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.
Continue reading “Oerth Journal 34 Review”
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!”
Something wicked flickered into view. It flashed and pulsed in bursts of flame, smoke, and light that leapt up from the burning coals in the scryer’s pot. Gretyll, the eldest of the three sisters and most powerful of the three, cast another handful of smoke-raising herb onto the hot coals as Hedvyg, the youngest of the three sisters, completed the recitation of the incantation. Gunhyld, the middling sister and ever the excitable of the three, cackled and keaked, “I can see her! It’s working! I see the face of a human woman!”
“Fonkin! Be silent!” Gretyll scolded. She tossed on a third handful of smoke-raising herb and the figure formed more fully in the haze—a woman beautiful by any standard, even in the eyes of the dwarf sisters. The lovely form seemed to be made of smoke and flame, yet somehow, almost solid and corporeal. Flowing dark hair undulated and writhed as if alive in motion with the rising heat from the burning coals, and imperious lips hardened into a sneer. Those lips moved in concert with a voice that came as if from beyond Oerth, “Kneel before me.” Continue reading “Something Wicked”
Iuz’s greatest fear is not a paladin of Pelor or the Cudgel of Cuthbert or any heroes of good. He fears his mom teaming up with his girlfriend. In the Greyhawk novel Artifact of Evil, Gary Gygax narrates a comical encounter between Iuz, his mother Iggwilv, and his girlfriend Zuggtmoy. It starts when the dark lord’s orgasmic scrying device becomes a portal that lets the two of them into his private palace:
The oily liquid in the massive [scrying] pool erupted in a geyser that struck the ceiling almost twenty feet above its surface. As the droplets pattered down throughout the room, a pair of women appeared. Before Iuz’s startled gaze stood Iggwilv, his mother, and Zuggtmoy, Demoness Lady of Fungi. Between them, grasped by both, was the Second Key! Continue reading “Behind the Throne of Iuz”
In Artifact of Evil, Gary Gygax summarizes an important chapter in the career of “Iggwilv, the Mother of Evil.” She races against a band of adventurers on a quest in the depths of the Temple of Elemental Evil. Iggwilv is there on a mission to win the loyalty of a powerful new ally: Zuggtmoy. The Fiend of Fungus, after all, is more-or-less her daughter-in-law.
Here’s how Gygax told the tale:
At the northern edge of the Kron Hills, where the fringe of the great Gnarley Forest sent no more of its briars and oaks toward the setting sun, stand the ruins of a large building. Once active, the place is now generally shunned, for another battle was fought near it and its builders slain or gone in defeat. The place is, of course, the Temple of Elemental Evil – its ruin, rather – as any local serf or peasant farm-boy from the neighborhood could tell you. Other than an occasional group of adventurous explorers seeking forgotten treasure, nobody goes to the temple. Bad, evil things haunt the place still. Continue reading “Iggwilv’s Quest in the Temple of Elemental Evil”
Hot on the heels of my review of Gary Gygax‘s first novel, Saga of Old City, we come to the second in the series (and the last published by TSR), Artifact of Evil, published in 1986.
This book has a very different feel than its predecessor, even though the action takes place only a few months after the end of the first. Where Saga of Old City was episodic, with no real plot threading throughout it other than chronicling Gord’s early adventures, Artifact of Evil has a definite plot. The forces of Evil are searching for a powerful artifact that can be used to loose the evil god Tharizdun from his prison, thus bringing doom to the world unless they can be stopped. Continue reading “Artifact of Evil”
Fair Elena’s Betrothal
“The Flanaess is not wide enough to hide her from me!” Zagig Yragerne declared. He was wrong. He employed all means at his disposal—magical, abyssal, and otherwise—to locate his prodigal apprentice and avenge his wounded heart, but Natasha knew his methods and his means. She disguised herself cleverly, wrapped herself in scrying wards, and made her way through the wild ways until she came upon the dancing hut where she found Fair Elena feeding the scraps to the cackling geese.
“How is it that you have dared to come to this place again?” Elena demanded sharply. “Should our mother find you out, she will not deal gently with you this time.”
“I have come for your sake, my sister,” Natasha protested innocently. “My conscience pricks me, and shame goads at me. Was it not cruel and unkind of me to steal away Zagig’s heart as I did? Surely I was a jealous fool. But if you still want to be the old man’s wife, you only need to play it in the manner of the game we played with the Sultan’s son. You take my name and my face, and he will come to find you at once, I am sure. I promise you, after he has claimed you for his own, he will never let you go.”
Elena’s countenance darkened. “Oh cruel, cruel fate of Istus!” she sighed. “Too late you have come! Mother has pledged my hand to another of her disciples: a dweomer-master nobleman who dwells far off in the Northern Reaches. I am soon to go to him and to be wed to him.”
“Console your sorrowful heart sister,” Natasha said gently. “I shall go for you to the Northern Reaches and wed this dweomer-master of yours. He shall take me for you, just as Zagig will take you for me.”
Elena danced with delight among the cackling geese and laughed, “I know the reak well!” She threw arms around her sister and pulled her close in tight embrace. “Sweet sister. This kindness surpasses all others you have shown me. Please let’s not quarrel again over poopnoddies!” Continue reading “The Bride of Count Dahlvier”
Tasha’s Hideous Laughter
(Spoiler alert for Iggwilv’s Legacy: The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth)
It’s no laughing matter, but here’s how the spell works. You need some tiny tarts—two or three will do—and a long feather. Concentrate while uttering the incantation. Clutch the tarts in the one hand (gods know why) and wave the feather in the air. You know: “tickle-tickle.” As if you were tickling your target, much as a giddy child might employ the feather to tickle a playmate or as frisky young lovers sport with one another, the one teasing the other into laughter. The effect will be that the poor chap so bewitched finds everything and every matter about him hilariously funny. He loses himself in convulsive spasms of hideous laughter from which he scarce can recover to catch his breath. Some laugh until they pass unconscious. That’s the spell for which she is most famous, a “harmless prankster’s charm” which young apprentices all over the Flanaess are eager to transcribe into their books. They think it a mere joke, but it’s a wicked spell and no laughing matter. Tasha’s laughter can be deadly. While so incapacitated under the spell, the hapless and witless victim makes himself vulnerable to attack, for he can scarce find his legs, much less defend himself.
Daughter of Baba Yaga
Who was Tasha, and how did she become the blight of our world? The one of which we speak has acquired many names: Natasha, Hura, Tasha, Ychbilch, Louhi, and Iggwilv. Likewise, her fame has won her many titles including Witch Queen of Perenland, Dame of North Reach Farm, the Yatil Witch, Mother of the Old One, and Mother of Witches. The latter title rightfully belongs to Baba Yaga, her adoptive mother, but Iggwilv inherited it, which is to say, she stole it, along with the dangerous arcane treasures she looted from sealed vaults in the old crone’s infamous hut. Continue reading “Tasha’s Hideous Laughter and the Master of Deception”
On a certain festive day in the lands of Zeif, the sultan announced the happy news that his favored son Hussin had returned from far-off Bramblewood with a bellbon Ketite maiden of unmatched beauty. “Surely this is the one of whom the prophecy spoke,” the sultan said when he cast eyes upon her. “My daughter,” he fawned over her, “Your power and fame will eclipse all others. Istus has decreed it, and the rashaw has forseen it.”
The sultan happily announced to his people, “My son Hussin shall be wed beneath a flowered canopy on the first night of Brewfest.” Invitations went out to all the sultan’s other sons, to all the powerful houses of Zeir-I-Zeif, and to the chieftains, the pashas, and the beygrafs from foreign lands.
Many tongues wagged over the matter, “Who is this woman? Is she not an infidel? From what noble house has she come?” But others said, “This is the hand of Istus.”
Until the night of her wedding, the Ketite maid took her place in the chambers of the third palace with the other maidens outside the harem of Peh’reen. They put her under the charge and care of the sultan’s chief eunuchs who attended to her daily. The servant girls of the palace also pampered her with oil of myrrh, with spices, with paints and cosmetics, braiding of hair, and sweet perfumes. All was gladness and song, and all the palace seemed astir with anticipation over the coming day of joy. They dressed the fair-skinned maid in fine silks and scarves. They adorned her with gleaming ornaments of golden jewelry set with precious gems. They arranged her black hair to dangle in curling feats. As the week of Brewfest drew near, dancers went before her with castanets. Minstrels played for her entertainment, and singers sang of her charms, “A bellbon beautiful bride! A bellbon beautiful maid!” Continue reading “Iggwilv’s Wedding”
The Sultan’s Son and the Witch’s Sister
There was a sultan who ruled the lands of Zeif in peace and fairness under the bright light of Al’Hatha’s truth. He stood firmly upon the Four Feet of the Dragon, and he had the satisfaction in his later years to see the son of his favored wife prove himself a worthy imitator of those virtues and a worthy heir of his sultanate. Only one matter troubled the old sultan, namely that his son had taken no wife. True enough, generosity, honor, and piety handsomely adorned the young prince, but without family, what does one truly possess? This lamentable deficiency gave the sultan much concern, for his other sons all married powerful houses, daughters of chieftans, pashas, and beygrafs from foreign lands who brought with them rich dowries, exalted titles, and strong alliances.
On an auspicious day, the Sultan said to his son Hussin, for that was his name, “I have consulted the rashaw and learned that you must seek a bride beautiful and powerful beyond all the daughters of Zeif. Do not marry a daughter of Zeif; do not seek a maid of Ekbir, be not seduced by the wiles of a Tusmit woman, and do not look on the dancing girls of Ull. Saddle up your steed, take your men at arms, and go questing into the far-off rebellious land of Ket. Beyond Lopolla, beneath the boughs of that dark forest, take a Ketite maid for wife. Her power and fame will eclipse all the daughters of the Bakluni. Istus has decreed it, and the rashaw has foreseen it.”
Since the young prince was always submissive and obedient to the sultan’s will and since he was much flattered that fate had so favored him with such a magnificent bride surpassing all other women, he consented to undertake the quest. Before departing, he asked, “And how shall I know which girl Istus has decreed for my destiny?”
The sultan said, “Ask the goddess for a specific sign. Let it be the maid that sets before you a princely gift of unmatched beauty. She should be the one Istus has chosen.”
This seemed reasonable to Hussin. He saddled up his steed and took six of his men at Continue reading “The Sultan’s Son and the Witch’s Sister”