Friday, 15 October 2021

On King Orvung of Schnai


 “Our soul is sometimes a king, sometimes a tyrant. 
An uncontrolled, over-indulged soul is turned from a king to the most-feared tyrant.”
― Seneca

Orvung, King of the Schnai
There are but two mentions of
Orvung in all the source materials of Greyhawk.
The first was a mere mention in the World of Greyhawk Box Set:
Kingdom of Schnai (Snow Barbarians): Orvung, F 16 [WOGG – 17]

The other was this in the Living Greyhawk Gazeteer:
A major raid into Stonehold was mounted several years ago by a combined force of Schnai and Cruski, though they were ultimately driven back. Since then, the young king of the Frost Barbarians has finally declared his nation's independence from the Schnai, Old King Orvung might have gone to war over such an action, but the current king is more circumspect. History, he realizes, often repeats itself. [LGG – 106]

That’s not much to go on. What is known, must be inferred.

Let’s begin with what we know about the Schnai.
They are Suel. They are Rhizians. Schnai is their name for themselves, the name of their clan, in fact, a name that dates back to the very dawn of the Suel Imperium. Few know that. They themselves would not, if it were not for the Scarlet Brotherhood having told them so. To most nations, they are the Snow Barbarians.
The Frost, Ice and Snow Barbarians are perfect specimens of unmixed Suloise blood; the nearly albinoid Snow Barbarians are the best example. [WOGA – 13]
The Snow Barbarians are the strongest and most numerous of the northern peoples. [WOGA – 35]

They are descendants of the Suel Houses of Pursuit, long ago tasked to seek out are return Zellifar and those who fled with the prince from that long ago burned and buried Imperium. They failed in that task, stripped of their memory by Slerotin, the last mage of power, and left to wander without purpose afterwards.
Slerotin’s spell did not purge all from their hearts and souls, though. They remembered that they were the people of Vatun, and that He had decreed that His people should be the steel He wielded. It was He who led them, they believed, to the land that would forge them thus.
To what sort of land did He lead them? A cold, bleak land, some would say.
They would be wrong.
The Rhizian peninsula might appear as such at first glance. Few trees grow tall, and those that do cling together where the wind blows weakest. Snow drifts high, like dunes of a desert, sculpted by a frigid wind as icy as the sea from which it was born. It culls the weak. And girds that which endures it.
Those bitter winters blow long and viciously, but in time, they pass, as all things do, and the spring reveals a very different Rhizia. Sea birds wheel above rocky coasts. Beyond those, golden grasses flow with the wind’s ever-present flow. Hills rise higher and higher, until heather abounds. Moose roam, beavers dam, and bears angle the snowmelt that rush back to the sea in torrents. A panoply of colour blankets the rolling hills, in contrast to the stark white peaks of the Corusks that soar in the distance.
Theirs is a dangerous land, for all its beauty.
The Corusks form a bow. the backbone of the Thillonrian Peninsula which runs from the Solnor Ocean in the east, north and west and then southwest where the range terminates (Hraak Pass). While the lower parts of the mountains are inhabited by humans, various bands of evil humanoids and monsters of all sorts dwell in the central fastness. It is thought that this range possesses little in the way of valuable ores or gems. [WOGA – 52]

Spikey Forest: This smallish woodland divides the lands of the Frost and Snow Barbarians. Its tall pines are used by both peoples for ship masts and spars. [WOGA – 59]

Schnabel: This river falls from the high Corusks north of Soull and runs into the deep Schnafjord. [LGG – 152]

This land moulded its newfound children, much as it had those Flan who preceded them.
The Cold Tongue: This dialect, also known as Fruz, is primarily Suloise with Flan admixture. It is spoken commonly by the Ice, Snow. and Frost Barbarians. It has no relation to Common, and even speakers of Suloise find it hard to understand. [WOGA – 16]

These northern Suel share a common language, but little more.
The Schnai have not always been the most powerful of the Suel barbarians, but they have never come under the rule of either of their cousin states. Perhaps this is due to the superior seamanship of these barbarians, for they have never been attacked by land. They have always participated in the summer raids southward and are as successful as either of their neighbors. Yet, they have also journeyed farther on the sea than perhaps any in the Flanaess, despite the claims of the Sea Barons.
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. Real treasures, in the form of gold and jewels, were meanwhile being won by the Frost Barbarians in northern Aerdy. The attention of the Schnai soon returned to their southern neighbors, as they joined the Ice and Frost Barbarians in sea-raids on the Great Kingdom.
The Schnai
When the Aerdi finally defeated the Frost Barbarians, the Schnai chose to take control of the beaten Fruztii. With their much larger number of ships and warriors, they easily dominated their battered cousins to the west. The barbarians raided farther south, all the way to Medegia, and fought many battles with the Sea Barons as they passed through their waters. They also drove the Fruztii to make raids on Ratik, rather than use their own warriors. This was a mistake in the long run, as the Frost Barbarians developed an affiliation with the Ratikers that they later used to pry themselves from the grip of the Schnai.
The Schnai also made war on the Ice Barbarians, wresting the Ustula region from them and holding it for several decades. They never conquered the Ice Barbarians as they did the Frost Barbarians, however, for the Cruski are nearly as able seafarers as the Schnai. The Ice Barbarian warriors were also extremely fierce, particularly the berserkers of Llerg, who know no fear—nor much of anything else, being little more than human beasts. [LGG – 106]

315 CY
One should not that the emissaries of Shar have long since inveigled their way into Schnai politics, first making contact with their northern “kin” 175 years ago.
By 5831 SD, relations were established with the Suel tribes of Schnai, Fruztii and Cruskii in the northern lands. […] The southerners’ gifts of exotic woods and fine weapons eventually won over barbarian kings. [SB – 4]

490 CY
Orvung Eldgrimsen is born. Conjecture on my part, as he is referred to as Old King Orvung in the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, and to be old, he ought to be…well…old.

522 CY
Orvung Tigerclaw
Orvung Tigerclaw ascends the Schnai throne at age 32. Conjecture.
[A note on nomenclature: I would hazard the guess that every Rhizian is born with the name of his father, and eventually earns the right to take a name of his choosing when he comes of age, usually something earned. Not all do so. But the option is there.]
He has proven himself in battle, raiding the southern coasts, and as a captain of renown, having navigated far into the Solnor Sea.
Their greatest kings and jarls have all been seafarers, beginning with Schoffmund the Strong, who defeated the Kraken of Grendep Bay. Since his day, all dead Schnai kings are interred in ships, which are ignited and set adrift on the sea. [LGG – 106]

He had the support of the berserkers, and he still claims the same status as they, having undergone the same rites of passage as they. Insofar as that, I submit that Orvung is, himself, a Berserker.
Old King Orvung might have gone to war over such an action [….] [LGG – 106]
But tempered. Advised. Manipulated by his allies, those distant kin from a distant south.

532 CY
Ingemar Hartensen is born, scion of chieftain Harten Fenrirsen, when the Schnai king is 42. Conjecture.
He is not Orvung’s son, else he would be named Orvungsen.
I have placed his birth before Hundgred Rälffson’s (placed by me in 549 CY), as Hundgred is referred to as the “young” king of the Fruztii in the Living Greyhawk Journal.
Ingmar is all noted as a CN male human Bbn16 in the same work, and I would imagine that it should take a number of years to gain that level of experience.

550s CY
Orvung Tigerclaw is 60 in 550 CY.
The Fruztii had never recovered from their folly of having fought the Great southern Kingdom on its own terms, wasting the fullness of their strength against the walls of Spinecastle in 108 CY; fruitlessly, the emissaries of Shar said. Because they had, they could not hope to repel the Aerdi when they had invaded the Timberway Forest. And for the decades and centuries since, the Fruztii had crippled themselves as they sought to avenge that defeat, for decades upon centuries. To what gain, the Red Robes asked? The Fruztii were a beaten people now, they said, a defeated people, barely able to defend themselves against the Fists that hammered them from the north when they were away, raiding the coasts to the south. They ought to have been patient, the Red Robes had said, as the Schnai were patient. And they were right. When Ovrung offered the Fruztii his aid in the defence of the Kelten Pass, the fools accepted, and Ovrung flooded their lands with his shields and his berserkers; and the Fruztii could do nought but watch.
The Frost Barbarians are the weakest of the three nations (of Suel peoples) inhabiting the Thillonrian Peninsula, called Rhizia by these peoples. They 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. [WOGA – 21]

560 CY
Orvung is 70, when [in] 560 CY hordes of humanoids (Euroz, Kell, Eiger, and others) began making forays into the Bone March, and these raids turned into a full scale invasion the next year. [WOGA – 20]
In 560 CY, the Great Kingdom's northernmost province Bone March was invaded by humanoids from the takers: it fell three years later and has been in a barbaric state since. [PGTG – 10]
In 560, nonhuman tribes from the Rakers and Blemu Hills struck into Bone March, subjugating the land in 563 and slaying its leaders. [LGG – 91]
The Fuztii demanded that the Rhizians fall upon the Ratikians, en mass; but Orvung knew better. Their distant kin had informed him that the orcs would attack, and that he should wait to see the outcome before committing his forces. The walls of Ratikhill and Marner are tall and strong, they said, and he would accomplish little more than bleed his peoples’ strength in such a venture. It was better to wait, Orvung told the Fruztii, and watch as the Aerdi and Euroz destroyed one another. When they had tired, if they tired, then Ovrung would see what might be done, if anything.

563 CY
Bone March fell to the humanoids, but not Ratik. Orvung knew that he had been wise to wait. What did his people have to gain in such a venture, anyway? Ratik would have been the Fruztii’s prize, not his; and why should he risk all for their gain?
In 563 CY, orcs invaded Spinecastle by secret ways that offered its defenders little warning or means of preparation. [LGG – 36]
But the emissaries of Shar were far from pleased. Orvung wondered why. They had declared that it had been their wish that the Aerdi’s march should fall. They should have danced a jig, to Orvung’s reckoning.
In 563 the [Bone March] fell to these invaders. its lord was 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. [WOGA – 20]

Rälff, King of the Fruztii
Only when the battle neared its end did Orvung hear of Rälff’s duplicity.
Ratik and its baron, Lexnol III, had been forewarned and deflected most of the invaders, but could not prevent the disaster that befell the march. Lexnol, a skilled leader and tactician, realized that he was now isolated and no succor would be forthcoming from the south or the court of Overking Ivid V. He approached the lords of Djekul, who had grown less wary of the proud Aerdi in the intervening years and were even grudgingly respectful. With the Fruztii, Lexnol forged an affiliation called the Northern Alliance. Ratik subsequently became fully independent of the Great Kingdom and had the might to both hammer the orcs and gnolls of Bone March and dissuade an invasion from North Province. [LGG – 91]

The blunt but popular Lord Baron of Ratik is a ranger: a woodsman, tracker, warrior and scout who has fought for years against the Bone March humanoids raiding his lands. Lexnol’s cool, hilly realm is rich with natural resources. He is on good terms with local gnomes and dwarves, and he has made a treaty for mutual defense and trade with the Frost Barbarians to the north. [PGtG – 25]
Ovrung seethed at the cheek of that Fruztii upstart. That “King” Rälff should treat with the enemy of the Rhizians as an affront to Ovrung’s very suzerainty. But before Ovrung could act, the Ratikians had already poured its legions onto the Fruztii’s southern shores. To repel them now would be a costly venture. There was no need to, the Red Robes advised; the Ratikians and the Fruztii were stretched thin, guarding the northern pass and defending the Loftwood. It was only a matter of time before they collapsed and were left reeling under the swords of the orcs. That was when Orvung should release his berserkers.
But that time did not come.

575 CY
Orvung is 85 years young.
The Ratik-Frutzii alliance had not broken, much to Orvung’s annoyance. It had flourished, and continued to do so as it defeated the hordes of humanoids howling out of the Griff Mountains at Blufang-Kelten Pass, and made headway into the Loftwood.
The newly proclaimed Archbaron of Ratik frantically organized his forces after the joint Ratiker-Fruztii foray into the Bluefang-Kelten Pass. 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]

576 CY
Kingdom of Schnai (Snow Barbarians): Orvung, F 16
[WOGG – 17]

His Bellicose Majesty, King of the Schnai
Capital: Soull (5,400)
Population: 90,000 +
Demi-humans: Some
Humanoids: Many (in mountains)
Resources: copper, gems (L II)
[WOGA – 35]

Orvung worried. What if that upstart Rälff began to have thoughts that Schnai might be better suited under his suzerainty. Ratik had sent emissaries to Krakenheim to discuss their “future.” Indeed, Ratik had sent emissaries to Soull, as well, and spoke those same divisive words, that the Rhizians should look to them and not each other for strength and security. That Fruztii should do so worried Orvung, so much so that Orvung did not consult the emissaries of Shar when he began talks with the Cruski, suggesting a new co-operation to safeguard their own mutual continued sovereignty, despite knowing that Shar had never spoken well of the Cruski, and Cruski spoke of Shar not at all.

Several decades ago they captured the west coast below Glot and have managed to hold it since. For a time the Frost Barbarians were under the thumb of the King of the Schnai, but the Fruztii are now free except in pledge. This has not affected general concord with either neighbor, as all three consider the Great Kingdom and the Sea Barons as their most natural source of easy loot and profit. Although fighting invading humanoids has become a national pastime, there are sufficient men left to man the longships when campaigning season in the south is at hand. It is rumored that the Baron of Ratik has sent messages to the King of the Schnai proposing four-way cooperation to take the Hold of Stonefist and the Bone March. Supposedly this proposal offers Glot and Krakenheim as possible gains for the Schnai, while the Fruztii and Cruski would divide the Hold, part of Timberway would be returned to the Frost Barbarians, and Ratik would rule Bone March. The reaction to these proposals can not be guessed, but the Schnai are undoubtedly keeping an eye on the joint Fruztii-Ratik ventures of late. [WOGA – 35]

Orvung worried that he had miscalculated. Ratik and Fruztii had yet to tire; in fact, they continued to make gains against Euroz of the Bone March.
The alliance between Ratik and the Frost Barbarians against the humanoids of the Bone March has born fruit over years of cooperation. The forces of Ratik now occupy the Loftwood and are preparing for a major assault on the city of Johnsport, backed by a naval attack along the coast to the east. [WGS1 – 4]

Striking Against the Hated Stonefist
Orrvung decided it was high time to make a gesture towards Ratik and the Fruztii. He sent longships to patrol against what might steal into the Grendep. It was a token gesture, as he sent a far more substantial force north, where he and Cruski struck against the hated Stonefist. True, the Cruski mustered the greater force, but the Fists bordered their lands, not his.
The Snow Barbarians, or Schnai, are the most powerful and populous group, dominating Grendep Bay and the northern Solnor Ocean with their longships. Their marauding armies, with those of the Ice Barbarians, have also made themselves into a major force in the land.
The other joint operation of these states has been against the Hold of Stonefist. Fruztii forces have now secured the pass south of the Hraak forest and control the land for some 20 miles around. [WGS1 – 4]

Of late [the Cruski] raiders have joined with Frost and Snow barbarians in order to counter the growing strength of the coastal defenders of the Great Kingdom and the Sea Barons. [WOGA – 26]

They will raid their cousins to the south, the Snow and Frost barbarians, or raid with them into Ratik or the more tempting Great Kingdom. [WOGA – 26]

577 CY
The Fruztii and Cruski raids against Stonefist and the Great Kingdom were going well, and Orvung was willing to venture further afield, although he kept most of his warriors in reserve.
Cruski and Schnai treaty. Schnai give up the lands south of Glot along the east coast to Cruskii.
Events amongst the Schnai were quite similar to those of their cousins to the north, in that they generally raided southwards and carried heaps of goods back to towns of their realm. Unsettled conditions in the Great Kingdom made for rich loot; coupled with the payment made by the Cruski for the return of Ustula, the men of the region were pleased indeed with their wealth in currency, goods, and slaves (thralls). Mutual cooperation between the Schnai and Fruztii, and the Schnai and Cruskii as well, was at a high level, and the raids from the Hold of Stonefist at a very low level. [Dragon #57 – 15]

There was little to be had in the far north, furs, walrus and mammoth tusks, blubber and oil. The real wealth was to the south; and the Sea Barons had proven themselves incapable, as yet, to guard against the longships that ravaged the Solnor coast each and every season. Orvung sent more ships, expecting their best season yet.
During the season of 577, much minor activity took place along the coast of North Province and off the northern end of the Island of Asperdi. 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.
The flagship was occupied with the help of prisoners who broke free during the confused fighting and set fire to the vessel’s sail. 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.
This event notwithstanding, many of the vessels from the cold north did manage to avoid patrolling warships and successfully raid North Province and the Baronial Isles. Captured cargo and undesired weapons are said to find a ready market at Dekspoint (at the easternmost tip of Loftwood Peninsula) or at Marner in Ratik. [Dragon #63 – 16]

Where Orvung’s main force was being bloodied to the south, the northern campaign was more successful. But there was little loot to be gained from the venture.
Against the Stonefist
The Ice Barbarians have supported the Fruztii to some extent by making naval raids along the northern coast of Stonefist. The Snow Barbarians have concentrated on attacks on Great Kingdom and Sea Baron shipping, although some of the Schnai have been seen “assisting” the Frost Barbarians in Stonefist.
It is rumored that the King of the Snow Barbarians was not taken with a plan for the three barbarian groups to ally with Ratik—not because he didn’t trust the Baron of Ratik who proposed the plans—but for simpler reasons. Major invasion of the Bone March would drive humanoids in their tens of thousands into North Province and might precipitate an all-out attack from the Great Kingdom. The King, being wily and crafty, prefers more opportunistic and piratical actions. [WGS1 – 4]
The King, being wily and crafty, prefers not to attract the Great Kingdom’s full attention just now. [WGS2 – 6]

Orvung was ever mindful of the true intent of the Fruztii and Cruski. Why should they desire that he send his strength against the Stonefist, he wondered? What would they gain there? Did they truly wish to put an end to the Fist’s raids; or was it that they hoped to lure his berserkers away from Soull? The Red Robes thought that might be their design.
A major raid into Stonehold was mounted several years ago by a combined force of Schnai and Cruski, though they were ultimately driven back. Since then, the young king of the Frost Barbarians has finally declared his nation's independence from the Schnai, Old King Orvung might have gone to war over such an action [….] [LGG – 106]

Had Orvung’s fleet not received the blow it had, and had Stonefist not thrown his armies back, Orvung might then have taken the young Rälff to task, but had Orvung moved against Rälff then, weakened, he would surely have left his eastern border open to the Cruski.
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 – 15]

578 CY
It was not the Euroz, the Vile Runes, who carried the day in the Loftwood, it was the Ratikians. Much to Shar’s annoyance.  They had said Ratik was weak, Ratik will fall. But it hadn’t, had it?
The site of a great Ratikkan victory over Bone March orcs (578 CY) [.] [LGG – 141]

Reports reached Orvung’s ears that Fruztii battle tactics had changed. They no longer rushed into battle with nought by skins and furs and dyed with woad, with only their cries to Kord to protect them; they employed breastplates and great shields, and they knit them together into the shell of the turtle. Individual glory had fallen victim to the phalanx. They were fighting like the Aerdians.
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. [Dragon #57 – 15]

579 CY
It would seem, much to Orvung’s amusement, that the Fruztii were no longer in need of their brethren. Orvung knew better. If the Fruztii continued to fight in others’ wars, they would, in time, come crawling back on hands and knees, wounded, spent, defeated, begging for succour. As they had for centuries. It was only a matter of time, but they would again. Until then, the spoils of the seacoasts were his for the taking.
CY 579 is likely to be particularly good for the Snow Barbarians, for with their northern neighbors looking elsewhere, and the Frost Barbarians busy with Ratik, the choicest areas for raiding will be left to the Schnai. [Dragon #57 – 15]

580 CY
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]

[The] Seal of Marner was stolen by agents of Bone March, an effort by the nonhumans to quash the alliance between Ratik and the Frost Barbarians. The document was recovered before it was secreted to Spinecastle, but not before news of the theft drove a small wedge between the Fruztii and Ratikans. [LGG – 91]
Orvung was pleased. He had disliked the Fruztii’s alliance with Ratik; but he had to admit that it wasn’t until Lexnol had entered Rälff’s Hall that the young upstart had the notion of throwing off the Schani’s yoke. Prior to then, the Fruztii were a beaten people. Ratik toughened them. And gave them the confidence to presume independence.
Ratik, it seemed, had its use. The old king wondered if he too could make use of it. Maybe Ratik would instruct the Schnai in its accoutrements of war. That knowledge would be invaluable if Rälff should one day presume to strike his people.
What had Shar done for him, he thought as he thumbed the fine steel they had once brought his people, long ago. So long ago. All they brought now were whispers. They seduced his young to their southern climes, never to be seen again. Yet these Ratikians….
Orvung thought long on what he might say to the emissaries of Shar should he invite Lexnol into his Hall.

c. 580 CY
Lexnol had been working on a treaty with the Schnai to shore up his position against Bone March and its allies in North Kingdom [….] [LGG – 89]
Whispers in the Dark
The Scarlet Brotherhood was not pleased by this development. They had always been pleased that the old king had always viewed the Ratikians with distrust, as his forefathers had before him. The Ratikians were scions of the Great Kingdom, Orvung had always growled, and whatever the fate of its mother country, its true allegiance would always lay with it.
No longer. Orvung began treating with Ratik, potentially undermining Shar’s influence on the peninsula. The old man had to go. They panned for potential gold, and discovered Ingemar Hartensen waiting in the. He is old, Shar whispered in Ingemar’s ears. Ancient, they said. Past his time, they said.
He’ll die soon, Ingemar had said.
Not soon enough, Shar coaxed.

The Old Tyrant's Fate
The old tyrant died at age 90 by Ingemar Hartensen's hand, who seizes the throne in Soul in his 48th year. Pure conjecture on my part.
[Orvung is king of the Schnai as of 576 CY, as noted in the Greyhawk Boxed Set, and Ingemar Hartensen is king in 584 CY, as noted in the from the ashes Boxed Set. References in the Living Greyhawk Gazetter hint that the Fruztii and Cruski thrones are passed down through the ruling family, and I would assume the Schnai no different. No mention was made of Ingemar’s ancestry, so I took the liberty to add a little drama to the succession.]
Few rejoiced at the old king’s passing. Fewer still protested. Even fewer too measures afterwards. To no avail. Few mourned their passing, either.
Rälff reeled at the news. And worried. His spies in Soull hinted at who might be behind the assassination. And why. What might this young hothead on Shnai’s throne might do, he wondered?
More importantly, he wondered what his supposed distant kin to the south might be planning concerning his own succession.

Ingemar Hartensen
Ruler: His Bellicose Majesty, King Ingemar Hartensen of the Schnai
The Snow Barbarians […] claim suzerainty over all the barbarian peoples, especially the Cruskii, and are rather patronizing toward them. However, they have allied with their fellows against the Great Kingdom for many decades and have been known to make occasional forays against the Sea Barons.
Their alliance with Ratik is less cemented than that of the Cruskii, but Ingemar seems amenable to continued cooperation after the events of the Wars. He also has great hatred for the Stonefisters, and wishes to mount a joint expedition with the other barbarian races through the Griff Mountains to lay waste to Kelten. Time will tell if this comes to fruition.
The Snow Barbarians share many characterittics with their brethren, but are the palest of all, many being almost albinoid. Platinum-blond hair is not unusual. Their womenfolk have an unearthly beauty and are often found as a trainers (dogs and dog-wolf hybrids), scouts, rangers, druids, or the like, despite the dominant chauvinism of their men. This is a proud and strong race. [FtAA – 37,38]

One must always give credit where credit is due. This piece 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.
Special thanks to Jason Zavoda for his compiled index, “Greyhawkania,” an invaluable research tool.

The Art:
All art is wholly owned by the artists.

1015 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
1068 Greyhawk Wars Boxed Set, 1991
9317 WGS1 Five Shall be One, 1991
9377 WGS1 Howl From the North, 1991
9577 The Adventure Begins, 1998
9578 Player’s Guide to Greyhawk, 1998
11374 The Scarlet Brotherhood, 1999
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazeteer, 2000
Dragon Magazine 57,63
Oerth Journal #1, as found on Greyhawk Online
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

The City in the Sea


Lo! Death has reared himself a throne
In a strange city lying alone
Far down within the dim West,
Where the good and the bad and the worst and the best
Have gone to their eternal rest.
There shrines and palaces and towers
(Time-eaten towers that tremble not!)
Resemble nothing that is ours.
Around, by lifting winds forgot,
Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.

No rays from the holy heaven come down
On the long night-time of that town;
But light from out the lurid sea
Streams up the turrets silently —
Gleams up the pinnacles far and free —
Up domes — up spires — up kingly halls —
Up fanes — up Babylon-like walls —
Up shadowy long-forgotten bowers
Of scultured ivy and stone flowers —
Up many and many a marvellous shrine
Whose wreathed friezes intertwine
The viol, the violet, and the vine.

Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie.
So blend the turrets and shadows there
That all seem pendulous in air,
While from a proud tower in the town
Death looks gigantically down.
There open fanes and gaping graves
Yawn level with the luminous waves;
But not the riches there that lie
In each idol’s diamond eye —
Not the gaily-jewelled dead
Tempt the waters from their bed;
For no ripples curl, alas!
Along that wilderness of glass —
No swellings tell that winds may be
Upon some far-off happier sea —
No heavings hint that winds have been
On seas less hideously serene.

But lo, a stir is in the air!
The wave — there is a movement there!
As if the towers had thrown aside,
In slightly sinking, the dull tide —
As if their tops had feebly given
A void within the filmy Heaven.
The waves have now a redder glow —
The hours are breathing faint and low —
And when, amid no earthly moans,
Down, down that town shall settle hence,
Hell, rising from a thousand thrones,
Shall do it reverence.

The City in the Sea
—by Edgar Allan Poe, 1831

The Art:
All art is wholly owned by the artists.
The City in the Sea, by Hugo Steiner-Prag, from The Complete Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, 1943
The City in the Sea, by Edmund Dulac, from The Poetical Works of Edgar Allan Poe, 1912
The City in the Sea, by Fred Ingram, 1944

Saturday, 9 October 2021

On Vlekstaad

“Inaction will cause a man to sink into the slough of despond and vanish without a trace.”
― Farley Mowat

Why, one wonders, do certain northernmost settlements exist, let alone thrive? Life cannot be easy there. Long winters. Bitter Cold. Days-long, nay, weeks-long blizzards and their windblown snows. Snow blindness. Long isolation. What draws a man there; and more importantly, most inexplicably, why would he choose to drive his foundation into that steely permafrost, on a shore lashed by harsh, unforgiving, gales. Is that far northern sea a cornucopia of plenty worth the hardship? Or is he is running from something? A crime? An indiscretion? A past? Himself?
Vlekstaad is one such place. Even the Coltens shunned that desolate, shadowed perch, preferring shelter amid the Hraak Forest, and the less turbulent, if far more northly, alluvial beaches of Bastro to its steep, rocky, pebbled surf, its perpetual twilight, its damp chill that numbs both life and limb.

The Icy Sea
Icy Sea:
The Solnor sweeps northward around the Thillonrian Peninsula and ends in the Icy Sea. These northern waters are frozen except in high summer months. The Non hem barbarians sometimes take their galleys into these waters to hunt for ivory and furs and occasionally do a bit of raiding, too. Even in summer the Icy Sea can be dangerous due to thick fogs and floating mountains of ice. [WOGA – 47]

The Icy Sea is frozen over in great areas except during high summer, during which time Ice Barbarians sometimes hunt here for walrus ivory, killer whales, and seal furs. Even at such times, the sea is dangerous due to thick fogs and floes of pack ice. White Fanged Bay is aptly named after a ragged coastline that resembles the teeth of a great predator. The seals and walruses here are hunted by the men of Stonefist. [FtAA – 49]

White Fanged Bay: The ice formations common to this body of water resemble the teeth of a predator, and thus the bay is named for the great ice-coated rocks and bergs that menace vessels attempting to land along its shores. In the summer, numbers of seals and walruses (and even odder creatures) bask along these rocky coasts, and there parties of hunters seek after ivory and furs. (Some say that the name of the place is based upon the long teeth taken from these creatures rather than the icicles and frozen spray.) [WOGA – 36]

Forlorn Forest: The Forlorn Forest is an evergreen woodland of fair size which lies just south of the Icy Sea and whose eastern edge marks the boundary of· the Rovers of the Barrens. Even these fierce nomads avoid the Quaggoth tribes which prowl the forest. [WOGA – 59]

Bluff Hills: The western terminus of the Griff Mountains slowly decreases into a series of rugged ridges and steep hills. This range separates the states of the Bandit Kingdoms from the lands of the Rovers of the Barrens. The former now occupy and claim the Bluff Hills as their territory, as they do the whole of the Fellreev Forest. The nomads to the north are too weakened to effectively dispute this move. The Bluff Hills are said to contain small deposits of copper and gold. Numerous monsters roam the area, and many ogre bands make it their home. [WOGA – 49]

One wonders why anyone would choose to live there, despite its “riches.” It is rich, though. There are ores in the foot of the Bluffs, and deep in the Griffs. The dwarves have long mined them. As did the Flan, once.

The Griff Mountains
As the name implies, the peaks of these mountains are the habitat of many monstrous creatures. The Griff range extends from the western terminus of the Corusks at Hraak Pass, southwest and west for over 100 leagues. These mountains divide the Hold of Stonefist from the Duchy of Tenh and the Theocracy of the Pale below. Being only a trifle lower than the Corusks. the Griff Mountains are similarly uninviting to human settlement, although there are some sprinkled here and there, for these mountains do contain valuable mineral deposits. There is supposedly a small and beautiful land in the heart of this range. Ruled by a powerful prince, and protected from all invasions by magic and might, this tiny realm is said to have buildings roofed in copper and silver, gold used as lead is elsewhere, and jewels lying about on the ground.
[WOGA – 52]
Few believe the tales of the prince of the Griff Mountains. How could such a kingdom exist when the Griffs are teeming with horrors?
The Griffs contain more monsters, with ogres, various types of troll, and ever-hungry griffons especially noteworthy. White puddings are also a feature of the Griffs. There is reputed to be a great subterranean orcish city, Garel Enkdal, within the Griffs [….] [FtAA – 58]

One notable minor realm is the underground "city-state" called Garel Enkdal, located in the westernmost arm of the Griff Mountains near Stonehold. Some explorers estimate the population here to be in excess of twenty-five thousand orcs, with significant numbers of ogres, orc-ogre crossbreeds, half-orcs, and other beings. Garel Enkdal is not well known outside the northeastern Flanaess, and the kingdom interacts little with the rest of the world except to attack hunters, trappers, scouts, and herders of Stonehold. It could pose a major threat to Stonehold but apparently is content to keep to itself. [LGG – 17]

But long before the dwarves and the orcs look to these mountains, the Flan had dwelt here. And still do.
It is commonly held that the Flan peoples of eastern Oerik were simple tribesmen before the events that led to the Suel and Oeridian migrations. There remain to be explained certain ruins found in the Griff and Corusk Mountains. The massive stone foundations, straight level roads, and flattened or terraced areas of mountainside seem from the proportions of the rarely preserved doorways to be intended for creatures of human size, and it seems unlikely that elves or humanoids would have had the inclination to produce such works. What is more, the occasional jade carvings and green ceramic figurines found both at these sites and occasionally in rivers flowing out of the mountains show a people of Flannish features and dress, and there remain in the Duchy of Tenh and among the Coltens stories of a powerful mountain state of Flannish race. […] One of the greatest works of this ancient people, whoever they were, is the mountain known in Flan as Tostenhca, but more commonly known by the name the Suel barbarians gave it, Skrellingshald. It is a place which has been discovered many times, and as often lost again from human knowledge. [GA – 97]
It must have been a wonder in its time. Towering. Inspiring. Legendary. Before something wicked that way came, and would have it for his own.
Nearly 1300 years ago, in a time when the Flan tribes still dominated eastern Oerik, the archwizard Keraptis rose to power in the lands abutting the southern Rakers, and while most historians agree that the mage’s kingdom encompassed what is now known as the Bone March, a few scholars believe the territories that later became Ratik and the Pale were part of this empire as well.
[Dragon #241 – 77]
It was from Keraptis that the people learned greed, and cruelty.
Yet, as is well documented in the little known Legend of Keraptis, the archwizard was a cruel man, so brutal in fact that, near the end of his reign, he demanded his tormented subjects turn over to him one-third of their newborn children as part of their taxes. The peasants did not take this atrocity lightly, and under the leadership of the high priest Gethrun Shoiraine and his ranger followers, the kingdom of the tyrant-mage was sundered. [Dragon #241 – 77]
[The] people rose as one, ousting Keraptis and his personal bodyguard of deranged gnomes. [RtWPM – 3]
But cruel Kerapis would have his revenge.
[Among] other treasures of ancient sorcery, he found the archetypal iceblade Frostrazor and an enigmatic statuette. Keraptis used the figurine’s power to pronounce a heinous curse that laid waste to distant Tostenhca, thus exacting his revenge at last. RtWPM – 3
Those who suffered under Keraptis’ tyranny knew from whence “The Wasting” came. Just as their crops withered, so did their climate; and worse still, so did they. Pestilence laid them low. Those who could fled from Tostencha’s fall. Wretched were they when winter fell. They starved. They stole. They killed to survive. Those lessons learned were never forgotten.
Some where better at it than others.

c. 430 CY
Vlek Col Vlekzed
Stonehold began as the Hold of Stonefist, a bandit chiefdom founded in the territory of the old Coltens Feodality. Vlek Col Vlekzed, called Stonefist, was a ruthless bandit who had been cast out from the Rovers of the Barrens for his vice and cruelty, and left to wander the fringes of his homeland for several years. Over that time, he gathered a large following of evil men, even sacking one of the old Bandit Kingdoms and carrying away most of its population. Vlek moved them beyond White Fanged Bay, where he established the fortified town of Vlekstaad.
 [LGG – 109]

WGS1 - 29
Who exactly was this Vlek Col Vlekzed? A Rover? I think not. No Rover would drive stakes into the ground, or remain chained to one place, preferring to roam with his herds. Was Vlek a Bandit? Surely. But I should doubt that he was from the Bandit Kingdoms. If he were, he would undoubtedly have settled closer to where the pickings were easier; indeed, where there were pickings. Vlek settled where he did because he was a Colten, and bent on returning to those lands that had banished him for his evil ways. Why else would he raise a palisade on such a desolate shore? He meant to cut the Coltens off from the outside world.
This infamous warrior was a menace throughout the region for several years, finally choosing to build a settlement on the border of the Coltens Feodality. The Cohens were still vassals of the duke of Tenh, though their atamans had great latitude in determining their own affairs. [LGG – 113]
And so confined, he meant to have his revenge on them.The Coltens were very uneasy with his presence in their land, but Vlek promised a truce and offered to negotiate with their leaders. As the Coltens traveled to the appointed site, they were ambushed and slaughtered by the followers of Stonefist. The remainder of the Coltens host was routed, and Vlek settled down to rule over the whole territory. [LGG – 109]

The leaders of the Coltens were deceived and murdered by Stonefist under the guise of a parlay. The forces of Tenh, which had never been strong in the region, were unable to dislodge him. [LGG – 113]

The Hold of Stonefist was also renamed. Now openly calling itself Stonehold, this quasi-kingdom is composed of four Atamanships: Vlekstaad (west), Pumull (south), Kelten (east), and Bastro (north). Four Great Chieftains were named, each equal to an Ataman (Reindeer, White Bear, Walrus, and Forest [Hraak] People). Stonehold has become a force that is greatly feared by all in this region. [TAB – 23] [DRG#57 – 14]

The Fists
The Mastership of the Hold is a semi-hereditary position and title. The descendants of Vlek (he had 219 wives and 351 male children who survived to maturity) compete in a bi-annual "Rite of Battle Fitness." The winner may challenge the Master, one of the Atamen of the three towns, or lead a warband and become a chief. The surviving losers join the standing warbands (the "Fists"), those who did best becoming chieftains, sub-chiefs, and leaders of raiding bands. These savage war and raiding bands commonly raid Fruztii, Tenh, and even the Rovers of the Barrens. About 30% or so of the population of the Hold dwell in permanent settlements, and from these people are drawn the bulk of the footmen. Most of the balance of the population are semi-nomadic, moving into the northern tundra in the summer, and migrating south in the fall. From these people come the horsemen and light infantry of the "Fists."
[WOGA – 36]

Religions: Erythnul*, Syrul, Beltar, Beory, Obad-Hai [LGG – 108]
Why these? Originally a land of Flan, Beory and Obad-Hai have always been worshipped in the Hold. The others have been adopted, as they mirror the soul of these truculent souls.

523 CY
Storrich Flees into the Burning Cliffs
Neither Vlek nor his descendants inspired loyalty. Fear, certainly. But none believed in their divine right of rule, seeing that the Vleksteds ascended their throne by vicious subterfuge.
Brute strength has long been the main virtue espoused by the people of this land, and treachery the byword of her leaders. [LGG – 109]
Subtlety was never their forte. Not even when considered it worthy of consideration.
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. [GA – 97]

576 CY
Capital: Vlekstaad (pop. 2,100)
Population: 60,000 +
 Demi-humans: Doubtful
Humanoids: Some
Resources: furs, ivory, silver, gems (I)
[WOGA – 36]

582 CY
Sevvord Redbeard
It’s no wonder that there are spies within these lands. The Hold is a belligerent state, for the most part, and few would shed a tear if it were to be crushed.
In 582 CY, the god Vatun appeared to his subjects among the barbarian tribes of the Thillonrian Peninsula. Ancient legend predicted that the return of Vatun, who had vanished centuries ago, would signal the birth of a barbarian empire in the north. Unfortunately, this particular "Vatun" was actually Iuz, whipping the northmen into a war frenzy. The barbarians invaded the Hold of Stonefist, which allied with them after Iuz ensorcelled Sevvord Redbeard, the Master of the Hold The combined host then smashed through the Griffs and into the duchy of Tenh, which was swiftly overwhelmed. The barbarian alliance soon crumbled, but the damage was done; Tenh and Stonefist belonged to the Old One. [LGG – 15]

584 CY
Capital: Vlekstaad (pop. 1,950)
[FTAA – 38]

Thus Began the War
Thus began the War.
The Greyhawk Wars that brought hardship and ruin to so much of the Flanaess began here, in Stonehold. Brought into a brief alliance with the Suel barbarians by a deception of Iuz, the Fists turned south to attack their old enemies in Tenh. [LGG – 109]

At the same time, Iuz suffered his first reverse. The folk of Fruztii, Cruski, and Schnai, long-time rivals of Stonefist, took exception to Sevvord’s bold stroke. […]
The barbarian kings resisted Vatun’s call to overrun Ratik […] Though quite willing to launch sea raids against the Bone March and Great Kingdom, the barbarians refused even Vatun’s orders to march through Ratik. As the first few months of the war drew to a close, the northern alliance collapsed altogether. [Wars – 8]

When it was revealed that this was a deception of Iuz the Old, the Suel barbarians withdrew from the alliance created between their nations and the Stonehold. [LGG – 106]

586 CY
Vlekstaad (Pop 2,100) (Pop 2,200)
Resources: Furs, walrus ivory, silver, gems (I)
Population: 55,000—Human 96% (FS), Orc 2%, Dwarf 1%, Other 1%
Alignments: CE*, CN, N
[LGG – 108]

Their alliance with Ratik is less cemented than that of the Cruskii, but Ingemar seems amenable to continued cooperation after the events of the Wars. He also has great hatred for the Stonefisters, and wishes to mount a joint expedition with the other barbarian races through the Griff Mountains to lay waste to Kelten. [FtAA – 37]

With the Hold’s armies occupied elsewhere, the Rhizians chose to secure the Kelten Pass once and for all.
Territorial disputes with Stonehold that predated the wars were finally brought to a head three years ago, when a combined host of Cruski and Schnai entered the eastern hold. They were unable to capture the town of Kelten, but the Cruski reinforced their control of the Taival Tundra. [LGG – 55]

Revvord Redbeard 
Iuz could not retain his old on Sevvord Redbeard while he waged war in Furyondy and Nyrond.
Less than three years ago, during a period of Suel raids into Stonehold, the magical affliction of Revvord Redbeard was ended. Without knowing why, he exploded in a rage that would have killed a lesser man. He gathered the Fists from across Tenh, having them first kill all the clerics of Iuz within their reach, and any locals they could quickly find; then, leaving only a rearguard to occupy Calbut, Nevond Nevnend, and the territory north of the Zumkend River, he returned in force to Stonehold. [LGG – 109]
Redbeard returned in a rage, intent on expelling the Rhizians from his lands.

It was while Redbeard was thus occupied that Tang the Horrific chose to lead an all but defeated Rovers against the hated Fists.
The town of Vlekstaad was chosen as the target of the Rovers' nighttime strike. With most Fists either in Tenh or fighting the Suel in eastern Stonehold, Vlekstaad had almost no able soldiers in residence. Such defenses as they had were quickly penetrated, thanks to the Wardogs' amazing stealth. The stables of Vlekstaad provided a trove of horseflesh, but escaping with them proved more difficult than Tang had anticipated. He and his companions were trapped by a patrol of Fists and forced to battle for their lives. The expedition might have been lost there had not a young Wardog, Nakanwa Daychaser (CG male human Rgr8), led his own band of warriors on Tang's trail. Trapped between the two forces of Rovers, the Fists were slaughtered, but Tang was mortally wounded. Nakanwa quickly assumed control of the surviving Rovers, ordering them to seize everything of value in the town, including its citizens. The remains of the town were set ablaze, becoming the funeral pyre of Tang the Horrific.
With the return of Nakanwa and the wealth of Vlekstaad to the Barrens, new hope rose among the Rovers. Their warriors now had mounts and the people had meat. Perhaps as importantly, the tribes had new members, for the captive children were quickly adopted and the captive women quickly wed. Only time will tell if the razing of Vlekstaad will result in the rebirth of the Rovers of the Barrens. They still remain an elusive people, not revealing their new strength, for they are wary of the vengeance of the Fists. Yet, for the first time since Iuz brought evil into their land, they have real hope. [LGG – 95]

[Sevvord] army drove the barbarians back from Kelten and secured the pass, while he returned to Vlekstaad with his personal guard. The town was a smoking ruin, its inhabitants dead or fled away. The Suel barbarians he blamed for the attack left no survivors to describe the onslaught. A picked force of warriors pursued their trail into the lower Griffs, where it disappeared. He decided the Suel had obviously escaped through the mountains back to their homelands in Rhizia.
Rhelt Sevvord vows vengeance against the Suel, though his greatest hatred is for his former "ally," Iuz. Vlekstaad is being rebuilt, refortified, and regarnsoned. Kelten and Purmill are more important in the affairs of Stonehold, especially in light of the ongoing warfare with the Suel barbarians. [LGG – 110]

Revenge is widely sought against the northern barbarians for the burning of Vlekstaad, but Iuz's forces are hated even more. Conspiracies are suspected between Iuz and several war band leaders to gain control of Stonehold. Murders of war band leaders (by their fellows) are on the rise. [LGG – 110]

590 CY
Capital: Vlekstaad (pop. 700)
[LGG – 108]

591 CY
The people of the Hold are a suspicious lot, and easy to sway to violence.
In the course of three bloody days dozens of young men and women were put to the axe within Vlekstaad. Mad mobs of warriors roamed the settlement following the direction of snarling priests of Erythnul who claimed that hatred Iuz had possessed some of the Stonehold’s youth. The rampage began by decree of Gurfaald the malformed, a twisted prophet of the Lord of Slaughter who wandered down to Vlekstaad from his filthy hovel near Lake Albanfyl. Other priests believed his revelation, and faithful warriors scoured the already decimated settlement looking for the “spawn” of the Old One. These rabblerousers claimed that the young were more susceptible to Iuz’s magic, but others believe the victims’ only crime may have been failing to pay proper tribute to the god of hatred and rage. Rhelt Sevvord himself finally put down the hysteria, confronting [Gurfaald] and cleaving the prophet’s head with the mighty blow of a waraxe. Many within Stonehold believe that Sevvord ended [Gurfaald’s] crusade only because he found it personally insulting. [LGJ#3 – 30]

In the Forlorn Forest
Forlorn Forest:
This subarctic forest has long been avoided by the Rovers of the Barrens due to the presence of many savage kech, timber wolves, and like hazards. The invading Fists likewise give it a wide berth. [FtAA – 55]

Bluff Hills: Some bandits still hold out against Iuz and Stonefist here, with the Grosskopf bandits the most numerous among them. Unfortunately, they have to compete with the large and ferocious ogre bands that also live in the Bluff Hills. Small deposits of gold and copper here have never truly been worth the effort of mining, although svirfnebli far below the surface are said to know places where the ores are much richer. [FtAA – 59]

One must always give credit where credit is due. This piece 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.
Special thanks to Jason Zavoda for his compiled index, “Greyhawkania,” an invaluable research tool.

The Art:
To the Orc City, by Diesel, from WGS1 Five Shall be One, 1991

1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
2023 Greyhawk Adventures Hardback, 1988
9317 WGS1, The Five Shall be One, 1991
9337 WGS2, Howl from the North, 1991
1068 Greyhawk Wars Boxed Set, 1991
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
9577 The Adventure Begins, 1998
9578 Player’s Guide to Greyhawk, 1998
11434 Return to White Plume Mountain, 1999
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazeteer, 2000
Living Greyhawk Journal, #3
Dragon Magazine 55,56,57,241
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer