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.
One party of adventurous explorers poses a threat to Iggwilv’s plans. Some prognostication or prophecy has warned them of her mission. Who will enter the Temple of Elemental Evil and thwart the release of the “great evil” imprisoned within it’s depths? A brave party of adventurers undertakes the quest. If they should reach Zuggtmoy first, they might prevent the prison break. Gygax’s description of the adventurers sounds like a typical D&D party undertaking the classic adventure Temple of Elemental Evil. They are high-level “arch-clerics” and doughty fighters.”
To this very place came a company of another sort – goodly clerics, stout cavaliers and soldiers too, and a magic-user or two as well. They came because a dire warning said that some being of great evil still lurked there, imprisoned in the temple but about to be loosed. They traveled quickly and with grim purpose.
The adventurers don’t even make it to the Temple before they are beset by an ambush. It’s almost as if someone knew they were coming. The party is crippled in the battle, and they must recuperate before attempting to enter the dungeons.
They were greeted by a mass of fugitives. These evil men and malign humanoids were spoiling for revenge, and they lay in wait for the company. These outlaws had strong and fearsome leaders now, folk from the hidden places beneath the temple and others too. They thought to kill the clerics and knights and all the rest. The evil leaders left them, though, and as most of their fellows had done earlier, these survivors did now. They were killed on the field. The battle, small and brief as it actually was, comparatively speaking, took its toll on the company. There was a delay for meditation and prayer, for healing and rest, to prepare for the entry into the Temple of Elemental Evil.
Who was behind the ambush that waylaid and so grievously injured the party of adventurers? Surely this could be no coincidence. Nay, an “ancient magus” described as “a mighty one of eld” has come to the Temple of Elemental Evil and now manipulates the forces within to perform her will.
Time had been purchased at a price held cheap and meaningless by those within the place. A great personage, an ancient magus, a feared and mighty one of eld, had come among the few who still remained within the precincts of the ruin. She it was who set the ambush, brought the delay, and gained the time for her ends.
It’s none other than Iggwilv herself. Free at last from the shackles of Graz’zt, she has returned to Oerth, and she intends to return to power over the Flanaess.
Her new plot begins with a mission into the Temple of Elemental Evil. She must free Zuggtmoy before the adventurers reach her and banish her. Or perhaps the adventurers themselves unwittingly serve her diabolical purposes in the temple. They might be merely pawns in Iggwilv’s game, breaking the wards and seals that hold Zuggtmoy’s chains as they delve into the lower levels.
After recovering spells and strength, the would-be heroes enter the Temple and fight their way into the lower levels.
The company came, ready again to face any foe of evil nature. Into the temple they came, driving all before them. Downward they plunged, sending undead things back to the pits from which they came, destroying the lurking monsters who would otherwise prey upon mankind. Deep and deeper they went, seeking what they knew they must find.
The adventurers successfully penetrate the lowest depth, but they arrive too late. The delay created by the ambush that beset them outside the temple accomplished its purposes. Before they can complete their mission, Iggwilv sets Zuggtmoy free. Perhaps the adventurers themselves inadvertently assisted her efforts as they plunged into the depths.
Even as they finally discovered the confining place and readied for the great confrontation, a pair of ghastly figures sprang upward, passing through stone and earth as if it were air. Too late had these archclerics and doughty fighters come. Iggwilv, Mother of Evil, had come before them and freed the demoness Zuggtmoy.
Iggwilv and Zuggtmoy escape together to form a new alliance of evil. The adventurers decry their failure to rid the world of such a powerful menace. But not everyone wants to rid the world of evil. Mordenkainen watched the entire episode unfold. He knew what Iggwilv was up to the entire time, and he assisted her efforts in the name of keeping the “balance” on Oerth:
But as these minions of Good lamented their failure, there were those not allied to Evil who rejoiced at Iggwilv’s success. Mordenkainen, one who had secretly aided the plan to free the monstrous demoness, was among them.
Excerpts from Gary Gygax, Artifact of Evil © 1986 TSR
Featured Art: Zuggtmoy in The Temple of Elemental Evil
Read more stories about Iggwilv in the ongoing series “Mother of Witches.”