Part 72: Regarding Rjak, the DefilerRegarding Rjak, the Defiler
Almost seven hundred years before the foundation of the Confederation, Rjak, the Defiler, was born to a mortal mother in Arcanus, a Man who claimed that a god calling himself the Lord of Chains had come to her to bear his seed, and that she had been powerless to resist. And so the day came that her son was born. His early life is poorly-recorded, but it is said that from a youthful age he mustered powers of Darkness, and his presence commanded faith in the gods to those who laid eyes upon him. And through his might he earned the patronage of a lord whose name is lost to history.
Somewhat after fifty years had passed from his birth, Rjak set forth, and under his rulership the first known town of orcs was founded- it was by his power that the orcs were first created, by whatever means. And the orcs were rallied into armies and set forth, and the power of Rjak sapped the spirits and crushed the will of those who would defend against his aggression. Over one hundred thirty years town after town fell to him, and many were set to blaze, while others were enthralled. It is believed that at its height the empire of Rjak covered the whole of the land where Fairlands exists, and the whole of the land of the Storm Tribes, at the least. The growth of his power was delayed as the ships of the Golden Empire, the ancient empire of the Brown Men, harried the ships of his orcs, and Rjak had great difficulties in crossing the seas to make further conquests to the east. To the west, the elven wizards who had arisen saw that Rjak's might presented a threat unto all of them, and they concluded a great pact against Rjak.
It was in fact not long after the pact was signed that Rjak turned his sights west, and a great war raged in Arcanus. Though Rjak was stronger than any single elven wizard, united in alliance they could match him, and death walked freely on the battlefields for nearly twenty years. Men and orcs were slain to clear the way for the armies of the elves, and in the end the banners of three wizards held the field before Rjak's fortress, there to face against men, orcs, demons, and the chained dead. The Battle of the Dark Fortress lasted for four days and three nights, and the dead were beyond any count, but in the end a band of elven lords bearing spears ran through the very halls of Rjak's fortress, and found him still brooding on his throne, his will commanding the dead yet battling on the field. The Defiler was slow to raise his hand against the elves, for his will was bent to the battle beyond his walls, and there eleven elves ran spears into him. The count of his wounds states that Rjak was stabbed seventy-six times, and those who slew him recounted that his screams echoed until the final thrust of the spear. Nonetheless Rjak was finally dead.
As a ruler, Rjak relied on terror, on thralldom, and on the terrible awe of the gods which he commanded. The priesthood under him watched all who served him, and whosoever spoke against the Son of the Gods was subjected to torments. Blood ran the streets of the towns he ruled from the sacrifices he demanded, and his name was regarded with an ecstasy of adoration and with carefully-hidden hatred. All belonged to the Son of the Gods, and none might dispute his word. Starving thralls fleeing workshops and fields were said to roam the wildernesses between towns. As a wizard, Rjak was one of the very first, and much of the basic technique used by wizards to this day was pioneered by his work. Nonetheless the powers upon which he relied were wholly evil.
The questions raised by the life of Rjak are, in my mind, four-fold. First: for what purpose did one of the Dark Gods manifest himself on the world of Arcanus to sire a son? Second: why has such an event not been replicated since? Third: how precisely did the orcs come to be, and how did Rjak forge the society of a newly-born race? Fourth: how is it that the warning of disaster that his early life presented was ignored for so long that he was able to raise up his own empire? If we do not truly understand why such things came to pass, how can we hope to remain vigilant in the future? Though we reject the blandishments of the Dark Gods, when might they act more directly as they did then? It is my sincere hope that eventually the lost knowledge of the past can be recovered sufficiently to begin to answer these questions, but I fear that many of these questions will never be answered.