Ceremonies

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Forty-Five

Thomas Kelly

“They fall back before us!” Bamadar roared. Jubilant and maddened with battle rage, he hacked his way forward into the thick press of goblins. Behind them the first light of morning already softened the dark sky. Kristryd risked a glance over her shoulder. Her eyes anxiously searched the dark silhouettes of turrets and towers until she espied a faint green light flickering and flashing in one of the high tower windows. Turning her attention back to the fight that boiled all around her, the queen’s eyes narrowed with concern. They had strayed too far from the protection of Hoch Dunglorin’s walls.

“Hold Bamadar! We dare not further! If they outflank us, we are cut off and the gates undefended,” she shouted. Her voice could not carry above the din of battle. I must signal them to fall back! Pushed along with the crush of the fight, she struggled to lift the horn of Celene to her lips. Before she could sound the note, a sudden eruption from the fight ahead abruptly reversed the forward momentum and sent Bamadar tumbling backwards and crashing into her. She fell to the ground with the heavily armored dwarf sprawled backward on top of her. As she disentangled herself, a mad blur in the darkness emerge from the goblin line. A half-score of hobgoblins pushed and shoved their way forward at impossible speed and with impossible strength. Charging like stallions, they passed by her as a rushing wind. So quickly they moved that eye could scarce follow their pace. They tossed aside goblins, orcs, dwarves, and gnomes that stood between them and the gatehouse. Before Kristryd could recover her feet, they were already leaping the makeshift wall the dwarves had placed across the entrance to the barbican. Bodies of dwarves went hurtling over the moat and cracked against the stone walls of the fort as if thrown by giants.

Continue reading “Ceremonies”

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”

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”

Night Arrant

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Night Arrant might be the least-read and most-entertaining of Gygax’s Gord the Rogue series of Greyhawk novels. It takes place between the events of Saga of Old City and Artifact of Evil. I’m told that the style is comparable to Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and Grey Mouser stories (if not a straight up knock off) with Gord in the role of the Mouser and Chert as Fafhrd. Having never read Leiber’s work, I’ll take your word for it.

As typically happens with the Gord books, the cover art seems to be unrelated to the contents of the book. Oh well. You can’t judge a book by its cover, right?

Night Arrant isn’t a single narrative or one big quest like Artifact of Evil. It’s a series of episodic adventures, thinly connected when at all. The book contains nine fun-to-read, swashbuckling short stories about Gord’s misadventures in and around the City of Greyhawk. It reminds me of the type of D&D games my friends and I ran when we were kids and had time to play almost every day. As Dungeon Master, I’d have to come up with spontaneous adventures on a daily basis—usually off the cuff one-shot episodes scrapping with the locals around town.

Purists seeking the Gygaxian Greyhawk will find a treasure trove of Greyhawk lore in every story. It’s the kind of detail and color that you won’t get in the sourcebooks. Plenty of fuel to inspire your own games and a plenty of pages to enjoy immersed in the world’s greatest RPG realm. Continue reading “Night Arrant”

Harnekiah

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Thirty-One

Thomas Kelly

“We’ve cut the gravy too blashy,” Bamadar warned his queen. “We have scarce the strength to hold the roads. Supply lines stretch hundreds of miles, and one host is far separated from another by a fortnight march. How shall we fare if Urgush comes against us now?”

“And I am sick to death of goblin stench,” Kristryd admitted. “But I will hold every inch we have taken. If our lines collapse, there remains no shield between our kingdoms and the goblin host.”

“I called for reinforcements, but they send us lads who have not yet seen their first whiskers,” Bamadar complained. “We run out of dwarves!”

“The price of such a war,” the queen shrugged. “Dwarves do not leave a thing unfinished.”

The Low Stream

By the first of Reaping (503 CY), Kristryd’s dwur controlled the west spur of the Low Road between the Ulek Pass and the Celene Pass. From all those caverns and snaking tunnels, they ousted the nests of goblinkind. Such remarkable advances cost her heavily. In those days, the dwarves called the Low Road “the Low Stream” for the quantity of dwarven blood that streamed through those caverns and ran down those tunnels.

Displaced tribes of kobold, goblin, orc, hobgoblin, gnoll, and ogre tried at times to flee the mountains and seek refuge in the lowlands. The Rangers of Triserron patrolled the Druid’s Defile. Hunting parties from Celene watched the banks of the Handmaiden. If any of the gundyguts ever dared cross the Handmaiden River, the elves of Celene cut them down. If they fled to the south, they met the stout troops of the Principality. If they fled to the west, they faced the ready men, elves, and gnomes the Ulek states.

Continue reading “Harnekiah”

The Undermountain Queen

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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.

Continue reading “The Undermountain Queen”

Among the Tested

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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”

The Halfblood Prophecy

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Twenty-Two

Thomas Kelly

Fury burned in Kristryd’s breast when she saw how her kin had had abandoned the fight at an hour so desperate. The dwarves did not accompany the march of Father Furduch. The hosts of Gilmorack paid no heed to the muster at all. Their undermountain king sent not a single axe to join the fight at Luskan. Nor did Dengar send its iron clad troops to the aid of the elves in the battle for Ulek Pass.

She dispatched a complaint to the undermountain kings from the field of the battle, and she sent an apology to Enstad, written in her own hand. The only warrior of her people to stand alongside Yolande’s people in that desperate hour was the Thunderstrike dwarf Bamadar Kadarel. He had come up from the Principality along with the halfling troop from Prinzfield, and, as such, had the privilege of contributing to the battle of on behalf of the Principality and the dwarven nations. His prowess on the field cast no shame on the reputation of the dwarves. His arms did not tire, and his legs did not falter, but many were the victims that fell beneath his axe.

The Corpse

On the day after the defeat of the horde, Kristryd summoned the winsome young Bamadar to her tent in the green hall and commended him, for he had fought bravely and in a manner worthy of her father’s name and reputation. He tried to flatter her with his attention, “I fought only for the honor of the Noble House of Corond, my lady! For your Grace, and also for his Serene Highness, Lord of the Peaks of Haven.”

“The Noble House thanks you,” Kristryd replied, “But now I must charge you another errand—one you might not find so honorable nor to your liking.”

Bamadar bowed and declared, “If my dishonor be for thy honor, my lady, what more could be to my liking?”

Kristryd ignored the words of ingratiation and continued, “Somewhere on the field of battle, near the encampment of the Red Medusa, find the body of a dwarfess, an old spellcaster, slain through the heart by the blade of Xaxa. Find the corpse and bring it to me, for I must know who she is, from where she came, and with what companions she travelled.”

Continue reading “The Halfblood Prophecy”

Spells & Stratagems

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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”

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