The Fall of Zaladorn

copyright September 26th, 2006 Christine H. Rietsch, Troy D. Teske

from NeverWinter Nights II--property of Obsidian Entertainment

This information is still general knowlege (mostly). Since the Great War was 500 years before the start of the playable server, stories of it are still pretty recent and have not reached legendary status yet. Elves who lived during the war however will not be playable. Most will have fled the continent of Janus prior to the start up of the module for NWN/NWN2. However, many children, grandchildren, etc will be aware of the path the war took.--Black Feather

A revision of the basic time-line of the Great War, also known as the Fall of Zaladorn (residents of the rebuilt city of Zaladorn always add the word "Old", as in, "the Fall of Old Zaladorn"; most others don't make the distinction). Dates are as used in modern Zaladorn, and are labeled BF (Before Fall) and R (Rebuilding); for proper reference - the current year is 514 R.

The time-line of the war falls into three distinct sections. The first, called the Rorn Troubles by most, and "The War of Black Blood" by the orcs, encapsulates the both the original causes of the Great War and it's opening skirmishes. Oddly enough, the orcs that would later destroy Zaladorn itself were considered it's defacto allies at the beginning.

28 BF - The Betrayal of Compassion (not called so at the time, but...):

Codus, one of the servants of the warlord Sardecens (the High Priest of Cohen), slayed a mortal woman in the Tomb of Sar'Anderost. The woman, a drow rebel by the name Black Feather, had been brought up in a savage tribe, and some rumors of the time hinted that she might have been Codus' lover; later additions to the story add the claim that she was the mortal form of the goddess of compassion. The moment of her passing is marked by a massive earthquake, after which no trace of her body may be found - legends that grew since that date claim that Aria (the mother goddess) caused the earth of the Tomb to open and take her body into itself, out of respect for the woman who made the black heart of Sardecens' champion feel the touch of love. Histories indicate that, shortly after this event, a cloaked and hooded man delivered a baby into the hands of a rising noble of the Nation of the Blood, which he promised to adopt and raise as his own. The noble, a warrior priest named Hennan, would later become the leader of the orcish warrior society called the Hunters. Also hinted at is that the "stranger", who many claim was Codus himself, kept his side of the bargin - that no Hunter would fall to his blade, or those of any in his command, so long as Hennan lived. This would lead to trouble in later years.

Sardecens, gleeful at his champion's act and perhaps realizing what would happen, granted Codus a large army of evil creatures and mercenaries to do with as he would, though the army took a few years to form up.

27 BF - The Red Alliance:

At the suggestion of his god, Sardecens spent the year treating with both the dark elves and the Nation of the Blood. His goal was to reassure both that nothing was going to threaten them, and thus keep them out of the fighting he knew Codus would start; simply put, Cohen didn't want them in the fighting because he was unsure which side they would be on. The pact was just as simple - that the two nations would remain out of the fighting, in return for a promise that neither would be attacked and that both would be allowed to take a small portion of the land conquered in the general fighting.

25 BF - The Rohrn Wars begin:

A massive army, with Codus at it's head, swept out of Cohen's main temple and began laying waste to large sections of Rohrn; small forays were made into the surface lands of Darkshom, but they were not as profitable compared to the losses sustained, and so were neither frequent nor large. Rohrn, however, faced near-total devastation; none of the nations of that time survived the destruction intact, and those that did survive were only to receive a momentary reprieve.

8 BF - The Battle of Dragon Tears:

The last battle the mortal form of Codus lead was against a village of dragons and dragon-kin, which resulted in massive carnage on both sides. In the midst of the battle, a single warrior who seemed to belong to neither side charged Codus and was heard to shout some kind of curse, just before being killed. Later histories claim that the man was a priest of Ti Malice, who placed a simple but devastating curse upon the leader of the evil army - that he regain his conscience. In any case, Codus fled the field and went into hiding.

Sardecens was, of course, furious, and moved to take direct control of the army, as well as to attempt to bring the other two nations of the Red Alliance into the war on his side. TO that end, he began to appear to the orcs, most especially the Hunters, assuming the guise of an avatar of the Hunters' patron god, Pohagnhut (known to most as the Beastlord). Around the same time, a young, blind girl of half human and half drow parentage traveled out of the orc lands, claiming to be the daughter of Codus and Black Feather. Whether they believed her or not, many still attempted to use her as bait to try and lure Codus out of hiding. Trading on this identification, the ruler of the drow, a matron named Sioned, came to Zaladorn claiming to be the girl's grandmother, and started trying to gain the trust of the nation's rulers.

7 BF - The Dark Ambush, the failure of the Red Alliance, and the end of the Rohrn Wars:

Matron Sioned gave information to the rulers of Zaladorn regarding a supposed movement of Sardecens' army, and offered drow aid in attack them. Zaladorn sent half of it's crack units out with the drow, only to be betrayed; the soldiers were slaughtered by a superior force of drow. Zaladorn responded by issuing an edict of death against all drow, and banishing Codus' daughter in the process. The girl also lost face and position with her adopted nation (the orcs) for her mother's actions.

Just as plans to join the war were nearing completion, the orcs discovered Sardecens' ruse and formally declared the Red Alliance broken; the Hunters, unsatisfied with merely pulling out, regained their honor (in their eyes) by briefly placing themselves between Sardecens' army and the main route to the surface. To the shock of many on both sides, the army (formerly Codus') refused Sardecens' command to fight through them, and moved to take a longer route around. In his anger, Sardecens attacked the Hunters personally, causing the rest of the Nation's army to retaliate. The combined forces of the orcs ground those parts of the evil army that did not flee into powder with surprising ease, ending the threat, but also giving the nations of Darkshom an eye-opening look at their might. (The refusal of what was Codus' army is seen as further proof that the "stranger" that deposited a baby with the orcs WAS Codus, and that his army grew to be more loyal to Codus than Sardecens.)

Sardecens was supposedly captured by the Hunters, but rather than killing him for his betrayal, they exercised a bit of creativity. First, they removed his tongue (so he could no longer cast spells), then broke all of his fingers to prevent him from trying to untie his bonds. They then stripped him naked, beat him severely, then lashed thorn bushes to his body and left him to wander the desert of Rorn without food or water. While this may have seemed like justice, it would work against the orcs later.


The second segment of the Great War, commonly known as the Fall of Zaladorn (the orcs are said to have called it the "War of Glory and Shame"), encompasses the last years that cemented the nations and races into the path toward war, as well as the war itself. None know for certain when the point of no return was reached, but most place it at the formation of the Second Red Alliance, or the decrees by the so-called "Nations of Light" that forced it into being.

6 BF - The Butcher's Trial:

No matter what may be thought of him, in the end, Codus seems to have regained some sanity; one year after the conflicts seemed to end, he came out of hiding. He went first to the dwarves, where he asked to be allowed to undo part of the harm he did by resurrecting one of their greatest heroes, a man who fell to Codus' own blade. Then he and his presumptive daughter went to Zaladorn, where he surrendered, and both were placed in prison (the girl more for her own protection than anything else). Two things were immediately noted...first, that this seemed to be a very changed man, and second that his daughter was no longer blind. Codus refused to discuss those matters, however, only muttering about a curse and and a price. He seemed to become more and more bitter in prison, though he never stopped teaching his daughter, and in the end almost seemed to regret his earlier change of heart.

Codus was executed after a public trial, and as his corpse was taken to his grave, the crowd turned ugly, hurling abuse, stones, and anything else that came to hand...until the Hunters intervened. A full dozen of them, armed and ready for battle, stepped out to form an honor guard around the wagon carrying the body. Later asked why, the orcs responded that, good or bad, he was an honorable man in their eyes, and did not deserve to have his body defiled. The action did not sit well with the folk of Zaladorn, however, and muttering began in many quarters that something should be done about the orcs.

5 BF - The Nation Expands, the Council of Light, and the Slave Decree:

With most of the nations of Rohrn gone completely, and the few remaining in disarray, the orc leaders decided that now was the time to expand their lands. They moved only on those that literally no longer existed first, incorporating their populations and, in a few cases, even some of their customs, into the Nation of the Blood. The nations on the surface viewed this as the realization of their own fears, and franticly planned a meeting of their leaders, which they dubbed the "Council of Light".

It is at this unfortunate point in history that the worst possible thing happened at the worst possible time. The old orcish leader, or "Speaker" (by the best translation known), Tlacor, died while practicing his swordsmanship with a few of his advisors. The young orc that was chosen to replace him was very charismatic, but also a hothead and a zealot. Rathbalam made matters worse by immediately ordering an attack on one of the more stable nations of Rohrn; it was a move that was very popular with his common folk, but not at all popular with his advisors, and had a predictable effect on the leaders of Darkshom's nations - they panicked.

With the increasing rate of the orcs' aggression as fuel, the Council that met in the last month of 5 BF was one where fear and arrogance ruled. The end result was the infamous 'Slave Decree,' stating that no orc would be allowed to live in the cities of Darkshom unless either a slave or of at least 50% non-orc blood. It should be noted that the dwarves never enforced the decree in that form - they simply forbid orcs from entering their lands, period. The orcs received this decree as if it were an act of war, and began to mobilize.

4 BF - The Privy Treaty:

The orcs' expansion continued unchecked in the lands of Rohrn, but they made no effort to move their conquest through the midworld to Darkshom, possibly not wanting to step on the toes of their former allies, the drow, at that point. Quietly, high ranking members of several of the orcs' warrior societies began to meet with nobles from the surface realms; all of those involved in these "privy meetings" feared that open conflict at that point would decimate both sides. It is unfortunate that Hennan, then the leader of the Hunters, shared this view. Rathbalam took a dim view of the Hunters' actions toward the end of the Rohrn Wars, and thus tended to oppose anything Hennan told him out of sheer dislike, or so the few orcish histories captured at the end of the Great War say.

What came of these meetings was dubbed the Privy Treaty, even though it was in reality not a treaty per se. What it was was an agreement between those attending to try to bend their leaders away from open conflict. It prevented the war they feared...for all of four years.

2 BF - The Second Red Alliance:

The orcs' leader was in secret negotiations of his own, with their former allies, Sardecens and Sioned. Sardecens was busy planting a rumor (with people of Darkshom) that the Hunters were actually following Cohen, and another rumor (with the orcs' own leader) that the Hunters planned to supplant him. The three formed a pact to bring the war to the surface world, with the orcs as the spearhead, supported by drow and a horde of dragons that Sardecens had either recruited or enslaved to his will. The drow quietly opened paths through the midworld to prepare for the orcish armies, and Rathbalam mustered his people for all-out war.

Year Zero - The Fall of Zaladorn:

As sometimes happens, when the end came, it came swiftly, and with only a word dropped in the wrong ear to set the fire ablaze. Rathbalam discovered what his advisors had done, and that they had been deliberately trying to steer him away from any attacks on the surface. In a rage, he declaired that the orcs [i]would[/i] attack the surface, and that instead of starting with weaker targets to weaken the surface nations, they would strike directly at one of the capitols - Zaladorn. His advisors were appalled, but there was no room to argue and they prepared to march.

Thanks to the drow, the orc armies were able to come to the surface very close to the city, and take it completely by surprise. What followed could only be called an all-out massacre. The city's defenders fought valiantly, and took many orcs and drow down with them,. The conclusion was evident the moment members of the Shadow, another of the orc warrior societies, appeared out of nowhere and prevented the gates from being closed. The vast majority of the orcish warriors celebrated the victory with their leader, but some few remained concerned. Legend indicates that Hennan's reaction to the victory was merely grim satisfaction, and that he agreed wholeheartedly with a remark attributed to his counterpart among the Shadow society:

"Well, we have poked the sleeping dragon with our comes the part with the teeth and fire!"


The last section of the period is commonly known as the Vengeance (the orcs' name for it is unknown...they left no records after the Fall), and deals with the breaking of the orc nation and the deaths of all three of the Second Red Alliance's leaders. That the first few years after the Fall are included in the "Rebuilding" period, rather than being set off by themselves, is a point hotly contended by scholars, but the Zaladornen are adamant - the birth of the new city began the moment their allies started gathering their armies, less than one week after the city fell.

2 R - The Marshalling of the Light:

The orcs held their conquest for two years without challenge, but the allies of Zaladorn were not idle. The elves, halflings, gnomes, dwarves and others gathered in the remnants of Zaladorn's armies, mostly consisting of units that were guarding other parts of the realm when the city fell, and added them to their own levies. Any mercenaries and mages that they felt could be trusted were called up, and the priesthoods and holy warriors of any church that would support the cause were rallied. This included a few surprises - the fledgling cults of Codus and Ylafax joined in the fight because of their hatred of Sardecens, and followers of Ti Malice joined in as well for reasons of their own. Surprisingly few joined the "Armies of Light" from among the nations of Rohrn the orcs conquered.

By the end of the year, it became obvious that the remaining nations of Darkshom intended to drive the orcs out, and had put together an overwhelming force through an unprecedented show of unity. The orcs and drow knew very well what was coming, as well, and rumors of unrest and even outright rebellion among the forces of the Second Alliance grew daily. By the time the Armies of Light began to move, however, all of their opponents seemed to agree - the time had come for retreat.

3 R - The Liberation of Zaladorn and the deaths of Rathbalam and Sardecens:

Word that the Armies of Light were nearing the conquered city was all it took to break the Second Alliance - the drow vanished, the dragons that had joined willingly fled and the rest began fighting Sardecens' will, and the orcs prepared to make the Armies pay for the city in blood. The end of that plan came when the rest of Sardecens' dragons broke his control, and a red named Allendra actually began hunting him! Sardecens fled, and the war leaders of the orcs concluded that they were in a losing position and prepared to retreat from the city. Spies indicate that this idea did not sit well with Rathbalam; he tried to force his people to stay and fight. The last reports before the spies had to pull out indicated that three of the leaders (including Hennan of the Hunters and the leader of the Shadow) went to "deliver the Helm of Skulls" to Rathbalam, whatever that may mean. What is known is that he was found dead in the throne room of the palace when Zaladorn was retaken, apparently strangled, with a helm decorated with real skulls on his head.

The Armies found Zaladorn abandoned, and continued on to find the orc army in full retreat. So great was their anger at what was found inside the city, that they followed the orcs into the tunnels of the midworld and straight into Rohrn; behind them they left a trail of blood and broken bodies, scattered about dozens of small battlefields.

Meanwhile, the dragon Allendra followed Sardecens' magical flight back to his stronghold in the city of Vor'Sahran - which she proceeded to single-handedly [i]level[/i] despite every effort to stop her. She eventually drove a wounded, tired, and spell-drained Sardecens to the edge of the cliffs near the city, and then right off the edge. With no magic left to save himself, and his own god raging at his failures and thus unwilling to save him, the self-proclaimed "greatest High Priest of Cohen in history" plunged to his death on the rocks below. Reports are that Allendra was never seen again.

4 R - The death of Sioned:

The drow apparently had a different plan - hide in secluded caves until the other armies were gone, then attack the (they thought) weakly-defended dwarven city of Darkgate. The dwarven militia ensured that the assault never penetrated the city itself. Sioned died on the battlements while still disbelieving the size of the force that stopped her.

7 R - War's End:

The Armies of Light harried the orcs back through the tunnels into Rohrn, then all the way back to their home cities, liberating the lands the orcs had taken as they went. They were appalled at the sheer level of the orcs' depredations - most of the cities they took were down to less than a third of their former populations. The final battles of the war took place in a pocket valley, where the orcs' civilians had fled at news of the approaching force. Here the Armies found a nasty surprise - the orcs had left behind a large force, including a whole society of elite warriors, to guard their homelands. These fresh forces turned the retreat into a bloody last stand, commonly considered the bloodiest battle ever fought, even surpassing the taking of Zaladorn. When the dust settled, however, the Armies of Light stood as the victors, having slaughtered every orc, warrior, woman, or child, they could find. (Understand now why I frequently call them the "Armies of Light", with quotes?)

Rumors persist that some piece of the orc Nations survived, but none of those who witnessed the battle could explain how that could be...the last orc forces and most of their non-combatants where herded into a cave, which was empty of living orcs when the Armies left the field. The daughter of Codus is said to have fallen protecting a group of young children; the children lived to enter the cave, for all the good it did them. Her adopted father, Hennan, is said to have died in the mouth of the cave; reports of the time insist that he was the last warrior standing, and that the cave behind him held nothing but corpses. In any case, the Armies promptly returned home, leaving the shattered remains of the folk of Rohrn to restart their own lives; after five long years, the assorted surfacers had no desire to stay and help.

The humans came back to find a horror - the city of Zaladorn was no longer livable. So brutal was the fighting to take and reclaim it that it was now a blighted land fit only for the ghosts that flitted here and there, or fought eternally in bitter memory of the fall of the great city. New Zaladorn was founded in the late autumn of 7 R, built on the coast to take better advantage of sea trade.

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