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”

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”