Hail, Kristryd

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Forty-Two

Thomas Kelly

“The messenger has returned,” Bamadar announced. He had to shout to make his voice heard above the thrumming of rain on the oiled skin canopy stretched over the pavilion.

“Step in, Bammer, and dry your beard,” the queen summoned. The soggy soldier lifted the heavy fabric of the door flap and stepped into the dimly-lit pavilion. He shook his head and shuddered his shoulders like a dog shakes itself dry. Turning his attention to the thane’s table, he bowed before the queen. Kristryd reclined next to trueheaded old Bagbag. Her son Pegli sat on her other side. No others were present. “Well, you look comfortable and dry!” Bamadar observed.

“Don’t leave the man standing in the rain,” the queen scolded.

Bamadar raised his eyebrows in surprise. “You would have him enter your pavillion?” he asked for clarification.

“Before he melts or floats away,” she insisted.

Bamadar shrugged and stepped back out into the rain. A moment later he returned with the messenger, an equally soggy traveler, shivering with the cold. He stooped to enter through the low-cut canvas door flap. As the traveler stood to his full height, Pegli leaped to his feet in astonished disbelief. “Mother! That’s an orcblood!” he stated the obvious in protest.

“I recognize him,” Bagbag observed with distaste. He narrowed his eyes and sized the man up. “Claimed to be a Duchyman and a vinter.”

 “Billy Locks of Gliddensbar, m’lords and lady,” the orcblood executed a quick bow toward the dwarves reclining at table. Somewhat self-consciously, he edged nearer to the hot coals burning on the open brazier at the center of the room. His pig-like eyes darted from face to face as he warmed himself. The glow of the hot coals burning cast a play of shadows which made his orcish features the more devilish.   

“Mr. Locks has proven himself a servant most reliable,” Kristryd offered in his defense.

“One of your horse-flesh traders?” Bagbag asked with a dismissive snort.

Kristryd ignored him and focused her attention on the half-orc. “Were you able to deliver my invitation?”

 Billy Locks nodded eagerly. “Yes, m’lady. That I did. Ol’ gundygut’s lonely ear went all atwitch with the news. He’ll take yer bait fer sure.”

“What’s this? With what have you baited the trap?” Bagbag asked.

“We are the bait,” the queen explained. She turned back to the half-orc, “How long before Hroth comes?”

“He’s gathered his headmen, and all the tribes too. They’ll be already on the march by now.”

“They won’t march in the rain,” Bagbag asserted.

“Oh, they’ll march in the rain, they will!” Billy Locks contradicted the wise loremaster. “Hroth’s promised plenty o’ spoils, and he tells them they’ll be wintering in Tringlee and Jurnre too.”

“Mother, what have you done?” Pegli asked wide-eyed and wary.

 “How many does Hroth bring to the field?” Kristryd asked the spy.

“All of them!” the half-orc promised.

Continue reading “Hail, Kristryd”

Back from the Dead

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Forty-One

Thomas Kelly

The Lortmil Queen and her elven travelling companions turned aside from the road to avoid the siege of Hagthar still underway. “I have neither time nor strength of arms for such an entanglement now. Let the men of Veluna hold their own border,” she sighed. The detour took them east to Dorob Kilthduum where dwelt Gilvgola, the Sacred Heart of Berronar. The priestess had only just returned from her summer rounds, arriving back at the dwarven fort she called home on time for the moon of Brewfest. The corpulent priestess welcomed Kristryd as one might welcome a dear departed friend when found alive in a happy dream. The priestess offered up festival sacrifices of thanksgivings in addition to those of the holy day.

At the conclusion of the festivities, Kristryd sought counsel of Gilvgola, “I have taken a foolish oath in the names of Moradin, Berronar, and all the gods of my fathers. I spoke in haste and under sway of passion. I would now renounce my oath and have it annulled.”

The Sacred Heart smiled with pity upon Olinstaad’s daughter but shook her head resolutely. “If I had the power to annul oaths, I would be powerful indeed! You have sworn in the name of our Father and Mother. The matter remains between you and the gods. Who is Gilvgola to absolve you or annul your obligations?”

“By Berronar’s beard!” Kristryd cursed bitterly. “Then I have no recourse but to continue this hateful affair! If you cannot free me from this burden, you must help me carry it. Come with me to Gilmorack, you and all your best warriors too. The tide turned against us at Riechsvale. We must move with alacrity or lose all the stones for which we have labored these many years.”

The Sacred Heart gave thought before replying. “Already the castellan has sent away what axes we can spare. Already our young dwarves have fought for you, and many have fallen on faraway fields. Scarcely enough of us remain here to defend these walls or hold these lands about us. Even now Urgush lays siege to Hagthar, a few days march from here.”

“Yet you will come with me,” Kristryd insisted emphatically. “Ask Berronar, seek an oracle, fast and pray, divine what signs you must, but come with me you will! Mother! I need the gods with me if I am to satisfy the debt, and I need you beside me too.”

The Sacred Heart inquired of Berronar. The auguries were good. At the conclusion of the festival, Kristryd left Dorob Kilthduum with Gilvgola and the remaining warriors of that place, several hundred strong.

Continue reading “Back from the Dead”

Heroes of the Fey Kingdom

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Forty

Thomas Kelly

The Lortmil Queen carefully folded the garments of Esmerin and packed them away in her sack. She girded herself in her mithril armor and strapped her sword to her side, and pulled a red travelling cloak overtop. Slinging the sack over her shoulder, she set off toward Courwood. Not long had she walked before passing the burnt ruin of Defile’s End. The blackened and broken stones made her shudder. She offered prayers for the fallen.

Edda’s New Riddle

A few miles further brought her to the cairn that sheltered the bones of the Prince Consort’s host. Like a wight clambering out from a tomb, a wild-haired and wild-eyed elfess climbed from behind the stones and leapt up on top of the cairn. She wore only a loose-fitting hair cloak bound at the waist by a thin leather belt. “Hail, Queen of the Lortmil Mountains,” Edda saluted. “What now for Kristryd Olinsdotter?”

“Edda!” Kristryd exclaimed as she recovered from the start. “I am almost glad to see you. Have you more riddles for me?”

“Just this one,” Edda replied. “How did the Red Fang orcs know to waylay the Prince Consort at this place?”

“I imagine they fell upon him as a random act of savage banditry, not unlike a dozen’s dozen that occur in these mountains every year.”

“Perhaps. Perhaps you are right,” Edda feigned a naiveté that belied her words.

“I feel as if we have had this conversation before Edda. If you know something more, you might say so.” Kristryd grew impatient and rested her hand upon the hilt of her sword where it hung at her belt.

The wild elf continued, “The Grand Court whispered about the People of the Testing. Some said that we plotted against the life of the Prince Consort.”

“I don’t understand your pitchkettle riddles Edda.”

“Perhaps you have not heard that the queen’s dandy led a strike deep beneath the mountains. They say that the third time is the magic. This time the fastaal made good on his oaths. None of the Red Fang orcs remain in the bowl, though many begged for their lives.”

“That’s good news to my ears.”

“Is it? The fastaal persuaded the unhappy survivors to spill the true tale of the ambush. They said an old dwurwife hired their tribe for the deed. She paid them in horse’s flesh.”

A stab of fear plunged into Kristryd’s heart.

Continue reading “Heroes of the Fey Kingdom”

Support Oerth Journal

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Thomas Kelly

I’m brewing up some new material for future issues of Oerth Journal, and I’m eager to see the articles in print. Yes, in real print. Like a real magazine. On real paper. With ink. Because that’s how the only periodical dedicated to the World of Greyhawk is now being published.

It’s true that you can still get the PDF versions and all the old issues of Oerth Journal free at Greyhawkonline. But what if the magazine was available in print? It is. The publisher has produced collectable hard-copy versions of the last six issues and intends to continue to do so.

Imagine getting Oerth Journal sent directly to your mailbox. Imagine Saturday morning with a steaming hot cup of coffee in one hand and a fresh OJ in the other!

When I get my physical copy of Oerth Journal, I read the whole thing. I can’t say that of any other magazine in the world. It brings me back to being a kid and getting the new issue of Dragon Magazine.

So how do you get your own copy? You can’t subscribe to Oerth Journal. There are no subscriptions. You just have to become a sustaining supporter of the magazine. At the $4.00 a month tier, you will receive each new issue as a thank you gift.

Click here to Support Oerth Journal

For less than the cost of one of those large Frappuccino drinks from Starbucks, you get the physical copy of Oerth Journal mailed to your home. That works well for me because I drink my coffee black.

Look at it this way. Oerth Journal is the only print publication still dedicated to the World of Greyhawk setting. Supporting the journal makes a statement of allegiance to the original home world of Dungeons & Dragons.

Oerth Journal needs our support to continue publication online and in print. To support Oerth Journal, go to https://jemi.app/greyhawkonline and select one of the “sustaining donations” options.

Become a sustaining member of Oerth Journal here.

You can also request back issues as a thank you gift for making a one time donation: https://jemi.app/greyhawkonline/single-donations

NOTE: If you formerly supported Oerth Journal through the Patreon Page, transfer to Jemi. OJ is no longer using Patreon.

Esmerin

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Thirty-Nine

Thomas Kelly

A soft mattress in a clean, well-lit place. Sunlight poured in through a round window. Beside the bed stood a small chair and desk. From pegs on the far wall hung a coat of glimmering mithril armor. Next to it, a short sword, still in its scabbard.

Kristryd passed her hands over her body, but she felt no wounds. On the desk beside the bed she found her personal belongings, including her comb and her silver-framed mirror. What was the last thing she remembered? A stab in the back, a blow to the head, a slow tumble into darkness. “How came I to this place?” she asked aloud as she sat up in the bed. “Where is this place?”

“How did you come here?” Alton Chubb Quickbread came through the open doorway into Kristryd’s room. He waved his hands above is head dramatically as he explained, “Your big griff carried you here. Upset all the eagles too. They were screaming at each other, swooping around, but your horse-bird set you down in the town square. They told me, ‘Alton, you will never believe what just happened. A big blonke hippogriff carried the broken body of pretty dwarfess, all dressed in mithril armor, and laid her down right in the center of town.’ I didn’t need to be told twice. I knew it could only be you, my fairhead.”

“You healed my wounds?”

“I also made muffins!” the halfling boasted.

“Is this Prinzfield?” Kristryd asked, swinging her legs out of the bed.

Alton shook his head. “You’re not in Prinzfield, my lady.”

Continue reading “Esmerin”

Siege of Castle Hagthar

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Thirty-Eight

Thomas Kelly

“Now the rats flee as the ship sinks,” Urgush remarked to himself. Tidings of the battle of Riechsvale had travelled quickly through the mountains. “Gather around me,” the half-blood summoned the leaders of those few clans that yet remained under his sway. He tried to imagine how Hroth might rally their hearts if he were present. He chose his words accordingly. “Hear what I will say. I won’t wait here to be buggered by bearded dwur boys and frolicking olvin ass-lickers.” He lifted his eyes reverently in the direction of the distant Yatils even though they remained far out of sight from where he stood on the high slopes of the northern Lortmils. “Am I not the servant of the great witch? Time to leave these stinking dwur-shit holes and join her fight against those putz-sucking Perrenlanders. Then we will eat and drink without fear, and she will feed us the flesh of men!”

With inspiring words like this, he rallied those tribes and clans that remained yet loyal to him. Urgush gathered up the treasure of gemstones he had stolen from the treasuries of Dengar. He loaded the precious cargo on wagons with many other treasures, indeed, all the treasures of his tribe and those beneath him—a lovedrury to place before the archmagis.

Continue reading “Siege of Castle Hagthar”

Artur the Avenger

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Part Two of The Tale of Artur Jakartai

How Artur became an acolyte but left the cloister before taking his vows and, on finding his family slain by goblins, avenged their blood.

Being good-natured and lowly of spirit, Artur nurtured no bitterness over the trick his father had played him. Instead, he deemed it more than fit for one of his stature, that is, one mixed of blood and born of a concubine. He set to his duties as acolyte with vigor and zeal and unto all the devotions of the Just One.

In preparation for the clerisy, they taught him his letters. He learned to read only through hard effort and many tears until, at length, he could read the scrolls as if noble-born. Thusly educated, he eagerly consumed the holy books, the calends, and the Olven tomes (such as they had in translation). But more, he loved the ancient histories, and he reveled overmuch in the tales of the Old Aerdy, especially the old Oeredian poets who could articulate so well what stirrings his heart felt but his tongue could not spell out. Also found he the tales of more recent times, and he lit upon the story of the war with Halmadar the Cruel. “If I had lived in those days, methinks I would have wielt well the axe!” he told himself. In truth, although he knew not the particulars of the tale, his own great grandfather Tristart the son of Fendart had fought as footman alongside the holy order of the Shielding in that conflict and suffered magical burns that marked him the rest of his life.

After some years had passed, and a time of release came before he should take his vows, he betook himself a journey to find his home and see again his father and his mother and all his brothers and his sisters.

In those days, the power of the Horned Society waxed mightily, and those devil-worshippers ever pressed against the Shield. Within their own lands, they had not crops nor flocks sufficient to feed the growing hordes of hobgoblins. The slovenly gundyguts raided the fertile Shield Lands to feed their hungry bellies.

Continue reading “Artur the Avenger”

The Battle of Riechsvale

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Thirty-Seven

Thomas Kelly

“This war of yours may profit the dwarves, but my people suffer! Unhappily we joined your alliance. Now our lands have been raped while yours remain whole and untouched.” The Count Palatine spoke from bitterness of heart.

Kristryd replied with sympathy, “Peace to you and upon all that is yours. They caught us unprepared this once, but we will not suffer it to happen again.”

Several months had elapsed since the siege. The queen of Gilmorack and her retinue did not arrive in the County until Ready’reat. By then, Jurnre’s wide streets had been swept clean, the fountains sparkled again, the gardens had been prepared and pruned, and the market squares restored. Yet the dwur queen’s eye had not failed to notice the ravaged lands all about. Her journey took her past burned-out villages, ransacked farmsteads, orchards stripped bare, and vacant-eyed, broken people. What will they eat this winter? Where will they find shelter from the rains? she wondered.

Strategy in Jurnre

Kristryd summoned a council of the alliance in Jurnre and promised assistance to those who had lost homes, farms, and villages during the raids. Her father and her brothers came up from Gyrax. Duke Gallowagn’s daughter Nevallewen arrived from Tringlee, demanding reparations. Nevallewen spoke on her father’s behalf, “You drove them out of the mountains and into our lands. Villages are burnt, granaries looted, vineyards trampled, and people slain. Who will compensate for loss of life and home?”

“We are at war!” Kristryd answered boldly, irritation punctuating her words. As much as she admired the duke, she did not like Nevallewen, and she made no attempt to hide her distaste for the elfess. “We have all suffered. Don’t speak to the dwur about your losses. The blood of our folk stains the stones above and below because, when there is a job to be done, by Moradin’s hammer, we dwarves get it done! All of us have paid a heavy price.”

Continue reading “The Battle of Riechsvale”

The Tale of Artur Jakartai

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Chapter I

First, How Jakart begat a son named Artur and gave him over to the Temple of Heironeous.

555 CY

It befell in the days of Holmer, Earl of Walworth, Knight Commander over all the Shield Land Lords, that there lived a Shieldlander named Jakart the son of Merlart the son of Tristart the son of Fendart, an Oeredian, and a mighty man renowned for valorous deeds in the service of the Shield, though he himself could claim no title as lord nor knight. He made his coin as an adventurer and sellsword until the years weighed too heavily upon him for bravery and foolishness, at which time he used what coin he had saved to purchase a wide and fertile valley for cultivation on the border of the Western Reaches of Warfields, along the banks of the Ritensa. Cold and long were the winters, but the land gave forth an abundance, hastening to bring grain to head for the shortness of the summer months. Every year at harvest, fang-faced goblins and orcs crossed the river to steal away the sheaves from the threshing floors, but Jakart and the servants of his household slew them oft as he found them, pursued them back to the river, and sent them home, most often empty-handed.

Continue reading “The Tale of Artur Jakartai”

Iggwilv Tribute Video

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Greyhawk video!

Here’s my second attempt at a video featuring a montage of Iggwilv-Tasha artwork, both published and fan-generated, set to David Bowie’s “Putting out Fire.” This revision has artwork from the fantastic Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. To learn more about the backstory of Tasha, her mother Baba Yaga, her sister Elena the Fair, and how Tasha became Iggwilv, the mother of Iuz, read the Mother of Witches cycle.


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