Kruk-Ma-Kali

Kruk-Ma-Kali was a hobgoblin warlord that conquered portions of Eastern Cimmeria to form the short-lived Hobgoblin Empire. He unified the hobgoblin people using his secret telepathic powers. The unity only lasted as long as he lived. After suffering a mortal wound from an assassin, Kruk-Ma-Kali willed his empire, “to the strongest,” resulting in a war in which the hobgoblin people fought for the scraps of his empire. Kruk-Ma-Kali’s psyche survived his death inside of his black sword, Kharad-khor. He would play a minor role in the Second Alliance War before Amalius traded the hobgoblin emperor’s soul to Hades as a bargaining chip.

Kruk-Ma-Kali’s Upbringing

Kruk-Ma-Kali was born never knowing who his father was. His impoverished mother, Kona-Ranor, claimed that his sire was Pallas, the Titan of war and the husband of the River Styx. Pallas despaired of his punishment in Tartarus. His rage built for centuries until he freed his bonds and escaped. He blew past the minor demons of Tartarus and swam through his wife’s waters to freedom. Once on the surface world he engaged in sins of gluttony, lust, and debauchery. One of Pallas’s nights of freedom was spent with Kona-Ranor. At the height of their copulation she uttered the name of Zeus who looked down from the heavens at the mention of his name. Zeus saw Pallas and flung him back into Tartarus, but Kruk-Ma-Kali was already conceived. Pallas’s betrayal of the River Styx with Kona-Ranor ensured he would never escape again.

Kruk-Ma-Kali grew up on the physical and social fringe of his village in the Great Valley bordering the Shacklack Desert. As a child, he underwent a rigorous physical regime. As his strength grew so did his size. When Kruk-Ma-Kali turned twelve his psionic power erupted. He found he could influence the other villagers’ minds, but only temporarily.

Kruk-Ma-Kali’s psionic abilities grew out of control when he used his powers against his mother. After the effects wore off, Kona-Ranor realized the danger Kruk-Ma-Kali’s psionic strength presented to her and to the boy himself. He would need to control it or those he controlled would realize the invisible sword he held over their heads and kill him. Kona-Ranor confronted her son and convinced him to leave their village. He went to the nearby psionic enclave and bridled his power under the tutelage of the psions at the Shacklack School for Psions.

Kruk-Ma-Kali perfected his inborn abilities and slowly rose to the status of journeyman within the Shacklack School for Psions. As Kruk-Ma-Kali’s control over his psionic mind grew he found himself longing for more than just magical knowledge. He left the Shacklack School for Psions after six years to return to his mother and his village.

Army Service

His reunion was short. A platoon and an officer of the hobgoblin king, Lork-Bran-Dron, came to the village looking for conscripts a month after Kruk-Ma-Kali returned. Every hobgoblin between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five was drafted by the officer. Kona-Ranor begged Kruk-Ma-Kali to twist the officer’s mind and escape, but her son refused. Kruk-Ma-Kali was enthralled by the prospect of the army. He would finally have a place in hobgoblin society and a chance to prove his worth outside of his community. Kruk-Ma-Kali left with the others to join the army. By now a seven foot tall wall of muscle with hidden telepathic powers to boot, Kruk-Ma-Kali was promoted to corporal after finishing boot camp.

Lork-Bran-Dron ordered a military campaign against the city-state of Tomak’nax. The army approached the dual city, fighting in a series of skirmishes along the way. In every skirmish Kruk-Ma-Kali used telepathically manipulated the encounter so that his superior officer would die and he would be promoted. By the time they reached Tomak’nax, he was on Lork-Bran-Dron’s war council.

At the siege of Tomak’nax, Kruk-Ma-Kali used his magic to turn invisible and scout the city. While surveying their defenses from inside something caught his eye. In the dirt beside one of the hastly erected wooden walls was a jet black longsword. Kruk-Ma-Kali picked up the sword and it drank in the sunlight, remaining matte black from every angle. The sword spoke to Kruk-Ma-Kali and promised him power through conquest. It called itself Kharad-khor, Bloodthirster. Kruk-Ma-Kali listened and saw his path to glory.

Kruk-Ma-Kali concocted a plot to discredit Lork-Bran-Dron with the soldiers. He manipulated the king into committing to a frontal assault on the twin city. After the failed attack, Kruk-Ma-Kali led a night raid on the Cableway that opened both cities’ gates. As Lork-Bran-Dron entered the city to proclaim his victory, Kruk-Ma-Kali challenged him to a duel. Lork-Bran-Dron accepted the challenge and lost. Kruk-Ma-Kali’s black sword struck Lork-Bran-Dron’s head from his body and then he placed the fallen crown upon his head. Kruk-Ma-Kali was king now.

Initial Conquests

Kharad-khor fueled Kruk-Ma-Kali’s ambitions beyond anything he’d ever dreamed of as an outcast child. King of Lork-Bran-Dron’s little country was not enough. Kruk-Ma-Kali rallied his army as well as the people fighting for Tomak’nax. His psionic suggestions brought even his former enemies into his ranks. With Trung Town as his operations center, Kruk-Ma-Kali conquered the whole of the Hobgoblin Lands in a mere two years. Some people joined him willingly. Others required a slight push from Kruk-Ma-Kali’s brain. Others folded after a show of force. A few required the application of Kruk-Ma-Kali’s boots as he crushed them before the massive war machine he created.

Kruk-Ma-Kali struck outwards with his large army. He marched through the Orc Lands in a display of force to forestall any raids while his army was abroad. The parade did more than intimidate the orcs. Many of the tusked people joined the army, hoping for spoils in the coming invasion. After the orcs, Kruk-Ma-Kali’s soldiers fell upon the Valor Forest Elves in an avalanche of steel and fire.

The sylvan people had retreated from public life in Cimmeria after the Dragon War. The hobgoblin attack took them off guard and penetrated deep into the heart of the forest. With their inner culture threatened, the elves rallied. They erected powerful magic wards against the goblinoids. Their safe zone erected, the elves began pushing back against Kruk-Ma-Kali’s forces. His goblin troops could not proceed further into Valor Forest, so Kruk-Ma-Kali released captive Giuran owlbears into the forest to cross the elven wards. Behind the owlbears he set fire to the forest and had his mages use wind magic to blow the blaze towards the elves. If Kruk-Ma-Kali could not have Valor Forest, he would not permit the elves to have it either.

After Valor Forest Kruk-Ma-Kali brought his army to bear on the settlements along the Black River. They crossed Talon’s Bed and struck at Fangaroot first. The dragon treasure of Kenderax still lay within the city after Shaelin’s strike. Kruk-Ma-Kali stormed the crumbling walls of Fangaroot and sacked the city. All the booty was dispersed among the assembled army or taken in cartloads back to Trung Town. Kruk-Ma-Kali used his telepathic talents to turn many of the weak-willed kobold defenders of Fangaroot to his side. As before in the Orc Lands, he left Fangaroot with an army larger than he started with.

Bjorn Skizofren rode with a small guard to meet Kruk-Ma-Kali for a peace discussion two days out from Dalleer. He brought with him a large supply of Crafterton alcohol. With the strong liquor flowing, a day of negotiations extended into three days of debauchery. As the liquid ran out, Kruk-Ma-Kali sobered up, and realized he had been duped. The peace talks were a diversion while the Bjorn enacted some other scheme. Enraged, Kruk-Ma-Kali imprisoned Bjorn Skizofren and marched on Dalleer.

Kruk-Ma-Kali reached Dalleer and found the city abandoned. He ordered Skizofren brought out, but the Bjorn had already escaped captivity and made it across the river in a small boat. The population of Dalleer had used their leader’s distraction to empty the city of people and valuables. Kruk-Ma-Kali flew into a rage and ordered Dalleer torched. The city went up in flames, but its people survived. Rather than attempt to cross the river on a wild goose chase, Kruk-Ma-Kali vowed to return. He led his army further south to Bradel Fields.

Kruk-Ma-Kali satisfied his bloodlust at Bradel Fields. The hobgoblins tore through the city and freed all the goblin slaves kept by the Humans of Bradel Fields. Not content with sacking the city, Kruk-Ma-Kali occupied it with a force of 10,000 goblinoids. As the humans had enslaved the goblins, the humans would now be enslaved in turn. The hobgoblin king left General Tahz-Lokun in control of the city before taking the majority of the army east towards Nomingburg in his conquering sweep of Eastern Cimmeria.

Unified Resistance

The approach to Nomingburg is where resistance to Kruk-Ma-Kali’s invasion truly began. The Halflings of Nomingburg organized an alliance while the hobgoblins were busy along the Black River. Elvish mages from Valor Forest came south. The Humans of Jipangu sent their best. The Dominarie Dwarves also joined the defense of their neighbor. Leading the combined forces was Princess Alfeita of Dominarie. Queen Shortrastor was too old to stand in battle, so she sent her daughter in her place.

The combined force seemed ideal for countering the hobgoblin invasion, but even with all their advantages, they fell before Kruk-Ma-Kali’s strategic genius. Flanks, feints, and counterattacks, with lightning speed and skill Kruk-Ma-Kali’s army always had the upper hand against the allied army. Every battle was a victory for the hobgoblin king and every battle brought him closer to Nomingburg. The city was well prepared for an assault. Kruk-Ma-Kali ordered the town encircled by siege walls and began to starve the city out.

Kruk-Ma-Kali devised a plan to flood Nomingburg. The city relied on wells for water, with no large water source nearby. Kruk-Ma-Kali set his men to dig an empty canal sloping away from his siege walls towards the dry moat surrounding Nomingburg. The final distance was accomplished using earth magic to keep a protective layer of dirt over the diggers heads as missiles rained down on them from the city walls. Kruk-Ma-Kali sent elvish mages he’d captured at Valor Forest back to Bradel Fields. They, along with another set of captive mages, created a temporary wormhole between the Black River and the canal cut between the siege wall and Nomingburg. Water poured through the dimensional hole and slammed against the walls of Nomingburg, toppling the section initially impacted. The moat rapidly filled with water and then the earthen rampart directed the rest of the flow into the city itself. Kruk-Ma-Kali succeeded in flooding Nomingburg.

The water ruined food supplies and raised up all the natural waste in various dumping spots within Nomingburg. Famine and disease afflicted the city. Kruk-Ma-Kali led his army forward and pillaged another city. Princess Alfeita refused to retreat and died with the city. Kruk-Ma-Kali had originally planned on occupying the city, but water damage and disease made that a disagreeable option. He didn’t even bother to raze the town. Kruk-Ma-Kali led his army south to punish the people of Jipangu who had stood against him during the Nomingburg campaign.

The hobgoblin army pushed towards Jipangu. The allied defenders offered no battle in the open field. Instead, they burned their crops to deny them to the hobgoblins as they retreated to the safety of Jipangu’s plateau. With food in short supply, Kruk-Ma-Kali resolved to take the city quickly by force. A group of sappers built a tunnel into the center of Jipangu. Unfortunately, the seers of Jipangu predicted the tunnel’s egress point. As the sappers broke through, they were greeted by large cauldrons of boiling oil poured down the whole of the shaft.

Kruk-Ma-Kali ordered an attack through the tunnel despite the defenders’ preparation. The Dwarves of Dominarie held the tunnel mouth for hours, but it soon became clear that the tunnel attack was just a diversion. Kruk-Ma-Kali had used the distraction to move an enormous ram up to the city gates. The people of Jipangu refocused their forces, but it was too late. The ram broke the gate and the Hobgoblins flowed into the city. The diversionary attack caused enormous losses for Kruk-Ma-Kali’s army, but Jipangu was now his.

Kruk-Ma-Kali desired revenge against Queen Shortrastor and the Dominarie Mountain Dwarves who had inflicted heavy casualties on his soldiers. He led his army to the western hills of the Dominarie Mountain range. His troops entered the tunnels with their king in the lead. Kruk-Ma-Kali used magic crystals to boost his telepathic powers. His enhanced brain detected dwarven minds for miles ahead of him. With his psionics as a homing beacon, Kruk-Ma-Kali found every Dominarie Dwarf settlement and eradicated them. The hobgoblins got closer and closer to the capital, Shortrastoria, killing and eating every dwarf they came across in a cannibalistic genocide.

Kruk-Ma-Kali easily eliminated the remaining dwarven soldiers and Queen Shortrastor before marching on the Dominarie capital. Princess Tandia, the granddaughter of Queen Shortrastor, took up the defense of the city. Although she was nine months pregnant, she fought on the frontlines alongside the remaining defenders available to the dwarven people. A sling bullet to the head knocked Princess Tandia out and initiated labor. Her attendants took her off the battlefield as the hobgoblins swarmed over the walls of the capital.

Kruk-Ma-Kali heard of the Princess’s pregnancy and promised an enormous reward to whoever brought him the baby to eat. Hobgoblins raged through Shortrastoria, searching for the royal child, looting and burning as they went. The Princess and her child were not found. Figuring that she had left the city, Kruk-Ma-Kali continued his rampage, going east through the entirety of the Dominarie Mountains. Every dwarf was slain, but none could be positively identified as Princess Tandia or her infant.

Kruk-Ma-Kali ordered a return home. With the whole treasure of Fangaroot, Bradel Fields, Nomingburg, Jipangu, and the Dominarie Dwarves in their possession the army was quite satisfied. The races of the Conclave had been chastised and the Hobgoblin Empire now extended west to the Caspian. Kruk-Ma-Kali gave the goblinoids a portion of their homelands back and they would remember him forever for it.

Short Peace Time Reign

Kruk-Ma-Kali’s return to Trung Town was met by month long celebration. Captive slaves fought in mock battles to reenact the army’s victories. The food of Eastern Cimmeria was freely available to all. Kruk-Ma-Kali dispersed a purse of silver to every goblinoid that came to the city for the celebrations. The whole of the Hobgoblin Lands joined in honoring Kruk-Ma-Kali and his accomplishments.

The party also brought to light the deficiencies of Trung Town as a capital for the Hobgoblin Empire. Kruk-Ma-Kali decided to keep Trung Town as his capital and improve it. Several huge building projects were started simultaneously. The large structures included a royal palace, a massive arena, a huge bath structure, and several temples to the Animal gods. The population of Trung Town exploded, requiring the expansion of the city dwellings, business fronts, and storage for food and goods. The sound of construction filled Trung Town for many years after Kruk-Ma-Kali’s return.

Kruk-Ma-Kali began the sobering prospect of administrative reform. A new currency was minted from the precious metal treasures of the Conclave races. Kruk-Ma-Kali ordered the laws of the Hobgoblin Lands to be unified and codified. He provided generous subsidies for agriculture. Those who had served in the great campaign were given 25 acres of land each to start a farm or sell to fund a business. New recruits to the army were promised the same if they served well. The sun seemed to be shining bright on the future of Kruk-Ma-Kali’s empire.

As Trung Town and the Hobgoblin Empire took shape, Kruk-Ma-Kali began to get restless. He called his generals together and began plans for another campaign. This time they would attack the cities of Northern Cimmeria and the dwarves within the Terror Mountains. As preparations were made, tragedy befell the hobgoblin people. Kruk-Ma-Kali was stabbed by a goblin wielding a poisoned dagger. Whether this was a lone actor or part of a larger conspiracy was never discovered. Kruk-Ma-Kali died a few hours after the stabbing. On his deathbed he declared the heir of his empire. He willed the throne, “To the strongest.”

Empire Collapse and Tomb Construction

Kruk-Ma-Kali’s assassination and his “last will and testament” led to immediate infighting amongst his generals. They were unified by Kruk-Ma-Kali’s hidden telepathic influence. As that power disappeared, those who used to be friends became bitter enemies. The generals occupying Bradel Fields and Jipangu decamped the cities to make a play for the imperial throne. A series of civil wars engulfed the Hobgoblin Lands for several decades.

Although dead, Kruk-Ma-Kali’s psionic soul endured. As he died, he transferred his ethereal consciousness into Kharad-khor. The black sword was taken by Kruk-Ma-Kali’s loyal generals, Khuz-kukk-ghor and Vokh-jrozzhul, to his birthplace within the Great Valley of Shacklack Desert. The two generals oversaw the construction of a great trap-filled tomb and many false tombs in honor of Kruk-Ma-Kali’s final words. His true heir would inherit his sword, his treasure, and his consciousness, but only if they conquered the trials of the tombs.

One of the elven mages that Kruk-Ma-Kali captured in Valor Forest assisted with the construction of the tombs. This elf, Sahamathrian, had helped Kruk-Ma-Kali at Nomingburg with the teleportation wormhole ritual. Now, under the influence of the diabolic goblins his magical interests had drifted towards necromancy. Sahamathrian created hundreds of undead creatures to help defend the tomb of Kruk-Ma-Kali. After two decades of building, his final act was to kill everyone who worked on the tomb, including the two generals, Khuz-kukk-ghor and Vokh-jrozzhul. Their devotion to Kruk-Ma-Kali extended into the afterlife. Sahamathrian raised them into willing undead warriors, eternal servants of Kruk-Ma-Kali’s will.

Recovery from the Tomb

Kruk-Ma-Kali’s tomb was eventually found and raided by the Second Alliance. The Alliance members sought Kharad-khor, having heard rumors of its magical power to win battles. The traps and creatures of the tomb were defeated by Tagenadi, Torin, Amalius, Aldarian, and Terroc. At the end Terroc claimed the sword and revealed himself as a secret agent of the dragovinians. With Kharad-khor in hand he teleported away to the Xorians.

King Jevaninada II had hoped to use Kharad-khor in the same manner that the Second Alliance had, as a weapon of war. Unfortunately, the spirit of Kruk-Ma-Kali was impossible to reason with. The hobgoblin ghost would be wielded by a hobgoblin or by no one. Frustrated by the sword’s obstinance, Jevaninada threw it into the Caspian Sea. Jevaninada assumed that no one would never see the sword again as it sunk to the bottom of the sea floor, but even in the water there are creatures that can wield swords.

The sahuagin of the deep found Kruk-Ma-Kali. The powerful psionic ghost dominated his wielder. With his mind in control all he needed was a strong host. His wish was granted when the sahuagin brought him to the Brute, a massive sahuagin mutant altered through divine rituals to be stronger and faster than any mortal should be. Kruk-Ma-Kali easily controlled the mutant’s frail mind. He declared himself king of the sahuagin and executed enemies until the sahuagin people agreed with him.

Still wishing to be wielded by a hobgoblin, Kruk-Ma-Kali organized a sahuagin attack on the surface. The shark people would be his spear as he conquered in a path leading to the Hobgoblin Lands. The sahuagin attacked Bradel Fields and penetrated the city walls. The Second Alliance troops fought the sahuagin while Danar, Eathirilu, Tagenadi, Amalius, and Hektor engaged the Brute. Their combined assault defeated the fearsome creature and Hektor reclaimed the sword for the Second Alliance.

Kruk-Ma-Kali still proved unusable. He served the hobgoblin cause, not the wishes of the Second Alliance. With no room for negotiation, Hektor stored Kharad-khor in his portable hole for a time. The sword was retrieved by Amalius in a trip to Erebos. He used the soul of Kruk-Ma-Kali as a bargaining chip for Hades’s assistance in the war against Xoria. Hades claimed the soul of Kruk-Ma-Kali and at last the Hobgoblin Emperor was truly dead.

While Kruk-Ma-Kali was gone, the story of Kharad-khor does not end there. The Sword of War will be wielded by several others in history. In the future the god of death will ensure that the Bloodthirster finds its way into the hands of Alexander the Great, Charlemagne, Attila the Hun, Duke Otho of Bavaria, and Vlad Dracula. Kharad-khor will assist them in their wars as he assisted Kruk-Ma-Kali, sending more and more soldiers down to the Underworld.