Back from the Dead

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Forty-One

Thomas Kelly

The Lortmil Queen and her elven travelling companions turned aside from the road to avoid the siege of Hagthar still underway. “I have neither time nor strength of arms for such an entanglement now. Let the men of Veluna hold their own border,” she sighed. The detour took them east to Dorob Kilthduum where dwelt Gilvgola, the Sacred Heart of Berronar. The priestess had only just returned from her summer rounds, arriving back at the dwarven fort she called home on time for the moon of Brewfest. The corpulent priestess welcomed Kristryd as one might welcome a dear departed friend when found alive in a happy dream. The priestess offered up festival sacrifices of thanksgivings in addition to those of the holy day.

At the conclusion of the festivities, Kristryd sought counsel of Gilvgola, “I have taken a foolish oath in the names of Moradin, Berronar, and all the gods of my fathers. I spoke in haste and under sway of passion. I would now renounce my oath and have it annulled.”

The Sacred Heart smiled with pity upon Olinstaad’s daughter but shook her head resolutely. “If I had the power to annul oaths, I would be powerful indeed! You have sworn in the name of our Father and Mother. The matter remains between you and the gods. Who is Gilvgola to absolve you or annul your obligations?”

“By Berronar’s beard!” Kristryd cursed bitterly. “Then I have no recourse but to continue this hateful affair! If you cannot free me from this burden, you must help me carry it. Come with me to Gilmorack, you and all your best warriors too. The tide turned against us at Riechsvale. We must move with alacrity or lose all the stones for which we have labored these many years.”

The Sacred Heart gave thought before replying. “Already the castellan has sent away what axes we can spare. Already our young dwarves have fought for you, and many have fallen on faraway fields. Scarcely enough of us remain here to defend these walls or hold these lands about us. Even now Urgush lays siege to Hagthar, a few days march from here.”

“Yet you will come with me,” Kristryd insisted emphatically. “Ask Berronar, seek an oracle, fast and pray, divine what signs you must, but come with me you will! Mother! I need the gods with me if I am to satisfy the debt, and I need you beside me too.”

The Sacred Heart inquired of Berronar. The auguries were good. At the conclusion of the festival, Kristryd left Dorob Kilthduum with Gilvgola and the remaining warriors of that place, several hundred strong.

Continue reading “Back from the Dead”

Heroes of the Fey Kingdom

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Forty

Thomas Kelly

The Lortmil Queen carefully folded the garments of Esmerin and packed them away in her sack. She girded herself in her mithril armor and strapped her sword to her side, and pulled a red travelling cloak overtop. Slinging the sack over her shoulder, she set off toward Courwood. Not long had she walked before passing the burnt ruin of Defile’s End. The blackened and broken stones made her shudder. She offered prayers for the fallen.

Edda’s New Riddle

A few miles further brought her to the cairn that sheltered the bones of the Prince Consort’s host. Like a wight clambering out from a tomb, a wild-haired and wild-eyed elfess climbed from behind the stones and leapt up on top of the cairn. She wore only a loose-fitting hair cloak bound at the waist by a thin leather belt. “Hail, Queen of the Lortmil Mountains,” Edda saluted. “What now for Kristryd Olinsdotter?”

“Edda!” Kristryd exclaimed as she recovered from the start. “I am almost glad to see you. Have you more riddles for me?”

“Just this one,” Edda replied. “How did the Red Fang orcs know to waylay the Prince Consort at this place?”

“I imagine they fell upon him as a random act of savage banditry, not unlike a dozen’s dozen that occur in these mountains every year.”

“Perhaps. Perhaps you are right,” Edda feigned a naiveté that belied her words.

“I feel as if we have had this conversation before Edda. If you know something more, you might say so.” Kristryd grew impatient and rested her hand upon the hilt of her sword where it hung at her belt.

The wild elf continued, “The Grand Court whispered about the People of the Testing. Some said that we plotted against the life of the Prince Consort.”

“I don’t understand your pitchkettle riddles Edda.”

“Perhaps you have not heard that the queen’s dandy led a strike deep beneath the mountains. They say that the third time is the magic. This time the fastaal made good on his oaths. None of the Red Fang orcs remain in the bowl, though many begged for their lives.”

“That’s good news to my ears.”

“Is it? The fastaal persuaded the unhappy survivors to spill the true tale of the ambush. They said an old dwurwife hired their tribe for the deed. She paid them in horse’s flesh.”

A stab of fear plunged into Kristryd’s heart.

Continue reading “Heroes of the Fey Kingdom”

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”

Siege of the Tower

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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”

The Stirges’ Nest

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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 purfled 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 prickmedainty 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”

Companions of the Silver Wolf

Greyhawkstories.com is a place for collecting stories set in the World of Greyhawk. For two decades, readers at Canonfire! have been treated to the tales of “The Companions of the Silver Wolf,” an adventuring party in the best tradition of the Flanaess. Now the author of those stories, Jared “CruelSummerLord” Milne, has collected his work into a trilogy available on Greyhawkstories. It’s not just fan-fiction, it’s fun fan-fiction.

Read all three at Greyhawkstories.com.

Continue reading “Companions of the Silver Wolf”

A Voice in the Dark

The Hateful Wars: Chapter Fourteen

Thomas Kelly

The fastaal shouted out orders in the elven tongue, assuming himself the commander of the situation. Likewise, the dwarven officers shouted their own commands in their own tongue, each one assuming himself the leader. Arrows punctured flesh, dwarves and elves clutched at wounds, and savages leaped toward them with thirsty blades.

As the chaos of the battle erupted around her, Kristryd seemed to float above it, as if observing these things happen to someone other than herself—as if playing war in a child’s game. The curious detachment had dreamlike quality. Despite the darkness all around her, her dwur eyes could clearly discern the orcs leaping from behind the stones and dropping from hidden alcoves above. So this is how it ends, here on the Low Road, as it ended for my miserable and unhappy husband, she thought to herself. Her thoughts turned to her three sons. Shall I leave them as orphans?

Kristryd Takes Charge

After only a moment of hesitation, she took charge, ignoring both the Celene officer and the long-bearded dwarven warmen. With a natural ease like one long accustomed to the battlefield, she shouted orders in elvish and dwarvish as the need demanded. Her clear-toned voice resonated above the din of battle. “Form up! Wall of shields! Hammers and axes between!” she commanded in the dwarvish tongue. “Archers aim low, drop the first ranks first,” she commanded in the elvish tongue. “Spellcasters! Light spells, magical arrows, and a wall of fire on the flank!”

Both the elves and the dwarves heeded the voice in the dark, for they had already grown accustomed to her translating on behalf of one another. The dwarves raised a wall of shields, hammers, and axes against the onslaught. The elves loosed away volleys of arrows, striking the first wave so that the second stumbled over them. Archosian employed cantrips to create light spells that revealed the enemy, blinded their eyes, and outlined them in fey light. The sturdy dwur wizard Bagbag threw down spells of power worthy of warmages. Nothing struck fear into the orcs as much as Peralay’s dogs. The cooshees silently leapt at the orcs, ripping at throats. Dothmar and Peralay followed quickly with Concluder and Gnoll-Cleaver, both blades naked and unsheathed, flashing in their hands.

If any foe struck up a conversation with Fastaal Dothmar, Concluder struck twice in reply, putting in the last word. If any orc’s ugly head strayed too close to Peralay’s reach, Gnoll-Cleaver removed the offensive hairy bulb from its shoulders. The battle ended swiftly with the orc host falling back in retreat and cooshees, elves, and dwarves in full pursuit. Continue reading “A Voice in the Dark”

The Drawing of the Veil

The Hateful Wars: Chapter Thirteen

Thomas Kelly

The ambassador traveled to and fro between the nations of the alliance. Often she went afoot but, more often, clinging precariously on the back of a hippogriff and holding tight to a cavalryman of Enstad. Wherever the fragile alliance began to fray, Kristryd arrived to stitch together the rending seams and heal the wounds of insult with eloquent salve and articulate balm. If ever a nation began to flag or grow weary, she arrived with fiery words to stir hearts and strengthen resolve.

Reflections on Diplomacy

In all these efforts, she relied much on the magic of the silver-framed mirror. Many long hours, each day, she gazed intently into its reflection. Those who saw her doing so thought her very vain indeed. “See how she loves to look on the delicate lines of her fey face!” the dwarven women sniffed. “More olve than dwur, that one. And she loves none more than Kristryd!” Continue reading “The Drawing of the Veil”

The Suel Spell

The Hateful Wars: Chapter Twelve

Thomas Kelly

Hroth’s yellow eyes narrowed as he peered heavenward. Half a dozen horse-birds wheeled about the sky over the holy city like vultures circling over a dying warrior. The nostrils of his thick blue nose flared as he sniffed at the air. “Elves!” he spat. Even at this distance from the city, Hroth and his warriors could hear the blaring alarm of the goblin war horns and the beating of the drums.

“Drop the corpses girlies!” he ordered. “Double time all the way home!”

His soldiers dropped their packages: a dozen orange-skinned carcasses, all of them beheaded, some of them also pierced with arrows, the fletching still visible in the wounds. Hroth unshouldered his own burden, a heavy burlap bag containing the dozen heads that once belonged to the bodies.

Three weeks earlier, when those heads were still attached, the priests of Grot-Ugrat dispatched missions to both Celene and the Duchy to protest the city’s innocence in the matter of Druid’s Defile, for rumor of those events had reached the temple. By then, dwarves, elves, gnomes, and men had been spied advancing into the mountains. The envoys to the west went before the duke. Grind his bones! Hroth snarled to himself as he kicked at one of the leering severed heads. Grind all their bones! The duke gave no heed to the protestations of the ambassadors, nor did he honor the custom of parley. No. Not that noble one! What did he do? Murdered them all. Continue reading “The Suel Spell”