For thousands and thousands of years the kingdoms of men ruled and expanded the frontiers of civilization, even as the subtle elven sheriffs marshaled the forests and perfected the arts of magick and sorcery.

Undisturbed, the dwarf lords hollowed out the mountain vales and compiled their vast hoards of jewels and coin, associating with the others only as it benefitted their interests.

All the while the halflings ably tended the fields as well as kept the timid peace between all of the fair races.

The fouler races, bereft of the benefits of technology or the means or willpower to develop it, scavenged for scraps in the untamed wilder lands just outside the doorstep of civilization. Seeking, but never attaining a modicum of respect or pity.

Then events began to change. It was subtle at first. Increasing raids on the frontier settlements and fortresses by the scattered fouler races. Assaults on caravans, intrigue and betrayal within the royal houses, traitors within the ranks of the very armies that had not long ago seemed invincible.

Soon came the diseases. Animals first, then to the populace. The rapid disintegration of all society was at hand. Starvation and fear ruled the day. Trade routes were severed; great kingdoms fell to the swelling desperation of its own subjects. Wars between former allies exploded as the commoners saw their very lives in the balance.

The final blow was far more insidious and unexplained. One by one, the deities of all faiths failed to heed their prayers. Rituals went unrewarded. The priests had lost their power. The well of hope had run dry.

The fouler races took full advantage of the chaos. Entire cities and provinces were overun and pillaged. Inexorably, the fairer races were pushed farther and farther from the lives they once knew and forced into makeshift fortresses centered on the greatest cities of man, where food could still be grown, ore could still be mined, and civilization could still be protected.

Yet, unchecked by organized resistance for many generations, the fouler races grew in number until they achieved dominance over the lands beyond the city gates. United by blood treaties: the orcs, goblins, trolls, ogres and their like, shed their previous feuds and embarked on a final mission to destroy the elder races once and for all.

Aided by race traitors promised amnesty on the day of victory (but ultimately granted none), the foul lords brought each and every one of the great fortresses to its knees through guile and might and the power of dark magick and engineering.

Save one.

At the base of the river Tirguin, where it falls suddenly and majestically into the great sea, lies the last and final refuge of the fair races. Blessed by a protected geography and an even more cunning construction, the fortress of Tirg-Ath-Onon withstood the vile assault the longest. Thus, the lone refugees of a dozen kingdoms and a sample of races, packed the already crowded streets of the fortress and began the perilous struggle for survival.

More than ten generations have passed since the felling of the kingdoms. Although the fires of their legion camps dot the countryside every night and their sorcerers test the walls and roofs of the city daily, the foul races have yet to enter the inner walls of Tirg-Ath-Onon.

Though their numbers are ever dwindling, men and dwarves still mine the cliff walls for iron to fashion swords and arrow tips, elvish archers and wizards man the battlements in constant vigil, while the halflings tend the aching fields for sustenance for all.

On the face of it, all are united for mutual survival. But racial sensitivities and allegiances run deep. Ancestors of the various kingdoms still hold enmity. There are those who believe that life could be much better. That maybe survival isn’t the only goal. That dominance could be achieved once again over the foul beasts who have held stead for three centuries too long.

After all, the race to the fortresses was done in great haste. There are still many secrets and treasures in the abandoned ruins of past civilization that could aid in not only prolonging the siege but perhaps in undoing this vile reversal…

Last and Final Refuge