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Denagoth (Kingdom of)

Location: Southwestern reaches of Norwold, just west of the Heldannic Territories. It is also just north of Wendar, a nation of the Old World.
Area: 125,000 sq. mi. (281,250 km2)
Population: 280,000, roughly 25% human and 75% goblinoid; estimated demihuman (elf) population 500.
Languages: Denagothian, Orcish, Gnoll, Goblin, Heldannic, Elvish (Geffronell dialect).
Coinage: Gold (gp), Silver (sp); barter common.
Taxes: 30% income tax, collected yearly.
Government Type: Dictatorship in which the ruler calls himself King.
Industries: Hunting, Raiding, Mining, Agriculture (grows barely enough for its own use)
Important Figures: Landryn Teriak, the Shadowlord (vassalich, male, M14).
Flora and Fauna: The area known as Denagoth comprises one great oak forest to the east that dates back to the old Blackmoor era and another forested region to the west mostly made of dead trees. Throughout the whole region the terrain is rocky and difficult to cultivate, if not impossible.

The Avien Plains, in the central southern part of Denagoth, is the only area where the soil is somewhat able to produce crops and where cattle can be tended without particular problems. The northern zone is basically a rocky waste that gives way to swamps and to the frozen tundra at the highest latitudes. The animals commonly encountered in Denagoth are moose, elks, bears (all species, especially grizzlies), wolves (even dire wolves), wild boars, snakes and mountain lions.

The land is a heaven for goblinoid races, and many tribes of orcs, hobgoblins, goblins, bugbears, gnolls and some ogres live in the foothills and on the highest peaks of the mountains, as well as in the forests.

The Mengul Mountains are home of a vast variety of monstrous species, such as: snow apes, white apes, giant bats, dragons (white), harpies, giant ferrets, sasquatches, and unicorns. Black dragons abound in the swamps and forests of the entire region, unchallenged masters of the draconic race inhabiting Denagoth.
Further Reading: X11 - Saga of the Shadowlord, AC1011 - Poor Wizard's Almanac 2 and AC1012 - Poor Wizard's Almanac 3.

Description: by Christopher Dove

Once a venerable Wendarian elf told me: "Denagoth be the place where Evil abides, for nobody could stand its filth but Cursed Beings". I must say I was eager to see this accursed place with my very eyes, and this is the reason I joined the Elven Army in their Crusade. Now I have seen and I have lived to tell of it, but still in my dreams I am haunted by... by the malign spirit that impregnates this place, I dare say. Denagoth is an ancient land dominated by savage folks which have nothing in common with us humans.

Denagoth is a land where only the fiercest can survive, where every day you've lived on you know it's a day wrestled away from death's grasp. I strongly believe Denagoth is a land of fiends and monsters, and no matter what the elves will do to conquer and to claim it as their own, they will never tame the beastly soul of this region.

In this report to the Almanac I will only detail the south-western part of Denagoth, that is the only region so far explored by the Elven Army. If things go well as planned, I will be able to see the western part next year, and maybe then I'll send my next account (if I'm lucky enough to be still alive). There is however the possibility I go with a secret expedition to the northern uncharted lands for a very important mission, because they seem to require someone who is experienced with ancient history and dead languages. Either way, dear readers, you will have to wait until next year for the rest of my report about Denagoth and its inhabitants.

The Land

North of Wendar and beyond the Mengul Mountains lies a huge plateau about 7,000 feet (2,000-2,500 meters) high. On the top of this plateau sits most of the land commonly referred as Denagoth, which nowadays someone has begun calling "Kingdom". At the feet of this imposing plateau, just past the Mengul Range and the Naga river, lies a small village named Geron, which is technically part of the Kingdom of Denagoth... or better to say "it was" until the Elven Crusaders conquered it in the recent war waged against the Shadowlord, rumoured to rule over all of Denagoth. The Naga river, a rather narrow but dangerous and insidious river that flows down the Mengul Mountains into Heldann, is the natural border between Wendar and Denagoth. The only two known ways of crossing it are the rope bridge that lies about 10 miles north of the main trail, and the Geron Bridge, a wooden bridge at the end of the major trail that leads directly to Geron and that used to be heavily patrolled by Denagothian pikemen.

Geron itself is a rather small village inhabited by humans only, the kind of stock you can find only in Denagoth. Tall, muscular and hairy people with rather dark complexion with the love for war and hunt: this is the portrait of the common Denagothian human male (and female), and he doesn't seem so much different from the humanoids that live above the plateau. Before the war Geron counted about 150-200 souls, along with a standing Denagothian contingent of 100 pikemen (all humans). Now they've been reduced to only 50 people, mostly teenagers and women, while the soldiers have all been killed.

Another feature of this village was the Temple of Idris, a small building dedicated to the worship of this ancient and obscure deity which seems to be at the centre of every Denagothian community. After the siege of Geron, the temple was burned down by the elves and its priests left inside to suffer the same fate (Author's note: the elves almost seemed to enjoy the sight of those humans screaming in pain while burning alive. This was the first of many atrocities I had to witness in this war from both parts, and this has led me to draw some conclusions on Denagoth I will expose fully at the end of this chapter).

Once you leave Geron, you have to face the climb to the top of the plateau, which means about one or two days marching on steep trails, exposed to chilling winds, landslides (or avalanches, depending on the period of the year) and fierce predators both terrestrial and aerial. Once arrived at the top of the plateau, the traveller finds himself in a cold grassland bordered to the east by a marvellous thick green forest of oaks, whereas another forest can be seen (in the days of clear weather) far ahead to the north.

The Elven Army chose to explore the eastern forest, called Great Forest of Geffron, because this was the place where the previous expedition was being held prisoner along with some native elves. The Great Forest of Geffron is a breathtaking place, especially if you love nature in all its wild beauty. It is doubtless the most ancient forest I've ever seen or heard of, and I've myself seen many Alfheimers sigh of astonishment and of joy while they began exploring its trees and paths. The oaks are so high that even the elves were afraid of climbing up to the top branches to take a look of the surrounding area, so that many times the sergeants of each squadron had to threaten the lookouts to make them accomplish their duty. Yet, the stunning beauty of the place is somehow dulled by the constant threat posed by the humanoids and the monsters dwelling here. The animals living inside Geffron must have been seriously reduced in number by these monsters, for we have encountered very few of them, and the elves have also reported no sign of fairy folk presence inside the woods, which is quite alarming in such a sylvan environment. Along the common pathways found inside the forest, remains of burned down elven villages can be found, with dozen skeletons still dotting the grass in most cases. These are, according to the elves of the first expedition, what remains of the Geffronell elves who lived in the forest, exterminated some decades ago by the forces of the Shadowlord who now rule over this region.

As a final note about Denagoth, I have a consideration to make that arose from my observation of the facts occurring in this war. I know that every war is a sad and dramatic event that can often transform soldiers into cold killers, but this consideration doesn't help to explain the mutation I'm witnessing in the elves engaged in this conflict. They are not fighting for their homeland, nor for their close relatives and they have no past grudge against the Denagothians, save the common hatred of elves towards goblinoids. And yet they have many times showed such a contempt and a fury towards both human and humanoids that have led them performing inhuman deeds. The burning of the Idris Temple in Geron was a good thing, but the way they assassinated the priests (by letting them burn inside it) was a sadistic act the elves normally would have condemned. Also, the ruthless slaughtering of villages of goblinoids has been a common practice since our entry into the Geffron Forest, and when I say slaughtering I don't mean killing of goblinoid warriors, but mass murder of females (even pregnant ones), elders and whelps. Sure, I know they could have posed a problem later on, but something still mystifies me about this whole thing. The elves are somehow becoming more feral and much more similar to the goblinoids they fight, and I suspect this has something to do with this land. Denagoth is a cursed land in the very sense of the term, and whoever walks on this soil seems bound to become prey of his darker instincts. I don't know what or who bestowed this curse upon Denagoth, but I suspect the Shadowlord is somehow connected to it.

Whichever the truth, the evil that permeates this place has a nasty effect on those who live here, enhancing their chaotic and beastly nature: I only hope for the elves' sake they manage to win this war before they are turned into the same enemy they're trying to defeat.

The People

As I've previously said, the Denagothian human people are not really that much different from the goblinoids they live alongside. They are much stronger, tougher and more resistant to the harsh climate than the common northmen (such as the inhabitants of Norwold or the Northern Reaches), yet their complexion is strangely darker, more similar to the Thyatian stock than to the classic northmen. Also a strange fire seem to burn in their eyes, a light that sometimes makes them look very similar to hairy humanoid brutes: I suspect they actually accept the beast that dwells within them, instead of trying to dominate it like civilised people do. All considered, the Denagothians are a proud and fierce folk, much like the Heldanners to the east, but they somehow retain some physical and above all behavioural traits that always stress the link they still share with the animals... or even with the goblinoids. They live for the hunt, and the war, being the greatest of hunts, is highly regarded. But I can sense they also have a deep love for peace, which for some mysterious reasons they have been taught to hide away. I suspect the Idris Church of Denagoth is responsible for this...

And of course there are the goblinoids of Denagoth, who along with the humans share the status of "citizens" of this brutal kingdom. Orcs are the most common species, followed by goblins, hobgoblins, gnolls and bugbears (so far the races we've met during our exploration/conquest of the Denagothian plateau). However, these creatures seem much more proud and intelligent than the common goblinoid found in the Broken Lands, even though I must admit that the recent events in Glantri have aroused many doubts regarding my factual knowledge of the humanoid race. Anyway, all the goblinoids the elves have captured and interrogated after each battle were surprisingly stubborn and even heroic, refusing to give away but the smallest detail on their strategy or tactical disposition. Whether they did it because they didn't know anything or because they didn't want to betray their comrades I don't know. The only thing I can say for sure is that they didn't seem to be afraid of the elves nor of their torture methods (and I can testify they are some of the most unpleasant I've ever witnessed). I can only hypothesise that they were probably afraid of upsetting a far more dangerous power had they confessed what they knew: probably their leader, the Shadowlord, or maybe the goddess Idris... These humanoids make up most of the Shadow Army, as they call it, and many actually hold high positions in its ranks, and this only reinforces my idea that the goblinoids living here are far more intelligent and strong willed (and thus more dangerous) than their southern "cousins." It seems like they have been somehow instructed and trained by their master, for their tactics are really well planned and extremely deadly. I suppose we shall learn more about them only by going far deeper into their territory, either to the west or north, where it is said their cities lie.

Finally, talking about the inhabitants of Denagoth I cannot avoid to mention the Geffronell elves who still live here. They are the only survivors to the complete extermination of a whole race ordered by the Shadowlord and happily carried on by his minions. According to the tales of the few survivors we found in the keep of Drax Tallen, there are currently in Denagoth no more than 500 elves, whereas about 200 years ago they numbered about 100 000, counting also the elves of the now dead Lothenar Forest to the west. This thoroughly planned massacre left a deep scar on the survivors, and I think that not even a whole elven lifespan will help to heal it. These elves are now only ghosts, faint shadows of their former selves who don't seem to have anything more to live for. The Alfheimers and the Genalleth elves have many times offered them help and a new place where to take refuge, but they stubbornly refuse to leave their forest and insist on being let alone to mourn for their dead and their tragic fate. Sometimes I pass by one of them in the halls of Drax Tallen without even noticing his presence, like a shadow of a long forgotten past. Yet I can see the fire of rage and the need for vengeance burning inside of them, but the question is if this fire will be strong enough to heat their now frozen-to-death heart.

Recent History

It seems that in the recent years the Shadowlord army has been training for this war, as if it expected it. Surprisingly enough, the recent history of the region is a peaceful one. The folk living here is resigned to live under the Shadowlord's tight grip and so there have been only a handful of rebellions led by human Denagothian leaders against him, all crushed in a matter of days by something called the Special Security Squadrons (a sort of secret army of spies). The oldest history is still a mystery, and an intriguing one, which I am resolute to unlock in the following months.

Don't Miss

There is one place in the Great Forest of Geffron that really deserves a visit, and this is Enoreth Shrine. I don't know much about its history because the Geffronells are very reserved and currently distrust humans (who could blame them for this after what the Denagothians did them?), but it seems this is the burying place of some very important elven sage of the remote past. The whole hill atop where the shrine lies is surrounded by an aura of peace and calmness which is very similar to that found in the temples of Koryis in Darokin. Whoever enters there is suddenly becalmed and strangely begins to experience reminiscences of his past, remembrances that bring him happiness and satisfaction, washing off anger and fear. It is a veritable place of inspiration for everyone, and some Geffronells told me that the most beautiful elven works of art have been accomplished while their authors lived near this shrine. I can say for myself that only during the time we spent up there I was able to forget that I was accompanying an army into the enemy territory filled with malevolent beings. The Enoreth Shrine must be preserved at all costs, for it is the only area of the forest that still retains the feelings that once the whole forest could inspire in its inhabitants.

Another rather interesting and mystic place to be found inside the Great Forest of Geffron is Sylarkh's Rest, also known as the Dragon's Tomb. About a mile eastward of Drax Tallen there is a huge mound that constantly radiates a golden aura: this is believed to be the tomb of Sylarkh, one of the two gold dragons that accompanied a hero of the past called Henadin. The elves speak highly of this Henadin, giving him a big role in the fall of the Essurian Kingdom that occurred about two hundred years ago. According to their legend, Henadin led a group of tribes from the north to conquer Essuria, and at the end of the war he laid siege to Drax Tallen and defeated the last of the Essurian Kings, Landryn Teriak. During the final battle one of the two gold dragons who accompanied him, Sylarkh, was slain by Landryn, and after avenging her death, he built the mound to hold the mortal remains of the wyrm. That was the last time Henadin was ever seen in Essuria and in the whole Denagoth, as he vanished from the battlefield together with his other dragon companion. But this is not the end of the story. Some elven sages speculate that Sylarkh was none other than the daughter of Henadin and that the other gold dragon was his mother and Henadin's wife. Many Geffronells also affirm that every year the ghost of Henadin visits the tomb where he can be seen playing around with a small blonde haired child: Sylarkh in her human form. The place radiates indeed an atmosphere of grief and loneliness, but it can also be immensely cosy and warm, especially during the long winter nights. The temperature around the mound is always the same (about 15 C), and even the wind and the weather seem to be particularly mild in that point of the forest. Many elves and myself experienced strange dreams while resting near the mound, but none of them were at all frightening. On the contrary, they seemed to be some kind of omens, predictions of future events that would have befallen the dreaming person. They obviously need to be interpreted, but many can be surprisingly clear, I assure you. A place to go if you need advice from Destiny or from the Immortals (for those who believe in them).

Do Miss

Two things to miss if you'll ever venture in the Great Forest of Geffron: Drax Tallen and Aeleris Pits.

I've made many references to Drax Tallen throughout this report, but this is the first time I have the opportunity to describe it properly and I have only one word for it: oppressing. Drax Tallen is a huge keep built atop the remains of an ancient city, as I've had the chance to verify. It was the headquarters of the Shadow Army stationed in the Great Forest of Geffron, and it probably hosted more than 2000 soldiers before the elves' overtook it. However, when the Elven Army finally broke in, no more than two dozen goblinoids were found inside its walls: the body of the Shadow Army had apparently vanished without any logic explanation. After a long search of the keep, some elven scouts discovered a vast network of tunnels in the citadel dungeons: the elves had finally found the explanation for the sudden disappearance of the enemies. Drax Tallen is made up of four main buildings: the Armoury, the Guards' Tower, the so called House of the Kings and Drax Tallen itself, a round imposing keep. A huge catacomb complex links the four aforementioned buildings and nasty creatures patrol it, especially undead that the elves are planning to dispose of. The overall atmosphere you get when inside Drax Tallen is of a filthy and oppressing building, built only to remind those who live there or who look at it that they are living only because some higher being allows it. One almost feels enslaved while walking among those once magnificent halls, and I myself have sometimes looked behind my back with the strange eerie feeling that somebody or something was following me... or was about to touch me. I think this is a haunted place that the elves will be better to destroy after the winter has passed, in order to avoid strange incidents or diseases befall their troops.

And the Aeleris Pits are not that different from Drax Tallen, only more dangerous. While I am not completely sure that Drax Tallen is inhabited by evil spirits, I know for a fact that the Pits teem with undead monsters. The area is named after the first unlucky scout who found them, and it is basically a huge unholy graveyard. The whole area is dotted with open graves, and at the very heart of this big patch of trees lies a grim gap where the legend says the Shadowlord threw all the corpses of the elves he used as guinea pigs for his experiments or for torture. It seems that he cast on them a curse which prevented all those poor souls to achieve true death only because he wanted to torment them also in the afterlife. Now this part of the forest near the southern border is teeming with undead entities who roam the woods looking for eternal rest. Some of them are harmless, but most of them have been driven insane by the years of undeath and are nothing more than scavenging monsters whose only purpose is now to suck life out of the living people. Some elves speculate that there must be an evil mastermind that controls all of these undead, but the truth has yet to be discovered (and the Alfheimers don't seem that eager to learn it).