Blood and Jazz
Rungai Reik was a grandson of Chenglei Reik and the second sovereign of the Gazad Empire. Born in 3208, he showed formidable tactical and diplomatic skill from an early age. This prompted Chenglei to take the boy aside from his peers for private personal tutoring immediately.
The relationship of Rungai and Chenglei was complex, to say the least. A handful of private letters recovered from various consorts and verified by handwriting analysts suggest that Chenglei had always planned for Rungai to be his successor and was disappointed with the performances of his other children and grandchildren, but similar letters from Chenglei to his actual children and grandchildren are much more derisive towards Rungai and demand harsh treatment of him at all possible opportunities. Rungai himself left no written speculation on the reasoning behind his grandfather’s two-faced behavior, nor any other written account of his experiences at all.
Rungai spearheaded the campaign to drive the Falorin elves from the newly-acquired vassal state of Dvirhim in 3240, fighting alongside Alexei the Humble and his son Alexei the Dog of the Reiks, earning the deep respect of both warrior-princes of Dvirhim in the process. In 3253, apparently on a whim, Rungai became a member of the party of adventurers known as the Company of Strangers, which also included the legendary thief Jean d’Értagne, the Aglon wildwoman Agnes Jarter, the bugbear sorcerer who would come to be known as Barren Sam, the lizardwoman who would come to be known as Maria de los Corales, and the young drow princess Shima Fukui of Ki-Tan, all of whom assisted him in his defense against the Jann Invasion of 3254 in exchange for his personal assistance in their own varied quests and trials.
The friendship was not meant to last, unfortunately, as Chenglei eventually ordered Rungai to begin a full-scale Gazad invasion of Tynwë in 3293, putting the homes of the other members of the Company at risk and forcing them to fight him, though despite their best efforts they could not repel the rampaging Gazad horde under Rungai’s command. Aexia’s desperate Grand Hierophant of Corellon Larethian came to Rungai’s camp in person to plead for an end to the slaughter; Gazad accounts state that Rungai seemed moved by the elf’s words initially, but when the priest suggested that Rungai himself convert to the worship of Corellon Larethian, Rungai beheaded him and returned his head to Aexia with the message “Send Me No More Beggars”.
The invasion of Tynwë continued successfully until Chenglei’s death in 3295, when it was discovered that Chenglei had willed the entire empire to Rungai despite his many promises in life of giving lands to Rungai’s father and countless uncles, brothers, and cousins. The outrage over this revelation demanded Rungai’s immediate return home to fight his entire family in the bloody War of Gazad Succession, by the end of which he had been forced to kill nearly every person who had ever been an important part of his upbringing.
Shima Fukui rethought her feelings towards Rungai during the War of Succession, and unlike the other members of the Company eventually returned to his side and assisted in his ultimate victory. Rungai, in return, assisted in a coup against Shima’s elder sister and thus secured her place on the throne of Ki-Tan. There is some evidence that Rungai and Shima were lovers during this period, though as with Chenglei, the relationship was complex. “It wasn’t obvious when we first met them, but they were always both very cold, very ruthless people,” their former associate Maria has said on the subject. “I’m not sure they could have made it work for very long.”
In 3301, Rungai began a successful conquest of lands in northern Komwë, which continued until his death from a deep mummy rot infection in 3304 after venturing into known dragon cultist territory with only novice clerics in attendance to heal him. This sort of reckless behavior was extremely uncharacteristic of Rungai and has led many historians to suspect foul play, but it is fairly clear that all in attendance during the circumstances leading up to Rungai’s death would have had much better opportunities to assassinate him had they been so inclined, and that Rungai trusted them implicitly with his physical safety. Whatever the case may have been, the Gazad Empire collapsed less than a year after Rungai’s death, following the twin death blows of an even bloodier War of Gazad Succession and the start of the bicentennial rampage of the great wyrm Lyndesine in northern Gazad lands, though at the time of Rungai’s death the Gazad Empire was the largest empire by total surface area in all of recorded history, a record unbeaten even by the new dwarf empire of Dvirhim.