The Elegbani, the followers of the Opener, tell the Grellken’s origins best of all. Their tales speak of a peaceful place: the Kingdom of Ixia.
Formed from the Troll tribes of the Greytooth Mountains, Ixia was a Kingdom that extolled the virtues of harmony and pacifism. They lived upon a mystical mountain, isolated from the rest of violent Midworld by mysterious mists and an enspelled gate.
A thousand years ago, this peace was broken. A Demon Lord known as the Bearer of Ruin and his enslaved minions tore through Ixia’s protections to wage bloody war upon a Kingdom of harmony. The Ixians were forced to take up arms and meet demonic minions in battle and at their forefront was their King: Grellken.
At the end of a war that covered the Ixian mountain in rivers of blood, Grellken cast down the Bearer of Ruin in the shattered ruinscape of his throne room. But the King’s advisors, the Circle of Teachers, were corrupt and cowardly – they had raised not a single hand during the war and they now feared the King that they had lifted to the throne. They knew that the King would become a symbol to the Ixians, that he would become more popular than the Circle of Teachers – thereby forcing them to lose their power. And so the “Thinkers” of Ixia entrapped him and enspelled him, banishing the King from Ixia and covering their deception with even more deception.
Thus, Grellken, son of Malken, was coerced to leave his home. His admirers, both Ixians and the remnants of the demonic army, followed him into the wilderness. In particular, his Troll soldiers, their families and many of the Minotaurs that had no wish to stay in deceitful Ixia.
The Obtalai, blood of the Bulwark, honors the martyrs of Culling, the sacrifices made for the people’s survival.
As they sing the tale, the first few years of their exodus were the worst — Grellken saw his people die by the dozens to plague and raiders. Although accustomed to living in the wild, the world outside Ixia is a deadly place: illness and misfortune immediately struck the refugees. Only the hardiest survived, the Trolls and Minotaurs that had not fallen to raiders, starvation or exposure.
It was in this time of weakness that the old faith returned to the refugees. The Oana, the ancient gods of the Trolls, took and mounted five of Grellken’s greatest adepts.
Bright Elegba, who opens the Way
Kind Obtal, the people’s Bulwark
Cruel, Tempestuous Oyala
Grinning Samad, who knows your death
And Mad, beloved Ansi
Through their vessels, the gods spoke to Grellken: to him they offered strength and power in exchange for the blood of his people.
But the King refused to give his people over to the Oana. Though weary and ancient and beyond his time, he fought the gods and destroyed their vessels. Even as their vessels died, the Oana praised Grellken’s audacity. They assumed a Totemic form, granting their strength and power to his people and his children. Before the people of Grellken was this compact made, so that all saw and passed down the tale as their blood legacy. When all was done, the blood of five champions spilled upon the ground and the Oana returned to the Overworld, taking Grellken with them.
Forever after, the King’s people called themselves by his name, in honor of their King-in-the-Sky.
Thus empowered, the Grellken became a force to be reckoned with. Those that would raid them would become their prey. They thrived in environments that would kill lesser beings. And most of all, the Grellken feasted – and had plenty to eat.
The Oyalai, the soldiers of the Tempest, claim that the Grellken marched across the continent, becoming a ravenous scourge to all peoples from Gotterdammerung to Jotunbrud. They raided outlying towns and independent free tribes emptying them of people and sustenance before moving on. When Kingdoms sought to wreak vengeance, they often found that the Grellken had disappeared into another Kingdom’s borders and thus, beyond their reach.
In the course of their rampage, the Grellken often encountered Trolls or Minotaurs. To these hardy folk, they offered the chance to join — for their numerous initiation rites could only be withstood by those two Races.
With the passing of centuries, the Grellken became swelled with followers and had scattered into over two dozen different Clans. But despite their strength, their enemies were arrayed about them. The Kingdoms of Midworld watched their borders for Grellken, killing whole Clans that trespassed into their domain. Beleaguered and pursued, the Clans had sought sanctuary in the unclaimed wildlands, east of the Quiet Forest.
And with nothing to fight and the free tribes driven away, the Clans turned upon themselves.
The Samadi know well of the Shattering’s slaughter when Clan stood against Clan. The gods rejoiced at the carnage, except for Kind Obtal who wept blood for his children’s foolishness. The Grellken took parts of the Wildlands and the Quiet Forest for their own and made war upon one another, capturing the fallen and feasting upon them in debauched celebrations to gain their strength.
Content to see them slaughter one another, the Kingdoms and Midworld eventually forgot about the Grellken. Even the gods were satisfied with the sacrifice and the glory, but the Shattering continued to rage.
Much in the way of history and knowledge were lost in the bloodshed. But great strength was gained as well.
This was especially so with a Minotaur who called himself Orcus, whose following swelled with massive numbers. Half of the Grellken, made Clanless by war or suborned by his tyranny.
Meanwhile, the remainder of the Grellken saw this gathering storm and schemed.
The first, second and third battles were utter failures. The combined Clans were unable to withstand the screaming hordes of Orcus, who was blessed of Oyala and used Elegba’s craft.
The surviving Clans were forced to join or into hiding.
As the Ansali teach the tale, Orcus turned to the Kingdoms of Midworld and slavered. He desired more but his numbers were not enough.
He drove his armies into the jungled islands to the south, seeking out an ancient relic that would bring the demonic Shetani to his side. He forsook the Oana completely, casting aside Oyala who blessed him and spitting upon Elegba who taught him greatness. To curry favor with the Shetani, Orcus ordered that the Oana’s priests slain and their rites forbidden to practice.
Thoroughly displeased, the Oana began working against him in the fullness of their roster, save for Mad Ansi who only worked for herself. His progress southward became labored and filled with mishap. Cruel Oyala and Cold Samad ensured that storms and plagues always found Orcus’ armies.
Weakened and battered, Orcus persevered and found what he sought: an ancient gate dedicated to the Shetani and their return. However, in his moment of would be triumph, Ansi mounted his Witch-doctors and activated the relic before he could arrive to instruct them.
The resulting devastation turned the island waters red and turned half of Orcus’ army into salt. Still numerous despite their losses, Orcus returned to the Wildlands to recruit more Clans into his cause and continue his ambition’s call.
But when he expected victory, Mad Ansi was laughing at his defeat — his ravening, screaming hordes sought conquest and found the painted shield walls and bristling spear hedges instead.
In Orcus’ absence and during his failure, Kind Obtal and Bright Elegba rekindled the bravery of the Clans and taught them of war. Through the wisdom of the Oana and the tactical knowledge of the new Grellken, Orcus’ superior numbers mattered little. His bloodthirsty hordes were scattered to the four winds, finding homes in the remote parts of Midworld.
Orcus himself was slain and uneaten, for his corpse and spirit was so foul that none would partake of it.
And so, after their alliances, the Grellken Clans went their separate ways, learning once again to love and fear the Oana. The memories of the internecine bloodshed had sickened them to each other and they sought only to make their own way into the world.
Yet these new Grellken Clans were no longer raiders. Bright Elegba had taught them cunning and craft, teaching them to negotiate rather than intimidate. They were adept at war and so they continued to war, but only at the behest of an employer and only against a foe they deemed worthy of fighting or destruction.
In this way was birthed the Mercenary Clans of the Grellken, who came from peace, clawed their way from the brink of destruction and became a feared force in Midworld. It has been thus in 500 years and it will continue so for more than 500 more.