their own number. Other accounts claim the crusaders were outmaneuvered by an orcish army roughly equal in size. That the battle was a devastating human defeat is beyond dispute. More to come...