The Ignoble Act

The Hateful Wars: Chapter Twenty-One

Thomas Kelly

The orcs had a hard time ignoring the ripping talons of the hippogriffs and sharp javelins of their riders, but there came too few of those to stop the advance of the host. From horseback, Fastaal Dothmar rallied the elven line, and he led the charge up the shallows of the Handmaiden. The goblinkind of the first ranks beheld that bright prince in resplendent armor and all those warriors following, their steeds kicking up such a spray of water as to obscure their numbers. This was the doing of Onselvon’s illusory arts. Only a paltry sparse number of warriors followed the charge, but under the powerful illusion spell woven by that great mage, it appeared to the goblins that a mighty host leapt forward from the dawn, silhouetted against the early rising sun just above the mountains. Blinking in terror, the front ranks scarcely had time to draw back before they learned to fear the three blades Defender, Concluder, and Gnoll-Cleaver.

Some unseen dweomermaster dispelled the illusion almost as soon as it had been cast, but the front ranks turned their backs too quickly to discern the truth of the small number that pursued them. The retreating goblins collided then with those who still advanced from behind just as the screeching eagle-horses and their deadly riders in the sky descended upon them again. Confusion and sudden bewilderment spread through the host. The advancing ranks tripped over retreating kobolds and goblins and orcs, and they turned their knives against one another. Three blasts on a heavy horn signaled a halt. Urgush had no choice. He ordered the host to dig in for the fight. They drew up ranks, threw up barricades, dug pits, crawled under rocks, and prepared to huddle down for the day.

Continue reading “The Ignoble Act”

Tasha’s Hot Cauldron of Everything!

Thomas Kelly

Not ashamed to admit I’ve already pre-ordered my copy of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. How could I not?

Iggwilv, the notorious witch of Greyhawk, was originally a girl by the name of Natasha the Dark, raised alongside her sister Elena the Fair in the dancing hut of Baba Yaga. That little piece of information fueled my imagination and sent me on a mission to create tales from Natasha’s girlhood, providing Greyhawk’s most infamous witch with some backstory. As a fan of Russian folk tales, I cast the Natasha tales in the same style as the source material, mimicking and borrowing heavily from Russian fairy tales about Baba Yaga and her daughters. You can read my small and still-growing collection of Tasha stories here: Iggwilv Mother of Witches

If it’s not clear to you already, “Tasha” is just the diminutive form of the name Natasha. And speaking of nomenclature, it should be obvious to everyone that “Baby Yoda” is really just a clever cipher for the old witch of Russian folklore.

BABy YodA = BABa YagA

Well, maybe not. But it looks suspiciously similar to me.

Continue reading “Tasha’s Hot Cauldron of Everything!”

Border Watch Dispatch from Barduk

Ready’reat 12, 586

Constant Rildillian of the Shielding, Captain over the King’s Men, Border Post Four, Barduk.

To His Most Fearsome and Resolute Hero of the Shielding and Noble Count of Furyondy, Artur Jakartai, Great Wall Crystalreach.

May my lord hear good tidings this very day and may his eyes see the liberation of our lands. May those who fear the break of dawn be taught the art of war!

Your servant the fool writes to you as the dawn breaks upon our near-disaster this twelfth day of Ready’reat, for this is how things stand at Fort Critwall. I send this dispatch in all haste by swift rider to relate the urgent desperation of your loyal servants who only by the help of the Invincible Heironeous have survived to this hour. The night just past, we suffered assault from the hated euroz of the Old One (I spit upon his name). By the hand of Invincible Heironeous, we drove them back, but not without loss of life, further dwindling what few heroes of the Shield Lands be left among us. Let it be known that, of the sixty-five spears entrusted to me a year past, some two score have fallen and thirteen left for the summons to join the king’s Northern Crusade, may Cuthbert defend them. Only twelve of us remained to hold the post, and three of those fell this night past to Nerull’s scythe as did two stout dwarves of Barduk. Continue reading “Border Watch Dispatch from Barduk”

Spells & Stratagems

The Hateful Wars: Chapter Twenty

Thomas Kelly

When the snowmelt and winter rains subsided, famished goblinkind came pouring out of their holes, seeking farms to raid and villages to plunder. This time, a surprise met the hungry hordes. The allies occupied every pass in the northern Lortmils, strangling the routes from the Pass of Celene all the way to the Lorridges. Under the earth, Dengar and Gilmorack garrisoned strategic positions on the Low Road, funneling the underground movements of the tribes. Kristryd had arranged it all. In the months prior to the snowmelt, she consulted with the generals and strategic thinkers of the alliance, negotiated troop placements, prepared supply lines, and sketched out contingencies. Once the action began, she played her role as liaison between the forces, moving rapidly back and forth between battlefronts mounted on the back of the great hippogriff Emolasmairim. Elves, dwarves, gnomes, and humans alike watched the sky for the wings of her steed. Field commanders and officers consulted her for information about deployments, supplies, and the movements of the enemy. She found herself providing answers to questions that exceeded the scope of her actual authority, and she did not hesitate to issue commands in the queen’s name when necessary to do so. Why shouldn’t the Queen’s Wrath take charge? Am I not the author of the strategy?

Battle of Luskan Way

The northern squeeze corralled the tribes together into a wide vale between the Celene Pass and the way to the Luskan Mines. There they remained, bottled up, until Father Furduch arrived with a gnome army from the Kron Hills and Verbobonc. Continue reading “Spells & Stratagems”

Under the Moonarch

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”

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

 

Siege of the Tower

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

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

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

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”