The Burning
(As told by Panther)

    Most of you probably don’t know that the Southern Wastes were once called The Southern Wood, because before it was a barren and desolate wasteland, it was a beautiful lush forest, inhabited, cultivated, and cared for by Ka-heesis Elves. The lifespan of elves is equal to that of the oldest trees and thus they were able to construct wonderous cites by guiding the growth of the trees to create structures. These Living Cites, as they were called, were the hallmark of the forest, and the pride of the Ka-heesis. As their society’s need for expansion grew, so too did the cities, for they were forever growing.

    Eventually, the races of men migrated into the forest, first from the north, and then from the west. The men did not have the luxury of long life and time to devote to constructing cities in the ways of the Ka-heesis. Instead, they cut and cleared land, and built structures of stone and dead wood. Though the elves were disgusted by the practices of men, they did recognize the respect men had for the forest. Men respected the forest that housed their cities and provided them with all they needed to survive. The forest allowed them to cultivated gardens and orchards, and developed farms. The forest provided them with game to hunt, food for livestock, and materials for building.

    Elves did not see men as a threat to the forest or elven lifestyle, but despite the common respect they shared for the forest, the Ka-heesis refused to associated with men. Elves thought the men had nothing to offer them, so they decided there was no need for any contact between them. They confined themselves to their own part of the forest and let the men to themselves.

    Over time, the populations of men spread and threatened to encroach on the elven lands. Tension arose between the races, soon scirmishes broke out over space, and finally full-fledged war was declared. The first of the Wood Wars was underway and it lasted many years, with both races battling for control of the forest.

    It was during this the first Wood War that an event occurred that would change the course of history for the Southern Wood. If the war had been won, by man or elf, little would have changed for the forest. But a third party entered the war. From the south, across the Darion Sea, came another race. A race of the most disgusting odious little creatures that the land ever suffered to have walk upon her migrated to the southern shores of the wood. They came by the boatloads, and multiplied almost as fast as they traveled.

    The Southern Goblins had arrived.

    It wasn’t long before the forest was infested with them, and the forest could not support their numbers. They led a parasitic lifestyle, which threatened to bleed the life out of the forest. In addition, they were a conniving deceitful race, intelligent in the art of trickery and intent on filching and pilfering for their livelyhood. The forest and its denizens will forever rue the day the Southern Goblins arrived.

    The goblins involved themselves on both sides of the war they found in their new homeland. Their purpose was to reap whatever profit they could from either side, as well as emerge on the side of the winner, whoever that might be. The Ka-heesis and the men underestimated these goblins. They assumed these goblins were as dumb as the ones up north, and thus useful for cheap labor and servants. The goblins expected this and used it to their advantage, playing dumb to avoid any susspision.

    They made a good living stealing whatever they could get away with. The ones allied with the elves volunteered to make risky trips from city to city delivering money and supplies. Often they returned empty-handed claiming the armies of men intercepted them. The goblins allied with the men did the same, blaming it on elves. They even sold information back and forth between the men and elves, making the plans of each army available to the other.

    The actions of the goblins fueled the war for years. Goblin kind had used the other races to further their own, and while they grew in numbers and wealth, the forest showed signs of weakness.

    Both men and elves eventually noticed how they had been deceived. The noticed how things placed in goblin hands tended to disappear, goblins seemed to have all the right information for the right price, and new goblin cities kept cropping up. The warring nations took action, killing as many goblin criminals as they could round up within their respective societies, and then they merely went on with their war, ignoring the goblins, having thought they punished them enough. But the damage was already done.

    The elves noticed first, and not long after the men too. The forest provided less and less sustenance. The addition of the goblins to the society of the wood was beginning to show in the form of less game and less clean water. The woods, as well, were becoming thinner as trees and brush were harvested for building and burning. The presence of goblins could no longer be ignored, not if men and elves hope to survive and have anything left of the forest for which they fought.

    It became clear to them that they must put aside their own differences and deal with this common threat together. This decision was not made by any high councils, nor was it forced on soldiers by their superiors. In fact, this decision was made with no communication or conviegning between man or elf, save the front line soldiers on both sides who found themselves fighting goblins when they should have been fighting each other. This unspoken agreement spread and soon men and elves fought side by side to rid the forest of goblin infestation that threatened their lifestyle.

    Together they decimated the goblin forces and destroyed the goblin cities. Our history refers to this period as The Great Goblin Slaughter. The few goblins that did survive, sought refuge in underground caves, only to be sealed in by their attackers. So impressed were the men with their silent alliance, they chose to rekindle the peace between them.

    With Peace between the men and elves, generation after generation passed retaining increasingly less memory of goblins. Stories of goblins became legend and myth, and the oldest elf could not be credited with having seen a goblin. But peace between the two races smoldered and died. Old issues left unresolved festered underneath the guise of peace, as a hidden danger festered underneath the ground. Inevitably, The Second Wood War broke out.

    It was at this moment that the forgotten goblins saw their opportunity. As the generations passed since their incarceration, they mined and tunneled in those caves, building armies and underground cities, and establishing a network of caverns that spanned the entire Southern Wood! They had gained access to the surface early in their imprisonment, but chose to keep it secret, coming out only when nesesary and remaining unobserved. They watched the surface society for ages, knowing there would come a time when they could retake their holdings.

    The ancient ancestors of this underground goblin race were once an intricate part of the war above and they would not let their decendents forgot what happened to them. They kept alive the stories of hatred that existed between the surface races, knowing some day they would return to the war. When that happened, they would have their revenge. It became the driving force in their adjustment and survival to life underground. "Wait for the day we return to the surface," they said to each other as they struggled in those early years. Generations passed and goblin society evolved from a struggling one to a thriving one where parents told their children to "wait till Surface Day," and "Surface Day will come."

    Surface Day came when they saw that the surface races were deeply entrenched in conflict and fully committed to war. Each had already lost large forces in battle, and the goblins saw the advantages clearly. Having embraced this course of action generations ago, they prepared for their mission by developing the caverns with access points outside every major city and stronghold in the wood. This proved to be their greatest advantage, (Those of you who quested into the "Caverns of Darkness" at "Dark Vision II" routing out the death cultists have first-hand experience with these caverns).

    At first, the men and elves fought each other as well as the goblins, but the goblins had grown more numerous in their time underground than they ever were before. The Caverns made it impossible to track the movements of the goblins. They could strike from some underground location near a city which would have no forewarning of their attack, then they would retreat back into the Caverns only to pop up some where else at a latter date. No one would follow the goblins underground after the first few armies failed to return. There was no way for men or elves to take an offensive position or know where the next strike would occur, no way of knowing what strongholds to fortify and no time to send reinforcements.

    The answer became obvious early after the goblins became involved in the Second Wood War. The elves and men would again need to join forces if they hoped to survive. At first, no one would admit this was true, being too proud to admit to their enemy that they were having problems with goblins. It took years for them to admit that their respective populations were slowly being depleted. What effects the goblins experienced, no one knew. There was no way to tell how many of them there were or if the war affected them at all.

    This time it took many councils and diplomats to determine a course of action. There had been many silent years between men and elves, which made any attempts at communication fragile and precarious. The wrong words could send either race running back to their homes in anger. Such action would most likely result in a victory for the goblins, and extinction for the other two. This dark fact allowed them to overlook the many indescretions and insinuations that hatred brings into peaceful conveignings. And they agreed they needed to defend not only themselves, but the wood itself. Once the wood was saved from goblin infestation, then they could dispute control of it, but their would be no point if they fought to control a forest doomed by the presence of goblins.

    They knew that merely going after them underground wouldn’t be very effective. They would be at a sore disadvantage. It might have been a good choice if they could get accurate information on the territory in the Caverns, but any spy sent in would be easily noticed in a goblin society. Instead, the elves, gifted with Dark Vision, took up the challenge of sending all their forces underground to push the goblins out, while the men waited at various exits, ready to ambush the goblins as the came out.

    The plan worked, but at a serious cost to the elves. What came to be known as The Second Great Goblin Slaughter is also unremembered by most as The Elven Elimination. Most of the even race was lost in the battles underground. They did not know the territory as well as there foe, and it was through skill alone that they were able to push the goblins at all. The few elven societies remaining in the Wastes today mourn that period while men celebrate it.

    The goblins were driven out into the waiting armies of the men. Forced to fight on two fronts, and hopelessly outsmarted, they fell to disorganization brought on by the realization of their situation. Desperate for a course of action, and in a last ditch effort, the goblins did an unspeakable act, an attrocity that broke the spirits of men and the hearts of elves for generations to come—

    They set fire to the wood!

    The very thing each group fought to control now burned before their eyes! The fire spread rapidly in all directions. The armies of me and goblins broke and ran for cover.

    Most elves never lived to see the sun again, but those who did emerge from the darkness counted the dead as the lucky ones. They did not have to face the horror of what was, where a forest once stood.

    The fire took the forest and left a barren charred wasteland in its place. All that remained of its former glory were a few sporatic patches of woods that were spared by the flame. The remaining elves retreated into these woods and secured themselves within. All their Living Cities had been destroyed but one, the Freewood, which was located in the largest of the remaining patches of wood. Their only concern lies not with goblins or men, but rather, in vain attempts to rebuild the forest and their race. Unfortunately, both are doomed to extinction.

    The men constructed new cities, but the loss of the forest meant the loss of game, crop, and livestock. With food being so sparse many picked up and left looking for better living conditions. Only the resilent stayed, and those with no where else to go.

    The goblins, having massive numbers in their favor, gained control of most of the wastes, and though the leaders of men and goblin have arranged a truce, it matters little in the open wastes. Most men remain holed up in walled cities, elves in their woods, and the goblins in between both above and below ground—each distrusting the others. Those men and elves that venture out into the wastes now are know as Wasterunners. Any Wasterunner might find solace in a tribe of goblins, or hunted by a group of elves. It all depends on their connections. They serve as a link between human cities, elven, woodlands, and the goblin tribes settled all over and under the wastes. The transport goods and maintain contacts. A good Wasterunner tries to befriend everone,a no trust one.

    The Burning occurred many ages, before my birth. But in my time I have seen the falling of the Freewood to the goblins, the rise and fall of Shadowblade and Darkwood, the destruction and rebuilding of Ariland, and the migration of aspis into the Wastes, but these are stories for another time…

All material Copyright of The Southern Wastes