As told by Rhys of the Ash to Morwenna the Fair
Edited by Thomas Kelly
I won’t begin this tale with “once upon a time” because I know exactly when it starts. At the celebration of Brewfest, two thousand, seven hundred, and thirty-three years after the Stone Pillars were raised (what other people call Flan Tracking)—that is, the Common Year 583. That’s the year the giants came down.
I did not attend the duke’s celebration. I was nowhere near his palace. I was in Preston at the time, but I heard the tale. In the middle of the festivities, the Green Man appeared, proclaimed that a winter would fall over the land for half a score years, then promptly disappeared. For you outlanders, the Green Man is not but the land of Gyruff itself. He shows himself from time to time—so say our legends and myths.
Peace faded with the summer season, and the mountains heavy with inhuman evil – CY 583
Not many days later, word arrived of a large force of giants, ogres, and orcs mustering in the mountains. A group of heroes brought back detailed plans of an impending invasion from giant lands, but who could believe it? We’ve lived with the giants for neighbors many a century–longer than mortals might reckon. Giants raid and pillage. Every few years they wander out of the mountains and sack a village or farm. But they don’t organize, and they certainly don’t form armies. True, we heard the tales about the incident in Sterich, and raids into Keoland too, when the Hill, the Frosts, and the Fire banded together under some dark elf treachery. But those things had transpired more than a decade past in neighboring lands, not in Gyruff. All those responsible had been put to the sword by heroes sent from Keoland. Indeed, the tales say that the heroes pursued the plot to the very depths of Oerth and unto the city of the Drow Elves. We believed that put an end to the matter, and we had little cause for alarm.
Birthed death upon the land below, bringing flame, death, and ruin – CY 583
By the end of Patchwall, all doubts about our peril vanished. The giants descended from the mountains in an overwhelming force. A hastily mustered army of Gyruff men went out to meet the giants and their allies at the horrific Battle of Pest’s Crossing in the western meadowlands. We had spellcasters with us, and we supposed their magic would drive the invaders back to the mountains. Alas, the giants brought with them a surprise—eight large statutes, carved to resemble giants. These stone constructs absorbed divine and arcane magic and spit back lightning at the befuddled spellcaster. Grand Duke Owen called on every hero in Gyruff to destroy those ugly things the evening before the battle. Six were toppled and destroyed, but two were not, and the statutes survived for the battle the next day, foiling much advantage we might have had from dweomer. We fought bravely and honorably, and many of us died with bravery and honor, but the Frost and the Fire forced the rest of us to retreat.
Old alliances withered in the fires of war that ravaged our once fair land, – CY 583
Knowing that we could not stand against such towering odds alone, Grand Duke Owen sent pleas for aid to the court of the Dwarven Thane of Three Holds in the Crystalmists and to the court of the Wood Elven Prince in the Dim Forest. Called on again to see the message through, the heroes left Gorna and traveled into the mountains and into the forests as Tikatown was overrun and burned.
But aid did not come forth. The dwarven thane had died days before Grand Duke Owen’s message arrived, and the dwarves refused to send help until a new thane was chosen. Buggers. The elves may have been more willing, but they had their own calamity to face. A horrific shadow beast descended into the very heart of the city of Derelion. The nether creature slew all before it – elf, and human alike. Many of the greatest of Gyruff’s heroes died under the branches, as the shadow consumed their life.
Panic and confusion spread across the land. West Town and Pregmere fell to the giants. Like most Gyric settlements, neither town had walls; neither could stand against the onslaught. West Town took it especially hard. The giants cut off all hope for their retreat. Maybe one in four of West Town’s inhabitants escaped the victory banquet. The giants feasted long and well on the inhabitants. Some call it the West Town Cookfires.
Oytmeet resisted for a time. They collapsed the bridges across the Oyt River to hold the giants off, but the giants filled in the river with large stones until they could walk across. The Gyri fled. Some tried to flee to the south. Many were not able to escape.
And mighty walls and tall towers could not staunch the tide of darkness – CY 583
The stone walls of Gorna stood fast for most of Ready’reat, but the giants and their hordes surrounded the city. Grand Duke Owen prepared the army for a desperate last stand. As the giants drew nigh, an assassin made attempt on the life of the Grand Duke, grievously wounding him. Many supposed him dead. Attention turned from the foul deed when, within an hour of the attempted assassination, the giants attacked. They breached the walls. The army of Gyruff, bolstered by the heroes summoned by the Grand Duke, fought fierce and bloody battles through streets of Gyruff. Little by little, the foes pushed them back, until at last, they retreated to the South Gate.
The heroes of Gyruff stood their ground at the South Gate to grant the remaining civilians a chance to flee the falling city. Their bravery and prowess held the giants at bay as the people fled. Before the defenders could themselves flee for safety, the Duke’s cavalry that held the outside of the South Gate withdrew and rode westward. No one knew why or where they went, but by their withdrawal they doomed those inside the gate. The giants came from within and without. They closed and sealed the South Gate, sealing the heroes inside the fallen city. Cut off from every direction, the heroes fell, one by one by one, fighting bravely to the last, until they collapsed under the weight of giant clubs, swords, and axes.
Some few survived. Only Pelor in the heavens knows how. These joined the fleeing refugees. They used captured giant wains to carry the wounded and infirm east toward Hochoch. Meantime, a large contingent of Longbowmen of Gyruff fled west to the Hornwood with the giants chasing at their heels. Those brave souls drew hundreds of giants after them to grant the refugees safe passage for their escape. They suffered staggering losses, and only a small remnant reached the forest. Meantime, the Rangers of Gyruff guided refugee parties around giant search parties, helping them reach the Javan River where they could cross on rafts to reach the opposite bank.
Several thousand refugees fleeing south from Midtown were not so lucky. Hosts of verbeeg giants caught them at Hynwist’s Ford near Preston and massacred them from the eldest man to the youngest infant. Blood tinted the Javan River for a week after the catastrophe.
Hochoch fell by year’s end. Rangers led the scattered remnants of the army against the invaders. They employed traps, ambushes, and lightning strikes to slow the giants advance to a crawl. By the time the giants arrived at Hochoch, they found the city abandoned. The citizens and the defenders alike fled through the swamps into the Gran March to take refuge in Farvale. The soft ground of the fens confounded the giants, and their progress halted. They turned back from the pursuit to plunder fair Hochoch and make their abode within the walls.
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Excerpted from the “Recent History of the Grand Duchy of Gyruff” Living Greyhawk metagaming and background materials.