Declarations, Councils, and War

The Hateful Wars: Chapter Eleven

Thomas Kelly

The officers gave Kristryd the stirrup and bade her take a place behind the rider’s saddle. Dwarves prefer not to ride on mounts, not even ponies or pack horses. A helmed cavalry officer peered down at her from atop the hippogriff, “This noble beast on which you are to be carried is called Emolasmairim. She has borne none upon her wings except me.”

The Elite Cavalry

The officer extended a hand to the dwarfess as she put foot to the stirrup. “I am Darrion, captain of the queen’s cavalry. Wrap your arms fast around my waste. Lean with me when I lean, but not overmuch to the left or right,” the rider told her as he hoisted her up to the back of the hippogriff. Kristryd shifted about behind the saddle, gripping the beast between her knees and wrapping her arms around the armored waste of the cavalry officer. Emolas spread her great wings and flapped them thrice as if testing the air before leaping into a full gallop. Kristryd had once ridden a horse while at school in Keoland, but on that occasion, only at a slow trot, led by lead-rope in the hand of a squire around a track. That experience terrified her enough. Now she hurtled forward through the air, the wind whipping all about her and snatching away her breath. Her legs clamped the hippogriff tightly and her arms held the rider fast. The beast moved in spanning leaps, landing talons first, then launching again from hoofs behind, faster than she might have supposed. The terror increased when she realized that her mount charged full speed and headlong toward the edge of a precipice. To her left and to her right thundered along the rest of Celene’s elite cavalry, all galloping wildly toward the cliff’s edge. For a moment she launched weightlessness, and her stomach dropped. Then she felt the lift of the great wings as they beat against the air, and Emolas climbed toward the mountains. Continue reading “Declarations, Councils, and War”

The Queen’s Wrath

The Hateful Wars: Chapter Ten

Thomas Kelly

For ten days the elves of Enstad sang mournful chants and recited ancient lays over the tomb of Triserron. On the eleventh day, the Perfect Flower shed her mourner’s garments, immersed herself in the pool of Hanali Celanil, donned a shirt of mithril, and took her seat on the Blossoming Throne. For a full day and a night, she sat silent, staring unseeing, cold-eyed, terrible, and fearsome to behold, and none dared speak nor enter her presence nor take leave of her.

The Crown of Triserron

While Enstad mourned the loss, brave deeds transpired beneath the mountains. A warrior called Dothmar, wielder of the great sword Concluder, rose up to avenge the Prince Triserron who was, in fact, his mother’s brother. He considered himself a defender of the balance, but he hated orcs, and he refused to countenance such insult to olven dignity. “Who will follow me into the holes under the mountains?” he asked. Continue reading “The Queen’s Wrath”

The Lay of Larethian

The Hateful Wars: Chapter Nine

Thomas Kelly

At times the sound of the ethereal voices seemed to draw close, as if the singers stood outside her cottage window, but at other times, the voices sounded far and distant. Kristryd tried to make out the words. The archaic forms were beyond her level of fluency. Nevertheless, the potent enchantments lulled her into trance-like waking dreams in which she seemed to see the characters, the deeds, and the scenes described by the silver voices rising and falling on the night air.

Of Gruumsh and Larethian

“It is the story of Gruumsh and his wars with the gods,” the old lore master explained. “We’ve been hearing it retold nearly every night.” For the whole ten-day lamentation, the eerie keening melodies of Sehanine’s priestesses kept Kristryd and Bagbag mesmerized, hushed, and reverent.

“You understand the words of their poetry?” Kristryd asked her tutor.

“Nay daughter, not scarcely half of it, but I know the tale as it’s told in Enstad. Not like the version told by our priests. Here in Enstad, gods know, they have their own telling.”

“I would know it if you can tell it,” Kristryd said with a dreamy sigh. Though she could not make out the words, the olven songs stirred her heart with a sad and mournful pining she could neither express nor explain. Some wistful nostalgia in the melody tugged at her. It made her heart melancholy … but wasn’t it a sweet and beautiful sorrow?

Bagbag explained, “The elves of Enstad say their city is the birthplace of their people—the very place where the elven god battled the One-Eyed (may Moradin smite him) and their war came to its grisly conclusion. You know the tale?” Continue reading “The Lay of Larethian”

Alternate Oerth Journal

Issue 32 of Oerth Journal, originally slated for print and distribution at the ill-fated GaryCon 2020, is now available for download. The new issue is dedicated to the concept of “alternate Oerths,” an idea which can be summarized as a world of Greyhawk that, at some point in the timeline, deviated significantly from the published canon. Think of it as alternate time streams creating alternate Oerths.

In truth, every Dungeon Master’s version of Greyhawk is an alternate Oerth, but the articles in the new issue of Oerth Journal flesh out some particularly intriguing possibilities and interesting examples. Cal Scrivener makes the point that, Gary Gygax himself, the original creator of the Flanaess, created his own alternate version in the Gord the Rogue novels.

The liberty to create alternate Oerths that deviate from canon should allow Dungeon Masters to let their characters interact more freely with the world. And that’s where good stories can emerge:

Storytelling is more than creating compelling adventures, or fantastic realms. Ultimately, all storytelling is about people: who we are, what we do. Stories about that which motivates us, drives us to the choices we make, and how we deal with the consequences. (Amy G. Crittenden, “Making Greyhawk Your Own,” Oerth Journal 32)

This issue has several worth-the-price-of-admission moments like Joe Bloch’s rundown on various versions of Castle Greyhawk, Gary Holian’s dark vision of the Great Kingdom under a ruthless reign of death knights, Mike Bridges’ useful write-up on the Sea Princes (what if the Scarlet Brotherhood never conquered Sea Princes) and lots more great imaginative stuff which would rewrite reality if it was reality. Several of the articles include alternate timelines and descriptions of world-changing events. Others, like Jason Zavoda’s article, “Going to the Source,” provide suggestions for sources of inspiration to make Greyhawk uniquely your own.

In the category of “Tales from the Green Dragon,” blogger David Leonard takes us on an alternate expedition to the Barrier Peaks for more genre-bending fun with flying saucers that becomes an origin story behind Oerth’s moons Luna and Celene.

I haven’t finished reading the whole issue yet, but with great artwork, a new comic by Mike Bridges, and a full roster of grognard personalities behind the articles, Issue 32 is a home run. Congratulations to Kristoph Nolan and Greyhawk Online for knocking out another great issue. Download Oerth Journal 32 here for free.

You can support Oerth Journal and help it make the transition to print publication through Patreon.

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Druid’s Defile

The Hateful Wars: Chapter Eight

Thomas Kelly

“Trolls! A wall of trolls block the way!” the rider shouted as he urged his horse forward. The druid furrowed up his brow and squinted down the narrow choke point of the mountain pass. He could see horse and rider galloping hard, but he could not make out the words. “What alarm is this?” the stoic priest of the Old Faith asked of the olven prince at his side. The scout’s warning could not be heard by human ears at such a distance from the party, but keen are the ears of the elves.

The Prince Triserron reigned his steed back and called a halt to the caravan at whose head he rode. He fixed his eyes upon the advancing rider. “To arms! Ready weapons! Secure the animals,” the noble prince ordered. He turned in the saddle to survey the company that followed after him: two dozen folk of Celene, servants with wains and pack animals, a half-dozen gnomes, a score of mountaineers, and several of them hardened rangers from the County of Ulek. Moreover, a powerful druid on loan from the pataline walked at his side.

“Well?” The druid asked.

“Your ranger rides nigh. He shouts into the wind a warning of trolls,” the prince replied without concern.

The druid cocked his head to incline his ear in the direction of the horseman. “Less than a day’s ride from Courwood! Beory’s Abundant Bosom! Why fuss over a few scragglings?”

The prince nodded. “Just the same, I will hear the scout’s reports.” The stallion on which Triserron sat snorted and cantered sideways nervously. Continue reading “Druid’s Defile”

Interview with Paul Kidd: The Real Justicar

By Thomas Kelly for Greyhawkstories.com

Paul Kidd’s vision for the Flanaess is post-Greyhawk Wars, post-apocalyptic, and a heck of a lot of fun. Kidd left his mark in the world of Greyhawk in the late 1990s and early 2000s when Wizards of the Coast commissioned a series of novels based on several classic modules. Three novels in the series by the Australian writer and gamer, Paul Kidd, form a trilogy:

  • White Plume Mountain (October 1999)
  • Descent into the Depths of the Earth (June 2000)
  • Queen of the Demonweb Pits (October 2001)

Paul Kidd BookKidd’s stories follow the adventures of a moody ranger called The Justicar, his sentient hellhound pelt Cinders, the obnoxious pixie Escalla, and the rest of their ragtag adventuring troop. Kidd’s colorful and well-written characters stand out in bright primary colors as they romp through a bleak and gritty version of the Flanaess, from White Plume Mountain all the way into the Vault of the Drow (where they actually kill Lolth) before plunging into the Demonweb (to kill the Spider Queen again). It’s rich, imaginative writing that gives old D&D tropes a new spin.

A few months ago, Greyhawkstories caught up with Kidd to ask about his contributions to the World of Greyhawk. Continue reading “Interview with Paul Kidd: The Real Justicar”

The Fey Mysteries

The Hateful Wars: Chapter Seven

Thomas Kelly

The wind in her face stole away her breath. Kristryd plummeted, freefalling through darkness. Dizzy with terror, she felt her stomach lurch as she dropped from some great height. From where have I have a fallen? she wondered. She could not remember. The melodious call of a horn came to her, faintly, as if carried on the wind from a great distance. The sound of it pulled her from the dream and roused her before she struck the ground. She woke abruptly, gasping for breath.

A Horn in the Night

Only the light of the handmaiden moon and the starry sky shone through the open window, but dwarves have keen eyes, and they can see in the dark as well as most peoples can see by light of a lamp. Kristryd looked about the small cottage. Nothing amiss. In the other room of the cosh, she could hear trueheaded Bagbag snoring heavily. Did I hear the call of a horn or was that the dream? she asked herself. Or was it just old Bagbag’s snores? As if in reply to the unspoken queries, she heard again the blare of a resonant horn calling in the woods–and merry glad voices too. The horn this time sounded nearer. She rose from her bed in the guest-cosh and gazed through the small open window. Most of the night had already passed. The grove shone dimly under the pale light of Celene. A fine fragrance of cool mountain air chased the sleep from her head and seemed to beck her into the night. After such a frightening dream, she had no aim to return to her sleep. So long as I am already awake, why shouldn’t I walk a bit under light of the moon? she asked herself. She pulled on her soft boots, wrapped herself in a shawl, and went out into the night. Continue reading “The Fey Mysteries”

Her Fey Majesty

The Hateful Wars: Chapter Six

Thomas Kelly

“Here we are,” Bagbag stated matter-of-fact as he and Kristryd and all their retinue crossed over the stone-arch bridge that spanned the splashing Handmaiden. “I’ve not set foot in this place since before you were born, but nothing has changed,” the old wizard observed. He punctuated the observation with a snort and a wrinkling of the nose to indicate his distaste. Still he straightened his sorcerous hat and smoothed his coat as if to make himself more presentable.  Indeed, Bagbag knew that many eyes were now fixed upon their small party, even if those watching remained unseen. The heavy-laden mountain dwarves glanced about fearfully, uncertain of their safety amidst so much fey devilshine. They drew together in a tight clutch and kept their weapons at the ready.

Enstad

Ignoring the apprehensions of her afterlings, Kristryd breathed deeply to take in the rich scents of the kingdom. Wood smoke from bakers’ ovens carried the sweet and nutty aroma of elf bread on the morning chill. Frankincense, myrrh, and the fragrance of flowers mingled with the peaty scent of the fallen roanwood leaves that carpeted the ground beneath her feet. The princess cocked her head to better fill her ears  with the morning music. The occasional piping of unseen pipers, the gentle strings of lute and dulcimer, and the melodic chirp and trill of songbirds all blended together as if in chorus. In the distance, almost imperceptible, the rising and falling of perfect crystal voices, locked in ethereal harmonies, never ceased. Her eyes too took their fill of delights. The perfect architecture, naturally integrated into the roanwood-covered slopes of the foothills, making it appear as if no one lived there at all. She searched all around for some solid pattern to make sense of the city’s layout, but the whole of it seemed as random as the forest floor. Yet, somehow, she sensed symmetry like the petals of a flower. Continue reading “Her Fey Majesty”

Sea of Death

Sea of Death is the story of Gord’s quest across the Sea of Dust. It’s the third novel in the Gord books, but the first in the series to be released after Gary Gygax’s departure from TSR (and the first to actually bear the “Gord the Rogue” banner as a series identifier).

Published by New Infinities in 1987, this novel picks up some months after the previous installment and finds Gord in the Baklunish lands west of the Flanaess. He is on a mission to recover the second part of the three-part artifact known as the Theorpart, which will free the god Tharizdun from his aeons-long sleep and bring about the final victory of Evil over the multiverse. To assist him in this mission, he has been endowed with magical powers by the Demiurge (Basiliv, who in Gygax’s Greyhawk is the Mage of the Valley), and the Cat Lord, who favors the forces of Neutrality.

The second part of the artifact, known as the Second Key, is found in the City Out of Mind in the dangerous Sea of Dust. The map in the beginning of the book confirms that this is the same as the Forgotten City on the original Darlene map of the World of Greyhawk. Continue reading “Sea of Death”

The Stolen Anvil

The Hateful Wars: Chapter Five

Thomas Kelly

The urgent toll of bells roused Kristryd from sleep. Blinking in the darkness of her bedchamber, she called for a light. A servant girl hurried in bearing a single candle and busied herself kindling the lamps. Their illumination quickly cast the shadows from the room, but the light did not dispel the confusion or uncertainties. “Why toll the bells of Dengar?” Kristryd demanded of the servant, but the girl could only reply anxiously, “I know not my lady!”

The ringing clamor continued. “Alarm! Alarm!” the bells seemed to warn. The blare of horns could be heard too, faintly at first, but soon answered by nearer trumpeting.

“Bring me a gown!” Kristryd commanded the maidservant. As she pulled the garment over her head, she caught the scent of smoke in the air, not smoke of candle nor lamp, but rather the acrid sooty smell of consuming fire. “Has a dragon come upon us?” she asked the servant girl. “I smell smoke.”

“I known not my lady,” the girl repeated innocently.

Young Pegli erupted through the bedchamber door, half dressed in armor, fumbling with the straps, chain links, and clasps. “Mother! Goblins have entered the lower halls! All the lower city is ablaze!”

“Clangeddin’s Hammer!” Kristryd exclaimed in dismay. Then noting that her youngest son intended to join the fray, she added quickly, “You shall stay here, by my side to defend me. Let the warriors drive back the foe.”

“I too am a warrior of Dengar!” Pegli insisted. His injured tone of voice betrayed wounded dignity. “Help me fit this armor.” Continue reading “The Stolen Anvil”