Battle for the Shadows
The Battle for the Shadows describes the events leading up to the invasion of Volkrania by the Mandragora in the Purge of Fire. Much of these events went unseen by the general populace as the Mandragora infiltrated the land.
In the months leading up to the invasion, a number of Mandragora slipped into the woods, mountains, and DeepEarth. The Dark Seed, an elite group of Black Mandragora assassins began by assassinating wizards and other magic-users. Gold Mandragora shapechangers began extolling the virtues of the Cult of the Dragon, taking key places in cities throughout Volkrania. In the forests and mountains, Green Mandragora and White Mandragora scouts set up supply dumps, whilst Black Mandragora were already forging a path through the DeepEarth from Lonaraban. It's unclear as to how the Mandragora secured allies from the Goblins and their kin, but the Goblin tribes appear to have undergone some form of unification to become the BlackClaw Goblinoids, fighting with near-fanaticism.
The Mandragora that remained behind after the Accords of Volkraad, refuse to speak of the events leading up the Purge of Fire. Volkranian scholars have pieced together some information but the picture is far from complete. What is known is that one of the Imperial Houses, House Xeduus, was solely responsible for the invasion, without the backing or the authority of the Empress and the Senate. Despite this, the resources they brought to bear upon Volkrania were considerable.
Three Wings (each of 1000 Mandragora, plus their support corps) of the Imperial Army and a small fleet of SpellWind craft set out from Lonaraban in Coldeven. They were well-equipped and supported by a number of BattleMagi. Another Wing made its way through the DeepEarth, where TunnelRunners and Terramancers forged a path. Their point of exit appears to have been in the Icereach Mountains near Koshrak's View.
Much of the early part of the invasion went unnoticed. Dwarven patrols beneath Koshrak's View reported encounters with Goblins and their kin, in greater numbers than had been seen before. When patrols started to disappear, the Dwarves began to take things more seriously and geared up for war, although they only anticipated Goblinoid forces. A number of Druids fought (And lost) against the invaders in the wilds, but their deaths went unmarked. Across Volkrania, the mass murder of magic-users continued, although it was being noticed by the authorities.
While the Dark Seed were considerably successful in the assassinations, their presence had not gone unnoticed. There had always been Mandragora agents in Erilya, but only a few were affiliated with House Xeduus. Although communication was not possible with their superiors in Lonaraban, these spies quickly recognised the methods used. While most chose to do nothing, others decided to hinder the efforts of the Dark Seed and the infiltrating forces.
The Cult of the Dragon was designed by House Xeduus to subvert humans to the Mandragora cause and create a "Fifth Column" within the cities of Volkrania. The tenets of the cult were attractive enough to attract both thrill-seeking nobility and the poor and disaffected, and the cult grew quickly, arming themselves in Tagraad. They had limited success thanks to a small party of adventurers: with riots already taking place in Tagraad, the Cult moved too rapidly and the Mandragora leaders were exposed for the shapechangers they were.
Other events revealed more: in Shimmerbridge, a Dark Seed assassin was seen for the first time - although only a group of adventurers were witness to it - but word quickly spread. In other cities, weapons caches were discovered, and goblinoid raids intensified. The weapons the goblinoids bore were discovered to be identical to those found in the caches. The resulting investigations (originating in Taldan) quickly proved that someone was arming the Goblins, but it was unclear who.