The Caging of Gretyll

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Twenty-Six

Thomas Kelly

In haste Thane Redmod Buddoken led the party of strange guests through the winding halls and broad streets of Gilmorack, a naked broadsword in his hands. No longer did the spell of disguise cloak the elves or the halfling priest; they had no such need, for all who saw the king prostrated themselves before him. Fury burned on his face; his subjects shrank back before his flashing gaze. As sentries, soldiers, and guards saluted their king, he commanded them, “Fall in behind me.”

The Holy Anvil

The undermountain king’s growing procession followed after him into the lower halls. They descended by the great central stairs into the Wide Ways and then to the Armor Smithy where the furnaces burned hot and hammers fell in ceaseless rhythms on a hundred anvils. All the air smelled of coal fires and the acrid taste of molten metals. The king came to a certain furnace that seemed stoked to full heat, the metal door glowing red, but the king laid bare hands on the metal casting, swung open the grated iron door, stepped into the flames and commanded, “Follow me!” Kristryd thought the flames should surely consume him, but he stepped through untouched. Bamadar plunged after the king, calling back to the others over his shoulder, “Not but an eye-biting illusion!”

The rest of the axes and worthy dwarves-at-arms followed after, as did the remainder of Kristryd’s party. They stepped into a Grand Smithy, the king’s own secret chamber, and there before them they beheld two muscled and shirtless dwarven smiths laboring with hammers over a wondrous anvil. All about the room stood precariously placed stacks of arms and armor, piles of spears, axes, swords, hammers, and maces. Here too were cruel jagged scimitars and curving blades such as the orcs preferred and such as the six-armed tenar’ri had been wielding—and no wonder about that, for overseeing all the work stood a towering, glowering beast with the torso of an ape, the legs of a boar, and a fang-laden face. Small feathered wings extended from behind his hunching back, fanning the air.

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Witch Queen and Demon Lord

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A Brief History of the Knights of the Hart, Part 3

(CY 460 – 505)
Kirt Wackford

In which is related the rise of Iggwilv, her conquest of Perrenland, and her war against the Knights of the Hart, her fall from power, and the rise of her detestable child, the Demon Lord Iuz.

From whence the Witch Queen Iggwilv came is not known. An erudite sage calling himself the “Eye of Boccob”[1] places her as being of mixed Flan and Baklunish stock and hailing from Ket. Others say that she is an ancient being and hint that she might not be from Oerth at all.[2] All that is known for certain is that she chose to settle in the Yatil mountains between Ket, Perrenland, and Veluna around CY 460.[3] The place suited her purposes well, for it was teeming with humanoids, giants, and monsters. These she bent to her will, establishing a small despotry while conducting magical experiments in the Caverns of Tsojcanth.[4]

War and Seduction

In CY 480 she loosed her army of humanoids on the settled alpine valleys of southern Perrenland. The Perrenders were staunch defenders, but could not resist the combination of humanoid numbers, organization, and fell magics. The mountain holds were quickly overcome, and the forces of Iggwilv pushed out on to the plains. She ultimately conquered most of the southern plains around the Quagflow, the region as a whole being known as the “Marches of Perrenland.”[5] After this, her advance slowed. In the low rolling plains her brutish troops found no caves in which they could hide from the light of Pelor. The mobile cavalry of Perrenland could outmaneuver the humanoids, gathering in massed formations for day attacks, then scattering and riding far away before nightfall. Conquest of the entire land would be difficult. No matter. Iggwilv turned to her dark arts. In innumerable guises she walked among the free hetmen, ensnaring them with her charms. Captivated and captured, they did her will and ordered their people to cease attacks on the lands that the humanoids had taken. The hetmen scarce believed themselves in thrall to the leader of the goblinkind, but they nonetheless told none of the new mistress of their souls. Iggwilv held the southern portion of Perrenland and her troops busily looted it;[6] the rest of the nation tried a few counterattacks before slinking back, utterly cowed by fear of the witch.[7]

The leaders of the Marklands watched these events with growing concern. Their recent rebuff from their own attempted conquest of Perrenland[8] had embittered them against the nation, and they offered no aid to Perrenders in their struggle against the Witch Queen. Once Iggwilv was firmly in control of those lands, the Marklander leaders laid out their plans to contain her. Having a mad archmage so close to the old capital of Dyvers had been bad enough.[9] An archmage dedicated to evil, with a humanoid army and a nation of wild Perrenders in thrall, could well prove much worse. The forces of Iggwilv pointed like a dagger at the heart of the Highfolk and lay uncomfortably close to Mitrik. 

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The Making of the Wondrous Lanthorn

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Daoud’s Wondrous Lanthorn: Chapter Nine

The Making of the Wondrous Lanthorn

Heavy laden with the weight of too many centuries and the sorrows of hard labors, the white-bearded dwarf slogged on determinedly toward the distant lights, slowly pushing his way through bramble and branch. With each step, he felt lighter and younger. No longer did his knees pain him; no longer did his shoulders stoop. From on ahead came sound of voices caught up in revelry, drum and flute, laughter and song. The music quickened his pulse and hastened his step. Presently he drew near enough to catch scent of rich spices, sweet perfumes, and delicious food on the fire. The aromas stirred up long-ago memories and recalled happy nights beneath the colored canopies in the presence of the goddess.

In short time, the dwarf emerged into an open glade. Before him stood a magnificent, palatial pavilion, just as he remembered it, illuminated with one-hundred and ten crystal lanterns. Winged devas called malakim sang for the entertainment of the goddess, accompanied by all types of instruments, drums, cymbals, and dance. For a moment, he felt abashed at the spectacle. “What has an old dwarf to do with a place such as this?” he scolded himself. “I should not have come.” He nearly turned back. But then goddess herself, reclining among the cushions of a divan at the center of the pavilion, turned her lovely head to peer over her shoulder. She fixed her coal-black eyes upon the dwarf in a kindly and come-hither manner and beckoned to him, “Blessed be your coming, Master Grimmly, weary traveler! Enter. Recline at my table. Here is water for you to wash your face, hands, and feet. Here is oil to anoint your head and beard. Here is wine to gladden your heart. Some honeycomb and bread, nuts and apples, cuts of roe and hart that sizzle upon the spit. Eat, and rest yourself awhile.”

Grimmly bowed low before Hasnat, so low that his beard swept the ground. “O Gracious Lady of the Cool Breeze,” he stammered, “I am utterly unworthy to avail myself of your hospitality a second time.”

“Nonsense!” Hasnat laughed. “See how your lamps illuminate my pavilion, more splendid in color and magic than the other hundred all together. And well do we remember the delicious tales told by your master, Daoud of Tusmit. Many were the nights he entertained us with stories of his adventures, and yours too Master Grimmly.”

Continue reading “The Making of the Wondrous Lanthorn”

Black Ichor

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Twenty-Five

Thomas Kelly

Picking herself up from beneath the fallen stone jars, Kristryd unsheathed her dagger and tried to make sense of the sound of commotion around her. “We should have brought a holy knight!” she exclaimed.

“Should have brought an army of holy knights!” Bamadar’s voice agreed from near at hand. A tidal wave of numbing terror washed through the room. Kristryd froze paralyzed numb with fear; her only thought to flee. As suddenly as it had come, the terror lifted, and with it, the darkness. Light returned to the room, revealing a scene of chaos. The six-armed serpent-woman radiated an aura of such revulsion that Kristryd felt her stomach lurch. A retching stench hung in the air and assaulted her nostrils. She tasted excrement on her palate.

A Desperate Fight

Alton the halfling priest stood atop one of the polished stone tables, holding his holy symbol aloft, uttering a prayer of adjuration which seemed to wrack the fiends with pain. Bagbag’s illusions no longer disguised the two elves. Peralay had already unsheathed Gnoll-Cleaver and leapt to the attack between the slashing blows and cutting swings of the librarian’s six-blades. Bagbag raised an unseen magical shield to defend from spells and attacks. Small winged fiends, previously concealed in alcoves above, leaped from the balconies to join the fight. The two unsuspecting guards posted outside the hall rushed in, swords unsheathed in and lances hand, to join the confusion. When they saw the monsters, they shouted bravely and ran forward, striking sturdy blows against ape-like demons. “Only an enchanted edge will bite this one’s flesh!” Bamadar warned over his shoulder as he joined Peralay in the battle with the six-armed fiend.

Continue reading “Black Ichor”

Terror in the Hall of Scrolls

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Twenty-Four

Thomas Kelly

Fanfare sounded in the high-arched council chamber of dazzling Gilmorack. The monolithic carved stone doors swung wide, opening the way into the audience of the undermountain king, the august Thane Redmod Buddoken. All the court stood to welcome the honored guests, save the undermountain king himself. The herald called out the names of each guest as he or she passed through the doors and under the arch of lances held aloft by the flanking guard: “The Princess Kristryd Olinsdotter of Dengar and Ulek.” Adorned in her mithril-threaded tabard, Kristryd carried herself with all pomp appropriate to her station. She cast a cold eye across the assembled court.

“Bagbag, Loremaster of Balnorhak.” Kristryd’s trueheaded advisor hobbled along at her side, mumbling to himself and nodding to the notables and chieftans in attendance.

“Bamadar Kadarel of Thunderstrike, Infantryman of the Royal Army of Ulek.” The bombastic Bamadar swaggered into the council chamber as if accustomed to such circumstances and as if he held such pomp and ceremony in little esteem.

“Father Alton Chubb Quickbread of Prinzfield, priest of the Sylvan Lady.” The halfling cleric of Ehlonna scuttled into the audience hall dressed in clerical finery that ill-fit his diminutive stature. He bowed and nodded awkwardly with every few steps he took.

“Father Furduch of Tulvar, Kron priest of Ulaa.” The elderly gnome, clad in shimmering armor and with a holy mace at his side, tripped along, bowed low, danced a little jig, and winked at the king flirtatiously. The king scowled at the gnome. Father Furduch likewise returned the scowl, furrowing up his brow so deeply that his eyebrows collided above his nose.

 “Xaxalander Deravnye of Urnst.” A low murmur of disapproval audibly rose from the assembled court as the rogue elf sauntered casually into their midst. The tension inspired by his presence became all the frostier as the herald announced the last name of Kristryd’s party: “Prince Peralay of Celene.” Peralay the hunter passed under the arch of lances gracefully, nobly, but without ostentatiousness. He bowed before the undermountain king and took his place beside Kristryd. All eyes fixed upon the two elves.

“Is this an embassy? Or a party of adventurers?” the undermountain king sneered sarcastically. “I cannot remember the last time one of olvenkind stood beneath our vaulted stone ceilings. Or was it never?”

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Leomund at the Edge of Forever

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A tribute to Lenard Lakofka

By Drew Griffiths

Edited by Thomas Kelly

They all had felt the summons. Whether they wanted to or not, one by one, it compelled them to make their way to that place gods alone could go. They arrived in a colossal room without walls, with views through windows where there were no windows. One among them looked out on a solitary pathway, into a void where no god dared go.

Phaulkon, Master of Birds and Wind Archer looked to red-bearded Kord. He saw his own heartbreak reflected back in Kord’s face. Nearby, one of the gods softly wept, perhaps Lydia, goddess of music and daylight. It took a moment for Phaulkon to notice—Wee Jas, mistress of magic and steward of the dead, had managed to remain absent. A brief moment for hope? But then Lendor appeared before his progeny. “It is time,” the god of time announced.

“No!” a hollow voice echoed back from planes beyond the room but not beyond the enveloping void.

“Wee Jas, it is time” insisted Lendor. He looked to Phaulkon. “Stop helping her.”

Continue reading “Leomund at the Edge of Forever”

The High Forest Branch

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A Brief History of the Knights of the Hart (Part 2)

Kirt Wackford
The High Forest Branch, CY 350 – 460

In which is related the early years of the High Forest Branch, its near dissolution following the invasion of Perrenland, and its recovery under the guidance of Thiladorn Meneldor.

The Early Years (CY 350 – 395)

The King of Furyondy publicly revealed the Order of the Hart in the middle of the fourth century CY. As previously explained, the order existed in secret long before then.[1] It is known that the kings of Furyondy had elvish friends long before the order became public, indeed, as far back as Thrommel I, the first king. It is not known whether or not any elves served as members of the order before it became public. Many suggest two candidates that might well have done so: a certain warrior-thief and a notable bard. Both received the accolade to the order as soon as it became public, and both had traveled extensively in Furyondy and Veluna prior to their adoubement.[2]

When the King of Furyondy officially established the High Forest Branch of the Order, he eventually chose twenty elves of diverse backgrounds, skills, and homelands. Many previously served elven nobility, but most possessed no formal training as knights.[3] The majority hailed from the Vesve itself, but several came from Highfolk City or the Highfolk Vale. One knight hailed from Verbobonc, while one came from that portion of the Gnarley claimed by Furyondy.

What did this collection of the fair folk share in common that they should be selected for the order? All were heroes of renown and, more importantly, all were favorably disposed toward Furyondy. Elven opinion about Furyondy at the time was divided. The elves agreed that King Thrommel and his descendants had been good men, and wise and just rulers. But many elves also believed that humanity was just too dangerous for elves to have extensive contact with. They felt that humans were, by their very nature, selfish, shortsighted, violent, and destructive. They preferred to deal with humanity as little as possible. Other elves were more hopeful about the future of humanity. They had noted how carefully Thrommel I had prepared his subject lands for their independence. They knew that there were many good humans. They believed that a policy of openness and sharing could help humanity mature. The original twenty members of the High Forest Branch were among those of the latter opinion. They accepted Furyondy’s self-appointed role as protector of the Vesve. They supported the efforts of the king to make the Lord Marshall of the Vesve his beholden subject. Less self-absorbed than their typical kin, they saw the need for coordinated action between nations to preserve the freedom and goodness of the Marklands. In particular, they recognized that the continual raids by the nomads, bandits, and humanoids destabilized the human governments and spelled danger for the elves if allowed to succeed. These elven knights agreed to protect the new human nations so that they would have time to mature, advance in wisdom, and thus eventually help to protect the elves.

Continue reading “The High Forest Branch”

Among the Tested

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Twenty-Three

Thomas Kelly

The leaves turned color—some had fallen—before she returned to fair Celene on embassy for the alliance (Patchwall 500 CY). She waited in the garden of the Grand Court and mingled among other ambassadors: men from Veluna and Verbobonc, from the Duchy and the County, and from the free city of Greyhawk. Stranger still, she waited among faeries of the Seeley Court, gnomes from the Kron Hills, a centaur from Greenway Valley. And for the dwur folk, she thought to herself, Kristryd Olinsdotter. So I am reduced in her Fey Majesty’s esteem to just one of a bevy of whiflings in line for a moment of her attention.   

“Daughter, what transgression have you committed to incur the Queen Yolande’s disfavor?” the wise mage Onselvon interrupted her thoughts. She had not seen the magic user approach. The long-haired elven wizard sat himself down beside her on the garden bench. “She will not hear told any good of you, whether spoken by the princes, by Darrion, Deravnye, the Fastaal, or myself.”

“I have done the queen no wrong,” Kristryd defended herself. “None of which I know. But I am hated nonetheless.”

 “She will not receive your embassy this day,” Onselvon apologized. “But she asks two questions of the dwur, and she sends me to make the akward inquiry.”

Kristryd nodded. She kept a stoic frown. Onselvon continued, “Her majesty inquires of the dwur, ‘Why did you abandon us in our hour of need?’ And she asks, ‘Why did we find your kin leading the horde in the Battle of Ulek Pass?’”

“Bear the queen this message then: I myself commanded the engagements, as you yourself well know and can testify. As for the host of Dengar, we fell back to defend our own halls from the same such an onslaught as you also faced, or so the commanders thought. As for those few dwur found among the horde, call them not dwur folk nor my kin. They are traitors most vile, one of them a foul witch. And say to the queen on my behalf, ‘Forget not that I am your wrath! For your cause have I made this war!’”

“I will bring these replies to the queen,” Onselvon stood and offered a ceremonious bow. “Return to your cosh. If you are needed further, or granted further audience, we will summon you thence.”

Kristryd did not return to her cottage straightway but wandered the royal city aimlessly. Her heart burned too hot with anger at the queen. Her mind boiled with imaginary conversations and sharp exchanges. Neither the colored leaves of Enstad, nor the fragrances of autumn, nor the beauty of the city could in any measure lift a mood so black. She wondered over Yolande’s callous treatment. Each time she rehearsed the matter, her heart grew more bitter. I once called her friend? Why did I ever trust an elf? Damn them all to the nine hells!

Continue reading “Among the Tested”

Knights of the Hart

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A Brief History of the Knights of the Hart (Part 1)

Prologue
Kirt Wackford

Well after the Great Kingdom had reached its maximum extent and begun to wane, Stinvri, the heredity Viceroy of the Ferrond, declared his independence from the Malachite Throne and wrested control of the Marklands from distant Rauxes. In CY 256 he passed control of the region to his son, crowned as King Thrommel I.[1] At the time, the survival of the independent state seemed unlikely.

Removed from the Aerdian Empire by fiat, the local lords vied for power and fought over resources and borders. The Raoin Church and her allied nobles pressed for the independence of the Voll. The easternmost lands (the Lands of the Shield) were largely controlled by the remnants of Aerdian Army Commanders and military veterans who had been granted small fiefs as pensions. Their loyalty to the new state was uncertain, and they could easily have rejoined the Great Kingdom had it suited their shifting interests. More than a century of nomad raids had reduced the northern lands (or Northern Reaches) to a ragtag collection of petty holdings run by warlords. They considered the change in government as merely the replacement of one distant figurehead for another, with little effect on their daily struggle for existence. The Viceroyalty had laid claim to the entire Vesve Forest, but in truth the Aerdi knew mostly its eastern borders and had never mapped its full extent. The Lord of the Elves had acknowledged the suzerainty of the Viceroy, but had paid little tribute.

Continue reading “Knights of the Hart”

The Halfblood Prophecy

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Twenty-Two

Thomas Kelly

Fury burned in Kristryd’s breast when she saw how her kin had had abandoned the fight at an hour so desperate. The dwarves did not accompany the march of Father Furduch. The hosts of Gilmorack paid no heed to the muster at all. Their undermountain king sent not a single axe to join the fight at Luskan. Nor did Dengar send its iron clad troops to the aid of the elves in the battle for Ulek Pass.

She dispatched a complaint to the undermountain kings from the field of the battle, and she sent an apology to Enstad, written in her own hand. The only warrior of her people to stand alongside Yolande’s people in that desperate hour was the Thunderstrike dwarf Bamadar Kadarel. He had come up from the Principality along with the halfling troop from Prinzfield, and, as such, had the privilege of contributing to the battle of on behalf of the Principality and the dwarven nations. His prowess on the field cast no shame on the reputation of the dwarves. His arms did not tire, and his legs did not falter, but many were the victims that fell beneath his axe.

The Corpse

On the day after the defeat of the horde, Kristryd summoned the winsome young Bamadar to her tent in the green hall and commended him, for he had fought bravely and in a manner worthy of her father’s name and reputation. He tried to flatter her with his attention, “I fought only for the honor of the Noble House of Corond, my lady! For your Grace, and also for his Serene Highness, Lord of the Peaks of Haven.”

“The Noble House thanks you,” Kristryd replied, “But now I must charge you another errand—one you might not find so honorable nor to your liking.”

Bamadar bowed and declared, “If my dishonor be for thy honor, my lady, what more could be to my liking?”

Kristryd ignored the words of ingratiation and continued, “Somewhere on the field of battle, near the encampment of the Red Medusa, find the body of a dwarfess, an old spellcaster, slain through the heart by the blade of Xaxa. Find the corpse and bring it to me, for I must know who she is, from where she came, and with what companions she travelled.”

Continue reading “The Halfblood Prophecy”

The Ignoble Act

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Twenty-One

Thomas Kelly

The orcs had a hard time ignoring the ripping talons of the hippogriffs and sharp javelins of their riders, but there came too few of those to stop the advance of the host. From horseback, Fastaal Dothmar rallied the elven line, and he led the charge up the shallows of the Handmaiden. The goblinkind of the first ranks beheld that bright prince in resplendent armor and all those warriors following, their steeds kicking up such a spray of water as to obscure their numbers. This was the doing of Onselvon’s illusory arts. Only a paltry sparse number of warriors followed the charge, but under the powerful illusion spell woven by that great mage, it appeared to the goblins that a mighty host leapt forward from the dawn, silhouetted against the early rising sun just above the mountains. Blinking in terror, the front ranks scarcely had time to draw back before they learned to fear the three blades Defender, Concluder, and Gnoll-Cleaver.

Some unseen dweomermaster dispelled the illusion almost as soon as it had been cast, but the front ranks turned their backs too quickly to discern the truth of the small number that pursued them. The retreating goblins collided then with those who still advanced from behind just as the screeching eagle-horses and their deadly riders in the sky descended upon them again. Confusion and sudden bewilderment spread through the host. The advancing ranks tripped over retreating kobolds and goblins and orcs, and they turned their knives against one another. Three blasts on a heavy horn signaled a halt. Urgush had no choice. He ordered the host to dig in for the fight. They drew up ranks, threw up barricades, dug pits, crawled under rocks, and prepared to huddle down for the day.

Continue reading “The Ignoble Act”

Tasha’s Hot Cauldron of Everything!

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Thomas Kelly

Not ashamed to admit I’ve already pre-ordered my copy of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. How could I not?

Iggwilv, the notorious witch of Greyhawk, was originally a girl by the name of Natasha the Dark, raised alongside her sister Elena the Fair in the dancing hut of Baba Yaga. That little piece of information fueled my imagination and sent me on a mission to create tales from Natasha’s girlhood, providing Greyhawk’s most infamous witch with some backstory. As a fan of Russian folk tales, I cast the Natasha tales in the same style as the source material, mimicking and borrowing heavily from Russian fairy tales about Baba Yaga and her daughters. You can read my small and still-growing collection of Tasha stories here: Iggwilv Mother of Witches

If it’s not clear to you already, “Tasha” is just the diminutive form of the name Natasha. And speaking of nomenclature, it should be obvious to everyone that “Baby Yoda” is really just a clever cipher for the old witch of Russian folklore.

BABy YodA = BABa YagA

Well, maybe not. But it looks suspiciously similar to me.

Continue reading “Tasha’s Hot Cauldron of Everything!”

Border Watch Dispatch from Barduk

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Ready’reat 12, 586

Constant Rildillian of the Shielding, Captain over the King’s Men, Border Post Four, Barduk.

To His Most Fearsome and Resolute Hero of the Shielding and Noble Count of Furyondy, Artur Jakartai, Great Wall Crystalreach.

May my lord hear good tidings this very day and may his eyes see the liberation of our lands. May those who fear the break of dawn be taught the art of war!

Your servant the fool writes to you as the dawn breaks upon our near-disaster this twelfth day of Ready’reat, for this is how things stand at Fort Critwall. I send this dispatch in all haste by swift rider to relate the urgent desperation of your loyal servants who only by the help of the Invincible Heironeous have survived to this hour. The night just past, we suffered assault from the hated euroz of the Old One (I spit upon his name). By the hand of Invincible Heironeous, we drove them back, but not without loss of life, further dwindling what few heroes of the Shield Lands be left among us. Let it be known that, of the sixty-five spears entrusted to me a year past, some two score have fallen and thirteen left for the summons to join the king’s Northern Crusade, may Cuthbert defend them. Only twelve of us remained to hold the post, and three of those fell this night past to Nerull’s scythe as did two stout dwarves of Barduk. Continue reading “Border Watch Dispatch from Barduk”

Spells & Stratagems

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Twenty

Thomas Kelly

When the snowmelt and winter rains subsided, famished goblinkind came pouring out of their holes, seeking farms to raid and villages to plunder. This time, a surprise met the hungry hordes. The allies occupied every pass in the northern Lortmils, strangling the routes from the Pass of Celene all the way to the Lorridges. Under the earth, Dengar and Gilmorack garrisoned strategic positions on the Low Road, funneling the underground movements of the tribes. Kristryd had arranged it all. In the months prior to the snowmelt, she consulted with the generals and strategic thinkers of the alliance, negotiated troop placements, prepared supply lines, and sketched out contingencies. Once the action began, she played her role as liaison between the forces, moving rapidly back and forth between battlefronts mounted on the back of the great hippogriff Emolasmairim. Elves, dwarves, gnomes, and humans alike watched the sky for the wings of her steed. Field commanders and officers consulted her for information about deployments, supplies, and the movements of the enemy. She found herself providing answers to questions that exceeded the scope of her actual authority, and she did not hesitate to issue commands in the queen’s name when necessary to do so. Why shouldn’t the Queen’s Wrath take charge? Am I not the author of the strategy?

Battle of Luskan Way

The northern squeeze corralled the tribes together into a wide vale between the Celene Pass and the way to the Luskan Mines. There they remained, bottled up, until Father Furduch arrived with a gnome army from the Kron Hills and Verbobonc. Continue reading “Spells & Stratagems”

Under the Moonarch

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Nineteen

Thomas Kelly

Luna continued her slow journey across the sky. Kristryd shivered in the cold open air of the night and pulled her cloak tighter about her shoulders. And what shall I do if the queen does not come back to me before the moon has set and sun breaks the east? she worried to herself. How shall I tell it in Enstad? With thoughts such as these still astir in her head, she watched the Moonarch fixedly with unblinking eyes, willing the elf queen to appear.

In the last hour before dawn, as Luna began to slip behind the distant line of the Lortmils, Kristryd felt her drowsy head starting to swim. She rested her eyes only for a moment and plummeted quickly into a dream. Cursing herself for weakness, she leapt to her feet. Am I not a dwarf? she asked herself. My people succumb not to sleeping spells! She shook her head to clear the drowsiness, and abruptly her eyes beheld something new. Through the span of the Moonarch she glimpsed a sunlit land of trees and streams and grassy hills. She stepped nearer, only intending to see the vision more clearly. As she did the image drew itself closer to her, more real and substantial. She fancied she could feel the welcome warmth of those sunlit lands. How pleasant it would be to chase the chill from my bones! Vivid colors and deepening hues crystalized before her. The marvelous world beyond the arch looked more real and solid than Oerth. Indeed, by comparison, Oerth around seemed an insubstantial shadow.

Kristryd swooned but caught herself before she stumbled. She grasped the outstretched hand of a tall elf, clothed in green britches, shirt, jerkin, and cap. He drew her beneath the spanning stone. Continue reading “Under the Moonarch”

Siege of the Tower

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Siege of the Tower is an obscure and often-overlooked piece of Greyhawk fiction that deserves a place with other Greyhawk books. Read the review below and an interview with the author Kevin J. Anderson as well.

In 1982, TSR launched a series of books modeled after the popular Choose Your Own Adventure genre. The new series appeared under the title Endless Quest, publishing forty-nine titles before its relaunch in 2018. Most of the titles are generic Dungeons & Dragons fiction, but some were based on other TSR games and related franchises. According to a Wikipedia breakdown of the series, only two of the books are deliberately set in the World of Greyhawk: Siege of the Tower and Bigby’s Curse.

Siege of the Tower takes place during the Greyhawk Wars era, before the fall of Continue reading “Siege of the Tower”

Moonarch of Sehanine

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Eighteen

Thomas Kelly

An snarl-headed elf woman stepped out from behind a floral-canopied garden walk and hailed Kristryd in the elven tongue, “Behold! Errand-dwur of Yolande, I would a word with thee.” The she-elf looked more like a wild woman of the mountains than noble grey. A course hair-coat she wore tied about her waist with a belt of leather. The feats of her hair paggled loosely, knotted in dreadlocks and tangled with sticks and twigs and leaves.

Kristryd took two startled steps back, sneered her lip and retorted in perfect olven, “I am the Princess Kristryd Olinsdotter of Ulek and Dengar, daughter of the Prince Corond Olinstaad, daughter-in-law of the undermountain king Thane Evrast. I am no errand-dwur! But who are you who dares address the queen’s embassy so disrespectfully?”

“I am Edda the Tested,” the wild elf said with such air of authority that it seemed she expected that the name should convey some significance to Kristryd. It did not. “I have a message for you to bear to the queen.”

“If you have a message to bring, do so. I will not be your messenger,” Kristryd snapped. For emphasis, she pushed the wild elf from her path and continued her way.

Edda recovered herself gracefully, effortlessly scaled up the trunk of a stately ipp, leapt to the limb of a phost, and followed after Kristryd, leaping from limb to limb, tree to tree, like a squirrel. She only left off the pursuit when Kristryd passed into the inner lawns. Even then, Edda called after the dwarf from her perch in a deklo, “Tell her that her lover-boy was betrayed.” Kristryd marched on stoically with her back to the woodness elf, deliberately ignoring her shouts, “Tell her that Edda the Tested gave you the message. You tell her that errand-dwur!” Continue reading “Moonarch of Sehanine”

Oerth Journal 33 Review

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Oerth Journal Issue 33 has hit the press, and the PDF is available for free download, along with all the back issues, at Greyhawkonline.

The new issue has beautiful Greyhawk specific artwork created by LadyLoth. The picture “Nyrondese Soldiers” depicts two soldiers on guard in a camp behind a wooden palisade, as they walk their patrol inside a motte-and-bailey garrison. The contents of the issue go in a variety of directions.

5E Adventure

Notable contributions include a 5E adventure by John O’Neil Roy titled Housecleaning. Without giving away too much, it’s a sequel to his module Unwelcome Guests, and involves exploring a wizard’s tower in eastern Furyundy. Things get a little feywild along the way.  It’s fun to see 5E material for Greyhawk, and it looks great. Continue reading “Oerth Journal 33 Review”

The Stirges’ Nest

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Seventeen

Thomas Kelly

“From where has this one come to your lands?” Kristryd asked the duke’s daughter. He was certainly no Celine elf nor grey of Silverwood. She saw that clear enough. A long dandyish coat with polished brass buttons hung draped over his slim form. Boots of striding laced up to his knees. Tight-fitting elbow-length silken gloves concealed his hands and forearms. Colorful scarves like the kerchiefs of the Baklunish harem girls adorned his head. Baubled jewelry dangled from his ears. Trinkets, charms, and precious stones hung from a slender-linked silver chain about his neck. Glittering gems set in rings adorned his fingers. Kristryd observed that he conversed easily with the duke and seemed at home among the nobles in the palace yard at Tringlee.

“Deravnye is from Seltaren in Urnst,” Nevallewen replied. “He is a most distinguished elf.”

Overhearing his name, the foppish stranger turned to Kristryd and the duke’s daughter, executed a formal bow, and introduced himself properly, “To my kinfolk I am Deravnye, but I am simply Xaxa among friends.”

“Xaxa? Is that a name?” Kristryd asked. To her, all elves seemed effeminate, but this one more so.

“It’s a diminutive form. Xaxalander in full. And it is a name among the people of Urnst.”

“It must be a difficult burden to bear such an uncouth string of syllables!” the duke’s daughter flirted with feigned distaste.

“My lady knows that I am an uncouth elf. A rogue, expert treasure-hunter, dungeon explorer, magsman, and adventurer,” Xaxa returned the flirtatious jest. Continue reading “The Stirges’ Nest”

Companions of the Silver Wolf

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Greyhawkstories.com is a place for collecting stories set in the World of Greyhawk. For two decades, readers at Canonfire! have been treated to the tales of “The Companions of the Silver Wolf,” an adventuring party in the best tradition of the Flanaess. Now the author of those stories, Jared “CruelSummerLord” Milne, has collected his work into a trilogy available on Greyhawkstories. It’s not just fan-fiction, it’s fun fan-fiction.

Read all three at Greyhawkstories.com.

Continue reading “Companions of the Silver Wolf”

The Road of Skulls

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We first heard about the Road of Skulls when refugees from the northern fiefs began to stream into Furyundy. They claimed that “Iuz had constructed a road paved with skulls between the Howling Hills and Dorakaa, his new capital. The watchtowers guarding the road were said to be fueled on the flesh of living men.” So says The Official History of the Greyhawk Wars.

The rumors were, by and large, ignored. In hindsight, it would have been prudent for King Avras to send an expedition of seasoned adventurers on a reconnaissance mission to verify or dismiss the outlandish claim. On the other hand, what exactly are we talking about here? What is “a road paved with skulls.” Continue reading “The Road of Skulls”

Head of the Medusa

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Sixteen

Thomas Kelly

Those sons of Celene who gathered the dead and committed them to the priests of Sehanine came upon a place of battle ringed about with many corpses. In the midst of these they found a toppled and broken stone sculpture of a single warrior. Though the flesh had been made stone, the petrified warrior still wielded his armor, weapons, and gear. “This is no work of an artist’s hands,” Onselvon said when he saw the broken remains. “This was Amras the son of Telfinwe.”

Onselvon made inquiries among the survivors and found one named Eldaeron who had fought beside Amras on the High Road. “Tell us all that befell you,” Onselvon urged.

“We fought our way through a clutch of black-armored ogre guardsmen wielding axes and spears. They ringed about the commander of the force, and we hoped to cut the head from the wyrm. Many fell on my left and my right, but Amras and I leaped through a gap in the ring and confronted the commander: a tall half-blood. That one carried a shield which bore goblin heraldry, painted in red. Namely, the head of a gorgon, magically painted with such enchantment that the serpents of her head writhe and move upon the face of the shield. When Amras saw the shield he stopped frozen, even with his sword poised for the stroke. The color drained from his flesh, and in a trice, he turned to solid stone. This I saw with my own eyes, and to my shame, I turned and fled.” Continue reading “Head of the Medusa”

Way of Tears

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Fifteen

Thomas Kelly

“We’re only here to burn the wretched city,” Hroth explained. “Outside of that, we don’t give a shite.” He gestured to the few dozen one-eared hobgoblin soldiers. They stood motionless at rigid attention—a study in military discipline. Many hundreds of miles had they traversed, under and above the mountains. They were footsore and hungry, on the last of the rations, and impatient for the fight. Now this dung-wad wanted to make excuses! Hroth hovered over Urgush and whispered, breathing his foul breath into the face of his lesser, “Where is your fiend-loving strumpet?”

Vantage on the High Road

Urgush Halfblood blanched and turned his face away from the hobgoblin warrior. “She has supplied us with spells, devilshine weapons, and armor too,” he insisted. He knocked his knuckles against the face of his shield to emphasize the point. “Tokens of her good faith!”

Horth’s yellow eyes blazed with menace. “We didn’t march a whole bloody moon for bloody tokens.”

From the height upon which they stood, the hobgoblin warlord and the half-orc looked down upon an open stretch of the Veluna High Road. A long caravan of gnomes descending from the Kron Hills snaked along the turns in the road, heading toward the fairy kingdom of Celene. Urgush pointed a clawed finger toward the caravan and snivelled, “What do you think those fonkin turds are doing? I watch ‘em come and go on that road, in and out, day after day. Buggerin’ elves, turd-nose gnomes, blasted dwarves! Armies and supplies! No one bothers them. No one hinders them.”

Hroth’s single remaining ear twitched. Continue reading “Way of Tears”

A Voice in the Dark

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Fourteen

Thomas Kelly

The fastaal shouted out orders in the elven tongue, assuming himself the commander of the situation. Likewise, the dwarven officers shouted their own commands in their own tongue, each one assuming himself the leader. Arrows punctured flesh, dwarves and elves clutched at wounds, and savages leaped toward them with thirsty blades.

As the chaos of the battle erupted around her, Kristryd seemed to float above it, as if observing these things happen to someone other than herself—as if playing war in a child’s game. The curious detachment had dreamlike quality. Despite the darkness all around her, her dwur eyes could clearly discern the orcs leaping from behind the stones and dropping from hidden alcoves above. So this is how it ends, here on the Low Road, as it ended for my miserable and unhappy husband, she thought to herself. Her thoughts turned to her three sons. Shall I leave them as orphans?

Kristryd Takes Charge

After only a moment of hesitation, she took charge, ignoring both the Celene officer and the long-bearded dwarven warmen. With a natural ease like one long accustomed to the battlefield, she shouted orders in elvish and dwarvish as the need demanded. Her clear-toned voice resonated above the din of battle. “Form up! Wall of shields! Hammers and axes between!” she commanded in the dwarvish tongue. “Archers aim low, drop the first ranks first,” she commanded in the elvish tongue. “Spellcasters! Light spells, magical arrows, and a wall of fire on the flank!”

Both the elves and the dwarves heeded the voice in the dark, for they had already grown accustomed to her translating on behalf of one another. The dwarves raised a wall of shields, hammers, and axes against the onslaught. The elves loosed away volleys of arrows, striking the first wave so that the second stumbled over them. Archosian employed cantrips to create light spells that revealed the enemy, blinded their eyes, and outlined them in fey light. The sturdy dwur wizard Bagbag threw down spells of power worthy of warmages. Nothing struck fear into the orcs as much as Peralay’s dogs. The cooshees silently leapt at the orcs, ripping at throats. Dothmar and Peralay followed quickly with Concluder and Gnoll-Cleaver, both blades naked and unsheathed, flashing in their hands.

If any foe struck up a conversation with Fastaal Dothmar, Concluder struck twice in reply, putting in the last word. If any orc’s ugly head strayed too close to Peralay’s reach, Gnoll-Cleaver removed the offensive hairy bulb from its shoulders. The battle ended swiftly with the orc host falling back in retreat and cooshees, elves, and dwarves in full pursuit. Continue reading “A Voice in the Dark”

The Drawing of the Veil

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Thirteen

Thomas Kelly

The ambassador traveled to and fro between the nations of the alliance. Often she went afoot but, more often, clinging precariously on the back of a hippogriff and holding tight to a cavalryman of Enstad. Wherever the fragile alliance began to fray, Kristryd arrived to stitch together the rending seams and heal the wounds of insult with eloquent salve and articulate balm. If ever a nation began to flag or grow weary, she arrived with fiery words to stir hearts and strengthen resolve.

Reflections on Diplomacy

In all these efforts, she relied much on the magic of the silver-framed mirror. Many long hours, each day, she gazed intently into its reflection. Those who saw her doing so thought her very vain indeed. “See how she loves to look on the delicate lines of her fey face!” the dwarven women sniffed. “More olve than dwur, that one. And she loves none more than Kristryd!” Continue reading “The Drawing of the Veil”

The Suel Spell

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Twelve

Thomas Kelly

Hroth’s yellow eyes narrowed as he peered heavenward. Half a dozen horse-birds wheeled about the sky over the holy city like vultures circling over a dying warrior. The nostrils of his thick blue nose flared as he sniffed at the air. “Elves!” he spat. Even at this distance from the city, Hroth and his warriors could hear the blaring alarm of the goblin war horns and the beating of the drums.

“Drop the corpses girlies!” he ordered. “Double time all the way home!”

His soldiers dropped their packages: a dozen orange-skinned carcasses, all of them beheaded, some of them also pierced with arrows, the fletching still visible in the wounds. Hroth unshouldered his own burden, a heavy burlap bag containing the dozen heads that once belonged to the bodies.

Three weeks earlier, when those heads were still attached, the priests of Grot-Ugrat dispatched missions to both Celene and the Duchy to protest the city’s innocence in the matter of Druid’s Defile, for rumor of those events had reached the temple. By then, dwarves, elves, gnomes, and men had been spied advancing into the mountains. The envoys to the west went before the duke. Grind his bones! Hroth snarled to himself as he kicked at one of the leering severed heads. Grind all their bones! The duke gave no heed to the protestations of the ambassadors, nor did he honor the custom of parley. No. Not that noble one! What did he do? Murdered them all. Continue reading “The Suel Spell”

Declarations, Councils, and War

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Eleven

Thomas Kelly

The officers gave Kristryd the stirrup and bade her take a place behind the rider’s saddle. Dwarves prefer not to ride on mounts, not even ponies or pack horses. A helmed cavalry officer peered down at her from atop the hippogriff, “This noble beast on which you are to be carried is called Emolasmairim. She has borne none upon her wings except me.”

The Elite Cavalry

The officer extended a hand to the dwarfess as she put foot to the stirrup. “I am Darrion, captain of the queen’s cavalry. Wrap your arms fast around my waste. Lean with me when I lean, but not overmuch to the left or right,” the rider told her as he hoisted her up to the back of the hippogriff. Kristryd shifted about behind the saddle, gripping the beast between her knees and wrapping her arms around the armored waste of the cavalry officer. Emolas spread her great wings and flapped them thrice as if testing the air before leaping into a full gallop. Kristryd had once ridden a horse while at school in Keoland, but on that occasion, only at a slow trot, led by lead-rope in the hand of a squire around a track. That experience terrified her enough. Now she hurtled forward through the air, the wind whipping all about her and snatching away her breath. Her legs clamped the hippogriff tightly and her arms held the rider fast. The beast moved in spanning leaps, landing talons first, then launching again from hoofs behind, faster than she might have supposed. The terror increased when she realized that her mount charged full speed and headlong toward the edge of a precipice. To her left and to her right thundered along the rest of Celene’s elite cavalry, all galloping wildly toward the cliff’s edge. For a moment she launched weightlessness, and her stomach dropped. Then she felt the lift of the great wings as they beat against the air, and Emolas climbed toward the mountains. Continue reading “Declarations, Councils, and War”

The Queen’s Wrath

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Ten

Thomas Kelly

For ten days the elves of Enstad sang mournful chants and recited ancient lays over the tomb of Triserron. On the eleventh day, the Perfect Flower shed her mourner’s garments, immersed herself in the pool of Hanali Celanil, donned a shirt of mithril, and took her seat on the Blossoming Throne. For a full day and a night, she sat silent, staring unseeing, cold-eyed, terrible, and fearsome to behold, and none dared speak nor enter her presence nor take leave of her.

The Crown of Triserron

While Enstad mourned the loss, brave deeds transpired beneath the mountains. A warrior called Dothmar, wielder of the great sword Concluder, rose up to avenge the Prince Triserron who was, in fact, his mother’s brother. He considered himself a defender of the balance, but he hated orcs, and he refused to countenance such insult to olven dignity. “Who will follow me into the holes under the mountains?” he asked. Continue reading “The Queen’s Wrath”

The Lay of Larethian

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Nine

Thomas Kelly

At times the sound of the ethereal voices seemed to draw close, as if the singers stood outside her cottage window, but at other times, the voices sounded far and distant. Kristryd tried to make out the words. The archaic forms were beyond her level of fluency. Nevertheless, the potent enchantments lulled her into trance-like waking dreams in which she seemed to see the characters, the deeds, and the scenes described by the silver voices rising and falling on the night air.

Of Gruumsh and Larethian

“It is the story of Gruumsh and his wars with the gods,” the old lore master explained. “We’ve been hearing it retold nearly every night.” For the whole ten-day lamentation, the eerie keening melodies of Sehanine’s priestesses kept Kristryd and Bagbag mesmerized, hushed, and reverent.

“You understand the words of their poetry?” Kristryd asked her tutor.

“Nay daughter, not scarcely half of it, but I know the tale as it’s told in Enstad. Not like the version told by our priests. Here in Enstad, gods know, they have their own telling.”

“I would know it if you can tell it,” Kristryd said with a dreamy sigh. Though she could not make out the words, the olven songs stirred her heart with a sad and mournful pining she could neither express nor explain. Some wistful nostalgia in the melody tugged at her. It made her heart melancholy … but wasn’t it a sweet and beautiful sorrow?

Bagbag explained, “The elves of Enstad say their city is the birthplace of their people—the very place where the elven god battled the One-Eyed (may Moradin smite him) and their war came to its grisly conclusion. You know the tale?” Continue reading “The Lay of Larethian”

Alternate Oerth Journal

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Issue 32 of Oerth Journal, originally slated for print and distribution at the ill-fated GaryCon 2020, is now available for download. The new issue is dedicated to the concept of “alternate Oerths,” an idea which can be summarized as a world of Greyhawk that, at some point in the timeline, deviated significantly from the published canon. Think of it as alternate time streams creating alternate Oerths.

In truth, every Dungeon Master’s version of Greyhawk is an alternate Oerth, but the articles in the new issue of Oerth Journal flesh out some particularly intriguing possibilities and interesting examples. Cal Scrivener makes the point that, Gary Gygax himself, the original creator of the Flanaess, created his own alternate version in the Gord the Rogue novels.

The liberty to create alternate Oerths that deviate from canon should allow Dungeon Masters to let their characters interact more freely with the world. And that’s where good stories can emerge:

Storytelling is more than creating compelling adventures, or fantastic realms. Ultimately, all storytelling is about people: who we are, what we do. Stories about that which motivates us, drives us to the choices we make, and how we deal with the consequences. (Amy G. Crittenden, “Making Greyhawk Your Own,” Oerth Journal 32)

This issue has several worth-the-price-of-admission moments like Joe Bloch’s rundown on various versions of Castle Greyhawk, Gary Holian’s dark vision of the Great Kingdom under a ruthless reign of death knights, Mike Bridges’ useful write-up on the Sea Princes (what if the Scarlet Brotherhood never conquered Sea Princes) and lots more great imaginative stuff which would rewrite reality if it was reality. Several of the articles include alternate timelines and descriptions of world-changing events. Others, like Jason Zavoda’s article, “Going to the Source,” provide suggestions for sources of inspiration to make Greyhawk uniquely your own.

In the category of “Tales from the Green Dragon,” blogger David Leonard takes us on an alternate expedition to the Barrier Peaks for more genre-bending fun with flying saucers that becomes an origin story behind Oerth’s moons Luna and Celene.

I haven’t finished reading the whole issue yet, but with great artwork, a new comic by Mike Bridges, and a full roster of grognard personalities behind the articles, Issue 32 is a home run. Congratulations to Kristoph Nolan and Greyhawk Online for knocking out another great issue. Download Oerth Journal 32 here for free.

You can support Oerth Journal and help it make the transition to print publication through Patreon.

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Druid’s Defile

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Eight

Thomas Kelly

“Trolls! A wall of trolls block the way!” the rider shouted as he urged his horse forward. The druid furrowed up his brow and squinted down the narrow choke point of the mountain pass. He could see horse and rider galloping hard, but he could not make out the words. “What alarm is this?” the stoic priest of the Old Faith asked of the olven prince at his side. The scout’s warning could not be heard by human ears at such a distance from the party, but keen are the ears of the elves.

The Prince Triserron reigned his steed back and called a halt to the caravan at whose head he rode. He fixed his eyes upon the advancing rider. “To arms! Ready weapons! Secure the animals,” the noble prince ordered. He turned in the saddle to survey the company that followed after him: two dozen folk of Celene, servants with wains and pack animals, a half-dozen gnomes, a score of mountaineers, and several of them hardened rangers from the County of Ulek. Moreover, a powerful druid on loan from the pataline walked at his side.

“Well?” The druid asked.

“Your ranger rides nigh. He shouts into the wind a warning of trolls,” the prince replied without concern.

The druid cocked his head to incline his ear in the direction of the horseman. “Less than a day’s ride from Courwood! Beory’s Abundant Bosom! Why fuss over a few scragglings?”

The prince nodded. “Just the same, I will hear the scout’s reports.” The stallion on which Triserron sat snorted and cantered sideways nervously. Continue reading “Druid’s Defile”

Interview with Paul Kidd: The Real Justicar

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By Thomas Kelly for Greyhawkstories.com

Paul Kidd’s vision for the Flanaess is post-Greyhawk Wars, post-apocalyptic, and a heck of a lot of fun. Kidd left his mark in the world of Greyhawk in the late 1990s and early 2000s when Wizards of the Coast commissioned a series of novels based on several classic modules. Three novels in the series by the Australian writer and gamer, Paul Kidd, form a trilogy:

  • White Plume Mountain (October 1999)
  • Descent into the Depths of the Earth (June 2000)
  • Queen of the Demonweb Pits (October 2001)

Paul Kidd BookKidd’s stories follow the adventures of a moody ranger called The Justicar, his sentient hellhound pelt Cinders, the obnoxious pixie Escalla, and the rest of their ragtag adventuring troop. Kidd’s colorful and well-written characters stand out in bright primary colors as they romp through a bleak and gritty version of the Flanaess, from White Plume Mountain all the way into the Vault of the Drow (where they actually kill Lolth) before plunging into the Demonweb (to kill the Spider Queen again). It’s rich, imaginative writing that gives old D&D tropes a new spin.

A few months ago, Greyhawkstories caught up with Kidd to ask about his contributions to the World of Greyhawk. Continue reading “Interview with Paul Kidd: The Real Justicar”

The Fey Mysteries

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Seven

Thomas Kelly

The wind in her face stole away her breath. Kristryd plummeted, freefalling through darkness. Dizzy with terror, she felt her stomach lurch as she dropped from some great height. From where have I have a fallen? she wondered. She could not remember. The melodious call of a horn came to her, faintly, as if carried on the wind from a great distance. The sound of it pulled her from the dream and roused her before she struck the ground. She woke abruptly, gasping for breath.

A Horn in the Night

Only the light of the handmaiden moon and the starry sky shone through the open window, but dwarves have keen eyes, and they can see in the dark as well as most peoples can see by light of a lamp. Kristryd looked about the small cottage. Nothing amiss. In the other room of the cosh, she could hear trueheaded Bagbag snoring heavily. Did I hear the call of a horn or was that the dream? she asked herself. Or was it just old Bagbag’s snores? As if in reply to the unspoken queries, she heard again the blare of a resonant horn calling in the woods–and merry glad voices too. The horn this time sounded nearer. She rose from her bed in the guest-cosh and gazed through the small open window. Most of the night had already passed. The grove shone dimly under the pale light of Celene. A fine fragrance of cool mountain air chased the sleep from her head and seemed to beck her into the night. After such a frightening dream, she had no aim to return to her sleep. So long as I am already awake, why shouldn’t I walk a bit under light of the moon? she asked herself. She pulled on her soft boots, wrapped herself in a shawl, and went out into the night. Continue reading “The Fey Mysteries”

Her Fey Majesty

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Six

Thomas Kelly

“Here we are,” Bagbag stated matter-of-fact as he and Kristryd and all their retinue crossed over the stone-arch bridge that spanned the splashing Handmaiden. “I’ve not set foot in this place since before you were born, but nothing has changed,” the old wizard observed. He punctuated the observation with a snort and a wrinkling of the nose to indicate his distaste. Still he straightened his sorcerous hat and smoothed his coat as if to make himself more presentable.  Indeed, Bagbag knew that many eyes were now fixed upon their small party, even if those watching remained unseen. The heavy-laden mountain dwarves glanced about fearfully, uncertain of their safety amidst so much fey devilshine. They drew together in a tight clutch and kept their weapons at the ready.

Enstad

Ignoring the apprehensions of her afterlings, Kristryd breathed deeply to take in the rich scents of the kingdom. Wood smoke from bakers’ ovens carried the sweet and nutty aroma of elf bread on the morning chill. Frankincense, myrrh, and the fragrance of flowers mingled with the peaty scent of the fallen roanwood leaves that carpeted the ground beneath her feet. The princess cocked her head to better fill her ears  with the morning music. The occasional piping of unseen pipers, the gentle strings of lute and dulcimer, and the melodic chirp and trill of songbirds all blended together as if in chorus. In the distance, almost imperceptible, the rising and falling of perfect crystal voices, locked in ethereal harmonies, never ceased. Her eyes too took their fill of delights. The perfect architecture, naturally integrated into the roanwood-covered slopes of the foothills, making it appear as if no one lived there at all. She searched all around for some solid pattern to make sense of the city’s layout, but the whole of it seemed as random as the forest floor. Yet, somehow, she sensed symmetry like the petals of a flower. Continue reading “Her Fey Majesty”

Sea of Death

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Sea of Death is the story of Gord’s quest across the Sea of Dust. It’s the third novel in the Gord books, but the first in the series to be released after Gary Gygax’s departure from TSR (and the first to actually bear the “Gord the Rogue” banner as a series identifier).

Published by New Infinities in 1987, this novel picks up some months after the previous installment and finds Gord in the Baklunish lands west of the Flanaess. He is on a mission to recover the second part of the three-part artifact known as the Theorpart, which will free the god Tharizdun from his aeons-long sleep and bring about the final victory of Evil over the multiverse. To assist him in this mission, he has been endowed with magical powers by the Demiurge (Basiliv, who in Gygax’s Greyhawk is the Mage of the Valley), and the Cat Lord, who favors the forces of Neutrality.

The second part of the artifact, known as the Second Key, is found in the City Out of Mind in the dangerous Sea of Dust. The map in the beginning of the book confirms that this is the same as the Forgotten City on the original Darlene map of the World of Greyhawk. Continue reading “Sea of Death”

The Stolen Anvil

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Five

Thomas Kelly

The urgent toll of bells roused Kristryd from sleep. Blinking in the darkness of her bedchamber, she called for a light. A servant girl hurried in bearing a single candle and busied herself kindling the lamps. Their illumination quickly cast the shadows from the room, but the light did not dispel the confusion or uncertainties. “Why toll the bells of Dengar?” Kristryd demanded of the servant, but the girl could only reply anxiously, “I know not my lady!”

The ringing clamor continued. “Alarm! Alarm!” the bells seemed to warn. The blare of horns could be heard too, faintly at first, but soon answered by nearer trumpeting.

“Bring me a gown!” Kristryd commanded the maidservant. As she pulled the garment over her head, she caught the scent of smoke in the air, not smoke of candle nor lamp, but rather the acrid sooty smell of consuming fire. “Has a dragon come upon us?” she asked the servant girl. “I smell smoke.”

“I known not my lady,” the girl repeated innocently.

Young Pegli erupted through the bedchamber door, half dressed in armor, fumbling with the straps, chain links, and clasps. “Mother! Goblins have entered the lower halls! All the lower city is ablaze!”

“Clangeddin’s Hammer!” Kristryd exclaimed in dismay. Then noting that her youngest son intended to join the fray, she added quickly, “You shall stay here, by my side to defend me. Let the warriors drive back the foe.”

“I too am a warrior of Dengar!” Pegli insisted. His injured tone of voice betrayed wounded dignity. “Help me fit this armor.” Continue reading “The Stolen Anvil”

Plague in the Flanaess

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A deadly plague is spreading through the Flanaess, and the player characters are going from major population center to population center, city to city, chasing a pandemic to try to find a cure. It starts in the Bandit Kingdoms, and the population of Rockroost is suffering. The mysterious disease appears similar to the devastating and much-feared “Red Death”  plague that ravaged the Flanaess eighty years earlier.

Continue reading “Plague in the Flanaess”

Early Allies

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Four

Thomas Kelly

Another arrow clattered and skittered along the stones. Face down on the ground, Bagbag moaned piteously to himself. Crooking his arm up around to his back, his fingers closed on the shaft and fletching of orcish barb. He tugged gently to see if he might pull the barb free, but the pain made him cry out and writhe involuntarily. Abandoning that effort, he dragged himself under cover of a nearby boulder, propped himself up, and forced himself to focus on his craft. His lips moved to mutter the words of a spell. Of a sudden, a flash of lightning sprang from the wounded wizard’s hands and struck against the higher rock on which two orcish archers perched. At the same instant, a crack of thunder echoed up and down the ravine. A half dozen dazed orcs staggered out from the rocks where the lightning had struck. Kristryd sprang to the charge, leveling her spear and thrusting her way back up the steep ascent with all the strength and resolve of her father’s noble  blood. The orcs stumbled about, blinded by the lightning and deafened by the thunder. They did not see her coming. The point of her spear caught the first one under the ribs. Her shield shattered a second and sent him tumbling to the stones below. Unseen arrows leapt from Bagbag’s hands, and two more orcs fell dead at her feet. Continue reading “Early Allies”

Ways Fraught with Peril

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Three

Thomas Kelly

After the winter rains ceased, the old wizard announced that he would make yet another trip back to the court at Gyrax and on to his home at Khundrakar. Kristryd declared, “This time I shall come with you, for half a century has passed since I have seen my father and my brothers or looked upon the halls of my childhood.”

During Bagbag’s frequent absences, Kristryd pined for conversation with her mentor, tutor, ward, and trueheaded friend. She kept herself busy enough with matters of court, overseeing the education of her three sons, and conducting herself according to the pleasantries and protocols of dwarven aristocracy, but in Bagbag’s absence, she felt alone among the thick-headed mountain dwarves. She often wished she had never left her father’s halls in Ulek.

Bagbag shook his head emphatically, “Nay my lady. Unless Thane Evrast grants an escort. The roads are safe no longer, and all the ways through the mountains fraught with peril.”

“I know the perils well,” Kristryd rejoined. “I need no escort.” In truth, she knew that Thane Evrast would not provide her an escort, for she had often begged it of him, but the old king guarded over his widowed daughter-in-law jealously. Continue reading “Ways Fraught with Peril”

The Fall of Molag

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Gary Gygax

Harmonized with Greyhawk Wars; augmented and edited for Greyhawkstories.

Before the Malevolent Throne

Dorakaa 581 CY

If the stark city of Dorakaa was ugly and wicked, its palace was the nadir of such maleficence, and the reeking throne chamber its very pit. So tortuous its shapes, so horrific its decoration, so disgusting its every aspect, that few humans could remain sane within its confines. Men, and women too, were indeed therein, but of their sanity, who could speak?

The Eldritch Lord of Evil so possessed his servants and their every inclination that they scarce knew the bounds where their own will ended and his began. Twelve of these he counted among his most potent: The Boneheart. These he summoned now to his audience.

“Will you indeed take up to half my kingdom?” he muttered to himself as he waited the arrival of his thralls. Long had his jealous heart meditated on the power of Molag: an obstacle to his plans and an insult to his dignity. The time drew near to avenge himself and take back that which by rights belonged to him. “I will teach those pots of blashy piss the true meaning of hierarchy!” he snarled out loud as the first of his chosen ones began to arrive before him.

His servants sensed their master’s mood at once. Malign hatred hung in the air. It seemed to permeate the great, ghastly hall in layers of palpable evil. The closer one came to the throne of silver-set human bones, the stronger the hatred and attendant fear Continue reading “The Fall of Molag”

The Wedding of Kristryd Olinsdotter

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Two

Thomas Kelly

The Prince of Ulek bade his daughter farewell and set a tiara upon her dark curls. He kissed her forehead. Tears streaked down his cheeks and moistened his beard before he released her from his arms. Four stout lads lifted her on a litter which they carried all the distance to the Duchy of Ulek. All that way, old Bagbag paced alongside on foot.

Duke Gallowagn of Ulek, the high elf lord over those lands, welcomed Kristryd and her party to Tringlee and entertained the dwarves in grand style.[i] Indeed, he bade them eat from his own table.

When they had set aside desire for food and drink, conversation turned to matters of politics and news of realms. “I am much amazed,” Kristryd said to the duke, “That you, being an elf, have shown such grace to us.” She spoke in the olven tongue, a mark of her learning in Keoland and old Bagbag’s tutelage.

“Your warder can tell you that I am an old friend of your father,” the wise elf lord replied in the dwur tongue. Then switching back to Olven, he declared, “In Lothromenoron, we are a broadminded people, accepting the many peaceably and with mutual goodwill.”

“Lothromenoron,” Kristryd repeated thoughtfully in Olven. The name spoke of long-ago fairy-tale days. The new name of the territory, “The Duchy of Ulek,” had little meaning to the ancient elf lord.[ii] “What of your neighbors in the mountains? Are you also broadminded toward the dwur in Dengar and Gilmorack?” Kristryd asked.

“Your highness, it is my fond hope,” the duke replied, “That you yourself shall become an ambassador of good will between our peoples. We all hope that this marriage marks an end to the old blood feud which has far too long endured.” Continue reading “The Wedding of Kristryd Olinsdotter”

Ehlonna’s Blessing

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter One

Thomas Kelly

There was a dwarf named Olinstaad from the house of Corond, born in the city of Gyrax on the Bay of Adirole. His father was Morgiz and his mother was called Anesia, and both of them were noble dwur of the old blood of Balnorhak.[i] They kept an estate on the river that flows between Eastpass and Oakhollow where they had lived for so many centuries that the river took its name from them, and no one remembers if it had ever had a different name. In those days, the remote mountains belonged to the old dwur kingdoms, but the lowlands and the mountain passes belonged to the Lion Throne of Niole Dra.

The blood of Olinstaad came from no insignificant place. The noble House Corond boasted close ties of kinship with the dwur of Irongate, and, in his youth, Olinstaad twice crossed the Azure Sea by way of sailing ship to visit those far-off lands. A noble and affluent dwarf, he made a name for himself as a roguish hero of great strength Continue reading “Ehlonna’s Blessing”

Something Wicked

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The Hateful Wars: Prelude

Thomas Kelly

Something wicked flickered into view. It flashed and pulsed in bursts of flame, smoke, and light that leapt up from the burning coals in the scryer’s pot. Gretyll, the eldest of the three sisters and most powerful of the three, cast another handful of smoke-raising herb onto the hot coals as Hedvyg, the youngest of the three sisters, completed the recitation of the incantation. Gunhyld, the middling sister and ever the excitable of the three, cackled and keaked, “I can see her! It’s working! I see the face of a human woman!”

“Fonkin! Be silent!” Gretyll scolded. She tossed on a third handful of smoke-raising herb and the figure formed more fully in the haze—a woman beautiful by any standard, even in the eyes of the dwarf sisters. The lovely form seemed to be made of smoke and flame, yet somehow, almost solid and corporeal. Flowing dark hair undulated and writhed as if alive in motion with the rising heat from the burning coals, and imperious lips hardened into a sneer. Those lips moved in concert with a voice that came as if from beyond Oerth, “Kneel before me.” Continue reading “Something Wicked”

Greyhawk Stories in Oerth Journal 31

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The year 2019, a banner year for the Greyhawk Renaissance, concluded on a high note with the release Oerth Journal 31 and some great new Greyhawk stories.

Spinecastle01The Castle: Deep Within the Terror of Spinecastle

David Leonard of Greyhawk Musings takes us to a critical moment in the history of the infamous Spinecastle of Bone March. Here’s the story of a lone Valiant of the Knight Protectors on the eve of destruction. It’s a well-written and worthy tale of terror and heroism.

Espionage at the Royal Opera House

AestrellaKelli Butler tells the story of Adina, an opera house diva of the Free City who is secretly involved in some backstage cloak-and-dagger espionage to reveal a plot of the Scarlet Brotherhood. Who is behind the mask of the mysterious Aestrella Shanfarel to whom she reports? This short story introduces “the hidden spy network of Aestrella Shanfarel,” a Greyhawk faction headed by a Greyhawk dragon!

Oerth Journal 31

Oerth Journal 31

You can read both stories, and a lot more, by downloading the new free issue of Oerth Journal 31 here. Issue 31 focuses on playing factions in the world of Greyhawk and introduces several new ideas and secret societies. I should especially mention Jason Zavoda’s piece on the “Guild of the Lamplighters” which begins with a brief vignette to introduce the article–another piece of Greyhawk fiction in the pages of Issue 31.

We’re happy to add these latest entries of Greyhawk fiction to our growing collection of material from the pages of Oerth Journal. To peruse the whole collection, check out our Tales from the Green Dragon.

“Cheers!” to Kristoph Nolen for knocking out four issues of Oerth Journal in 2019. Just over a year ago, it was difficult to find the back issues online. Thanks to the revival of Greyhawkonline.com, the whole catalog is available. Here’s to four more in 2020!

 

Behind the Throne of Iuz

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Gary Gygax

Iuz’s greatest fear is not a paladin of Pelor or the Cudgel of Cuthbert or any heroes of good. He fears his mom teaming up with his girlfriend. In the Greyhawk novel Artifact of Evil, Gary Gygax narrates a comical encounter between Iuz, his mother Iggwilv, and his girlfriend Zuggtmoy. It starts when the dark lord’s orgasmic scrying device becomes a portal that lets the two of them into his private palace:

The oily liquid in the massive [scrying] pool erupted in a geyser that struck the ceiling almost twenty feet above its surface. As the droplets pattered down throughout the room, a pair of women appeared. Before Iuz’s startled gaze stood Iggwilv, his mother, and Zuggtmoy, Demoness Lady of Fungi. Between them, grasped by both, was the Second Key! Continue reading “Behind the Throne of Iuz”

Iggwilv’s Quest in the Temple of Elemental Evil

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Gary Gygax

In Artifact of Evil, Gary Gygax summarizes an important chapter in the career of “Iggwilv, the Mother of Evil.” She races against a band of adventurers on a quest in the depths of the Temple of Elemental Evil. Iggwilv is there on a mission to win the loyalty of a powerful new ally: Zuggtmoy. The Fiend of Fungus, after all, is more-or-less her daughter-in-law.

Here’s how Gygax told the tale:

At the northern edge of the Kron Hills, where the fringe of the great Gnarley Forest sent no more of its briars and oaks toward the setting sun, stand the ruins of a large building. Once active, the place is now generally shunned, for another battle was fought near it and its builders slain or gone in defeat. The place is, of course, the Temple of Elemental Evil – its ruin, rather – as any local serf or peasant farm-boy from the neighborhood could tell you. Other than an occasional group of adventurous explorers seeking forgotten treasure, nobody goes to the temple. Bad, evil things haunt the place still. Continue reading “Iggwilv’s Quest in the Temple of Elemental Evil”

Interview with Robin Wayne Bailey

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By Thomas Kelly for Greyhawkstories.com

The surprising resurgence of Dungeons & Dragons has inspired a Greyhawk revival. A lot of us first-generation D&D players are returning to Greyhawk to revisit the landscape of our childhood and embark on new adventures. We’re also reading old Greyhawk fiction, a concept which is the inspiration behind Greyhawkstories.com. To be honest, most of it isn’t very good. Robin Wayne Bailey’s book, Nightwatch, is an exception.

Robin Wayne Bailey is an established name in fantasy writing. Bailey has written a small library in the fantasy and science fiction genres. He’s also the former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. He cut his teeth writing for the Thieves’ World series, but in 1990, he did a brief tour of duty in the Flanaess. Continue reading “Interview with Robin Wayne Bailey”

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”