Thursday, 26 December 2019

History of Oerth, Part 10: The Fog of War

Fruztii Barbarian
Iuz was loose upon the land. But he was not alone. The Horned Society had risen in his absence. Banditry had sprung up as prolific as spring flowers across the breadth of the north. The sun that had once shone across the Great Kingdom had set, and in its twilight, that once celestial nation lay in disarray, riven by schemes and betrayal. Orcs had sundered the Bone March. The high seas of the Solnor Coast were beset with conflict and piracy.
And those east of the Rakers found themselves ever more isolated.

574 CY  The Fruztii consulted with Ratik concerning what wonders may be hidden within their mountains, eager to see whether the lore of their skalds was to be found in the dusty tomes the southerners worshiped so. So, Ratik consulted the Library in Marner, and those sages and wizards employed there, and within those dusty tomes they exhumed references to lost cities of the Flan, to ancient relics of the dwerfolk, and to sunken cities of the Solnor Sea. And of course, they dug up references to dragons and the hordes they amassed. All these they brought to the attention of the Fruztii, and the Fruztii listened with great interest. And armed with this knowledge, the Fruztii and those of Ratik brave enough to accompany them, they climbed into the Griffs and the Corusks in search of such things.

The History of The Ice-Shard Tome
While searching for the lair of a white dragon, the barbarians chanced upon an illusion-cloaked dungeon entrance and ventured inside. There they fought evil, cold-dwelling creatures and passed through strange areas of chilling, life-sapping vapor. Finally, they reached a great ice-encrusted chamber. While the intruders were busy digging out a chest from the ice, their activity awakened the dungeon’s most dangerous guardian: a massive automaton fashioned—so swear the barbarians—of steel-hard ice.
Although the golem slew two of their number, the barbarians were ultimately triumphant and claimed the icy dungeon’s treasures as their own. Among the hoard was the book that was to become known as the Ice-Shard Tome. Of the book’s owner there was no sign. [Dragon #243 - 89, by Anthony Nixon and David Head.]
The Frost Barbarians were distrustful of wizardly magic and eager to sell what came to be known as the “Ice-Shard Tome” upon returning from their expedition into the Corusk Mountains to Crylandren, a wizard of Marner.
He copied what he wished from the book before selling it, and over the next few years, the Ice-Shard Tome was sighted variously in Rel Astra, Rauxes, and Rel Mord, moving ever deeper into central Flanaess. On its journey the tome acquired both its popular title and a sinister reputation.

The Kelten Pass
575 CY  Where the Schnai sent promises and warriors to support the Fruztii front lines as a rear guard within the Bluefang-Kelton Pass, Ratik did one better. Although already hard pressed in the south with the orcs and gnolls, they understood that they must also secure their north, so, they sent battle hardened troops to stand shoulder to shoulder with their northern kin. The Fists came, as they knew they must, and they came with ogres and orcs and gnolls, and the alliance held the pass against them. But holding the pass was not enough. Securing it was essential, as was securing the lands north of it.

The Battle of Kelten Pass, as the Fist called it, only severed to divide the Atamans of Stonefist. Were it not for Vlek’s iron rule, the Hold might have fallen into strife.
The Coltens, despite generations of servitude to the invaders, have slowly emerged as a competing form of leadership, offering their method of election of the most popular warrior as an alternative to the Rite of Battle Fitness. So many aspiring leaders were slain in the often useless raids of the latter method that its proponents have grown scarce. When Ratik and the Fruztii made peace, the subsequent battles for the Kelten Pass brought several telling defeats to “fists” led by the descendant warband leaders. The Hold was then divided between those who followed the laws laid down by Vlek Col Vlekzed, and those who claimed that Stonefist’s methods are no longer appropriate and the Coltens Feodality should be restored. The nomads and settlers west and around the Frozen River championed the ways of Stonefist. The population around Kelten and the Hraak Forest wished to establish new forms of leadership. [Dragon #57 - 13]

The successful alliance of the Barony of Ratik and the Frost Barbarians has caused much consternation in Bone March. A joint Ratik-Fruztii army wreaked havoc within the March after the signing. Leaders of the humanoids have determined that the northern alliance must be dissolved. [WoGG - 29]
Knight of Ratik

576-582 CY         The alliance between Ratik and the Frost Barbarians was mutually beneficial. Not only had they begun to secure the Fruztii’s northern pass, they had begun to make gains against the Bone March to the south, too. But at a cost. They were small nations, their resources were limited, and were the orcs not soundly defeated, and soon, they knew all might be lost.
The humanoids so soundly defeated in the campaign of 575 were again raiding over the border, and the gnomes of the Lofthills (west of Loftwood) were being continually besieged. Losses from the campaigns in Bone March and with the Frost Barbarians could be replaced by mercenaries and volunteers from foreign lands only. [Dragon #57 - 14] 

The Frost Barbarians had not turned their backs on their cousins, the Schnai and Cruski, for they had common cause. They each hated the Hold of Stonefist, as did their distant cousins, the Zeai, the whaling Sea Barbarians who dwelt upon the far Brink Isles and Tusking Strand, east of the Black Ice. And the Snow and Ice Barbarians shared common cause against the North Province and Sea Barons, for life was harsh upon the Thillonrian Peninsula, and thought their seas were plentiful, their slim growing season could not support them.
The Schnai noticed their Fruztii cousin’s absence from the seas. And they saw their cousin’s increased reliance upon Luxnor of Ratik. But they were not worried. Let them break themselves upon the Fists and the Bone March, the Schnai said. They will weaken beyond recovery, and will be forever under our suzerainty when Ratik finally fell, for fall it must, in the end. 
And in the Fruztii’s absence, the Schnai increased their raids on the Great Kingdom, knowing that they needn’t share the spoils with them.
The Schnai weren’t the only ones to note the Fruztii’s increased presence in the northeastern theatre. Tenh had heard of the Frost Barbarian’s alliance with Ratik, and they’d heard of their joint strike into the Bluefang-Kelten Pass, and they sent emissaries to treat with them, for, as they explained to them, we have common cause against the Fists of Stonehold, and the Fruztii listened.

576 CY  Bonded by blood, and having shed blood to protect one another, the Fruztii and Ratik ratified their bond in the eyes of both their gods, for they knew that their only hope of their standing against their enemies, they would need to stand as one.
This symbolic parchment was endorsed and blessed by the gods of both Ratik and Fruztii, and the superstitious Frost Barbarians place great store in its safety. [WoGG - 29]

577 CY  Bellport grew tired of the repeated raids by the Schnai, and demanded the protection due them as a city of the North Province and the Great Kingdom. Lord Captain Aldusc was dispatched from Asperdi of the Sea Barons with a squadron of warships and troops to do just that.
The warships are now reported to be operating along the coast. Included are no fewer than six large galleys and perhaps a score of other war ships. The troops were divided after landing into main [joining Herzog Grenell] and reserve [defending Bellport's landward approaches] groups. [Dragon #63 - 15]

Although the Schnai had not raided as far and as often as the Fruztii had in their days of glory, they were no strangers to such things; indeed, they were the most accomplished of seafarers, and they were truly as fierce as their cousins, as were the Cruski. They increased their raids, and their longships swept down the coast, striking the North Province and the Baronial Isles both, luring those who chased them or sought to stop them far out to sea where they could lose them with ease.
But not all were so lucky.
Some raiders were met and actions were fought; some slipped through, some turned elsewhere. Reportedly a squadron of seven Schnai longships were set upon whilst sinking the hulks of two provincial merchants, the vessels Marntig and Solos. Guided by the smoke and flames, a flotilla of Baronial warships surprised the barbarians. Three of the Schnai were rammed and sunk. In hand-to-hand action, the flagship of the barbarians’ fleet was captured, but the three remaining longships escaped after jettisoning all of their captured cargo.
In hand-to-hand action, the flagship of the barbarians' fleet was captured. Jarl Froztilth, leader of the Schnai, many of his men, and the captured ship were all taken to Asperdi. News of this success was said to have greatly heartened the Herzog. [Dragon #63 - 16]

The Schnai recalled how once they and the Fruztii were the terror of the seas, and they wished the southerners to fear them so again. So, the Schnai treated with their cousins, the Cruski. And the Cruski were glad to treat with them, for the Schnai held what was theirs. The Schnai gave up the lands south of Glot along the east coast [and] the Cruski regained their southern harbors. This made the raids into North Province and the Isles of the Sea Barons all the easier next year, and most of the able-bodied men were away on those journeys when the warbands of Stonefist (now Stonehold) rode into the tundra which the King of Cruski claimed. The few wandering tribes of Coltens there welcomed the invaders, while surviving Cruskii headed east as quickly as possible. The returning warriors were enraged at the boldness of the invasion. [Dragon #57 - 14]

The History of the Ice-Shard Tome
Crylandren’s corpse was found shortly after selling the Ice-Shard Tome, his corpse frozen, his veins reputedly filled with ice. The windows to his study were thrown open, despite that winter being the bitterest in living memory. Rumors persist that the tome is under some kind of curse, that a powerful, extraplanar mage has been tracking the book, slaying those who have handled it, but always failing to possess it himself. A list of similar deaths follow in its wake, always grisly, if never substantiated. [Dragon #243 - 89]

578 CY  Despite his youth, King Ralff II of the Fruztii understood subjugation. His people had turned to their cousins to the east in their hour of need and found the duplicitous hand of the perfidious Schnai. The Schnai had lent their support. Yes, they had. But that help came at a cost: suzerainty. The Fruztii had lost their governance. Indeed, they’d lost their pride. Once, they were the terror of the Solnor Sea. Now, they were a subjugated people. The Shnai commanded them, calling their commands guidance. They had learned their lessons well from the diplomats of Shar, long ago.
No more, he thought. He extended his hand to Ratik and they’d taken it, and they’d been true to their words. They’d stood side by side with his people when the tribes of Schnai had not. And so, he turned to Ratik again: Train my people, he said, and when he sent the pride of their youth to Marner, the Archbaron not only trained them in the modern art of War, he equipped them for such. And so, when Ralff looked again to the East, he understood that he had kin there, he had obligations there, but he also understood that he had no friend there.
The Fruztii sent raiding bands to sea with the Schnai, but due to careful urgings, numbers of mercenary troops also moved southward into Ratik and joined the Baron’s troops there. These Fruztii returned with knowledge of organized warfare and good-quality arms and armor and formed the core of a new standing army organized by King Ralff II in 578. The four companies of foot and one troop of horse actively patrolled and brought most of the realm under order. Chief men and nobles not raiding were prevailed upon to contribute men to patrol their own territories, so that by the end of the year, the frequency of banditry and humanoid raiding bands had been reduced to an all-time low. Even the high country around the head of the Jenelrad River was peaceful, and its Jarl swore an oath of fealty to Ralff. Without actually declaring independence from Schnai overlordship, the King of Fruzti showed that he was again capable of fielding an army capable of either defending his territory or taking another’s. The Schnai conveniently ignored the resurgence, probably hoping that the involvement in Ratik would again reduce the Frost Barbarians to vassal status. [Dragon #57 - 14]

Battle of the Loftwood
Battle of the Loftwood
Their expedition into Bluefang-Kelten Pass thus far successful, the Ratik-Frutzii alliance turned their attention south, their aim to destroy the humanoid forces under the Vile Rune orcs of the Bone March.

The manpower pool of the Archbarony was totally dry in 577. Because of the relatively good relations between the Fruztii and Ratik, the woodsmen and elven warders of the Timberway were moved south to the Loftwood, and new recruits were formed into units of light troops called the Volunteer Borderers. [...]
The usefulness of the new Volunteer Borderers was proved in the summer of 578 when one of this formation’s patrols discovered that the orc tribe of the Vile Rune was indeed moving northward. In addition to 5,000 tribe members, the force had 2,000 goblins, 1,000 norkers and xvarts, and 1,000 hobgoblins, orgrilIons, gnolls, and ogres. With this detestable agglomeration were nearly 2,000 bandits and brigands serving as mercenaries. Its forerunners were worgmounted goblins, a handful of whom were slain to obtain the intelligence.
Thus alerted, the Marshal of the Archbarony laid a trap which the unsuspecting invaders blundered into. The humanoid horde moved north along the fringe of the Loftwood where it butts against the hills. At the northern terminus of the trees there awaited the full army of Ratik, its numbers made to appear three times greater by magical means. The gnomes held the western (hillside) flank, while the light forester troops and elves formed the other arm of the “U,” well concealed in the dense timber. 
The Battle of the Loftwood saw considerable magical competitions in addition to the standard hand-to-hand combat between the strongest fighters on the opposing forces. The real fighting was between the masses of troops, however, and this was fierce in the extreme. At one point, a score of foreign volunteers saved the day because their leader, Queg, a Fruztii, had prepared an extensive ambush with rocks, tree trunks, pits, and trees to set fire to. This action turned back 250 or more hobgoblins, killing or wounding half of them, so that the flank of the Archbaron’s army couldn’t be turned. Simultaneously, the gnomes on the left flank were nearly broken by a rush of gnolls, bandits, and goblins, and were saved only by the superb slinging of a flanking group of the Hillrunners and the innate tenacity of the gnomes themselves. 
Finally, the scale was tipped by an attack on the right (of the orc horde) by the elves and foresters. The humanoid invading force broke and fled, and in the rout there was a great slaughter. [Dragon #57 - 14,15]

Seuvord Redbeard saw dissention among his Atamans, and knew he had to suppress it. He knew that he could not afford to be embroiled in a civil war. His “nation” was surrounded by enemies: The Rovers were once again increasing in strength to the west, and raids into those Barrens were far more perilous than they had been short years before. And except by all but the strongest of efforts, the passes to Tenh and Fruztii were closed to him. Were civil war to divide his lands, those enemies were sure to fall upon them and destroy them. He needed to unite his people. He also wished his own line to retain the Mastership of the Hold as a hereditary right, so he called a great council at Purmill, with promise safe conduct for all who attended. The Atamans were dubious. And they had right to be. Vlek had promised the very same, and look what happened to the Coltens? They came, but they came with a show of strength. With spears extended, and hands upon the pommels of their swords.
In CY 578, shortly after Tenh had coronated its new Duke, the Master of the Hold became Rhelt Seuvord I of Stonehold. Several of his cousins took ill from a mysterious flux shortly after the coronation, and about a dozen others were reported fleeing into the Griff Mountains with a small band of loyal followers. [Dragon #57 - 14]

Magic is not the only force that can wreak havoc. Those of the Old Faith can tell you that those who dismiss the forces the natural world do so at their peril. Nature can and will do more damage than mere wizards, indeed, most wizards, arcane or divine. Those who live in the shadow of smoking volcanoes can attest to such, as can those who live on the banks of rivers, and the sea…. Hurricane "Ivid" is one such reminder. It ravaged the Solnor Coast, crippling the Sea Barons’ majesty over the sea lanes of the north. Trade ground to a halt. So did piracy, for that matter. But that was the least of the coastal settlement’s concerns, as they fled before “Ivid’s” landing.
[Most] people [of the Sea Barons] recall this three-day storm, which some laughingly called "Hurricane Ivid." [Ivid - 90]

579 CY  Baron Lexnol’s heir, Alain IV, marries Lady Evaleigh, the daughter of the count of Knurl.
In 579 CY, Lexnol's only son, Alain IV, the heir to the throne of the archbarony, married Lady Evaleigh, the daughter of the count of Knurl. The county was the only surviving province of Bone March, and the union was arranged to improve the lot of both realms. [LGG]
Alain acquired the dream of uniting Ratik and Bone March, but failed to convince the king of the Frost Barbarians of his plan to drive out the nonhuman tribes. Many whispered that Alain was encouraged in these ambitions by his step-family, particularly the count of Knurl, whose position between Bone March, North Province, and Nyrond was grossly precarious. In certain agreement were the immigrants from Bone March, who were driven from their lands by the invaders. [LGG - 91]
The Ratik-Fraztii alliance cleared the Kelten Pass to the Hold of Stonefist, pressing the Fists back, but not taking the town of Kelten. Rhelt Seuvord rallied his forces, pushing the Fruztii back into the Griff Mountains.

580 CY  The Bone March was displeased. Had the Fruztii not allied with Ratik, they’d have surely overwhelmed the little nation. Ratik could only fortify and man so many passes and still secure the wide expanse of the Loftwoods. If only the pact could be broken.  To break the alliance between Ratik and the Fruztii, the Bone March conspired with the North Province, for they could not enter Marner undetected. Thus, the Seal of Alliance stolen from Ratik's Baronial Vault.
In 580 CY, intruders from Bone March attempted an audacious act of treachery by stealing the Seal of Marner, an object blessed by the gods of the Suel barbarians that was the symbol of the new Northern Alliance. The plot was foiled when the raiding party was captured in Kalmar Pass before making it back to Spinecastle with their prize. [LGG  - 36,37]
[But] not before news of the theft drove a small wedge between the Fruztii and Ratikans. [LGG - 91]

One must always give credit where credit is due. This History is made possible primarily by the Imaginings of Gary Gygax and his Old Guard, Lenard Lakofka among them, and the new old guards, Carl Sargant, James Ward, Roger E. Moore. And Erik Mona, Gary Holian, Sean Reynolds, Frederick Weining. The list is interminable. Thanks to Steven Wilson for his GREYCHRONDEX and to Keith Horsfield for his “Chronological History of Eastern Oerik.”
Special thanks to Jason Zavoda for his compiled index, “Greyhawkania,” an invaluable research tool.
 Primary sources for this history were the DMG 1e, Ivid the Undying, WGR5 Iuz the Evil, WG8 The Fate of Istus, the Greyhawk Adventures hardcover, The World of Greyhawk Folio, and The World of Greyhawk Gold Box, Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, The Living Greyhawk Journals, Dragon Magazine 57, 63, 243.

The Art:
All art is wholly owned by the artists.
Viking Repose by sebmckinnon
Snow by all-my-life-i-dream
Medieval-Knight by lijinbo78
Vikings by kristmiha
North-war by castaguer93

1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
1068 Greyhawk Wars Boxed Set, 1991
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1979
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
Dragon 57, 63, 243
LGJ et. al.
Greychrondex, Wilson, Steven B.
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer

No comments:

Post a Comment