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”

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”

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The Sevenfold Mazework

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”

Interview with Kevin J. Anderson author of Siege of the Tower.

The husband-wife team of Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta have published an astonishing number of high-profile Science Fiction and Fantasy books, including major contributions to the expanded universes of Star Wars and Dune. Kevin Anderson’s work has garnered an impressive number of awards and nominations. He has written for Lucafilm and collaborated with big names like Dean Koontz, Brian Herbert, and (hard to believe) Neil Peart of Rush. The Andersons operate their own publishing house, WordFire.Press which has picked up rights to publish and republished big names like Alan Dean Foster, Frank Herbert, and D&D favorite Tracy Hickman.

But way back in the day, before Kevin J Anderson was a well-established name in the biz, he and his wife received a commission for a modest project with TSR’s Endless Quest series under the imprint of Greyhawk Adventures.

I recently obtained a copy of the rare book Siege of the Tower and reviewed it here. I caught up with Anderson via email to ask a few questions about how he came to be a Greyhawk writer.

Greyhawkstories:

How did you land the contract with TSR to write Siege of the Tower?

Kevin J. Anderson:

That was an interesting project that NO ONE ever asks about! Brian Thomsen was the editor at TSR, and he was a friend of ours. We (my wife Rebecca Moesta and I) were working writers, just about at the time we were quitting our day jobs and becoming full-time writers, and so we were open to new projects. Brian asked us if we were interested in doing a D&D “choose your own adventure” book, which were just starting to become popular at the time.

Greyhawkstories:

Siege of the Tower reads pretty faithful to the D&D genre. It reads like a campaign adaptation of a module. Were you already familiar with Dungeons & Dragons, or did you need to do a crash course in the game?

Kevin J. Anderson:

Oh yes, I played it all the time in college. My DM, in fact, was Kristine Kathryn Rusch, who is now an award-winning and bestselling author herself. In fact my very first published trilogy, GAMEARTH, GAMEPLAY, and GAME’S END, is D&D fantasy adventure. We would play every Sunday night with a group of friends, and our game became the basis for my trilogy and for Kris’s first published novel, White Mists of Power.

Greyhawkstories:

Were you familiar with the World of Greyhawk setting?

Kevin J. Anderson:

Not Greyhawk, as such. Just the general D&D universe, but we polished up on Greyhawk before writing the book.

Greyhawkstories:

The “choose-your-own-adventure” genre seems like a baffling way to create a narrative. How did you go about constructing the novel?

Kevin J. Anderson:

Choose-your-own-adventure was a “thing” at the time, but we had never tried one before. But it sounded like fun. So, Brian Thomsen gave us a cover painting, something TSR already owned, showing an ugly ogre and other ogres laying siege to a medieval castle. He told us that was the cover, so we agreed to set up a story around that painting. Rebecca and I brought in three other writer friends of ours for the project, and we all camped at our house for a weekend. We developed the main story, and then brainstormed all of the possibly storylines. We had a huge piece of paper, like a flowchart, mapping all the story possibilities. BUT the important thing was that every single storyline brought the reader to the scene that was on the cover.

With the other authors, we each retreated to separate writing rooms, and everybody wrote their storylines. It took the team a weekend to produce the book, and then Rebecca and I took the consolidated manuscript and polished it all up before delivery. We were all pretty pleased with how it turned out and how much fun we had. The book went unto production and Brian Thomsen, the editor, was very happy to send us the final copies.

Remember when I told you that he gave us the cover painting, and how we worked hard to make sure that every possible storyline showed that scene—burly ogres with clubs laying siege to a castle tower?  Well, when we received the final covers, we were shocked to see a demon on a flaming skeleton horse … which had nothing to do with the story. We called the editor in distress, “This isn’t the cover painting you gave us!!!”  He groaned and said “Oh, not again …”

Siege

 

Borderwatch

Greyhawkstories:

That explains the mystery of the cover. The artwork you described is a Paul Jaquays piece that appeared on the cover of the module Border Watch. The artwork on Siege of the Tower is the Jeff Easley piece that appeared on the cover of the 1992 boxset From the Ashes.

Kem Antilles is a pseudonym. Could you explain it? It sounds like a Star Wars reference.

Kevin J. Anderson:

Since so many other authors worked on Siege of the Tower, we wanted a name that was not obviously male or female, so we came up with “Kem.” I’ll confess, Antilles was an homage to Wedge Antilles from Star Wars.

Greyhawkstories:

If given the opportunity, would you ever be interested in returning to the World of Greyhawk?

Kevin J Anderson:

Interested?  Well, always. But whether or not I can fit it in with the deadlines is another thing entirely!

Greyhawkstories:

Since writing Siege of the Tower, you’ve gone on to write an astonishing library of titles. For readers who want to check out your other works, with what stories do you recommend we start?

Kevin J. Anderson:

Spine of the Dragon  is my big new epic fantasy trilogy. The second novel will come out soon, and I’m writing the third and final novel right now. I also have a really ambitious space opera series, The Saga of Seven Suns. The best thing, though, is to join my readers group at wordfire.com and I’ll keep you up on all the new stuff. You also get a free collection of my short stories.

Greyhawkstories:

One more thing. Just for fun, tell us about your relationship with Neil Peart.

Kevin J Anderson:

That’s a long story. I knew Neil for 30+ years before his passing last January. My first novel, Resurrection, Inc., was inspired by the Rush album Grace Under Pressure. Neil read the novel and wrote me. We were friends ever since. Not only did we write the novels Clockwork Angels and Clockwork Lives together, we also did a creepy short story, Drumbeats, and I’m just putting together a signed, limited and illustrated edition, which will be released soon. You can preorder at wordfireshop.com

Drumbeats