History of the North, Part 4: A Pause Before the Storm
|The Pause Before the Storm|
This is not to say that the North was peaceful, because in truth, it was not and had never been. It is a harsh land, not given to pastoral pursuits. It has always been rife with raiding and banditry. New Evils were bound to rise up. And they did.
513 CY Despite Iuz’s absence, Evil still flourished everywhere in the North. A new name was whispered in the taverns and inns, in the courts and halls of those who held sway: The Horned Society. It was said that it was a foul haven of deviltry. And like Iuz before them, it had designs on the North. It did. First, it must gather its forces if it were to fester.
Deprived of their lord [Iuz], the euroz and jebli armies massing on Furyondy's borders rapidly dissolved. The barbarous creatures fought the regents of Iuz and won for themselves the east and west shores of Whyestil Lake. East of the lake, savage chieftains and unscrupulous humans founded the Horned Society. [Folio]
|Hierarchs of the Horned Society|
515 CY The Horned Society were not the only ones to have designs on the North in Iuz’s absence; indeed, so did the petty despots that were once under Iuz’s heel. They each and all sought to expand south, for that was where the riches lay, and that was where the yet untapped sources of slaves lay. However, they could not march south, not whilst the Nomads and the Rovers were ever a nuisance to them, raiding across the Cold Marches and Howling Hills. So, they put aside their differences and gathered as one and marched north to put an end to that nuisance, once and for all.
The Nomads and Rovers darted in and out of their armies’ reach, and revelled in their early successes, but as those armies marched ever north and as the Barrens open to their maneuvers were squeezed ever smaller, the Rovers had no choice but to turn and fight. The inevitable battle did not go well for the Rovers. They massacred at the Battle of Opicm River. A few escaped, but the once proud and fierce Rovers had been brought low, and all they could do was hide, and prey for a day when they could take their revenge.
The Nomads were more fortunate. They did not have the Icy Sea and the Corusks blocking their flight. Or the Fists of the Stonehold at their back, either. They broke into smaller bands and slipped away into the vast expanse of the northern plains and the tangles of the Boreal Forest, and vanished as though they were one with the wind and the trees.
At the great battle of Opicm River, the might or the Rovers of the Barrens gathered to war upon a combined host from the land of luz and the newly formed Homed Society. The wardog soldiers and light cavalry of the Rovers were decimated and scattered, and many of their chieftains were slain. Perhaps three or four clans of but a few tribes each are all that now remain of the force which once sent the tumans of the Wolf Nomads flying back across the Dulsi without their gray-tailed banners. [Greyhawk Gold Box]
There were those who remained loyal to Iuz, though, for they knew the Old One could return, would return. They knew they must survive were they to be of use to their absent master when he did, so, they feigned allegiance, and added their strength to that gathering, their aim to placate those who would otherwise take His lands, and as they seemed to lend aide, they held back, all the while watching their foes weaken. They bided their time, and waited.
520 CY The Barbarians had little concern for what might be going on beyond the Griff Mountains. True, they always looked to the Kelten Pass and the Hold of Stonefist, for there were always raiding parties of Fists that managed to cross those imposing peaks between the snows, but they were few in number, and not of great concern.
Their relative security aside, they understood that one day those Evils to the West might come; so, they searched for uncharted passes that might be hidden from them. And they searched for fabled Skrellingshald, for the elder wives wove tales of the wonders that one might find there. But where was it? None could say, but those fancy tales told of a becalmed climate and rich soils, and steeply walled, easily defended, paths to it. That in itself made it worth seeking. But did it ever actually exist? Were they indeed just fancy tales?
Most believed just that. Nevertheless, there were those who thought differently. There was always a kernel of truth in even the wildest of fables, they believed, and so, they shouldered packs and girded themselves for the great dangers that lurked in those peaks. Few ventured into them, fewer returned.
|The Sinister Lost City|
Hradji Beartooth was one who had. He returned with wonders and curiosities, and with what they hoped was a tale to tell. They expected him to gather the clan around the hearth and regale them with his exploits and heroism. However, he did not speak on it. Not a word. Moreover, neither did those who had staggered out of those lofty mountains with him.
What? You have never heard of Skrellingshald? Maybe you have, for Skellingshald is what the northern tribes called that long forgotten city of Tostenhca.
Hradji returned later that year with a diminished following and with a greatly increased wealth which consisted largely of […] golden spheres. He quite naturally refused to disclose the location of the mountain, as he planned to gather a stronger force for the next season and return with still greater booty. Unfortunately, Hradji and the majority of his men died within the year, some of them as soon as they arrived home. What is more, all those who had any prolonged contact with the gold similarly sickened and died. Hradji’s heir disposed of the hoard by trading it to merchant interests in the Great Kingdom, and reputedly the curse still circulates as the coin of that land, although this last may be a tale fabricated to weaken the Emperor’s currency. [GA]
521 CY Iggwilv need not be present to affect her world. She had left tomes and artifacts behind, and they were much sought after. It was only a matter of time before they surfaced.
History of the Nethertome
[The] Nethertome was absent from recorded history, its whereabouts and owner unknown. Then, in CY 521, it turned up in the library of Thillion “Flamefingers” Dern, an aged Bisselite mage who died without an heir. During the auction of Thillion’s belongings, the tome was sold to one Gelvin Torlar, a mage who, at the time he bought it, did not have the magical wherewithal to employ its secrets. Surprisingly, Gelvin held the book against all comers, even in those early years when his personal might was lacking and those who wished to seize the tome for themselves assailed him on what seemed a weekly basis. By the end of the decade, however, the constant battle to hold the tome had exhausted Gelvin’s funds and magical resources, and he was forced to sell the Nethertome for a mere pittance, else starve or be slain in a spell duel. Although Gelvin made it known that the Nethertome had been sold, the actual transaction took place secretly. Thus, the buyer’s identity was never learned, and the Nethertome vanished once again. [D225]
522 CY Not all news was bad. Indeed, some kingdoms were hale and prosperous, their lines of succession secure, the transfer of power smooth and free of strife. Such was the case in Furyondy, where King Belvor III took the throne. Of course, courts everywhere are notorious for schemes and political maneuvering; even the best of them.
As pressure from the north ebbed, Prince Belvor III, King Avras’s son, energetically courted the Order of the Hart. By playing on the suspicions of the Great Lords of the south, Belvor III swung the Order of the Hart into the royal faction. [Wars]
|The Burning Cliffs|
523 CY The North has always been a harsh land. What spoils there are have always gone to the bold, and the lucky. Storrich of the Hold of Stonefist was bold. But he was not lucky, and he was forced to flee.
None of these more recent reports has been sufficient to spur the practical northern peoples into any sort of action or investigation, and it was quite by accident that anything more was discovered. In 523 one Storrich of the Hold of Stonefist failed in an attempt to advance himself by less than traditional methods. Poisoners are not highly regarded even in that grim country, and so Storrich and his followers were obliged to flee. Since the season was summer and the Ice Barbarians would not be likely to let his ship pass unmolested, Storrich and his pursuers turned westward. Unfortunately for Storrich and his men, the pilot of the ship ran it aground offshore the Wastes, and Storrich’s company was obliged to take to the land, the pursuit still hot on their heels. As a last desperate measure Storrich attempted entry into the Burning Cliffs region, risking a stone path that he and his men found leading into the smolder. Storrich’s pursuers turned back at this point well satisfied, and informed the Master of the Hold that they had driven Storrich to his death, having waited some days for him to attempt a return and having seen nothing. It proved to be untrue. [GA]
Two years later Storrich appeared in Dyvers, and being a rather loquacious individual he soon disclosed his story- several stories, in fact, some of them mutually contradictory, but it is possible to piece together a relatively plausible scenario from his boastings. The general outline of the story was that Storrich’s company happened on a city of fire-loving creatures, and managed to steal some valuable gold and jewelry. The subsequent conflict, and the flight southward through the flames and fumes claimed all of Storrich’s following, as only he was protected from the full effect of the Burning Cliffs (apparently by magical effects of certain of his possessions). The identity of the creatures which Storrich robbed is uncertain; his claims gradually grew more diverse. At various times they were elementals, devils, demons, and harginn, and even efreeti. Unfortunately these discrepancies were never resolved. Within a month of his arrival Storrich died of a choking fit at a banquet. There were no other survivors to corroborate Storrich’s story, but it is clear that he had somehow acquired a great wealth of jacinth and gold. He spent liberally in his last weeks of life, and still left behind a considerable trove. [GA]
526 CY It is a wonder that Dyvers is not the jewel of the Flanaess. Indeed, it was the focus of government and commerce in the West of the Great Kingdom until the Vicecounty of Ferrond seceded. It was a port then, and is a port now. And rightly so. It was well situated as such: on the Nyr Dyv, at the mouth of the Velverdyva, it was central to all trade north and south, and east and west. It was truly the wonder of the West. “All roads lead to Dyvers,” it was said. All the peoples of the Flanaess did indeed come to Dyvers, and all the peoples of the world have made their home there. It is a secular place, the worship of coin far more prevalent than that of Pholtus and Rao by a Gold County Mile. And so it came as no surprise that Dyvers grew uncomfortable with Furyondy’s close ties with Veluna.
The city was originally a part of the Viceroyalty of Ferrond and contributed heavily to the war which saw the institution of the Kingdom of Furyondy. Because of the alliance and close ties with Veluna, whose policies the Gentry of Dyvers see as restrictive, the city declared its independence. King Thrommel II allowed this act to pass unchallenged. [Folio]
The people of Dyvers are a mercantile folk, prone to cutting corners to achieve profit. Furyondy's relationship with Veluna troubled the freethinking folk of the city, as Veluna's cleric rulers were highly principled, rather ascetic, and encouraged great donations to church coffers. When many cities in Furyondy established a code of "canon law," replete with church courts stocked with Raoan doctrine and Cuthbertine punishments, the Gentry of Dyvers decided that enough was enough. Preparing for the worst, they informed the crown of their intention to split from Furyondy in 526 CY. Perhaps because Furyondy feared the growing power of Greyhawk and felt it needed an ally in the region, Thrommel II, the reigning monarch, allowed the secession to pass unchallenged. [LGG]
537 CY King Belvor III of Furyondy died quietly in his sleep; or so the story goes. He had made a few enemies though, so who can say?
Some nobles accused the Great Lords of assassination despite the fact that the Dread and Awful Presences -- the Hierarchs of the Horned Society -- claimed their magic wrought the king's death. A commission of wizards and priests led by Lord Throstin of the Hart determined that King Belvor died naturally in his sleep. The Great Lords were exonerated, but the Hierarchs never withdrew their claim: the deed only increased their standing in the Horned Society. [Wars]
After his father's death, Belvor IV used his monarchial power to force the Great Lords back into the fold as [his father had]. Though his reign was relatively short, Belvor's (III) coalition lasted, holding the fractious kingdom together during the years of his son's regency. [Wars]
c.550 CY Hradji Beartooth braved the dangers of the Griff Mountains because he knew his people might need a haven. He also knew that his people sorely needed what wonders Skrellingshald might have wielded to keep them safe those eons past, no matter whether it was arcane or not, for the Fruztii had been decimated during the Battle of Shamblefield, and were a shadow of their former selves.
Not so the Schnai. They had not spent themselves against the shields of the south. They had taken to the seas instead. And so, when the Fists of the Stonehold had swept out from the Griff Mountains, the Frutzii had little choice but to treat with their cousins to the East. Help us fortify the passes, they pled. And the Schnai were only too willing to help. They sent warriors to strengthen the Bluefang-Kelten Pass. But not so many as did the Fruztii, for they sent longships to Krakenheim to protect their poor cousins from what retaliation might come from the Great Kingdom’s North Province and the fleets of the Sea Barons. And the Fruztii found themselves under the suzerainty of the Schnai. Their king was but a puppet. And they chaffed under their cousin’s rule.
While the Fruztii were historically the most persistent in their raids upon the Aerdy, the Schnai explored the seas and the northern isles. Their discovery of Fireland during the early years of Fruztii raids southward was a great distraction. Rather than seek conquest in the Flanaess, they chose to explore the Lesser and Greater Isles of Fire, while they built settlements on the more habitable islands of Sfirta and Berhodt. They would inevitably return home with tales of monsters and giants, and of treasures almost obtained. [LGG]
c. 556 CY The Fruztii had asked for held, and they cousins were only too pleased to “come to their aid,” but before too long, the Fruztii understood their folly, for the Schnai had taken control of teir ports, their Great Hall in Krakenheim, and their king. They had fallen under the suzerainty of the Schnai, and there was nothing they could do to stop it.
The Fruztii have never recovered from the Battle of Shamblefield, and have been under the suzerainty of the Schnai for the past two decades – and several times previously as well. The supposed figurehead placed upon the throne of the Fruztii has, however, built his kingdom carefully, and in actuallity it is now independent in all but oath. [Folio]
558 CY The Scarlet Brotherhood set out to stir up trouble for the Great Kingdom. They sent agents into the Rakers and whispered into the ears of the Euroz, the Kell, the Eiger, and others, to encourage the orcs and the gnolls there to raid the Bone March, for if Ivid’s attention was in the north, they might once again gain influence in the south. 6074 SD
|Orcs on the Bone March|
559 CY Humanoids began raids into Bone March. These were limited in scope at first, for the orcs and gnolls did not fully trust the red-robed agents that whispered in their ears. They are not prepared, the whispers said. They look to the barbarians to the north and have not guarded against you, they said. But the orcs were cautious. For they knew not what these red-robed whisperers hoped to gain. And because they had heard the whispers of Men before, and knew that Men had always used their people to blunt the swords of their enemies with orcish blood. The gnolls were less cautious, for the whispers promised them blood, and they do so love the smell of it.
560 CY Finding resistance limited, the orcs and gnolls made more forays into Bone March, striking widely so as to keep the Marquis’ forces rushing to and froe across the breadth of his lands to defend against them, never once conceiving that the orcs were acting far more strategic than they ever had before. They were a savage species, after all.
Hordes of humanoids (Euroz, Kell, Eiger and others) begin making forays into the Bone March, and these raids turned into a full scale invasion the next year. [Folio]
561 CY The forces of Marquis Clement tired. And still the orcs came. And when the orcs found no resistance, the whisperers said, “The time is ripe. He has not the strength to defeat you!” The orcs still did not trust the whisperers from Shar, but they saw the truth in their words. And so the tribes flowed from their mountains into the Bone March and laid waste to all that stood against them.
They flowed out into the Theocracy of the Pale, and into neighbouring Nyrond. They flowed out into Ratik. Because that was what the agents of Shar instructed them to do. But the greatest of their hosts spilled out onto the Bone March, for the agents of the Brotherhood knew that turmoil within the Great Kingdom was so great that it could not muster effective opposition. And because they had parleyed with Herzog Grace Grennell of The North Province, and he had promised to delay his defense. But also because they’d parlayed with others, far darker in purpose than Grennell.
Thus, the orcs and the gnolls made great gains into the March in so little time. But not so in the Theocracy of the Pale, Nyrond, or Ratik, for there resistance was stiff, swift and sure.
563 CY The Bone March fell to the humanoids and all humans in that area were either enslaved or killed, Lord Clement among them, as he was held up within the walls of Spinecastle, waiting for succor from Ratik and the North Province, when it fell after a prolonged siege, virtually overnight. Survivors say that the orcs and gnolls had nothing to do with its fall, that it fell from within, that dark forces rose up from its very foundations, causing those within to throw open the gates in their haste to flee, and only then did the humanoids gain entry. It was the castles’ curse, they said, making some gesture they thought would ward off the Evil they said they saw that day.
The hordes did not hold the castle for long; for they too were struck by such horrors that drove them from its halls. While within, they were driven mad; and those that survived said that blood flowed from its walls, that rooms rippled and disappeared, and that they were induced to strike one another down. Retreating from Spinecastle’s horrors, they never again entered it.
The Knight Protectors of the Bone March were overwhelmed by the hordes, and those who could fled to Ratik, bolstering the defenses of Ratikhill.
This land fell to the horde of invaders [Euroz, Kell, Eiger and others], its lord slain, and its army slain or enslaved. Humans in the area were likewise enslaved or killed, and the whole territory is now ruled by one or more of the humanoid chiefs. [Folio]
The Euroz orcs and the gnolls continued to flow out of the Rakers, betraying and attacking the North Province in their blood frenzy, even as Spinecastle held out against them.
Grennell expected as much and was prepared. He met them within the March, and drawing them into defensive redoubts, he slowed their advance, and then halted it altogether. And having done so, he parleyed with them and allied with them against Nyrond and Almor, for he believed that such a force could not be defeated until it had blunted itself against hard resolve, and he much rather it do so against that of other lands and not his. Then he would turn on the humanoids, and take their spoils as his own.
What did the Scarlet Brotherhood think about their success? They were elated. They were infuriated. The orcs slaughtered their agents along with all the other humans, for the orcs understood that those red-robed whisperers were not their friends. They understood that they were pawns in a greater game that was not their own. And they recognized the scent of slavery when they smelled it.
The Death Knight Lord Monduiz Dephaar made good use of the chaos that ensued, craving a kingdom for himself out of the lands surrounding his stronghold somewhere in the Blemu Hills in the wake of the collapse of the Bone March, and even now commands legions of humanoids and bandits, who call him Dreadlord of the Hills.
Both Prince Grenell of the North Kingdom and the humanoids of Spinecastle gave the Dreadlord wide berth.
Both Prince Grenell of the North Kingdom and the humanoids of Spinecastle gave the Dreadlord wide berth.
565 CY Ratik was in need of allies. Their most stalwart ally, Marquis Clement of the Bone March had fallen and his lands were in the thrall of orcs and ogres and Death Knights. Tenh was beset by Stonefist and the Theocracy of the Pale, and indeed, the Fists had raided Ratik’s very north. Their only “ally” was the Theocracy of the Pale, if having a common enemy could necessitate their being allies, for the Theocracy was, if anything, hostile to all who weren’t blind adherents to the Faith of their Blinding Light, and the people of Ratik were not.
But they were not entirely without hope. They had kin. Of a sort. The Fruztii had passed them by in their raiding. Why? They’d been enemies once, after all. Because the Fruztii had kin within their domain, and their kin had become a people of Ratik.
Marner gathered those elders of Fruztii descent and asked them, “Will your brothers to the north treat with us?” After much talk and deliberation, the elders agreed that the Frutzii would. The Fruztii wished to be free of the Schnai. They were beset upon by the Fists. And their strength had been broken upon the shield of the Great Kingdom.
But who? They chose Korund of Ulthek, for his mother was of Fruztii decent and his father was the Ward of the North. And Korund sailed north to visit his kin north of the Timberway. And with their aid, he secured a meeting in Djekul. And then in Krakenheim, where His Most Warlike Majesty, King Ralff listened carefully and was intrigued.
Soon, Marner came to Krakenheim, and Krakenheim came to Marner.
“Where else might we find allies,” His Valorous Prominence, Lexnol, the Lord Baron of Ratik asked.
The Fruztii pondered this question. Fireland, they said.
In 565 CY, the explorer Korund of Ratik sailed with a number of barbarian friends to Fire-land, returning with a crude map made with respectable instruments and a bit of magic. From this, the Savant-Sage and I have concluded that Fire-land is a collection of islands. No single island is great enough to be a continent, though the largest might be the largest island on Oerth. The whole surface area of Fire-land would likely cover less than one million square miles. We would so like to have a more accurate and recent assessment! [TAB]
566 CY The Rovers may have been defeated by the Horned Society at the Battle of Opicm River, but they could still be a thorn in its side. Pride dictated that they spit in the face of defeat. Pride dictated that they regain their lost lands. They allied with the Weigweir and together, they began raiding northeastern edge of Fellreev.
The young tribesmen who matured into warriors during the last two generations avoided their old battling and hunting grounds along the Fellreev Forest and the plains of the Dulsi, for they feared the might of luz’s hordes. Instead, these nomads and woodland hunters withdrew to the steppes and other sites to the north and east. Their numbers increased, and they practiced their fighting skills against the men of the Hold of Stonefist and the savages and humanoids they met on raids into the Cold Marshes. Despite the difficulties of communication, the western tribes of the Rovers of the Barrens actually made alliances with the Wegwiur.
In 566 CY there were a few light raids into the northeastern edge of the Fellreev. In a few years, wardog parties were reported in the forest west of Cold Run. [D56]
c.570s One should never underestimate the powerful. The Circle of Eight never did. They knew that Iuz and Iggwilv might return, and they prepared for that day.
Iggwilv reappeared in the late 570s, after the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth were rediscovered and her vampire-warrior daughter Drelzna was destroyed. Iggwilv, who had apparently regained her old powers – and then some – on other planes or worlds, attempted to attack the Flanaess with a vast army of fiends and monsters. She was thwarted by Tenser, who sent heroes to recover a lost artifact (the Crook of Rao) that blocked her extraplanar forces from entering the Prime Material Plane on Oerth. Iggwilv thereafter secretly assisted her son Iuz with his empire building. When she tried to recapture Graz’zt, she was herself caught and imprisoned in the Abyss. [Rot8]
History of the Nethertome
Nonetheless, it is known that the Nethertome did not accompany her on the journey to her Abyssal prison, but the current whereabouts of the book cannot be confirmed. It is generally believed that luz turned it over to one of his Boneheart wizards, and most fingers point to Jumper or Null, as the Nethertome would be most useful to them in their work at Fleichshriver. [D225]
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. 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, Return of the Eight, 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 56, 225.
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1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
1043 The City of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1989
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
1068 Greyhawk Wars Boxed Set, 1991 AB=Adventure Book
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1977
2023 Greyhawk Adventures Hardback, 1988
2138 Book of Artifacts, 1993
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1981
9253 WG8, Fate of Istus, 1989
9317 WGS1, The Five Shall be One, 1991
9337 WGS2, Howl from the North, 1991
9399 WGR 5, Iuz the Evil, 1993
9577 The Adventure Begins, 1998
9578 Player’s Guide to Greyhawk, 1998
9576 Return of the Eight, 1998
11442 Bastion of Faith, 1999
11742 Gazetteer, 2000
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazeteer, 2000
Ivid the Undying, 1998
OJ Oerth Journal, appearing on Greyhawk Online
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Greychrondex, Wilson, Steven B.
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer