Nightwatch

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By Robin Wayne Bailey

Greyhawk Novels

Here’s a pretty obscure bit of Greyhawkiana; the novel Nightwatch by Robin Wayne Bailey. Published in 1990, this was a one-off novel whose author was best known for his contributions to the ever-awesome “Thieves’ World” series (which is a topic for a post unto itself).

The novel focuses on Garrett Starlen, a captain of the Night Watch of the city of Greyhawk, as he tries to unravel the mystery behind why all of the city’s most powerful experts in divination are all killed in the space of a single evening. Soon things start to escalate, with ominous black birds filling the skies and more dead bodies piling up. It’s very much a detective novel, with some nice plot twists, false leads, and the like. Continue reading “Nightwatch”

Artifact of Evil

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Hot on the heels of my review of Gary Gygax‘s first novel, Saga of Old City, we come to the second in the series (and the last published by TSR), Artifact of Evil, published in 1986.

This book has a very different feel than its predecessor, even though the action takes place only a few months after the end of the first. Where Saga of Old City was episodic, with no real plot threading throughout it other than chronicling Gord’s early adventures, Artifact of Evil has a definite plot. The forces of Evil are searching for a powerful artifact that can be used to loose the evil god Tharizdun from his prison, thus bringing doom to the world unless they can be stopped. Continue reading “Artifact of Evil”

The Bride of Count Dahlvier

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Mother of Witches: Part Seven

Fair Elena’s Betrothal

“The Flanaess is not wide enough to hide her from me!” Zagig Yragerne declared. He was wrong. He employed all means at his disposal—magical, abyssal, and otherwise—to locate his prodigal apprentice and avenge his wounded heart, but Natasha knew his methods and his means. She disguised herself cleverly, wrapped herself in scrying wards, and made her way through the wild ways until she came upon the dancing hut where she found Fair Elena feeding the scraps to the cackling geese.

“How is it that you have dared to come to this place again?” Elena demanded sharply. “Should our mother find you out, she will not deal gently with you this time.”

“I have come for your sake, my sister,” Natasha protested innocently. “My conscience pricks me, and shame goads at me. Was it not cruel and unkind of me to steal away Zagig’s heart as I did? Surely I was a jealous fool. But if you still want to be the old man’s wife, you only need to play it in the manner of the game we played with the Sultan’s son. You take my name and my face, and he will come to find you at once, I am sure. I promise you, after he has claimed you for his own, he will never let you go.”

Elena’s countenance darkened. “Oh cruel, cruel fate of Istus!” she sighed. “Too late you have come! Mother has pledged my hand to another of her disciples: a dweomer-master nobleman who dwells far off in the Northern Reaches. I am soon to go to him and to be wed to him.”

“Console your sorrowful heart sister,” Natasha said gently. “I shall go for you to the Northern Reaches and wed this dweomer-master of yours. He shall take me for you, just as Zagig will take you for me.”

Elena danced with delight among the cackling geese and laughed, “I know the reak well!” She threw arms around her sister and pulled her close in tight embrace. “Sweet sister. This kindness surpasses all others you have shown me. Please let’s not quarrel again over poopnoddies!” Continue reading “The Bride of Count Dahlvier”

Tasha’s Hideous Laughter and the Master of Deception

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Mother of Witches: Part Six

Tasha’s Hideous Laughter

(Spoiler alert for Iggwilv’s Legacy: The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth)

It’s no laughing matter, but here’s how the spell works. You need some tiny tarts—two or three will do—and a long feather. Concentrate while uttering the incantation. Clutch the tarts in the one hand (gods know why) and wave the feather in the air. You know: “tickle-tickle.” As if you were tickling your target, much as a giddy child might employ the feather to tickle a playmate or as frisky young lovers sport with one another, the one teasing the other into laughter. The effect will be that the poor chap so bewitched finds everything and every matter about him hilariously funny. He loses himself in convulsive spasms of hideous laughter from which he scarce can recover to catch his breath. Some laugh until they pass unconscious. That’s the spell for which she is most famous, a “harmless prankster’s charm” which young apprentices all over the Flanaess are eager to transcribe into their books. They think it a mere joke, but it’s a wicked spell and no laughing matter. Tasha’s laughter can be deadly. While so incapacitated under the spell, the hapless and witless victim makes himself vulnerable to attack, for he can scarce find his legs, much less defend himself.

Daughter of Baba Yaga

Who was Tasha, and how did she become the blight of our world? The one of which we speak has acquired many names: Natasha, Hura, Tasha, Ychbilch, Louhi, and Iggwilv. Likewise, her fame has won her many titles including Witch Queen of Perenland, Dame of North Reach Farm, the Yatil Witch, Mother of the Old One, and Mother of Witches. The latter title rightfully belongs to Baba Yaga, her adoptive mother, but Iggwilv inherited it, which is to say, she stole it, along with the dangerous arcane treasures she looted from sealed vaults in the old crone’s infamous hut. Continue reading “Tasha’s Hideous Laughter and the Master of Deception”

Saga of the Old City

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Saga of the Old City: A Novel of Swordplay, Thievery, and Magic

by Gary Gygax

Greyhawk Novels

Saga of Old City is the first in the series of novels and stories written by Gary Gygax, featuring his hero Gord. The book was released in 1985 as part of the last gasp of products written by Gygax right before his ouster from TSR.

Saga of Old City charts the early life of Gord, a beggar, thief, acrobat, and adventurer from the slums of Greyhawk’s Old City (hence the title). Interestingly, though, only the first part of the novel actually takes place in Old City, although there is a satisfying denouement that brings the hero back there.

Rather than presenting a single plot, the book is episodic, broken into several stories with connective tissue bridging them together:

  • Gord as a beggar-thief in Old City
  • Gord among the Rhennee
  • Gord in Stoink
  • Gord in Castle Blemu
  • The Battle of Woodford
  • The recovery of the relic from the dungeon in the Abbor Alz

This episodic nature really gives the book a feel like you’re reading an adventure straight from Gygax’s table. Continue reading “Saga of the Old City”

The Ghost at Saltmarsh

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It Started in Saltmarsh: Chapter Thirteen

By Kirt Wackford
A Dungeons & Dragons campaign adaptation edited by Thomas Kelly and Greyhawkstories

Avast! Spoilers Ahead!

22-23 Goodmonth, 570

While the captured pirate ship gently pitched with the waves, tugging at its anchor chain, the party gathered the loot into a single pile. They more-or-less agreed that all the monetary treasure would be equally split, with Willa (but not Tom) receiving a full share. Aurora conducted a magical ritual to detect magic, and she separated out those things that radiated an enchantment.

“My ritual will let us know what items are magical, but not what they do.  I am happy to follow-up by casting an identify to note their properties, to be sure they are not cursed,” Aurora said. No one had not forgotten the fiasco with Thokk’s cursed luckstone. “But I would appreciate it if the party could split the cost of the expensive pearl required for each use of that spell.”

Barnabas balked at that prospect, but Shefak scolded him, “Greed and attachment to material things bar one from true spiritual progress.”

Barnabas replied curtly, “I don’t know who you are monk, and I don’t know how you came to join this party or to claim an equal share in our pillage. But I think your foreign god would be most grateful if you took upon yourself a vow of silence. I know the rest of us would.”

Thokk grunted with laughter, but Shefak coolly ignored the remark. She conducted herself as if the halfling did not ruffle her at all. Continue reading “The Ghost at Saltmarsh”

Battle for the Sea Ghost

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It Started in Saltmarsh: Chapter Twelve

By Kirt Wackford
A Dungeons & Dragons campaign adaptation edited by Thomas Kelly and Greyhawkstories

Avast! Spoilers Ahead!

22 Goodmonth, 570

In his haste to alert the party, Tom sailed the excise cutter into the sea cave with the mast down, but he did not take the time to remove it from the ship. Willa took charge and ordered the party to remove it for the operation. She saw Thokk and Barnabus loaded and launched before she placed the rest of the party in their positions within the jollyboat.

Thokk strained against the oars and pulled his craft out into the black, rolling sea. His half-blood eyes allowed him to see through the darkness well enough to avoid the rocks around the cave mouth. Barnabas had to endure several terrifying minutes of blackness and crashing waves, tossed about the cutter and drenched with spray while Thokk heaved and fretted. Once they pulled out beyond the surf zone and into the open sea the waves calmed and Thokk concentrated on rowing silently with a steady pace. Every so often the half orc looked over his shoulder, trying to detect the dark ship against the dark sky so that he had somewhere to make for more precise than “away from land.”

Willa checked everything twice in the jollyboat before shoving off. She was in no hurry; she wanted Thokk to have as long a lead as possible. Her kept her hauberk of chain neatly folded under her aft seat. She directed the beam of her lantern through the fog and across the rocks as she called orders. Tyrius and Babshapka took the oars at the outset, though she would spell them out if needed. Continue reading “Battle for the Sea Ghost”

Troll War in the Pale

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By Keos (Joe Streeper) and Brattan of Holdworthy

I knew it was coming. The crops were failing in the north. The air had a bitter bite not felt for ages. The geese had Ieft earlier than ever before—just before Brewfest, making their way toward the gentler lands of Sunndi, or so they say. I took the early flight of geese as an omen upon the holy land. And now it has come to pass: The Troll Winter.

Call me Keos. In my youth I traveled far and wide across the Flanaess to lands most strange. It seems a long time ago that I set sail upon the Icy Sea finding port from Jotsplat to the Barren Wastes, where ice blankets the lands in a white embrace. Now that my hair too has turned with the seasons, I am no longer a young adventurer. I can only dream of those long days beneath the arctic sun. Now I make my home here in Wintershiven, and I am content to live out my days among my family and my books. And when an audience is indulgent, I can pursue my other pastime: telling stories of adventure and bravery. Come and pull up a chair near the fire and let me share just such as story with you today. Continue reading “Troll War in the Pale”

The Sevenfold Mazework

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Daoud’s Wondrous Lanthorn: Chapter Eight

The Sevenfold Mazework

As the portal shimmered into existence, Daoud steered his swimming carpet toward it and dove through opening between worlds, disappearing from the world of water before the hunting party missed him. It seemed to him that the water all around him solidified until, all at once, he could not move at all. He found himself utterly encompassed by solid stone that fitted about him so tightly it left not room to move a single muscle. Stone sealed his eyes so tightly he could not tell if they were open or closed; he could see nothing at all. Nor could he draw a breath, but rather, he slowly realize that he himself had been petrified and every tissue of his body had turned solid. In such a state, he needed neither air to breath nor water to drink nor food to nourish himself; he simply remained unchanging and solid.

Alas! I have entered the world of earth and stone and become a part of it! He rued his hasty escape and scolded himself. How long shall I remain here, made of stone and encased in stone? Were not things better for me in the Citadel of Ten Thousand Pearls among my six elf wives?

Daoud had a long time to reflect on these regrets and all that had befallen him as he Continue reading “The Sevenfold Mazework”

Swimming Lessons

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It Started in Saltmarsh: Chapter Eleven

By Kirt Wackford
A Dungeons & Dragons campaign adaptation edited by Thomas Kelly and Greyhawkstories

13-22 Goodmonth, 570

By midmorning, the party had returned to Saltmarsh. Acting with alacrity, Tyrius went straightaway to the Customs House where he found Secun already at a table working through a pile of papers. The townsman rose to greet the young paladin, and Tyrius returned the gesture with a polite bow before handing him the still-sealed letter from the Viscount.

Secun broke the seal and read the letter on the spot, nodding as he went. When he finished, he returned to his chair behind the table, tucked the parchment away, and motioned for Tyrius to take a seat in an open chair. Tyrius shook his head, “Thank you my lord; I will remain standing for now, until I have heard your words.”

“Well, the Viscount has approved the operation and we are now officially sanctioned to proceed. Saltmarsh is prepared to offer your party the following, in addition to our previous considerations: The merchants on the council will purchase any captured goods your party wishes to sell or turn into cash, whether left over from the house or what you may acquire in the future from the smuggler’s ship. The price will be a fair one. If your party prefers to take possession of the goods and contraband and sell them yourselves in Seaton, you are free to do so.

“Moreover, should your party require any gear for your assault on the smuggler’s ship, and it is not available here in Saltmarsh, the merchants on the council have agreed to import such goods for the market price in Seaton, with no markup or charge for the transportation. Continue reading “Swimming Lessons”

The Citadel of Ten Thousand Pearls

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Daoud’s Wondrous Lanthorn: Chapter Seven

The Citadel of Ten Thousand Pearls

The rain fell so heavily that Daoud was instantly soaked through and through. What is more, the blanketing rain quickly saturated the magical rug which bore him through the air until it weighed heavily, beginning a slow descent of which he was not aware. He pulled the hood of his cloak up over his head and strained to see through the blinding rain but to no avail. His carpet abruptly splashed onto the surface of pitching waters, where, raftlike, it kept him afloat for a few moments—until an enormous crashing wave plunged him under the water, carpet, books, and all. Daoud struggled to swim, expecting the weight of his wet clothing and cloak to weigh him down, but instead he found he could move quite easily and also breathe the water as if he was breathing air. He at once discerned these effects to be the magical properties of the cloak, and he marveled at the foresight of the sultan of the world of air. He pulled himself back onto his magical carpet and gathered up his things. Once straightened out and put back in order, the carpet continued to propel him forward, rushing through the water. Under the magic of the manta cloak, Daoud felt no more resistance from the water than he might have felt had he been propelling through the air. Continue reading “The Citadel of Ten Thousand Pearls”

Taking Care of Business

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It Started in Saltmarsh: Chapter Ten

By Kirt Wackford
A Dungeons & Dragons campaign adaptation edited by Thomas Kelly and Greyhawkstories

9-12 Goodmonth, 570

For Babshapka of the Silverwood, the village of Saltmarsh had been an unwelcome chaos of noise and foul smells. Seaton, he was certain, could only be larger and more repugnant. Though sworn to guard Aurora, he resolved to entrust her safety to Tyrius and the viscount while she was in Seaton itself. By nightfall they had passed several outlying thorps, but they were not yet within sight of the lights of the town proper. They pitched a camp alongside the road and divided up the watch. The next day, several miles before they reached the city itself, the wood elf set his eyes on the last true stand of forest near the city, made arrangements for a rendezvous a few days hence, and bade his companions farewell. Tyrius and Aurora took a final inventory of the gems, trinkets, and coins recovered from the house, and went on their way. The wood elf watched them until they disappeared from sight around a bend in the road. Continue reading “Taking Care of Business”

Iggwilv’s Wedding

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Mother of Witches Part Four

Iggwilv’s Wedding

On a certain festive day in the lands of Zeif, the sultan announced the happy news that his favored son Hussin had returned from far-off Bramblewood with a bellbon Ketite maiden of unmatched beauty. “Surely this is the one of whom the prophecy spoke,” the sultan said when he cast eyes upon her. “My daughter,” he fawned over her, “Your power and fame will eclipse all others. Istus has decreed it, and the rashaw has forseen it.”

The sultan happily announced to his people, “My son Hussin shall be wed beneath a flowered canopy on the first night of Brewfest.” Invitations went out to all the sultan’s other sons, to all the powerful houses of Zeir-I-Zeif, and to the chieftains, the pashas, and the beygrafs from foreign lands.

Many tongues wagged over the matter, “Who is this woman? Is she not an infidel? From what noble house has she come?” But others said, “This is the hand of Istus.”

Until the night of her wedding, the Ketite maid took her place in the chambers of the third palace with the other maidens outside the harem of Peh’reen. They put her under the charge and care of the sultan’s chief eunuchs who attended to her daily. The servant girls of the palace also pampered her with oil of myrrh, with spices, with paints and cosmetics, braiding of hair, and sweet perfumes. All was gladness and song, and all the palace seemed astir with anticipation over the coming day of joy. They dressed the fair-skinned maid in fine silks and scarves. They adorned her with gleaming ornaments of golden jewelry set with precious gems. They arranged her black hair to dangle in curling feats. As the week of Brewfest drew near, dancers went before her with castanets. Minstrels played for her entertainment, and singers sang of her charms, “A bellbon beautiful bride! A bellbon beautiful maid!” Continue reading “Iggwilv’s Wedding”

The Stoutly Salter

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It Started in Saltmarsh: Chapter Nine

By Kirt Wackford
A Dungeons & Dragons campaign adaptation edited by Thomas Kelly and Greyhawkstories

8 Goodmonth, 570

Barnabas reclined against the contraband in the back of the wagon, paying no attention to the excise officers driving him. Tom held the reigns, and his sister sat up front beside him. As the ill-mannered halfling bard crooned about his heroics, Willa and Tom shared a secret smile and a roll of the eyes.

Willa still wore her heavy suit of chain armor. Though it was second-hand and ill-fitting when she acquired it, it was a prized possession—a present from Secun from when she made corporal. She had worn it on the coast road and the Bale road numerous times, and it even saved her from a blade once. She also carried her preferred weapons, a longsword and dagger. The dagger was for close-quarter fights when the craft was so small that a step could unbalance it, but she preferred the sword any time the deck was stable. If there was space, she preferred to use the sword two-handed for maximum effect, though she had been known to switch to one-handed so as to throw her dagger left-handed, a move seldom suspected. She did not carry a shield. Lots of the excise officers did carry them, but she found them completely impractical at sea.

I’d like to lay hand on a greatsword,” she thought to herself, “And mayhaps I will if I can make any claim to fair share of wha’e’r becomes this booty.

Continue reading “The Stoutly Salter”

The Court of Ice and Steel

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Daoud’s Wondrous Lanthorn: Chapter Six

The Court of Ice and Steel

Daoud awoke and rubbed at his stinging, ash-caked eyes. He saw at once that he had left the world of fire behind and now drifted upon the winds of the world of air. Graceful flying creatures with wings like birds circled about in a world that seemed to be not but bright clear sky in every direction. Strange winds and elementals of air buffeted him and made his ride continuously turbulent. From time to time, air weirds formed and snaked about, attacking him, but he warded them off with his spellcraft until he had no spells left to utter.

Presently he spied a distant cloud. Daoud turned his carpet toward the promise of moisture. As he drew closer to his goal, he realized the cloud was really quite enormous and only appeared small because of the great distance. As the hours passed, the cloud loomed larger and larger until it filled his whole scope of vision. At last he immersed himself in it, plunging into its icy swirling fogs, washing away the soot of the world of fire and quenching his great thirst. Presently he felt soaked and chilled, but after so many months in the world of fire, he welcomed the feeling.

Some several hours later, he passed out of the fog onto the other side of the cloud, and at once, he had to veer sharply to avoid colliding with a sailing ship afloat in the air. Sailors shouted and scolded and shook their fists at him. Daoud swooped back around to see what manner of men might sail a ship upon the wind, but he rued his curiosity when the mesh of a cast net snagged both him and his carpet from the air and pulled him aboard.

Continue reading “The Court of Ice and Steel”

Flight from the City of Brass

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Daoud’s Wondrous Lanthorn: Chapter Five

Flight from the City of Brass

“Now my son,” Surrvaris said to his student, “You have learned some magic and you have learned the ways of undeath. But what do you really know of the world? Are you ready to command the genies? By the power of your great-grandfather’s ring, I will create a portal. Toss yourself into the flames of this brazier, and you will see wonders. Only do not forget to return by the way you have come before the coals of this fire go cold, or you may not find your way back at all.”

Daoud looked apprehensively into the hot flames, then shrugged his shoulders and stepped into the fire. Pain seared his flesh as the fire leapt up to consume him, and in only a moment his whole body burst into flames. In terror for his life, he leapt away from the brazier, only to find himself no longer in the chambers of Surrvaris or anywhere near the city of Sefmur. He stood upon a balcony overlooking a great city of stone and brazen domes, all ablaze with flame. The heat struck him like a blast from every direction. Even the streets burned, as did the arched bridges that spanned a river of hot lava flowing through the center of the city. Daoud lifted his hands and peered at his body, expecting to see himself badly burned, but instead he found himself quite unharmed. Well, if I am really here, I should have a look around and see what I might learn.

The blazing streets teemed with fearsome creatures: efreet sauntered about like Continue reading “Flight from the City of Brass”

Sanballets Refrain

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It Started in Saltmarsh: Chapter Eight

By Kirt Wackford
A Dungeons & Dragons campaign adaptation edited by Thomas Kelly and Greyhawkstories

[Avast! Spoilers ahead.]

8 Goodmonth, 570

Tyrius, Larry, Aurora, and Babshapka were already awake when the smell of Ruth’s cooking came drifting up the stairs from below. Others, having indulged in too much ale the previous night, needed to be roused from their beds when the food was finally laid out on the table. Eventually the whole of the party found their way downstairs, some eagerly and some reluctantly.

A tall, broad-shouldered, dusky woman strode in through the door. Her features betrayed a predominantly Flan heritage, though not purely so. She had copper-brown skin and black tresses. Whether her mixed ancestry included Oerid, or Suel, or both was not obvious. Ruth nodded in recognition and offered a half-curtsy in respect. The newcomer was dressed in an old but well-maintained tabard bearing a device on the left sleeve, a loose linen blouse underneath, tight leather breeches, and high boots. The hilt of a longsword projected above her shoulder (she wore it on a back-harness under her tabar) and a dagger sat comfortably on her hip.

The woman grinned, more in satisfaction than friendliness.“No mistakin’ ther lot o’ ye fer Moorfolk, be t’ere?” she asked rhetorically. Thokk, looking up from his plate of fried fish, smiled in reply, spiky tusks protruding from his broad mouth.

“Excuse me?” asked Aurora. She understood Keoish well enough, but she was taken aback by the woman’s thick lower-class Salinmoor accent. The woman tried again in Common, but her accent was just as heavy. “I be sayin’, ther lot o’ ye be ther strangers wot met wit’ ther council.”

“Oh, yes, quite!” Aurora agreed. Continue reading “Sanballets Refrain”

Alhazred and the Path of Shadows

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Daoud’s Wondrous Lanthorn: Chapter Four

Alhazred and the Path of Shadows

Daoud returned to Sefmur, powerful in magical arts and well-learned in spell craft, but his heart was sorely vexed to find that, in his absence, his father Sulymon had passed away from the lands of those who live and breathe. Moreover, the pasha had not bequeathed to Daoud the seal of power as he had promised, and this omission much perplexed the young prince. “If only there was some means to query the dead!” he lamented.

“There are some who know the art,” his teacher Surrvaris suggested. “Make your way to the wild and untamed plains of Ull. Go to Ulakand the City of Horses and seek out the teacher Alhazred and learn what he will teach you. Perhaps he will summon your father among the shades of Khur Razjin. Only leave in my safekeeping your scroll of spells because I foresee that, if you bring it with you to Ull, you will lose it from your possession for all time. Moreover, if you walk ‘The Path of Shadows,’ remember to show them no fear whatsoever.”

Continue reading “Alhazred and the Path of Shadows”

Hidden Temple of Pharol Al-Sammal

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Daoud’s Wondrous Lanthorn: Chapter Three

Hidden Temple of Pharol Al-Sammal

Daoud related the story of Sulymon and the Seven Giants beneath the pavilions of Hasnat for several nights, but the tale need not be retold here, for it is told in the poems of Obed of Tusmit and also recounted in the Fiftyscore Tales of Al’Shari. After completing his adventures, having slain the seven giants and all their kin, and having looted their wealth as well, Sulymon returned to Tusmit and inherited the throne from his grandfather (200 CY). In addition, he inherited the seal of power which Mehmet had obtained from the quest of the Black Vizier.

This Sulymon had four sons, each one the son of a different wife. The youngest was Daoud. Daoud had no expectation of inheritance over his elder brothers; he accepted his place with the same stoic indifference by which he measured all circumstances—was it not the fate decreed by Istus? Rather than concern himself with politics and intrigues, he devoted himself to learning, philosophy, and science. His heart inclined after knowledge and understanding, and he cared little for the pretenses of life at court. He set his mind to ponder the intricate weaving of the hands of Istus, dedicating himself to her worship.

Continue reading “Hidden Temple of Pharol Al-Sammal”

Mehmet and the Baklunish Seal of Power

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Daoud’s Wondrous Lanthorn: Chapter Two

Mehmet and the Baklunish Seal of Power

Mehmet made his name remembered among the Paynim as a master horseman, a fearsome warrior, and a leader of men. He led the Yamifa tribe on regular raids against the peoples of Zeif and became a painful thorn to the sultanate. Clans and tribes united behind him. His heroics inspired the loyalty of the shaw and even the most seasoned warriors.

“Now what shall I do to remove this irritation?” the sultan asked his vizier. “If I mobilize my riders, Mehmet and his cutthroats melt away and vanish altogether, but if I turn my back for even an instant, they leap upon me from behind and raid and plunder all along my borders.”

“Why should His Omnipotence trouble himself over the matter? Every man has a price. Take this Paynim dog into your employ,” the grand vizier advised. “Let him lead your own warriors to patrol the borders.”

The sultan thought this counsel clever. He sent a delegation to Mehmet, inviting him to come serve in the sultan’s army as an officer of the cavalry. The pious Mehmet replied, “Give me seven days to fast and pray, and then you will have your answer.” Continue reading “Mehmet and the Baklunish Seal of Power”

The Escape of Master Murphey

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It Started in Saltmarsh: Chapter Seven

By Kirt Wackford
A Dungeons & Dragons campaign adaptation edited by Thomas Kelly and Greyhawkstories

[Avast! Spoilers ahead.]

7 Goodmonth, 570

Tyrius, Aurora, and Barnabus held a hushed strategy session over breakfast. They sat by themselves at a different table from the other three party members, and they stopped talking whenever Ruth appeared from the kitchen. Tyrius reiterated, “We simply need to appear before the town council and tell them what transpired in the haunted house.”

Aurora shook her head emphatically, “You are being naïve!”

Barnabus agreed, leaned forward, and hissed, “No one needs know anything until we have determined the disposition of the recovered smuggled goods! We are in possession of bolts and bolts of silk, casks and casks of fine brandy. This is a fortune, and it belongs as much to us as to anyone. As soon as the council learns of this windfall, they will seize the goods without a second thought!”

Tyrius objected, “There is what is right and what is wrong, and I choose to be on the side of what is right. I will not be a party to theft, even if it be from thieves and smugglers. Surely the council members will appropriately reward us with a portion of the recovered goods, which is more than we had yesterday and as much as we deserve.”

Barnabus smiled impatiently, “Listen, noble knight. We can report everything we found in the cellar, down to the last gold earring if you want, but we are better off keeping what was found in the sea caves a secret until we find a way to move the goods to Seaton and sell them there, for the benefit of the whole party—equal shares all around. After all, we are the ones who risked our necks, not the council.”

Tyrius’ face darkened. His voice took on a note of firm resolve. “I will not lie, or hide goods for simple monetary gain.”

Aurora tried a more subtle approach. “Whomever was receiving these smuggled goods,” she explained, “is likely to be both wealthy and powerful. If they are not on the city council themselves, they are likely to have allies, eyes and ears, on the council. For all we know, the council itself could already be aware of the smuggling ring and be using it to enrich the town at the expense of the king!”

Barnabus nodded emphatically. Aurora continued, “I’m just saying that we have to tread Continue reading “The Escape of Master Murphey”

Daoud’s Wondrous Lanthorn

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Daoud’s Wondrous Lanthorn: Chapter One

The Pavilion of Hasnat

A dwarf and a man held tightly to the edges of the tattered and threadbare magical carpet on which they sat. The embroidered fringes of the once-colorful rug had been burned away, and the whole of the weave looked to have passed through fire and water. Yet it showed itself still skyworthy, bearing them on a straight and true path through the air faster than any bird might fly. Strapped tightly to their conveyance were several small bags, bundles, and one large purse. The dwarf and the man looked no better kept than the carpet on which they flew. Earth and grime soiled their garments and smeared their faces. Long tangles of hair and untrimmed beards waved and flapped about in the wind like pendants. Despite weariness and all the travails and deprivations they had already passed through, both the man and dwarf radiated expressions of amazement and exhilaration as they peered about at the world below them and the world above them.

Daoud and Grimmly sailed above, or perhaps below, a world delicious and delightful and also doubled; one facing down upon them from above and one looking up toward them from below. It seemed to them as if they somehow flew between the mountains and the reflection of the mountains as it appears on the surface of a calm mountain lake at the height of summer if it were that the sky itself was the surface that created the mirror. Spread out below them lay a thicketed wilderness of trees overgrown and wild, while far above in the remote heights of the sky they could see, as if mirroring the world beneath them, another world in parallel, but of orchards, fields, and gardens, cultivated and tended. Below them grew cedar and pine and fir and branching palm, shade below shade, while above them (growing upside-down it appeared), they saw tended groves and orchards of the goodliest trees heavy-laden with fairest fruits, adorned with fragrant golden-hued blossoms and rainbows of color. Below them the wild untamed mountains and forests spread out for as far as they eye could see, from horizon to horizon, at points giving way to hills and lakes in the far distance or falling into green plains crossed by mountain-fed rivers in another. Above them, in perfect reflection, spread out the same lay of the land, hill for hill and peak for peak, except a world cultivated and tended, a garden of delight.

“Although it be two worlds that we see, they can be but one world and one place,” Daoud informed his dwarven passenger. “Istus has smiled upon us, and we have passed now into the Twin Paradises.”

“By Moradin’s beard!” Grimmly exclaimed. “Are all the old tales of gods and goddesses true then as well?” Continue reading “Daoud’s Wondrous Lanthorn”

Sanballat’s Trap

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It Started in Saltmarsh: Chapter Six

By Kirt Wackford
A Dungeons & Dragons campaign adaptation edited by Thomas Kelly and Greyhawkstories

[Avast! Spoilers ahead.]

6 Goodmonth, 570

Sometime during Babshapka’s watch, first Tyrius and then Larenthal regained consciousness. Both remained in considerable discomfort, but the elf was relieved to find them lucid. Babshapka spoke to them softly, gave them water, and attended to their needs before encouraging them to rest longer. By morning Larry felt strong enough summon up enough of the Oerth’s power to work spells of healing for his own wounds and also for those of his companion. Tyrius, in his turn, invoked the name of Pelor to lay healing hands upon himself and the dwarf. Through rest and the power of spells and prayers, they recovered their strength, but the effort cost them all their magical potency, and the party was not keen to return to the house with their spellcaster at “empty.” They decided to let Larenthal continue to rest for the morning and then set out in the afternoon.  For his part, the dwarf was content to spend the morning communing with sky and land, earth and sea, and the living soul of Oerth rather than returning immediately to the house of giant vermin and blood-sucking stirges.

The rest of the party spent a leisurely morning in the fresh sea air, enjoying a generous lunch. Nadine did not have food to contribute (her supplies having been taken along with her clothes), but she did provide assistance with gathering wood, cooking, and washing up, so the party did not begrudge her the two meals. Thanks to Tyrius’ careful planning, they had purchased a week’s worth of supplies, and they were in no danger of running short soon even with one extra mouth.

In mid-afternoon, the party broke camp and returned through the woods to the house. Arriving there, however, they found it surrounded by townsfolk! Mostly the young and spry, but people of all ages had gathered—many having brought a picnic lunch with them. They were spread out along the road and camped on high spots so as to see over the wall—a few youths were even perched in trees, studying the house. None had dared cross the wall or enter the garden, however, and Aurora noted that they stayed well Continue reading “Sanballat’s Trap”

Haunted House of Saltmarsh

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It Started in Saltmarsh: Chapter Five

By Kirt Wackford
A Dungeons & Dragons campaign adaptation edited by Thomas Kelly and Greyhawkstories

5 Goodmonth, 570 (afternoon and evening)

[Avast! Spoilers ahead.]

“That one’s got to pay! He didn’t want to be a guest here last night, and he’s not eating for nothing today,” Ruth warned severely, nodding toward Barnabas as she set a luncheon out for the paying customers.

“Not to worry, Oh Fairest Flower of the Azure Sea,” Barnabus said with obviously feigned obsequiousness. “Bring me an ale with this luncheon and I shall pay for what I eat and drink with a song worth twice the amount.”

“We’ll pay with coin for what he eats,” Tyrius hastened to add.

Aurora hoped that Ruth might offer a more sober telling of the tale of the alchemist’s house than the version offered up by the children of Saltmarsh. Ignoring the whole exchange about whether or not Barnabus would pay for his food, she inquired, “Ruth, what can you tell us of the alchemist’s house? The children you chased off told us that it’s haunted?”

“Like as not it is haunted,” she admitted as she ladled up the broth into their bowls.

“Would it be meet to say the spirits haunting it are a threat to the town?” Aurora pursued eagerly.

“Hardly!” she said with a dismissive laugh. “It’s four miles east of the town which is a long way for a geist to go a-creeping. It’s not even likely any of the ragamuffins ye spoke with has ever actually laid eyes on the place. It is indeed a lonesome house, just off the old coast road and looking out to the sea.”

“We intend to exorcise the spirits that haunt it as a service to the people of Saltmarsh,” Tyrius explained as he counted out coin to pay for Barnabus’ food. “What can you tell us about it?”

Madam Ruth put down the ladle, a grave expression settling over her plump features. “Oh, I shouldn’t be poking my nose into things like that if I was ye. I can tell ye this. Until some twenty years ago, when I was yet in the flower of youth, an aged alchemist and magician did reside there, and he did indeed have a sinister reputation—as anyone who practices magic deserves, really. The townsfolk mostly shunned the house because of the Continue reading “Haunted House of Saltmarsh”

In Search of Adventure

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It Started in Saltmarsh: Chapter Four

By Kirt Wackford
A Dungeons & Dragons campaign adaptation edited by Thomas Kelly and Greyhawkstories

5 Goodmonth, 570

Tyrius, Thokk, Larry, and Aurora awoke to the smell of fresh bread and batter-fried fish rising from The Mermaid’s kitchen. Babshapka had been awake for hours already—elves do not sleep like other races. He spent the early morning seated near the open window of the bedroom he shared with the half-elf girl, staring out over the town and to the water.

At breakfast, Aurora continued the discussion she had initiated the night before, exchanging stories and manipulating the conversation toward a resolution to form an adventuring company. Tyrius was reluctant to commit to anything long-term. His goal was to get Larry to the Moot of the Great Druid, and he recognized that he would need coin to accomplish even that. Why should I doubt the light of Pelor? If these two elvish folks want to help me get coin by doing some noble deeds, so much the better. They were still talking when visitors arrived—Lieutenant Dan of the town watch, and several of the watchmen that Tyrius encountered the previous day. He cast a curious eye over Babshapka and Aurora, letting his eyes linger perhaps a few moments too long on the pretty half-elf. Then he turned to Tyrius and addressed him with a stern and non-nonsense tone, “I’ve come to meet you all and see that you found yourselves some honest lodgings. I want to see that you have paid Ruth here with good coin, and that you understand you now have six days left to find either employment or a patron.”

Tyrius sighed a nodded. Thokk picked at his teeth and sniffed at the air.

The watch officer levelled a finger at the half-orc Continue reading “In Search of Adventure”

Arrival in Saltmarsh

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It Started in Saltmarsh: Chapter Three

By Kirt Wackford
A Dungeons & Dragons campaign adaptation edited by Thomas Kelly and Greyhawkstories

4 Goodmonth, 570

Standing among their gear on the docks of Saltmarsh as they watched their former ship set sail, Tyrius, Larry, and Thokk contemplated their options. Or, rather, Tyrius contemplated while Larry and Thokk returned the open stares of the passers-by. The dockworkers seemed rough-and-tumble men, and if they were taken aback by the newcomers in town, they did not let on. The inner harbor, however, was lined with a dirt road that ran all along the shore. Judging by the number of commonfolk stopping and gawking, the town did not see much in the way of huge half-orcs, grubby dwarves, or noble paladins. Tyrius could not have guessed which of them made the bigger spectacle. Keoish manners seemed to prevail, however, and the bystanders did nothing more provocative then staring and whispering to one another, occasionally cuffing the bolder children who would have spoken to the strangers had they been permitted.

With the decision-making left to Tyrius, it seemed meet that they should first thank the gods for their safe arrival. Enough of the commoners sported the dusky hue of the Flan that Tyrius dared ask about a temple to Pelor, but the look he received spoke louder than the answer itself. Overhearing the exchanges, an old man who sat mending nets nearby remarked that anyone who had any sense would thank Osprem for a safe arrival after a voyage at sea. He motioned a hand toward the back of the harbor, where what was obviously a temple stood overlooking the water.

The temple was of limestone without, decorated here and there with bits of coral. Inside were simple wooden benches without backs for pews, and a stone altar in front of what looked like a marble-lined wading pool that smelled of saltwater. No clergy were present, not even novices, so Tyrius offered what he hoped was an appropriate prayer. He looked up just in time to stop Thokk from entering the pool. The half-orc argued that they should collect the coins and pearls from the pool and use them for drinking money; Continue reading “Arrival in Saltmarsh”

Naïve scholar, moody elf, and scallywag halfling

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It Started in Saltmarsh: Chapter Two

By Kirt Wackford
A Dungeons & Dragons campaign adaptation edited by Thomas Kelly and Greyhawkstories

Aurora never knew her father, but his elven blood left his mark upon her unmistakably. Her mother spoke fondly of him often, but only when her own father was not about. Grandfather was a wealthy human merchant of Tringlee, the capital of the Duchy of Ulek, and Aurora was born and raised in his household. As the girl had grown from babbling child to discreet young maiden, her mother had explained that her father was a soldier, a guard to an Ulecki elven nobleman sent in a delegation to the Duke, on a diplomatic mission that lasted all of one glorious summer. They met; they fell in love; he returned home before either knew she was with child, and they never saw each other again.

“When you are older,” her mother would say, “When you are a young woman, you will understand such affairs of the heart.”

“Why didn’t you go after him? Why not write to him or try to find him?” Aurora would ask. Her mother never answered directly, but always with a tale or lesson about how some parts of the Duchy were forbidden to humans, about how her grandfather was a good man but was still subject to all the prejudices of men, about how she had known more than one person undone by the deaths of their children, and it was a sad truth that Aurora would surely die before her father did. Always the lesson was different, until Aurora did not know whether the true reason was one of these or some or all or none.

Aurora matured into a highly intelligent child, and quickly surpassed any tutor that her grandfather could provide. A month shy of her twelfth birthday, she saw a mendicant illusionist doing cheap street theatrics in the market square. She had dragged her maid home early from shopping, politely slipped into a business meeting with her grandfather, and announced her intention to be a wizard. His pale Suel skin grew beet red with embarrassment and anger, but his temper subsided quickly, and he sighed with resignation, “Ah, well. Blood will out.”

With her grandfather’s permission, Aurora obtained an apprenticeship with a local Master of History and Magic, an ancient human sage with a lifetime appointment to the Duke’s Court, though one without much power or prestige (which was, he later told Aurora, just how he preferred it). Like all his other apprentices, it seemed she studied just as much history as she did magic, and did more text-copying, book-searching, and scroll-filing than anything else. Yet, over the years, she mastered one spell after another, and delighted in practicing them.

Like all students of history, she knew about the Twin Cataclysms (the Invoked Devastation and the Rain of Colorless Fire), which had, a millennium ago, destroyed the Continue reading “Naïve scholar, moody elf, and scallywag halfling”

It Started in Saltmarsh

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Chapter One

Dirty dwarf, disgraced paladin, half-orc fugitive

By Kirt Wackford
A Dungeons & Dragons campaign adaptation edited by Thomas Kelly and Greyhawkstories

At three years old the child was developing like any dwarven infant—he could crawl and babble but not yet walk or talk. He had come into the world in gilded halls deep beneath the Cyrstalmist Mountains, born to a wealthy, prosperous clan of mountain dwarves. But the happy parents did not have long to dote over the Dumathoin’s gift. They were among those chosen to pioneer a new colony, for their clan looked to expand its holdings by starting daughter colonies and exploring new mines. They set out overland with the child still in his mother’s arms.

What should have been a short journey to an already-secured fortification instead turned into a nightmare and tragic end to all their aspirations. A raiding party of ogres, bugbears, and goblins boldly ambushed the caravan. A long, bloody, and desperate battle ensued. The child’s mother was the last dwarf to die, which she did bravely, but not until she had hidden her son beneath some bundles in a mule cart.

The goblins began leading the live mules away while the ogres feasted on the dead ones. The child would certainly have been discovered had not, by chance, a huge bear came Continue reading “It Started in Saltmarsh”

The Sultan’s Son and the Witch’s Sister

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Mother of Witches Part Three

The Sultan’s Son and the Witch’s Sister

There was a sultan who ruled the lands of Zeif in peace and fairness under the bright light of Al’Hatha’s truth. He stood firmly upon the Four Feet of the Dragon, and he had the satisfaction in his later years to see the son of his favored wife prove himself a worthy imitator of those virtues and a worthy heir of his sultanate. Only one matter troubled the old sultan, namely that his son had taken no wife. True enough, generosity, honor, and piety handsomely adorned the young prince, but without family, what does one truly possess? This lamentable deficiency gave the sultan much concern, for his other sons all married powerful houses, daughters of chieftans, pashas, and beygrafs from foreign lands who brought with them rich dowries, exalted titles, and strong alliances.

On an auspicious day, the Sultan said to his son Hussin, for that was his name, “I have consulted the rashaw and learned that you must seek a bride beautiful and powerful beyond all the daughters of Zeif. Do not marry a daughter of Zeif; do not seek a maid of Ekbir, be not seduced by the wiles of a Tusmit woman, and do not look on the dancing girls of Ull. Saddle up your steed, take your men at arms, and go questing into the far-off rebellious land of Ket. Beyond Lopolla, beneath the boughs of that dark forest, take a Ketite maid for wife. Her power and fame will eclipse all the daughters of the Bakluni. Istus has decreed it, and the rashaw has foreseen it.”

Since the young prince was always submissive and obedient to the sultan’s will and since he was much flattered that fate had so favored him with such a magnificent bride surpassing all other women, he consented to undertake the quest. Before departing, he asked, “And how shall I know which girl Istus has decreed for my destiny?”

The sultan said, “Ask the goddess for a specific sign. Let it be the maid that sets before you a princely gift of unmatched beauty. She should be the one Istus has chosen.”

This seemed reasonable to Hussin. He saddled up his steed and took six of his men at Continue reading “The Sultan’s Son and the Witch’s Sister”

The Dragon’s Rest

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A Night in Verbobonc and a Dragon’s Hoard

Noel Graham and Greyhawkstories

“A green dragon be one thing, master elf, but ne’er have I seen green dogs before!” Tresea remarked as she set a dark stout in front of the newcomer. Three dogs slept on the taproom floor, curled about the grey elf’s feet, oblivious to the barmaid and all the other traffic in the common room. Tresea eyed their green-fur and brown spots curiously.

“They are called cooshees. They are elven hunting dogs,” the elf explained. He spoke slowly, his words thick with a heavy olven accent.

“For hunting elves are they?” the girl laughed. She flashed a quick smile to punctuate the jest and perhaps to flirt, just a bit, with the handsome blond-haired and hazel-eyed Celenese. She turned to attend to another of her customers, but the grey elf caught her by the wrist before she could move away from his table. The smile on her young face quickly faded to a scowl; she pulled her hand free from the elf’s grasp.

“Your pardon,” the grey elf requested. If the girl had been an elf herself, she might have been just past her first remembrance, perhaps three or four decades, but he guessed that the human girl with the short-bobbed sandy hair had not seen more than sixteen winters. Just a child. “You mentioned a green dragon. I would like to hear the tale.”

“Most would,” the girl said.

Continue reading “The Dragon’s Rest”