Saturday, 27 March 2021

On King Rälff of Fruztii

 

"We come here with no peaceful intent, but ready for battle, 
determined to avenge our wrongs and set our country free."
—William Wallace

Rälff, of Frutzii
To understand a king, you must understand the land that weened him, its history, and its people.
Who are the Fruztii? Barbarians, some would say, ruthless, vicious barbarians. Warlike. Thieves. Killers.
There is some truth in that: the Fruztii made war upon the Aerdi, as those people pushed their frontier north; they raided those very same interlopers, taking what they could, and killing when they must. Must they kill, you wonder? Yes, the Fruztii would respond; for if they did not provoke fear in the hearts of the Aerdi, their enemy would surely come again. To no avail, because they did.
But to paint the Fruztii with so broad a brush would do them dishonour. They are a strong people, a proud people, an independence people. And yes, they are also as fierce and as unforgiving as the peninsula that molded them.
Vatun had decreed that His people would be as the steel He wielded, so He guided them to a land that would forge them thus. And He left the Fruztii as vanguard to the Rhizian’s foes.
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 cluster 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 sweeps away the weak. And girds that which endures it.
But those bitter winters 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. And a panoply of colour blankets the rolling hills, in contrast to the stark white peaks of the Corusks and the Griffs that soar in the distance.
But for all its beauty, beware. It can be a dangerous land.
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]

The Corusks and the Griffs that soar in the distance.

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.
[WOGA – 52]

109 CY
Did the Rhizians always raid the Solnor coast? No. They farmed and fished. They plowed their fields and tended their herds. And tested their mettle against their brethren, who would take those lands from those too weak to deserve them.
And then the Aerdi came. And all that changed.
Several centuries after the founding of Aerdy, the Suel barbarians began their sea raids. Apparently, they had been content to war with each other through the dim years that preceded their attack on the Aerdy coasts. The Fruztii were the dominant nation in these early raiding expeditions, even going so far as to establish settlements south of the Rakers, on the border of the Great Kingdom. Their raiding became so chronic that eventually the Aerdi sent troops to deal with the settlements directly. Many battles were fought over the years, but the Fruztii resisted all attempts to dislodge them. Eventually, the armies of the Great Kingdom overwhelmed the combined force of Suel barbarians, and the Frost Barbarians took most of the losses. The Fruztii were never again dominant in the north. [LGG – 44]

316 CY
Emissaries of Shar
Strangers came to Rhizian shores. Quiet, curious emissaries from a southern kingdom they called “Shar.” Kin, they claimed. Wishing only well. 

The affairs of the Great Kingdom have always been remarked upon, near and far, so it comes as no surprise that tales of its conflict with blonde barbarians to the north would eventually come to the Kingdom of Shar’s attention. They were puzzled. Who might these be?
Could these barbarians be what remained of Pellipardus’s house?
One of Zellifar's minions, the High Priest Pellipardus, slips away from the Zolites and takes his minor family to the Ratik area, in the North. [OJ1]

Could they be what became of the fabled Houses of Pursuit?
Zellifar parleys with the Houses of Pursuit. His Arch Mage, Slerotin, unleashes a Mass Enfeeblement on their house mages, and a Mass Suggestion upon the other members of the Houses. Slerotin is blasted by magical energies upon the casting of these mighty spells, leaving the Rift Canyon as the only physical remains of this energy. The remnants of the Three Pursuing Houses (Schnai, Fruztii, Cruskii) are devastated and blasted by magic. Their mages minds are wiped of all magic, and the people are confused and terrified. In mass they flee, pell mell, northeastward, except one family. [OJ1]

They wondered. They were skeptical. Could Slerotin have traveled so far, and could he have rent the oerth? Many doubted both as myths. But still, they wondered.

Curiosity beckoned.
By 5831 SD, relations were established with the Suel tribes of Schnai, Fruztii, and Cruskii in the northern lands. The people of the Thillonrian peninsula had adapted their original culture for their cold new homes, and the representatives of the Kingdom of Shar (actually Brotherhood members) took some getting used to. The southerners’ gifts of exotic woods and fine weapons eventually won over the barbarian kings. Culturally primitive by Brotherhood standards, the northern barbarians were beautiful examples of unpolluted Suel bloodlines, and many specimens were lured to Shar as “emissaries.” With the intent of improving the southern Suel stock. [SB – 4]
If any were wholly seduced by the words of these wise emissaries from Shar, it was the Schnai.

356 CY
It was thus for centuries. The emissaries of Shar picked the flower of the Fruztii’s youth; and the Aerdi migrated ever north, and the Rhizians soon realized that these sons of Johydee would never cease coming.
When the Kingdom of Aerdy became an empire, its leaders determined to crush the troublesome barbarians pushing down from the Thillonrian Peninsula and settling in the strip of land between the Rakers and Grendep Bay. Being indifferent sailors, the Aerdians opted to attack overland, and began sending strong parties northward to drive the invaders from the north back to their homeland. After many sharp skirmishes, a large contingent of imperial troops was routed, and full-scale warfare began. [WOGG - 20]

The Fruztii at Spinecastle
The Fruztii were successful at first. The Aerdi were confined below the Blemu Uplands; but before long, the Aerdi legions struck a line of palisades upon its heights. And spearheaded into the broad plains below. And then into the Loft Hills at the foot of the Rakers.
It was there that they began to raise their stone walls.
The Fruztii tribes had retreated before the Aerdians, but sent out calls for their kin, and these doughty fighters poured down by land and sea for the prospect of battle and loot. Over 10,000 assembled and attacked the works under construction at Spinecastle. [WOGG - 20]
And it was there that the Fruztii took their stand, intent on ridding their land of the Aerdi menace, once and for all.
A relief force fought a pitched battle with these barbarians, most of whom were slain - along with several thousand imperial soldiers. [WOGG - 20]

The barbarians counterattack the construction site of Spinecastle in the winter but are defeated by the forces of Knight Protector Caldni Vir in the Battle of Shamblefield. Overking Manshen names Vir the first marquis of the Bone March. [LGG- 90]
They failed.

The newly won fief was named for the remains of this struggle, the Battle of the Shamblefield, or Caldni Vir's Charge. [WOGG - 20]
So many perished, that the rivers flowed red. So many bones littered the fields about Spinecastle, the new fief was named The Bone March. 

c. 500s
It was into this world that Rälff was born.
The Fruztii are weak. Subjugated by the Schnai. Restless to command their fate, once again.
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. The supposed figurehead placed upon the throne of the Fruztii has, however, built his kingdom carefully, and in actuality it is now independent in all but oath. [WOGA - 21]

512 CY
Rälff is born. This is total conjecture on my part, so bear with me. If Rälff lived to the ripe old age of 75 when Hundgred ascended the throne, this would be the year he was born.

520 CY
Hradji Beartooth, in search of Skrellingshald
No one would doubt that the Fruztii are an adventuresome people, a fearless people.
There have always been those who were dissatisfied with their lot, beholden to the Schnai; those eager to be ride of the yoke they wore; and it was those who ventured out in search of a means to shake it off.
What were they looking for?
Weapons? The Legendary Blades of Corusk? Vatun? Who can say?
Hradji Beartooth was one such seeker.
Hradji Beartooth, a chieftain of the Frost Barbarians, […] took a band of men in search of [the fabled city of Skrellingshald, within the Griff Mountains] in 520.
 Hradji returned later that year with a diminished following and with a greatly increased wealth which consisted largely of the […] 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 – 91]
Rälff would have been 8 years old when Hradji began his quest, 9 when he returned.

His head would have been filled with the epic sagas, riven with heroics against harrowing danger, sung in the Great Hall. So, figures like Hradji would have made quite an impression on the young prince.
But Hradji’s end would also have inspired caution.

542 CY
Rälff’s “coronation.” This assumes Rälff was 30 at the time. Not unreasonable, considering his skill with the sword (F 15), but total conjecture.

549 CY
Hundgred Rälffson was born.
Rälff is 37 when his son was born. Again, not unreasonable. Rälff surely would have spent his formative years at the knee of trainers, skalds, and asea.

560 CY
Rälff heard news that the orcs and the gnolls had boiled out of the Rakers into the Bone March. He wanted to attack. Now is the time, he said; but his Schnai overlords would have none of it. We shall raid, they commanded, but we will not invade. Let the orcs and the Aerdi kill one another, they said. Then we will see.

Rälff seethed.
If only we were free, he thought. If only we were as strong as we once were, master of our fate: We could strike the March and take our lands back.
Who would stop them? The orcs? They were only orcs. The Ratikians? They too were under siege.
But the Fruztii were not strong enough to act alone. And so long as the Fruztii were under the suzerainty of the Schnai, they would never be master of their own fate.
Rälff could only watch. And dream. And seethe.

In 560, nonhuman tribes from the Rakers and Blemu Hills struck into Bone March, subjugating the land in 563 and slaying its leaders. Herzog Grenell of North Province reached out to these usurpers, seeing an opportunity. 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. [LGG – 91]

Rälff was 48.

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]
 
563 CY
The Bone March Falls
The orcs and gnolls proved too much for the March, and it fell.
In 563 CY, orcs invaded Spinecastle by secret ways that offered its defenders little warning or means of preparation. Within just three years, the nonhuman masses had laid low the nation from the outside in and the inside out, dominating the realm from Johnsport almost to the Flinty Hills. A raid into Ratik was attempted, but an alliance between Lexnol and the Fruztii prevented its success. [LGG – 36]

Perhaps there was treachery afoot? Rälff had heard talk of the perfidious nature of this Grenell.
Herzog Grenell of North Province reached out to these usurpers, seeing an opportunity. [LGG – 91]
Rumours abound. But there was no proof.

Rälff dreamed of a day when his people would no longer live under the heel of the Schnai, when they could be as proud and fierce as they once were. It had been the Fruztii who had stood against the Aerdian legions, so long ago, and died, when only a token force from the Schnai had been sent to aid them.
But who would help him? The Cruski? They too had been driven from their southern shores by the Schnai. The Cruski would not help. They were mired in their hubris, and their dream of supremacy.
Rälff realized that he had no friends, no allies. The Fruztii stood alone.
It was then that a surprising thing happened: A small ship landed upon his shores at Djekul. With Ratikians aboard, no less.
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]

For years they were subject, directly or indirectly, to their Snow Barbarian cousins. It was not until the reign of the current king's father that they truly emerged from the Schnai's yoke. The alliance with Ratik that has flourished in the last twenty years has given the Frost Barbarians greater influence in the region. [LGG – 44]

575 CY
Rälff sent warriors he could ill-afford to lose to help those once-hated Ratikians. He wondered if doing so was wise. If he were further weakened, he would surely fall to these besieged “northern” Aerdians, should they betray him. They were Aerdi, after all. It was they who had stolen their southern fields; and it was no secret that the Aerdi had always coveted the whole of the Timberway; and that the Aerdi had always wanted to be ris of the troublesome Rhizians, once and for all.
But he did. And this Lexnol did not betray him. Even more surprising, this Lexnol thanked him for his trust.
It was time to test his alliance with Lexnol. He had stood with Ratik against the orcs of the March. Now, would Lexnol stand with him against the hated Fists of Stonehold?
Lexnol did.
A recent pact concluded between Fruztii and Ratik saw a joint army wreak havoc in the Bone March, and during the next campaigning season [576] clear the north pass of the "Fists" (see Hold of Stonefist). [WOGA – 21]

576 CY
Fruztii, Kingdom of (Frost Barbarians)
His Most Warlike Majesty, King Rälff of the Fruztii (F 15)
Capital: Krakenheim (pop. 3,300)
Population: 50,000+/-
Demi-humans: Few
Humanoids: Some
Resources: foodstuffs, furs, silver, gold
[WOGG - 17]

577 CY
Even as Rälff was coming to an understanding with the Ratikians, the Schnai were listening to whispers of greatness from emissaries from the Kingdom of Shar, their trusted Suel brethren from southern shores.
You are the terror of the north, those whispers said. All fear you, they said. And the Schnai believed them.
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. DRG 63 – 16

578 CY
While the Schnai were blinded by their pursuit of glory, Rälff quietly began to strengthen his people, thanks to his new understanding with Lexnol of Ratik.
But Rälff understood that he need step carefully.
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]

Emissaries from the Kingdom of Shar continued to visit Rälff’s court, as well; and as always, they whispered sweet words in his ears. Just as they whispered those very same words to the Schnai.
Rälff listened, but he did not heed.

Queg, in the Loftwood
The southern Suel proclaimed that the Fruztii must only trust in the blood of their Fathers, but Lexnol had proven true to he and his people, and he would be true to Lexnol and his.
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. [Dragon #57 – 15]

579 CY
Lexnol was not the only one in search of allies in this new, ever-shifting, political climate. Rälff most certainly was, as well.
CY 579 can be the year of the Fruztii if things go right. If an alliance to conquer Bone March is struck, the price to archbaron Lexnol will probably be the entire Timberway forest. If, instead, the Snow Barbarians choose to turn upon their allies, they might indeed take all of Ratik to the Loftwood. A nucleus of about 2,000 infantry and 500 light cavalry, with noble and chief contingents of about five times that number of foot, makes King Ralff a power to be reckoned with in the Thillorian area. It is also rumored that certain mountain dwarves have been won over to the king by large gifts of gems and gold taken from actions in the eastern end of the Griff Mountains. If this is actually so, then it is quite possible that Ralff has greater plans than are now evident. [Dragon #57 – 14]

Dwur allies, Won by Gifts of Gold
One should have more than one ally, Rälff realized. While Lexnol continued to be true to their pact, his son’s sight had turned south.
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 – 91]

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]

580 CY
The Euroz wished to put an end to Ratik’s alliance with Rälff and the Fruztii.
Grenell wished an end to it as well; as did Rauxes.
The successful alliance of the Barony of Ratik and the Frost Barbarians has caused much consternation in Bone March (and among the Baron of Ratik's political enemies in Rauxes). The tribes of the Bone March are still smarting from the drubbing they received last year from the combined Ratik-Fruztii armies, so the evil leaders of the humanoids have determined that the northern alliance must be dissolved. Certain espionage elements in Marner that usually work for the Overking were contacted, and an agreement was reached. In a daring raid, the Seal of the Alliance was stolen from the Baronial Vault. 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 continued safety. [WOGG – 29,30]

The following year, 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]

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]

581 CY
Although Trust had been tasked when the Seal of Marner had been stolen from Marner, the two beleaguered nations carried on out of mutual need.
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.
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.
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 allout attack from the Great Kingdom. The King, being wily and crafty, prefers more opportunistic and piratical actions.
One final piece of the puzzle is the attitude of the Duchy of Tenh. Duke Ehyeh has become notably more friendly to the Frost Barbarians of late. The actions of Ratik and the Frost Barbarians stir up the Bone March, which causes trouble for the Great Kingdom and for the Theocracy of the Pale. Both states have hostile attitudes to the Duchy. So, Ehyeh discreetly allows Frost Barbarian emissaries across his lands to organize shipments of weapons from the best source of weaponry in the whole of Oerth—the Bandit Kingdoms.
From here, weapons make their way up the Zumker river to Calbut and then through dangerous foothill territory at the very edge of the Griff Mountains to the pass east of Kelten. The trade is discreet, but everyone knows about it. [WGS1 - 4]

582 CY
Vatun, Returned
If there was ever a time that the Fruztii and Ratik might part company, that time was when Vatun rose.
Vatun has returned, they proclaimed. Rälff could see the awe in their eyes. They would surely fall to His feet along with their brethren, and all else would fall to the wayside.
Could it be, he wondered? Was this truly Vatun, come to lead his people in conquest as foretold? The Schnai were convinced. As was the Cruski. Rälff wondered. But he too felt the thrill his people did. He and they girded for war.
Luxnol despaired.
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. [LGG – 15]

Immediately prior to the Greyhawk Wars, they were in brief alliance with Stonehold, as were all the barbarian Suel, but the alliance quickly dissolved before any military action by the Fruztii was begun. [LGG – 44]

583 CY
Lies. It was all lies.
How could they be so fooled?
[The Rhyzians] were drawn in by the false Vatun that briefly deceived them all. 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.

A major raid into Stonehold was mounted several years ago by a combined force of Schnai and Cruski, though they were ultimately driven back.  [LGG – 15]

584 CY
The Sisters of Mercy
No man lives forever. Rälff had grown old and tired. His great strength was failing him; and one day, his would body too. Wenta’s hold on him was waxing, he realized. He feared that Wee Jas would soon pay him a visit.
And one day, She did. He collapsed and would rise no more. Indeed, his limbs refused to heed his commands, his words frozen upon his tongue.
Healers were summoned. The Sisters of Mercy sang over his frozen form, smudging the smoke that had never failed to loosen the limbs of the stricken. To no effect. Wee Jas would have what was due her, and the Sisters were never one to dispute her claim to what was hers.
Doctors were brought from Ratik. Even priests of Oerid.
Rälff weakened. Silently. The light faded from his eyes. He slipped away.
He was 75. That’s a ripe old age, I imagine, for a Nordic warrior. And was succeeded by his son (age 35, total conjecture; I’ve chosen this seasoned age to give him time to have risen to Bbn13).


Was Rälff a good king? I think so. He was successful in emancipating his people from the Schnai, but as we will see, they were by no means complete masters of their fate.


Ruler: His Most Warlike Majesty, King Hundgred [Rälffson] of the Fruztii (CN male human Bbn13)
Capital: Krakenheim (pop. 3400)
[FTAA - 25]

The Fruztii are strongly allied to the Archbarony of Ratik in the south. Their young king has even married a beautiful but headstrong Ratikkan noblewoman eight years his senior. Changes are already apparent in the royal court at Krakenheim, with more formal (or "civilized") trappings in the organization of the government and the military. These changes do not meet with the approval of many of the older jarls, but they remain loyal to Hundgred out of respect for his noble father. [LGG – 44]

Ambassadors from the Scarlet Brotherhood were spied in Djekul. [LGG - 91]

There are rumbling among Hundgred’s thanes.
And they listen to the whispered promises of Shar.

 

  

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:


Sources:
1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
9317 WGS1 Five Shall be One, 1991
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
Dragon Magazine 57,63
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer

Friday, 19 March 2021

On Marner

 

“If you are going through hell, keep going.”
― Winston S. Churchill

“Never, never, never give in!”
― Winston S. Churchill


Marner, on Onsager Point
Questions arise while worldbuilding.
How do cities arise? Why do cities arise? Why do they, and not others, grow, thrive, and become the capital of a region, or the nation in which they reside?
Take Marner, the capital of Ratik, for instance. If there was ever a perplexing placement of city in the whole of Greyhawk, this would be it. Most cities begin as one would expect: On a river, upon a lake, at a crossroads, amid rich farming, or because there be gold in them there hills. Not so Marner. Marner was settled and grew from necessity. The Great Kingdom thought to expand, and in expanding, it gathered in enemies, as well as new lands. The Suel. The Ur-Flan. The Barbarians.
The Barbarians were especially troublesome. They refused to submit. They refused to be tamed. They warred. They raided. They made a nuisance of themselves; so much so, that the Overking declared that they be defeated if they could not be pacified.
When the Bone March was created by the Overking, a further outpost was desired and the Aerdi banners pushed northward as far as the Timberway. A military commander was appointed to see to the establishment of a secure territory and lumbering was gotten underway, as the great pines of the area were highly desirable in shipbuilding. [WOGA - 32]

122 CY
General Sir Pelgrave Ratik of Winetha
But who should be tasked with such a task? Someone well acquainted with fighting barbarians, that’s who.
[It] soon became clear to the leaders of the Aerdi military that a further buffer was required if these new lands were to be protected from additional incursions from the north. General Sir Pelgrave Ratik of Winetha, a wily veteran of the barbarian campaigns, appointed in 122 CY to oversee an expedition that would attempt to drive the Aerdi frontier all the way to the foothills of the Griff Mountains. Ratik and his forces inaugurated their expedition by crossing Kalmar Pass, taking the town of Bresht in a blustery winter campaign that cost the Fruztii dearly. [LGG – 89]

123 CY
The Barbarians, being who and what they are, refused pacification. They refused to submit.
Ratik discovered that there were those who were not altogether displeased with his conquering these lands. The dwarves and gnomes, and the elves, and those Flan who had migrated here untold centuries earlier, could not care a whit who ruled that thin strip of ground between the Grendep and Rakers so long as they were left to go about their business in peace. Some were even inclined to help if that ushered in that peace, all the sooner.
After brokering an alliance with the dwarven lords of the eastern Rakers, Ratik proceeded to force a retreat of the Fruztii up the narrow coast and into the northern fastness of the Timberway. [Ratik] wisely refused to follow them into an obvious trap and instead broke off the pursuit and fortified his gains. He was immediately hailed a hero in the south and his legend grew quickly. [LGG – 89,90]

Fruztii Maiden
Pelgrave Ratik discovered that not all the Suel had retreated. Some had farmed these lands and had harvested the Timberway and the Loftwood for generations, and were very much married to the land. They had roots, and their thanes were willing to pledge fealty, should they be allowed to remain, and left to rule in their new overking’s stead. Krakenheim had had long since neglected them, they reasoned, and one overking was as good an another, as far as these “southern” Suel were concerned.
Some farming is conducted during the short growing season in the open lands between Marner and Ratikhill. [LGG – 89] 

Ratik is populated chiefly by folk of Aerdi descent, with an Oeridian-Suel mix being common. Few Flan are here, though many Fruztii and some Schnai are present, expatriate farmers from their homelands. Dwarves and gnomes are numerous in rougher lands. Only humans prefer the coasts, where their fishing villages are located. [LGG – 89]

 

124 CY
The City of Marner
The Kingdom required a fortress with which to defend its newly gained grounds, and it needed a port.
Bresht was too far south. And inland. Onsager Point, on the other hand, jut out over top a natural harbour near the extent of their gains, and it commanded the peninsula round which the Rhizians raided south. That made Onsager Point ideal.
General Sir Pelgrave Ratik of Winetha struck ground and raised his palisade. He named the site Marner, after his wife.
Over the ensuing months, General Ratik established a military fort overlooking Grendep Bay at Onsager Point. He called the place Marner, and used the newly founded town as a base of operations from which to secure the whole territory. Ratik soon began exploiting the shipbuilding opportunities afforded by the tall pines of the Timberway, and Marner grew from a sizable stronghold to a small port city. [LGG - 90] 

Ratik stretches between the Rakers and the Solnor Coast, where the modest city of Marner, the capital, is its only major port. [LGG – 89]

The climate of Ratik is wintry much of the year, with heavy snows swollen with moisture from the Solnor falling steadily during the height of Telchur's sway. [LGG – 89]

125 CY
No city thrives on conquest alone. There must be trade; without it, the settlement would surely wither and die.
Ratik soon began exploiting the shipbuilding opportunities afforded by the tall pines of the Timberway, and Marner grew from a sizable stronghold to a small port city. Ratik sent glowing reports to his superiors in the south and was shrewd enough to back them up with a steady stream of riches, including highly prized furs and precious gems acquired in trade from the dwur. [LGG – 90]

The active commander soon sent such a stream of riches southward (he was a just man, friendly with the Dwerfolk, and an able tactician, too) - accompanying them with detailed reports of successful actions against the last of the Frost Barbarians in the area - that the Overking took notice. [WOGA - 32]

128 CY
The Fruztii could not tolerate the Aerdian presence in their land. They turned to their Rhizian brethren for aide in repelling the intruders. It must be done soon, the Fruztii said, lest their roots grow too deep.
In 128 CY, the Fruztii and Schnai allied to create an invasion flotilla. They launched a concerted attack on Marner during the spring that almost caught the Aerdi by surprise. In defense, General Ratik set the major approaches to the port ablaze, forcing the armada through a narrow approach where it was cut to pieces by the siege engines of the fort and a squadron of the imperial navy. [LGG – 90] 

130 CY
After a raiding fleet was roundly beaten, the Overking elevated this general to the nobility, creating him Baron Ratik. WOGA - 32
The overking was sufficiently impressed with the victory that in 130 CY he elevated Pelgrave Ratik to the aristocracy, granting him the title of baron and the new lands as a personal fief. [LGG – 90]

130 – 350 CY
Can one separate the history of those who rule with that of the city or the state? If not, then the history of Ratik and Marner is very much married with that of the Bone March. Ratik sprang from the March, after all.
Thereafter a succession of [Pelgrave Ratik’s] descendants have ruled the fief, bravely combatting raiders so as to gain their respect and even friendship from some, while humans and demihumans alike prospered. [WOGA - 32] 

The baron and the marquis of Bone March became fast allies, and their descendants enjoyed a great deal of peace and success over the next two centuries, needing only to fend off infrequent raids from the Timberway and the Rakers until the middle of the fourth century CY. [LGG - 90] 

353 CY
No sally, no sortie, nor siege could dislodge the Aerdi from Marner. The Rhizians decided to cut it and Ratik off from its lifeblood by encircling it. Should the Bone March fall, surely Ratik and its port of Marner must, as well.
[A] massive invasion by a unified host of Fruztii and Schnai threatened to overwhelm the nations and sweep into North Province in 356 CY. The Rax Overking Portillan was concurrently embroiled in a struggle over the secession of Nyrond and had assembled an invasion force to head west, which he was forced to divert north to counter the new threat. The attack was soon turned back, though at great cost. So fierce was the defense of the men and dwarves of Ratik that even the Fruztii were impressed. [LGG -  90]

450 CY
The Celestial court would accomplish what the Fruztii could never do. Its myopic rule turned inward, and for centuries the Great Kingdom waned, shrinking ever smaller. It was only a matter of time before Marner realized that there could be no help from the Malachite Throne, not then, not ever. It must look to itself and its closest ally, and none other, were it to survive.
Ratik and Bone March gained semipalatinate status following the Turmoil Between Crowns, which saw a shift of power from the Malachite Throne to the provinces. Few of Ratik's riches headed south in tribute, and Alain II of Ratik took to calling himself archbaron henceforth. [LGG – 90,91]

560 – 563 CY
Resistance was fierce...
But all too soon, disaster struck.
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]

When the hordes of humanoids began attacking, Ratik had ample warning from the dwarves dwelling in the mountains. Companies of men and gnomes hurried west to aid their countrymen against the invaders, while couriers were sent south (and north) to alert the people there. Resistance was so fierce that the area was bypassed, and the attackers fell instead upon the Bone March. […]

The Baron's forces are able to defend Ratik, but they are not strong enough to dislodge the humanoids from the mountains of the plain to the south. [WOGA - 32] 

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 isolated barony has since been ruled as a fief palatine. [WOGA - 32] 

563 – 566 CY
Desperate times require desperate measures. The Fruztii had long been long been subjugated by the Schnai, and Ratik found itself without allies. Ever so quietly, Lexnol, archbaron of Ratik, treated with young King Rälff of Krakenheim, and came to teams of mutual benefit.
In 563 CY, orcs invaded Spinecastle by secret ways that offered its defenders little warning or means of preparation. Within just three years, the nonhuman masses had laid low the nation from the outside in and the inside out, dominating the realm from Johnsport almost to the Flinty Hills. A raid into Ratik was attempted, but an alliance between Lexnol and the Fruztii prevented its success. [LGG - 36]
Ratik is well settled despite being located so far north of the population centers of the former Great Kingdom, partly because so many refugees fled here from Bone March. [LGG – 89]

Ratik is a small, but prosperous nation. Natural barriers on all sides isolated Ratik from the rest of the Flanaess, but also protected it from invaders for centuries. [WGG - 14]
 
574 CY

Zelligar
Mysteries abound in the far north. The elves once had a great civilization there. So too the Flan. Keraptis once lorded over the whole of the lands the Rakers surveyed. And more recently, a little-known pair of adventurers had once taken up residence in the shadow of the Rakers. Maybe you’ve heard of them? Rogahn and Zelligar. Who knows what each and all had left in their passing?
The Ice-Shard Tome
This infamous spellbook first came to prominence in the year 574 C.Y. in the port city of Marner, capital of the Archbarony of Ratik. It was purchased by Crylandren, a wizard of that city, from a band of Frost Barbarians recently returned from dangerous explorations in the great Corusk Mountains. Distrustful of wizardly magic, the barbarians were quick to take their gold and leave, eager to join the spring raids on the coast of Aerdy. [Dragon #243 - 89]
Crylandren copied what he wished from the book, noting the difficulties in scribing spells, before selling the book. [Dragon #243 – 89]

On its journey the tome acquired both its popular title and a sinister reputation. Rumors persist of either some kind of curse associated with the tome or of a powerful, extraplanar mage tracking the book, slaying those who have handled it, but always failing to possess it himself. [Dragon #243 – 89] 

576 CY
Luxnol

His Valorous Prominence, Lexnol, the Lord Baron of Ratik
Capital: Marner (pop. 3,240)
Population: 35,000 Demi-humans: Mountain Dwarves (8,000 +). Gnomes (3,000 +)
Humanoids: Many
Resources: shipbuilding supplies, furs, gold, gems (IV)
[WOGA - 32 ]

The baronial levies consist of schiltrons of spearmen and a small force of light cavalry. Large dwarven contingents are available in rime of need, as are several companies of sturdy gnomes. A force of men- at-arms, crossbowmen, and mounted sergeants comprises the regular army of Ratik, with bow armed woodsmen patrolling the north and sling-equipped hillrunners watching the southern borders. [WOGA – 32]

577 CY
The Ice-Shard Tome
Certainly Crylandren is now dead. His corpse was said to have been found frozen, the windows of his study thrown open, and the blood in his veins reportedly turned to ice. Alternatively, the old mage’s death could be accounted for by nothing more than the bitter winter of 577 C.Y. It is certainly true that he often neglected his health while performing spell research. A list of similar deaths, always grisly but unsubstantiated, precedes the book. [Dragon #243 - 89]

579 CY
Marner remained married to the Bone March, despite its fall, for Knurl survived, and held firm against impossible odds. Knurl cried for help. “Only you and I stand against defeat,” it said. Marner remained true to the March’s final besieged remnant.
Knurl presented Marner with its daughter to seal their pact.
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 – 37]

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 – 37] 

580 CY
Not all wished the lords of Marner and Ratik well.
One can understand the hatred of the humanoids.
One wonders after Rauxes betrayal.
The successful alliance of the Barony of Ratik and the Frost Barbarians has caused much consternation in Bone March (and among the Baron of Ratik's political enemies in Rauxes). The tribes of the Bone March are still smarting from the drubbing they received last year from the combined Ratik-Fruztii armies, so the evil leaders of the humanoids have determined that the northern alliance must be dissolved. Certain espionage elements in Marner that usually work for the Overking were contacted, and an agreement was reached. In a daring raid, the Seal of the Alliance was stolen from the Baronial Vault. 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 continued safety. Once it is learned that the men of Ratik were unable to keep it safe, the alliance will probably fall apart. or at least be greatly damaged. The Seal is now being taken to Spinecastle, where it will be displayed and its theft publicly announced. [WOGG – 29,30] 

However, regaining the Seal will not be easy, for the thieves and assassins from Marner are now riding with an armed group that was waiting for them with the border guard.
This group includes:
- 24 ores, including some leader types.
- An evil human magic-user of high level, with appropriate magic items. (He now carries the Seal.)
- 5 ogres, all well-armed and armored.
- A charmed minotaur which protects and obeys the magic-user.
[WOGG – 30]

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 – 37]

584 CY
RATIK, ARCHBARONY OF
Ruler: His Valorous Prominence, Lord Baron of Ratik, Lexnol
Capital: Marner (pop. 3,400)
[FTAA - 34] 

Marner is a vital port along the coastline—the major port for Ratik from which a little trade still manages to filter down to eastern Aerdy states, although this is very hazardous. [FTAA - 48] 

A Great War raged across the Flanaess, yet Marner remained largely untouched by its waging, if not its passing. The map of the Great Kingdom had been rewritten, and where once the North Province had been, a new Great Kingdom of Northern Aerdy had sprung. This new kingdom was far from friendly.
But, its new overking, his Grace Grenell, soon discovered that Blood can be thicker than water. Suel had long been established along the coast; so too Flan; and those who had once conquered the Loftwood and Timberway had hailed from these lands; and they were less inclined to spill the blood of their cousins than was Grenell.
A walled city of 19,000 people, Atirr is now a major power base in North Province. Built some 35 miles from the coast along the lengthy Trask estuary, Atirr has a well-disciplined army, a growing naval strength, and is a key trade city.
Atirr and the lands around are ruled by Prince Elkerst of the House of Torquann. Elkerst distances himself from all nobles of the House of Naelax and has made it quite plain to Grenell that he will not allow his forces to be part of any pact to attack Ratik. Elkerst has received emissaries from both Ratik and the Frost and Snow Barbarians, and has concluded agreements with them. The barbarians do not raid Atirr or Elkerst's lands, nor those of minor Torquann princelings along the coast as far as the Causeway of Fiends. They also refrain from raiding Atirr shipping. In return, Elkerst supplies weapons to Marner (his own war galleys traveling there) in return for wood and furs. Atirr vessels also trade with the Sea Barons, although not as often as they once did. The southern dirawaen road is not used for trade to Rinloru, given the evil triumphant there, though Atirr militias regularly patrol it close to the border. And there are fortified garrison houses at regular intervals along it. [IVID – 50,51]

586 CY
Alain’s desire to liberate the Bone March had become an obsession. Luxnol told his son to be patient. The Fruztii will be convinced, in time, he said. But Alain would not be deterred.  Luxnol reluctantly agreed to let his son probe Spinecastle’s defences.
In 586 CY, Alain led a force of men and dwarves into Bone March in an attempt to retake Spinecastle with the baron's grudging support. The attack failed, and Alain's surviving lieutenants watched as the young lord was dragged from his horse by gnolls and slain. [LGG – 91]

The unusually organized nonhumans laid a trap for the force in the hills north of Spinecastle. Horrified survivors who escaped back to Ratikhill reported that the trapped raiders were dragged from their horses, torn apart, and eaten alive before their eyes. [LGG – 37] 

Upon hearing of his son's demise, old Baron Lexnol collapsed. He awakened the next morning with a shock of white hair and a palsy that confined him to bed. Lady Evaleigh, now widowed, assumed the throne and has guided Ratik through the trouble that has befallen it. [LGG - 91]

590 CY
Proper Name: Archbarony of Ratik
Ruler: Her Valorous Prominence, Evaleigh, the Lady Baroness (also Archbaroness) of Ratik (CG female human Rog9/Wiz3)
Government: Independent feudal monarchy having severed all fealty and ties to the former Great King- dom, its successor states, and noble houses; member of the Northern Alliance
Capital: Marner
Major Towns: Marner (pop. 6,600), Ratikhill (pop, 5,500)
Provinces: Fourteen freeholds ruled by human and dwarven great lords Resources: Shipbuilding supplies, furs, gold, gems (IV), timber
Coinage: [Modified Aerdy] orb (pp), crown (gp), scepter (ep), penny (sp), common (cp)
Population: 138,500—Human 79% (Sof), Dwarf 8% mountain 80%, hill 20%), Halfling 6%, Elf 3%, Gnome 2%, Half-elf 1%, Half-orc 1%
Languages: Common, Old Oeridian, Dwarven, Cold Tongue
Alignments: N, NG*, CN, CG Religions: Procan, Xerbo, Kord, Norebo, Trithereon, Phyton, Oeridian agricultural gods
Allies: Frost Barbarians, dwarves and gnomes of the Flinty Hills and Rakers, Nyrond, Knurl (see Bone March)
Enemies: Bone March, North Kingdom, nonhumans in Rakers, the Pale (minor), Snow Barbarians (sometimes), Ice Barbarians
[LGG – 88,89] 

Lady Evaleigh
The current Baroness, Lady Evaleigh, is the widowed stepdaughter of the old Baron Lexnol. He still lives, but no longer rules. Baroness Evaleigh is mistrusted by many in the kingdom, for she was not born in Ratik and is seen as indecisive by many lords of Ratik. [WGG - 14] 

While the rulership of the realm rests completely with the hands of the baron or baroness, its lord takes counsel with numerous constituencies, including the Council of Great Lords (fourteen human and dwarven peers), as well as the burghers of the small cities and towns. The current baroness, Lady Evaleigh, is the widowed stepdaughter of old Baron Lexnol, who yet lives but has been incapacitated for several years. Baroness Evaleigh is mistrusted by many in the kingdom, for she was not born in Ratik and does not always seem to understand its precarious position. It was the old baron who won the trust of the Fruztii and negotiated a treaty with their king. The dwarf and gnome lords respect decisiveness, and Evaleigh has shown little during her short tenure. While the military is loyal to the crown, many grumble that the count of Knurl, Evaleigh's father, has grown far too influential in the affairs of Marner. Lexnol had been working on a treaty with the Schnai to shore up his position against Bone March and its allies in North Kingdom, but these efforts are currently in shambles. Few things would please North Kingdom's "Overking" Grenell more than to see this realm succumb to chaos. [LGG – 89] 

Raids into the archbarony from Bone March have resumed. [LGG – 37]

Ambassadors from the Scarlet Brotherhood were spied in Djekul. Ratik wants to expand the alliance against Bone March and North Kingdom to include the Snow Barbarians, but the Schnai will negotiate only with Lexnol. Agents of the Sea Barons have approached Evaleigh to gain access to Marner. A half-orc spy working for North Kingdom was discovered in Ratikhill but escaped. [LGG – 91] 

In Marner, capital of Ratik, a lone long ship sailed into port in late 590 CY. The pale barbarians aboard the ship spoke a dialect of the Cold Tongue and claimed to be from a distant northeastern island called Fireland. They came with four other ships in search of help for an undisclosed problem facing their people; their other long ships were sunk by sea monsters or Ice Barbarian raiders. [TAB - 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.
The death of Prince Alain IV, by Joel Biske, from Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000


Sources:
1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
WGR Ivid the Undying, 1995
9577 The Adventure Begins, 1998
11742 Gazetteer, 2000
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
Dragon Magazine #243
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer

Friday, 12 March 2021

Thoughts on "The Last Slave Lord"


“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”
― Frank Herbert

 
The long nightmare is over. The Slave Lords have finally been defeated. Their wicked city, Suderham, has been reduced to ash, along with the slavers and their monstrous legions. No longer must the good people of the Wild Coast watch the horizon for yellow sails. No longer must they fear being ripped from their homes and carried away to far-flung lands. The victims of the slavers’ depredations have begun the long journey to recovery. A new day has dawned.
Or has it?
An old ally resurfaces with information about the sinister Stalman Klim that predicts the return of the slavers. The only way to be certain that the threat is truly over is to sail south to the Monastery of the Toiling Lady and put all doubts to rest for once and for all. [Dungeon #215 - 31 The Last Slave Lord]

If you’ve run the Slavers campaign back I the day, you’ll know the story in its entirety.
Or so you might think.
Those who’ve been following these missives will know otherwise. They were added to, expounded upon, and thus made a fuller campaign than they once were; unless you yourself expanded the scope of the tournaments at the time. If you did, good on you! If you did not, there’s no shame in have run them as intended. I imagine most ran them as written, much to the chagrin of those players like me who were always a little miffed to be informed that we were always to begin at the doorstop of the module, informed of all the wonderful adventures we’d just completed, yet never saw. That complaint aside, those who only ran them in the ‘80s probably haven’t run A0 Danger at Darkshelf Quarry, as that wasn’t published until 2013; nor were they likely to have run Lowdown in Highport, or this installment, either for that matter, as these too were published in Dungeon magazine during its 4e days, long after most of our subscriptions had lapsed.
If you have not read my thoughts on these other adventures, I invite you to do so.
If you have, be informed that this was the final instalment of the Slavers odyssey. It was then. It is now.
And what a journey it’s been, first conceived when Harold Johnson first stripped his players’ characters bare and dumped them in a trembling mountain to escape certain death with only their wits to guide and save them. It was a truly groundbreaking concept in its time.
And for better or for worse, they were compiled into 1986’s super-module A1-4 Scourge of the Slave Lords, later considered the 20th greatest D&D adventure of all time. I have to ask the question: Was it the compilation or the original works that were held up to such esteem? Personally, I think it was the initial publications.
No matter.

Time passed.
Then in 2000 TSR released a much wished for follow-up to its beloved adventure: Slavers. Is it the best of the series? It might be. More on that later. We’re not hear to speak on that finale, but another, published later, but chronologically earlier.
Thirty years after the A series first saw publication, WotC dusted off the venerable old adventure path for a new compilation. They decided to remain true to the original modules and dispense with the “new” introduction given it in 1986, and add a new adventure of their own design to kick it off.
But who would they get to write it? Skip Williams. Who better than an Old Guard to tackle such an enterprise?
WotC had given a lot of thought to the anniversary release. Not only did they publish Skip Williams’ A0 Danger at Darkshelf Quarry in March of 2013 within the covers of A0-4 Against the Slave Lords, they also published this, The Last Slave Lord, in Dungeon 215, a mere three months after the release of Against the Slave Lords. That cannot be a coincidence. Nor the release of Lowdown in Highport in #221, in December of that same year. How could they be when issues are finalized months before their release?
As I said, they put a lot of thought into its 30th anniversary.

You know the story, of course.
Slavers had harassed the coastlines of the Flanaess with impunity for years until the powers that be had had enough. Evidence gathered pointed to the sundered port of Highport within the Pomarj. The trail of horror led from Highport to the interior, high into the Drachengrab mountains, and finally to the city of Suderham, where the Slavers were finally put to the sword.
Most, anyway.
Not all.
Markessa had escaped. I’ll deal with the fate of Markessa later, thanks to the efforts of Sean Reynolds and Carlos Lising. Or should I say Maquessa? More on her later.
This short adventure, published in the pages of Dungeon magazine #215, deals with the final fate of Klim. Let’s dive in, shall we? 

The lords of the Wild Coast sent numerous adventuring parties and spies to deal with the slavers preying on their lands. The casualties proved high, and few operatives returned in the weeks following the collapse of the Slave Lords. One agent escaped with critical information about a possible surviving slaver. This agent is Selzen Murtano, a skilled spy who played an important part in helping the adventurers destroy the organization’s leadership. Having clawed and lied his way to the rank of lieutenant, he overheard a private conversation between Mordrammo and Brother Milerjoi, a high-ranking member of the Scarlet Brotherhood, in which the two discussed preparations for a magical event that would take place at a secret base on the southern shores of the Jeklea Bay. Although Murtano wasn’t certain what the two were plotting, he was concerned enough to bring the matter to his superiors.
Knowing that the Slave Lords would return unless destroyed completely, they charged Selzen Murtano with following up on this lead. They gave him 2,000 gp to hire a ship and adventurers to assist him. First he prowled the ports and secured a caravel, and then he tracked down the player characters.
Murtano makes his case to the characters, telling them the mission should be simple—all they have to do is scout a location to be sure that no agents of the Slave Lords are hiding there. He explains the information he discovered and offers the group 1,000 gp plus any treasures they find along the way.
Characters who participated in A3 (Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords™) and A4 (In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords™) should know Selzen Murtano. He was the one they first met disguised as a beggar, the one who helped them when they were dropped into the labyrinth, and the one who found them and steered them toward the slavers’ ship, the Water Dragon. [Dungeon #215 - 32]

Why should they care? Klim is dead. Isn’t he? The PCs put an end to him and the rest of his cadre on the docks of Suderham when the land quaked and the mountain raged, spewing fire and destruction upon the ill-fated town.
Surely the Slavers were all dead. Suderham was their base of operations. And with them all dead, what difference did it matter what plans they might have made?
“Are they all dead?” Selzen asked. “There may be more; and even if there aren’t, it would be best to be sure that there is no evil being hatched in the wake of their passing.” 

Feetla Klim
That would be prudent. Who knows what Klim had been hatching while working with the Brotherhood? And potentially working against…. Not to mention Edralve; after all, why should Klim want a drow presence on the surface?
I’d suggested in an earlier piece that Feetla and Stalman could be brothers, exiles from some Sea Princes holding. Why? Because Jeklea Bay is within the Princes’ sphere of influence; it’s also within the Scarlet Brotherhood’s (the Brotherhood claims that they’re lurking in the shadows throughout the whole of the Flanaess, but that’s unlikely, just propaganda). Klim and Feetla had been conspiring with the Brotherhood, and they’d paid a price for it.
So, yes, it would be prudent to discover what those two might have been up to in their secluded base.
If Klim survived the final conflict in Suderham, this sort of subterfuge need not happen to get the PCs involved. If Klim survived, the mission will be as simple as tracking him down and putting an end to him.

Stalman Klim
So, who was/is Stalman Klim, anyway?
Stalman Klim was one of the most powerful and influential members of the Slave Lords. Although he was second to Feetla, he had the ear of everyone counted as a member of the Nine. His voice rang with true authority, for he was a priest of the dreaded Earth Dragon, a mysterious Flan spirit god rarely worshiped by humans. Furthermore, Klim had brokered alliances with the Scarlet Brotherhood and, with their aid, amassed incredible power both mundane and magical. [Dungeon #215 - 32]

Far be it for me to tell you how to run your game, but I’ve expressed a dissatisfaction concerning the use of the Earth Dragon. I’ve suggested it be replaced with the Elder Eye, tying Klim’s worship in with the temple discovered in A0 Danger at Darkshelf Quarry. Why am I so adverse to Klim worshipping the Earth Dragon? Because Klim’s base is in Jeklea Bay, and the Princes are noted in the Gold box to be of “SOf” descent, mainly Suel and Oerdian with minor Flan ancestry. It seems less likely that Klim would worship a Flan god than a Suel one. The LLG goes so far as to list the gods worshiped in these lands: Osprem, Xerbo, Procan, Norebo, Kelanen (native Holders); Syrul, Bralm, Tharizdun? (SB); Olman pantheon, esp. Chitza-Atlan (Olman). There is no mention of the all-powerful Scaly One.
Klim’s ethnicity is never raised, but the Monestary of the Toiling Lady (devoted to Bralm, a Suloise deity) was built by the Suels three centuries ago, and Klim is in possession of it, ergo….
This is not to say that the Elder Eye is Suel, because he most certainly is not; but he is mentioned in the above list, and the Brotherhood has always pretended that they worship Tharizdun. Those rumours may have brought Klim and the Brotherhood together.

Regardless the reason, Klim’s association with the Brotherhood certainly helped his cause.
The influence Klim enjoyed helped him play the other Slave Lords like puppets. He fed their suspicions and kept them focused on one another rather than on him. As skilled as he was at manipulating his peers, Klim never felt secure in his position. He believed, and rightly so, that he had accumulated no shortage of enemies who would like to see him dead. Aside from the usual precautions—employing food-tasters, never being without a personal guard, never using his true name (he was known as Mordrammo to his underlings, a name meaning “I am Death”), and keeping word of recall in mind—he also took steps to survive the unthinkable. The Scarlet Brotherhood owed Klim favors after all the years he spent feeding them information about the Wild Coast and slaves. Through these allies, he secured a retreat: an abandoned monastery once occupied by devotees to Bralm. Then he pressed the Brotherhood to provide him with a clone.
He had cast the spells and prepared the site to hold the maturing clone when the organization fell. Klim was present when adventurers attacked, and he defeated them and held them in prison cells until they could be questioned. [Dungeon #215 - 32]

Take what follows with a grain of salt, depending on how you ran the story:
He erred when he interpreted the tremors shaking the city as being a sign of his deity’s hunger. Rather than killing the adventurers, he had them thrown into the caves so his god could devour them.
Klim underestimated their determination. They escaped their fates and, in doing so, enraged the “Sacred Scaly One,” causing the volcano to erupt and erase Suderham and all its wickedness from the world. Stalman Klim and the other Slave Lords found death in the ensuing battle. [Dungeon #215 - 32]

Regardless the Scaly One’s rage, this much is certainly true:
The clone was still growing when Klim died. Now, in the weeks after the disaster, his soul waits inside the developing body, knowing his chance for revenge is at hand. [Dungeon #215 - 32]

The party accepts, and sets sail across the Azure Sea and into Jeklea Bay.
Your ship passes into the cove, revealing a wall of low-lying mountains that tumble down to a stony shore. Rocky islands rise hundreds of feet in the air, their bases eroded by the incessant waves that crash against them. Foliage and overgrowth clings to any surface it can along the shores and up the mountainside, bearding the cliffs with vines, lianas, and gnarled trees. Just beyond one of the rock islands, you spot a weathered monastery on a shelf stabbing out from the cliff high up the mountainside. A narrow path clings to the cliff, ascending through a series of switchbacks until it reaches the structure. [Dungeon #215 - 34]

This is where the adventure begins.
What follows is a particularly gruelling ordeal. It ought to be. This is the end game, as it were. The Climax, with a capital C. Do or die. Once the party makes landfall, they will have little if any rest. 

One thing is for certain; the cost of failure is grim:
If the characters surrender to the grimlocks, the creatures drag the PCs into the old mines (area 4) and take them to their mind flayer master—a threat beyond the scope of this adventure. The adventurers likely become enslaved and warped into hideous monstrosities, condemned to spend their remaining days in the mind flayer’s service.
If the characters surrender to Mordrammo’s people, they are disarmed and imprisoned in the penitentiary […], where the sons of Kyuss attack them. Spellcasters are gagged, their fingers are tied, and they are woken every three hours to prevent them from regaining spells. The torturer questions the PCs about their purpose here. After a while, the guards throw the characters off the cliffs around the monastery. [Dungeon #215 - 34]



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. 

 

The Art:
All art is wholly owned by the artists.
The Last Slave Lord "cover," from Dungeon magazine #215, 2013
Markessa, by Mike Lowe, from Against the Slave Lords, 2013
Stalman Klim detail, by Francis RP Navarro, from Against the Slave Lords, 2013
Earth Dragon Priest, from Slavers, 2000
The Last Slave Lord map, Jason A Engle, from Dungeon magazine #215, 2013


Source:
Dungeon Magazine #215, 2013
9039A A0 Danger at Darkshelf Quarry, 2015
9039 A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity, 1980
9040 A2 Secret of the Slaver’s Stockade, 1981
9041 A3 Aerie of the Slave Lords, 1981
9042 A4 In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords, 1981
9167 Scourge of the Slave Lords, 1986
11621 Slavers, 2000
A5 Kill Marquessa! casl Entertainment, 2016
A6 Die, Marquessa, Die! casl Entertainment, 2017
A7 Marquessa, Thy Name is Evil, casl Entertainment, 2018