Characters of Cimmeria: Gorwinua


Gorwinua was the finest bard the lands of Cimmeria ever knew and one of the many heroes who fought against draconic tyranny during the Dragon War. During her life she was a shining exemplar of orkish virtues. She organized orc armies, practiced the traditional rituals, and chopped down foes with the best of the orkish warriors. Gorwinua remains a powerful cultural icon for all orcs. Many orc leaders have attempted to emulate her accomplishments hoping to unite their fractured peoples, but none have yet succeeded.

Gorwinua was born to an unknown pair of orcs. The harsh reality of orc life caused their deaths and Gorwinua was raised by her tribe instead of her parents. She hopped from place to place around the tribe, staying with the blacksmith for one day and the weaver another. She learned a little of each person’s role in the tribe and through that she learned the soul of the whole tribe. Gorwinua’s favorite caretaker was the tribe’s storyteller. She learned much from the old crone about how to make people swoon with desire or shake with anger, all just by uttering a word or singing one bar of a song.

After the orcs split from the Conclave it became common for young orc warriors to prove themselves by going into the Shacklack Desert on a “kill quest.” Warriors went into the desert, either in groups or alone, and searched for an opponent to slay that would bring them honor. The more difficult the kill, the greater the honor brought to the quester/s. Additionally, scarce resources in the orcs’ new home and the tyrannical dominion of the dragons required such quests as much for the meat they brought back to the tribe as for the honor a kill brought to the questing warrior.

Gorwinua wanted to go to the desert with the warriors of her tribe, but not as a quester. When Gorwinua came of age she donned the storyteller’s cowl rather than the warrior’s helm. She had memorized all the tales her tribe had to know and she ventured into the desert with her tribemates to witness new tales.

Every expedition Gorwinua went on experienced a great deal of luck. Sandstorms passed them over or shelter was swiftly found. The tracks of beasts and sand giants seemed to stay trapped in the terrain as if the shifting sands were made of mud. Monsters landed only glancing blows against the warriors that Gorwinua traveled with while all her tribemates struck with lethal ferocity. Gorwinua composed her songs during the battles, tying different notes and phrases together as her tribemates fought. Everytime the group returned, Gorwinua sang her tale to those gathered around the tribe’s bonfire and their legend grew.

All of this changed when Gorwinua broke her leg. While climbing a cliff in the Dominarie Mountains, Gorwinua slipped and fell. Her leg broke and her warrior friends were forced to carry her back to their tribe. Once Gorwinua’s leg was set by the village apothecary, the group journeyed out without Gorwinua. They never returned. Others who scouted in the area that the group disappeared came back with reports of an enormous troll, covered in armored spikes and whose mouth dripped blood and gore.

Once Gorwinua recovered she traveled among the different tribes, seeking help in avenging her companions. She sang of her companions’ achievements, comparing them to the ancestral warriors of her tribe and the tribes she visited. No one could doubt their virtue or the virtue of her audience due to their shared ancestry. Through subtle manipulation in her song, Gorwinua planted the seeds of something great. Months later, once she completed her circuit of the orc tribes, dozens of warriors from every orc village and town came to Gorwinua’s village. The troll had desecrated the bodies of honorable warriors such as themselves. The whole orc community would come together to avenge this injustice and Gorwinua would be there to tell the story.

The large collection of warriors and Gorwinua returned to the cliffs in the Dominarie Mountains. They followed the trail of giant bloody footprints to the troll’s lair. There they engaged it in battle. None of the warriors had fought such a fearsome foe before. The great monster roared and each man and woman set to quaking in their boots, until Gorwinua’s voice broke through the cacophony of battle. Her melodious chant directed the warriors’ actions as she sang of their ancestors and all who had come before them. Her words put courage in their hearts and strength in their arms. Gorwinua’s magic song made her warriors mighty! The warriors from different tribes and places formed up and fought as one against the troll. Through their combined efforts, the troll was brought down and its flesh eaten after roasting upon a prepared fire. The bones of Gorwinua’s previous companions were recovered and given burials befitting heroes.

Gorwinua told the story to her tribe when she returned, making no attempt whatsoever to downplay her role in the victory. The song spread and soon other groups of warriors heard of Gorwinua’s power. They came to her village, asking her to go with them into the sandy wastes. She went with one band of warriors, and then another, and another, and another. Soon too many bands were asking for her aid for Gorwinua to join them all. She suggested forming all the groups of questing orcs into one large group of warriors. The idea caught fire and soon Gorwinua led a force composed of hundreds of orcs. This massive band slew many foes in the Shacklack desert, bringing great honor to the orc people.

But as they say, “Pride comes before the fall.” Gorwinua’s Band looked suspiciously like an army and the rule of the dragons forbid such armies. Bavastatner the Blue Wyrm cast his gaze across the Shacklack Desert and saw a mob of orcs marching slowly in the direction of one of his children’s caves. Benevolent as he was, Bavastatner came to the leader of this battalion in the night to dissuade her from this course of action. In the form of a small scaled serpent Bavastatner hissed at Gorwinua, “Break off from this quest and disband your army. Your task is folly and will bring ruin upon your people.”

“What would you know of my people and our sufferings?!” Gorwinua replied. “Begone with you! Or we will come to your cave and root you out next.”

Infuriated by Gorwinua’s response, Bavastatner threw off his disguise and revealed himself as the Patriarch of the Desert. Flying into the air he rained electric death on Gorwinua’s band of warriors. Gorwinua sang a silent song that guided the orcs in where to run and hide from the dragon’s wrath. Despite her aid, many orcs died. After the people fled, Bavastatner took the treasures they had collected from their kills and flew back to his cave in the Dominarie Mountains.

Gorwinua gathered her scattered followers and led them back north to their homelands. There, the young bard began organizing. No longer would her band be a group of spirited warriors fighting for their individual tribes. Gorwinua worked to create a true army with officers and tribal leaders unifying action throughout the ranks. The army drilled in secret, ready to scatter at a moment’s notice should a dragon’s scaled wings appear on the horizon. Gorwinua always stayed three steps ahead of the dragon’s servants, training and recruiting for the rebellion against the orcs’ draconic overlords.

When Tentineh came to Gorwinua before the start of the Dragon War, she was poised to strike. With the wizard’s help, she and her army landed the first blow against the dragons, sparking the war that would eventually be their downfall. At the close of the Dragon War, Gorwinua trapped the White Wyrm Tikanile in the White Orb of Dragonkind.

Gorwinua never had children, but she formed many close bonds with orcs in all the tribes. Unfortunately these close bonds spelled doom for orkish unity after Gorwinua’s passing. After she was gone, there was no clear heir for her position of leadership. Many of her friends claimed she had entrusted the orkish hegemony to them. They fought and fought and their ancestors continue to fight today. There have been occasional leaders that unite a few tribes and ravage the civilized lands to the west, but nothing like the days when Gorwinua’s guiding voice led the orcs. The tusked people are no longer major players on the world stage, but they may return in time.


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