In through the grand oak doors strode Briggun, a man two meters high, whose broad shoulders and brutish physique were only made more daunting by the black armor he wore and the large sword across his back. A hush fell over the room; the officers of the Dark Lord's vast and terrible armies and their associates and servants instantly paying respect to their master, even if each of them would slit his throat and rule themselves, if only given the chance.
Briggun knocked Makar to the floor as he passed him for no reason but to humiliate the wretched creature, and stepped up to the side of the table which once served as the centerpiece of Canaresch's great dining hall. Raising his gauntleted fist, he beat it onto the wood hard enough to leave an indentation. This was not the first time he had expressed his frustrations in such a percussive way, and the table was pockmarked with scars from his dissatisfaction. "Are we truly so hopeless that in the tenth year of my reign, the land of Erevan remains beyond my grasp!?" he leveled an accusatory finger on his spymaster. "Veno," he snarled, slowly regaining his composure, "what manner of treachery has befallen my commanders which hinders their progress?"
Had it truly been ten years? A servant at the rear of the room, having brought a small memento to commemorate the Dark Lord's ascent, quietly pocketed the bauble and made quick note to dispose of it.
His dark, horned helmet turned slowly, eyeless visor scanning the reactions about the room. Few of his subordinates had ever seen his true face, as Briggun rarely appeared without a helmet or mask of some kind. Along with Veno, there was the Wizard of Zo, Estro, whom Briggun had defeated in another lifetime, before the events which placed him at the head of an accursed army that toppled the Kingdom of Canar and formed the foundation of his new empire: Saarus. There was also Declan, who despite his stature was not a halfling, but in fact a human afflicted with the Wither plague, who had known that earlier version of Briggun- the Warlock, the Hero, the Savior of Canar...
...Perhaps it would be better to start at the beginning.
In the year 708, the Kingdom of Canar was in the midst of a great crisis. Although it had stood for centuries, the great and powerful Kingdom on the same-named Bay had grown restless, as its people yearned for progress, recognition for their work, and a larger share of the bounty- things which had been callously denied to them by the landed aristocracy. The nobles cast their judgement on any and all who would make trouble for their status quo, until a conspiracy led by a powerful mage- Estro, took shape against the noble class. His cultists rebelled against the King, and nearly succeeded in overthrowing the dynasty, when Briggun, then a young phenom of sorcery thanks to a pact with the fae which he kept a closely-guarded secret, delivered Estro a surprise defeat. After the wizard was imprisoned, Briggun remained on the royal court for a decade, until the secret of his pact was exposed.
Briggun was in love with a fae woman- Herasa, a woman as beautiful as the night itself, and powerful enough to warp the mind of any man or woman of her choosing. It is said that the fae are the descendants of man, mer, and others who went mad in pursuit of arcane power, warping their minds and bodies in the process, and for that reason close relations with any fae was strictly forbidden of members of the royal court. Briggun was exiled, and sent to live out his days in the Malenchanted Woods where Herasa hailed from, under threat that if any of his family were to return to Canar, they would be put to death.
Sadly, seven years later, a young half-fae boy ventured into Canar in search of the justiciars who governed his father's fate. Young Johas, an innocent, merely wanted to appeal to the judge's merciful senses and allow his father to travel freely. Instead, he was put to death, enraging Briggun and breaking what was left of his already-tormented mind.
He gathered allies:
Veno, the Black Rose - a Drow shapeshifter hellbent on uniting her people (and everyone else) into the service of her Goddess.
Baba Voyka - a matriarch of the Horned, determined to avenge her people and secure them a permanent seat of honor.
Kolthix the Cackler - a Shadeling, a monster of darkness which seeks to grow in strength and provide a place in the world for his kind.
Lucafiel, the Redeemer Prince - a Vestati fallen angel who has determined Briggun an adequate ally to help him witness the final death of his own God.
Borok, the Grand Runesmith - A sauroid who offered his expert arcane smithing services to Briggun out of hatred for Canar.
From the Malenchanted Woods, they came with their followers and pillaged the land. Soon, the Kingdom took note of their approach, and discovered all too late that their willingness to destroy the very heroes whom they had previously depended upon would cost them not just once, but again and again, until nothing more could stand against Briggun, because they all stood with him instead:
Vuldar Elegast, Sigurd of Ravgoth - dwarf who betrayed Canar in search of a better ally to help him reclaim his lost throne in Alemannum.
Lord Declan of Sathesbury - a noble whose personal affliction rendered him unwelcome among his peers, who then aided Briggun's rise to enact his revenge.
And not only did the traitors throw open the doors for the warlock's approach, but fellow schemers and villains from elsewhere threw in their lot with Briggun, knowing that he would serve as an easy path to power:
Estro, the Wizard of Zo - freed from his shackles by Briggun nearly two decades after his defeat, Estro returns to his intact cult to finish what he began, all those years ago.
Izaak, The Voivode of Skulls - an osseous human mage who joined Briggun simply to enjoy the thrill of conquest and destruction.
Together, they overthrew the Kingdom of Canar, and then moved north on the Kingdom of Poggost, cornering their army at Solzon. With their destruction, Briggun united the crowns of both kingdoms and founded an Empire named for the plane on which most of the two Kingdoms lay- Saarus. The elves just beyond the mountainous vale closed off the pass out of terror, and so Briggun turned his attention elsewhere, for a time. A hunger gnawed at his innards, never satisfied, and so sought the Grand Duchy of Rocher, gaining further allies from sources most foul:
Alexandre, Red Hand of Rocher - once a hero, Alexandre carries the curse of the Vampyr, and now she stalks the land as a pillager with an army of the undead.
Captain Cordia of the Butcher's Blade - a legendary pirate captain, summoned by Briggun to enact a bloody revenge against those who caused her death.
With Cordia and Alexandre, Briggun won the Bone Coast that Cordia once ruled as a Pirate Queen. His army and navy became an inescapable whirlwind of death which rocked the continent, expanding Saarus' borders to their current frontiers, swallowing up dozens of petty kingdoms and tribal lands along the way. But Briggun will never be satisfied, and as long as there are still men and mer with dark in their hearts, he will hold sway over their actions. They tend to make themselves known:
Adanach, Son of the Druadach - a barbarian mercenary who was betrayed by his employers and now seeks vengeance for the massacre of his people.
Yz, Identity Requiem - a sentience devoid of identity taking the form of a mask, Yz seeks to erase those who serve its cult so that something greater can be built.
And finally, there is one who has been forced to serve:
Lady Falwyn, The Dragonlord - a golden dragon obsessed with wealth and tribute, Briggun turned the tables upon the creature with the help of a magical artifact.
Now, with everyone gathered in this grand hall, Briggun lays out the map before them...
...and demands to know why his empire only covers a third of the known world, and not the entirety of it. Yes, there were many practical reasons why their armies had not yet claimed final victory. To reach the rich coastline of the Gantar Sultinate, for example, one would need to cross a wide and empty desert. Similarly, the mountains between Poggost and Eravan are like a wall, shielding the elvan kingdom from their southern neighbors. But, valid as they may be, the time for excuses is fading fast...
"Now, I want you each to explain to me which portion of this map you will win for my empire on your next campaign, and how. You will resolve any differences in your plans, and you will cooperate if possible," Briggun instructed them. The floor was open, perhaps the first to speak would prove themselves a bold strategist?