The Undermountain Queen

The Hateful Wars: Chapter Twenty-Seven

Thomas Kelly

Siege! The main host of Dengar, more than fifteen hundred axes, marched up through the Low Road, driving the soldiers of Gilmorack back before them. They pitched camps outside the Drake Gate and began to prepare for siege. A second force moved swiftly overland by way of the Great Western Road, crossing Veluna at Asnath and Kempton. Concealing their true motives, they told the Velunese they merely moved troops against the goblins, and they invoked the treaties of the alliance which Kristryd herself had negotiated. In this way, Dengar laid siege to Gilmorack from above and below, cutting off that ancient kingdom from all hope of escape or rescue.

Dengar at the Gates

The newly enthroned Thane Kristryd Olinsdotter made no attempt to break the siege or escape the noose. She only ordered the gates sealed. When the armies of Dengar converged, she sent emissaries out to parley with the undermountain king and to escort him back to the halls of Gilmorack under assurances and pledges.

“My daughter. You have done well. You have united our people,” Thane Evrast declared when Kristryd received him in the vaulted hall. “Not so long ago, you stood before me and Thane Redmod Buddoken in this same chamber, but today, I stand before you.” He bowed before her.

Likewise, Kristryd stood up from the throne and awkwardly bowed before her father-in-law in the manner of the dwurwives. “I have acted according to the will of the gods and done what is best for our people,” she said. “I did not come to Gilmorack seeking any crown except the head of this wicked witch.” Kristryd motioned to the bronze birdcage which hung from a hook set in the wall beside her throne.

“Will you defy your own father? Will you wage war on your own people?”

“Will you wage war on your own daughter? We have no stomach to fight our kinsmen nor to make war upon allies.” Kristryd took a step closer to him, squaring off eye to eye. “Should we be punished for the actions of a miserable witch? The house of Buddoken has suffered sufficiently for their crimes! Every last one of that hoary dynasty now sits in the halls of Dumathoin.”

“Then surrender Gilmorack to me,” Thane Redmod hissed through clenched teeth.

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Oerth Journal 34 Review

I’ll just say it right away. This is a fantastic issue of Oerth Journal. Five out of five wizards! More than any other issue of Oerth Journal that I remember reading, this issue has strong narrative content and memorable stories in article after article. No longer just backgrounds for the setting, Oerth Journal is telling the stories of Greyhawk, and that’s what Greyhawkstories.com is all about.

Hot Cover Art

First thing you notice about Oerth Journal 34 is the beautiful cover. It depicts a young Iggwilv, from when she still went by the name Hura, looting the treasure vault of Daoud. This picture is near and dear to me because it’s a commission the talented Greyhawk artist LadyLoth did for Greyhawkstories about a year ago. Her work exceeded my expectations. I’m really pleased to see that the piece made the cover the journal in conjunction with my story about Iggwilv’s quest for the Vault of Daoud. The timing accords well with the recent release of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, but that was by design.

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The Caging of Gretyll

The Hateful Wars: Chapter Twenty-Six

Thomas Kelly

In haste Thane Redmod Buddoken led the party of strange guests through the winding halls and broad streets of Gilmorack, a naked broadsword in his hands. No longer did the spell of disguise cloak the elves or the halfling priest; they had no such need, for all who saw the king prostrated themselves before him. Fury burned on his face; his subjects shrank back before his flashing gaze. As sentries, soldiers, and guards saluted their king, he commanded them, “Fall in behind me.”

The Holy Anvil

The undermountain king’s growing procession followed after him into the lower halls. They descended by the great central stairs into the Wide Ways and then to the Armor Smithy where the furnaces burned hot and hammers fell in ceaseless rhythms on a hundred anvils. All the air smelled of coal fires and the acrid taste of molten metals. The king came to a certain furnace that seemed stoked to full heat, the metal door glowing red, but the king laid bare hands on the metal casting, swung open the grated iron door, stepped into the flames and commanded, “Follow me!” Kristryd thought the flames should surely consume him, but he stepped through untouched. Bamadar plunged after the king, calling back to the others over his shoulder, “Not but an eye-biting illusion!”

The rest of the axes and worthy dwarves-at-arms followed after, as did the remainder of Kristryd’s party. They stepped into a Grand Smithy, the king’s own secret chamber, and there before them they beheld two muscled and shirtless dwarven smiths laboring with hammers over a wondrous anvil. All about the room stood precariously placed stacks of arms and armor, piles of spears, axes, swords, hammers, and maces. Here too were cruel jagged scimitars and curving blades such as the orcs preferred and such as the six-armed tenar’ri had been wielding—and no wonder about that, for overseeing all the work stood a towering, glowering beast with the torso of an ape, the legs of a boar, and a fang-laden face. Small feathered wings extended from behind his hunching back, fanning the air.

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Witch Queen and Demon Lord

A Brief History of the Knights of the Hart, Part 3

(CY 460 – 505)
Kirt Wackford

In which is related the rise of Iggwilv, her conquest of Perrenland, and her war against the Knights of the Hart, her fall from power, and the rise of her detestable child, the Demon Lord Iuz.

From whence the Witch Queen Iggwilv came is not known. An erudite sage calling himself the “Eye of Boccob”[1] places her as being of mixed Flan and Baklunish stock and hailing from Ket. Others say that she is an ancient being and hint that she might not be from Oerth at all.[2] All that is known for certain is that she chose to settle in the Yatil mountains between Ket, Perrenland, and Veluna around CY 460.[3] The place suited her purposes well, for it was teeming with humanoids, giants, and monsters. These she bent to her will, establishing a small despotry while conducting magical experiments in the Caverns of Tsojcanth.[4]

War and Seduction

In CY 480 she loosed her army of humanoids on the settled alpine valleys of southern Perrenland. The Perrenders were staunch defenders, but could not resist the combination of humanoid numbers, organization, and fell magics. The mountain holds were quickly overcome, and the forces of Iggwilv pushed out on to the plains. She ultimately conquered most of the southern plains around the Quagflow, the region as a whole being known as the “Marches of Perrenland.”[5] After this, her advance slowed. In the low rolling plains her brutish troops found no caves in which they could hide from the light of Pelor. The mobile cavalry of Perrenland could outmaneuver the humanoids, gathering in massed formations for day attacks, then scattering and riding far away before nightfall. Conquest of the entire land would be difficult. No matter. Iggwilv turned to her dark arts. In innumerable guises she walked among the free hetmen, ensnaring them with her charms. Captivated and captured, they did her will and ordered their people to cease attacks on the lands that the humanoids had taken. The hetmen scarce believed themselves in thrall to the leader of the goblinkind, but they nonetheless told none of the new mistress of their souls. Iggwilv held the southern portion of Perrenland and her troops busily looted it;[6] the rest of the nation tried a few counterattacks before slinking back, utterly cowed by fear of the witch.[7]

The leaders of the Marklands watched these events with growing concern. Their recent rebuff from their own attempted conquest of Perrenland[8] had embittered them against the nation, and they offered no aid to Perrenders in their struggle against the Witch Queen. Once Iggwilv was firmly in control of those lands, the Marklander leaders laid out their plans to contain her. Having a mad archmage so close to the old capital of Dyvers had been bad enough.[9] An archmage dedicated to evil, with a humanoid army and a nation of wild Perrenders in thrall, could well prove much worse. The forces of Iggwilv pointed like a dagger at the heart of the Highfolk and lay uncomfortably close to Mitrik. 

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The Making of the Wondrous Lanthorn

Daoud’s Wondrous Lanthorn: Chapter Nine

The Making of the Wondrous Lanthorn

Heavy laden with the weight of too many centuries and the sorrows of hard labors, the white-bearded dwarf slogged on determinedly toward the distant lights, slowly pushing his way through bramble and branch. With each step, he felt lighter and younger. No longer did his knees pain him; no longer did his shoulders stoop. From on ahead came sound of voices caught up in revelry, drum and flute, laughter and song. The music quickened his pulse and hastened his step. Presently he drew near enough to catch scent of rich spices, sweet perfumes, and delicious food on the fire. The aromas stirred up long-ago memories and recalled happy nights beneath the colored canopies in the presence of the goddess.

In short time, the dwarf emerged into an open glade. Before him stood a magnificent, palatial pavilion, just as he remembered it, illuminated with one-hundred and ten crystal lanterns. Winged devas called malakim sang for the entertainment of the goddess, accompanied by all types of instruments, drums, cymbals, and dance. For a moment, he felt abashed at the spectacle. “What has an old dwarf to do with a place such as this?” he scolded himself. “I should not have come.” He nearly turned back. But then goddess herself, reclining among the cushions of a divan at the center of the pavilion, turned her lovely head to peer over her shoulder. She fixed her coal-black eyes upon the dwarf in a kindly and come-hither manner and beckoned to him, “Blessed be your coming, Master Grimmly, weary traveler! Enter. Recline at my table. Here is water for you to wash your face, hands, and feet. Here is oil to anoint your head and beard. Here is wine to gladden your heart. Some honeycomb and bread, nuts and apples, cuts of roe and hart that sizzle upon the spit. Eat, and rest yourself awhile.”

Grimmly bowed low before Hasnat, so low that his beard swept the ground. “O Gracious Lady of the Cool Breeze,” he stammered, “I am utterly unworthy to avail myself of your hospitality a second time.”

“Nonsense!” Hasnat laughed. “See how your lamps illuminate my pavilion, more splendid in color and magic than the other hundred all together. And well do we remember the delicious tales told by your master, Daoud of Tusmit. Many were the nights he entertained us with stories of his adventures, and yours too Master Grimmly.”

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Black Ichor

The Hateful Wars: Chapter Twenty-Five

Thomas Kelly

Picking herself up from beneath the fallen stone jars, Kristryd unsheathed her dagger and tried to make sense of the sound of commotion around her. “We should have brought a holy knight!” she exclaimed.

“Should have brought an army of holy knights!” Bamadar’s voice agreed from near at hand. A tidal wave of numbing terror washed through the room. Kristryd froze paralyzed numb with fear; her only thought to flee. As suddenly as it had come, the terror lifted, and with it, the darkness. Light returned to the room, revealing a scene of chaos. The six-armed serpent-woman radiated an aura of such revulsion that Kristryd felt her stomach lurch. A retching stench hung in the air and assaulted her nostrils. She tasted excrement on her palate.

A Desperate Fight

Alton the halfling priest stood atop one of the polished stone tables, holding his holy symbol aloft, uttering a prayer of adjuration which seemed to wrack the fiends with pain. Bagbag’s illusions no longer disguised the two elves. Peralay had already unsheathed Gnoll-Cleaver and leapt to the attack between the slashing blows and cutting swings of the librarian’s six-blades. Bagbag raised an unseen magical shield to defend from spells and attacks. Small winged fiends, previously concealed in alcoves above, leaped from the balconies to join the fight. The two unsuspecting guards posted outside the hall rushed in, swords unsheathed in and lances hand, to join the confusion. When they saw the monsters, they shouted bravely and ran forward, striking sturdy blows against ape-like demons. “Only an enchanted edge will bite this one’s flesh!” Bamadar warned over his shoulder as he joined Peralay in the battle with the six-armed fiend.

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Terror in the Hall of Scrolls

The Hateful Wars: Chapter Twenty-Four

Thomas Kelly

Fanfare sounded in the high-arched council chamber of dazzling Gilmorack. The monolithic carved stone doors swung wide, opening the way into the audience of the undermountain king, the august Thane Redmod Buddoken. All the court stood to welcome the honored guests, save the undermountain king himself. The herald called out the names of each guest as he or she passed through the doors and under the arch of lances held aloft by the flanking guard: “The Princess Kristryd Olinsdotter of Dengar and Ulek.” Adorned in her mithril-threaded tabard, Kristryd carried herself with all pomp appropriate to her station. She cast a cold eye across the assembled court.

“Bagbag, Loremaster of Balnorhak.” Kristryd’s trueheaded advisor hobbled along at her side, mumbling to himself and nodding to the notables and chieftans in attendance.

“Bamadar Kadarel of Thunderstrike, Infantryman of the Royal Army of Ulek.” The bombastic Bamadar swaggered into the council chamber as if accustomed to such circumstances and as if he held such pomp and ceremony in little esteem.

“Father Alton Chubb Quickbread of Prinzfield, priest of the Sylvan Lady.” The halfling cleric of Ehlonna scuttled into the audience hall dressed in clerical finery that ill-fit his diminutive stature. He bowed and nodded awkwardly with every few steps he took.

“Father Furduch of Tulvar, Kron priest of Ulaa.” The elderly gnome, clad in shimmering armor and with a holy mace at his side, tripped along, bowed low, danced a little jig, and winked at the king flirtatiously. The king scowled at the gnome. Father Furduch likewise returned the scowl, furrowing up his brow so deeply that his eyebrows collided above his nose.

 “Xaxalander Deravnye of Urnst.” A low murmur of disapproval audibly rose from the assembled court as the rogue elf sauntered casually into their midst. The tension inspired by his presence became all the frostier as the herald announced the last name of Kristryd’s party: “Prince Peralay of Celene.” Peralay the hunter passed under the arch of lances gracefully, nobly, but without ostentatiousness. He bowed before the undermountain king and took his place beside Kristryd. All eyes fixed upon the two elves.

“Is this an embassy? Or a party of adventurers?” the undermountain king sneered sarcastically. “I cannot remember the last time one of olvenkind stood beneath our vaulted stone ceilings. Or was it never?”

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Leomund at the Edge of Forever

A tribute to Lenard Lakofka

By Drew Griffiths

Edited by Thomas Kelly

They all had felt the summons. Whether they wanted to or not, one by one, it compelled them to make their way to that place gods alone could go. They arrived in a colossal room without walls, with views through windows where there were no windows. One among them looked out on a solitary pathway, into a void where no god dared go.

Phaulkon, Master of Birds and Wind Archer looked to red-bearded Kord. He saw his own heartbreak reflected back in Kord’s face. Nearby, one of the gods softly wept, perhaps Lydia, goddess of music and daylight. It took a moment for Phaulkon to notice—Wee Jas, mistress of magic and steward of the dead, had managed to remain absent. A brief moment for hope? But then Lendor appeared before his progeny. “It is time,” the god of time announced.

“No!” a hollow voice echoed back from planes beyond the room but not beyond the enveloping void.

“Wee Jas, it is time” insisted Lendor. He looked to Phaulkon. “Stop helping her.”

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The High Forest Branch

A Brief History of the Knights of the Hart (Part 2)

Kirt Wackford
The High Forest Branch, CY 350 – 460

In which is related the early years of the High Forest Branch, its near dissolution following the invasion of Perrenland, and its recovery under the guidance of Thiladorn Meneldor.

The Early Years (CY 350 – 395)

The King of Furyondy publicly revealed the Order of the Hart in the middle of the fourth century CY. As previously explained, the order existed in secret long before then.[1] It is known that the kings of Furyondy had elvish friends long before the order became public, indeed, as far back as Thrommel I, the first king. It is not known whether or not any elves served as members of the order before it became public. Many suggest two candidates that might well have done so: a certain warrior-thief and a notable bard. Both received the accolade to the order as soon as it became public, and both had traveled extensively in Furyondy and Veluna prior to their adoubement.[2]

When the King of Furyondy officially established the High Forest Branch of the Order, he eventually chose twenty elves of diverse backgrounds, skills, and homelands. Many previously served elven nobility, but most possessed no formal training as knights.[3] The majority hailed from the Vesve itself, but several came from Highfolk City or the Highfolk Vale. One knight hailed from Verbobonc, while one came from that portion of the Gnarley claimed by Furyondy.

What did this collection of the fair folk share in common that they should be selected for the order? All were heroes of renown and, more importantly, all were favorably disposed toward Furyondy. Elven opinion about Furyondy at the time was divided. The elves agreed that King Thrommel and his descendants had been good men, and wise and just rulers. But many elves also believed that humanity was just too dangerous for elves to have extensive contact with. They felt that humans were, by their very nature, selfish, shortsighted, violent, and destructive. They preferred to deal with humanity as little as possible. Other elves were more hopeful about the future of humanity. They had noted how carefully Thrommel I had prepared his subject lands for their independence. They knew that there were many good humans. They believed that a policy of openness and sharing could help humanity mature. The original twenty members of the High Forest Branch were among those of the latter opinion. They accepted Furyondy’s self-appointed role as protector of the Vesve. They supported the efforts of the king to make the Lord Marshall of the Vesve his beholden subject. Less self-absorbed than their typical kin, they saw the need for coordinated action between nations to preserve the freedom and goodness of the Marklands. In particular, they recognized that the continual raids by the nomads, bandits, and humanoids destabilized the human governments and spelled danger for the elves if allowed to succeed. These elven knights agreed to protect the new human nations so that they would have time to mature, advance in wisdom, and thus eventually help to protect the elves.

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Among the Tested

The Hateful Wars: Chapter Twenty-Three

Thomas Kelly

The leaves turned color—some had fallen—before she returned to fair Celene on embassy for the alliance (Patchwall 500 CY). She waited in the garden of the Grand Court and mingled among other ambassadors: men from Veluna and Verbobonc, from the Duchy and the County, and from the free city of Greyhawk. Stranger still, she waited among faeries of the Seeley Court, gnomes from the Kron Hills, a centaur from Greenway Valley. And for the dwur folk, she thought to herself, Kristryd Olinsdotter. So I am reduced in her Fey Majesty’s esteem to just one of a bevy of whiflings in line for a moment of her attention.   

“Daughter, what transgression have you committed to incur the Queen Yolande’s disfavor?” the wise mage Onselvon interrupted her thoughts. She had not seen the magic user approach. The long-haired elven wizard sat himself down beside her on the garden bench. “She will not hear told any good of you, whether spoken by the princes, by Darrion, Deravnye, the Fastaal, or myself.”

“I have done the queen no wrong,” Kristryd defended herself. “None of which I know. But I am hated nonetheless.”

 “She will not receive your embassy this day,” Onselvon apologized. “But she asks two questions of the dwur, and she sends me to make the akward inquiry.”

Kristryd nodded. She kept a stoic frown. Onselvon continued, “Her majesty inquires of the dwur, ‘Why did you abandon us in our hour of need?’ And she asks, ‘Why did we find your kin leading the horde in the Battle of Ulek Pass?’”

“Bear the queen this message then: I myself commanded the engagements, as you yourself well know and can testify. As for the host of Dengar, we fell back to defend our own halls from the same such an onslaught as you also faced, or so the commanders thought. As for those few dwur found among the horde, call them not dwur folk nor my kin. They are traitors most vile, one of them a foul witch. And say to the queen on my behalf, ‘Forget not that I am your wrath! For your cause have I made this war!’”

“I will bring these replies to the queen,” Onselvon stood and offered a ceremonious bow. “Return to your cosh. If you are needed further, or granted further audience, we will summon you thence.”

Kristryd did not return to her cottage straightway but wandered the royal city aimlessly. Her heart burned too hot with anger at the queen. Her mind boiled with imaginary conversations and sharp exchanges. Neither the colored leaves of Enstad, nor the fragrances of autumn, nor the beauty of the city could in any measure lift a mood so black. She wondered over Yolande’s callous treatment. Each time she rehearsed the matter, her heart grew more bitter. I once called her friend? Why did I ever trust an elf? Damn them all to the nine hells!

Continue reading “Among the Tested”