Friday, 20 August 2021

Thoughts on: Slavers, Part 4, My Alternate Narrative

 

“The Princess Bride
S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure
You had to admire a guy who called his own new book a classic before it was published and anyone had a chance to read it.”
― William Goldman, The Princess Bride


Stalman Klim
Part 4. It’s only fitting that there should be 4 parts to this “review,” seeing that the original A-series was in 4 parts. I did not plan on that. I intended it to be 1 post. When that failed, I was certain that it would be 2. God willing, it will remain 4.
Why 4? Because Slavers is a big book. Adventure. Gazetteer. It covers a lot of ground. Thus: Part 1 was all about the goings on in the north; Part 2, that in the south; and Part 3 entailed the original underlying premise, and my misgivings about certain aspects of it.

What would I do differently?
Let’s begin with what I wouldn’t.
I would not mess with the arc of the adventure. At all. It’s a brilliant sandbox.

That said….
The whole adventure hinges on the Earth Dragon and Stalman Klim’s desire to spread the worship, far afield, of a demigod that has never once exhibited the desire to venture anywhere.
I would change that. Not the Earth Dragon’s reticence, but Klim’s motives.

Let us agree that the Earth Dragon is indeed an ancient nature spirit that has, over millennia, ascended to demigod status due to worship by, and sacrifice from, the primitive Flan tribes who migrated into the Pomarj.
Let us also agree that an Oerid, in the name of Baron Erkin, made a pact with it, and through it, was able to subjugate the entire peninsula under his rule.
We can also agree, without any doubt, that in 513 CY, [towards the end of the Hateful Wars] the ravaged and vengeful armies [of the humanoids] emerged from the Suss and descended upon Highport in a frenzy of destruction. [LGG – 88]

But I propose that Stalman Klim was not from Suderham at all (eliminating his need to escape from the centre of an occupied, and ravaged, Pomarj), but from the Hold of the Sea Princes, where he and his brother, Feetla, had sometime ago come into contact with the Scarlet Brotherhood as it slowly infiltrated all levels of society there, in preparation for their grand strike to come.
Key Sea Princes and Hepmonaland holdings are being infiltrated by the so-called "Black Brotherhood," a sect devoted to entropy (Tharizdun). [LGG – 98]

Last, and perhaps worst of all, the agents of the north reported that the Scarlet Brotherhood did not worship proper gods, but instead gave tribute to dread Tharizdun, the Great Destroyer.
Needless to say, such reports frightened the rulers of the Flanaess, who turned to their own trusted advisers and agents in conference to plan strategies to deal with the growing threat. Unfortunately, many such advisers were themselves Brotherhood agents, and advised caution and patience in the matter. In time, they reasoned, the Brotherhood would reveal themselves, and could be dealt with as the rabble they certainly were. [LGG – 96, 98]

Most are lawful evil in alignment and include a few warriors, some mages, and a handful of priests. These priests remain extremely secretive about their religion, which is not exported to the new dominions the Brotherhood holds. One terrible name has been mentioned in this context: Tharizdun. [FTAA – 35]

Some might suggest that the Brotherhood, in accordance with the wishes of the Father of Obedience, was forbade to spread word of Tharizdun, and that the Brotherhood does not actually worship that dark lord. This would be true. For the most part. But there are some who disagree with The Father of Obedience. The forementioned Black Brotherhood, for instance.
Religion: Tharizdun (claimed by Brotherhood agents but not actually worshiped, except by Black Brotherhood) [LGG – 96]

Brother Milerjoy
The Scarlet Brotherhood would have been on the lookout for disgruntled Princes of Suloise extraction in the Hold of the Sea Princes, and they found what they were looking for in Feetla and Stalman Klim. Feetla and Stalman’s family had once been powerful in the Hold, but no more. They had sought dominion over the others. They failed and were put to the sword as they tried to escape the wrath of their peers, until only Feetla and Stalman remained, living in exile since, driven by the desire to bring vengeance down on those who had banished them.
Feetla certainly does; and so too did Stalman, once, until agents of the Brotherhood showed him the power that could be had from worship of the Elder Elemental Eye. Stalman was seduced by it, and over time, the Elemental Eye lured him from his original path. Feetla still believes his brother is working to the same purpose as he, and Stalman has led him to believe as much.
Elder Elemental Eye Domains: Chaos, Evil, Madness […], and one of the following: Fire, Earth, Air, or Water. [Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil – 161]

The Elder Elemental Eye is an “aspect” of Tharizdun, the Dark God, created originally to mask the cult from the eyes of the world and draw potential worshipers interested in dark power but afraid of the reputation of the Tharizdun.
So, despite the fact that many of the worshipers of the Elder Elemental Eye do not know it, and despite the fact that the two deities have different granted domains, Tharizdun and the Elder Elemental Eye are the same deity. [RttToEE – 161]

Tharizdun. Universal. Evil. Eternal dark, decay, malign knowledge. [T1-4 – 120]
Tharizdun Domains: Chaos, Evil, Madness, Force, and Destruction [RttToEE – 161]
Clerics of the Elder Elemental Eye wear ochre-colored robes and bear a triangle symbol (a black triangle with an inverted Y inscribed within it). Occasionally, their robes or the symbol are altered so that they reflect what element (fire, air, earth or water) they revere over the others, if any. [RttToEE – 161]

Stalman knew that the “good” folk of the Hold of the Sea Princes would never abide the worship of a god such as the Elemental Eye, let alone Tharizdun.
The Hold of the Sea Princes:
Alignments: CN*, CE, N, NE, LE
Religions: Osprem, Xerbo, Procan, Norebo, Kelanen (native Holders); Syrul, Bralm [LGG – 100]

That said, they were not above taking income from taking slaves, were they?
The land here is fertile and suitable for farming all manner of crop. Fruit production is perhaps the Hold's most famous industry, though a traffic in slavery brought it the most prewar enemies (and whole ships filled with coin, thanks to the greedy lords of Ahlissa and elsewhere). In fact, the slave trade of the Sea Princes was so lucrative that captains called their captured Amedio slaves "two-legged admirals," referring to the platinum coinage of the realm. [LGG – 101]

A Base of Operations
The Klims needed a base from which to plot their return and revenge, and their friends in the Scarlet Brotherhood were only too accommodating, proposing an island they were in possession of off the coast of the Hellfurnaces, in Jeklea Bay, where they had once consecrated a temple to Bralm. It was abandoned then, and ideal, they said, for staging the Klims’ upcoming coup.
Despite this, the brothers did not wholly trust the Brotherhood. What was in in for them, they wondered?
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. [Dungeon #215 – 32]

Their distrust aside, things were looking up for the Klims. They had friends, allies! But the Dark Mysteries the Brotherhood had introduced Stalman to had already begun to loosen his grasp on sanity. Stalman began to see plots everywhere.
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. [Dungeon #215 – 32]

[“I am Death,” certainly does point more so in the direction of the Elder Eye, and less towards the Earth Dragon, doesn’t it?]
Those who know the truth are offered great power, bur the price is often the cleric’s sanity. The more dark blessings a cleric of Tharizdun receives, the more tenuous her grip on reality. [Dragon #294 – 31]
Stalman was not even aware how insidiously Tharizdun’s influence had subverted his original aim, drawing him onto an unforeseen path, and a far darker purpose.
The sole duty of this priesthood is to free Tharizdun from his prison. They sacrifice all to this end. The extent and location of the priesthood is unknown. [FTAA – 92]

He began to search for ways to prepare for the Elder Eye’s return, believing the power it would bestow upon him, its tireless and faithful servant, for its release would pave the Klims’ way to taking back what was once theirs by birth and right.
Like Eli Tormoras before him, he eventually found his way to the Lost Temple in the Yatils.
Eli Tomorast has been many places, including a long-past visit to the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun some years back, where he was instructed by priests concerning the ways of hidden knowledge as taught by the once-powerful Tharizdun. [WG5 Mordenkainen’s Fantastic Adventure – 16]
And it was there that he lost his very soul.

THE BLACK CYST
It is absolutely lightless...
You have dared all and descended the spiralling purple steps formed by the strange column of gray smoke, lilac light, and jet black. This swirling, pulsing column of radiation has opened a means of entrance to somewhere far beneath the surface of the earth — or perhaps to some place not of this earth. All of you feel the press of time, a sense of urgency. How long will this strange gate remain open? You all hope not to learn the hard way as you hurry down a seemingly endless flight of "steps" made of the purple radiance. Ten minutes seems more like ten hours, but at last you have come to what must be your final goal, for the stairs of light give way to more mundane ones of black stone...
[WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun – 29]

From where you stand near the entrance, your iron torches cast only a faint light to where some form lies near the center of the place. This shape is so black that it is absolutely lightless, and it seems to absorb all the radiance from your torches. As was true in the entry chamber, so too here; all is needle-rock. [WG4 – 30]

Klim learned that there were other temples: another in the Sea of Dust, another in the Rakers, and yet another upon the high plateau of the Tilvenot.
Sites keyed to [Tharizdun] still exist, and his relics still hold power. [LGG – 98]
He suspected that there was another, central, and presumably far more powerful temple, betwixt them all, in the Drachensgrab mountains in the Pomarj.
In the Drachensgrabs, there are said to be temples to the dreaded Lost God, Tharizdun. [Dragon #191 – 67]
But where? There were rumours, in that regard:
Huge beetles have been seen along the banks of the upper Jewel River; they are said to radiate a terrible, rotten stench and to have ghastly, skeletal heads. (DM note: Adapt statistics for Death Watch or Slicer beetles, adding the effects of troglodyte musk. The beetles have been transformed/mutated by feeding on ordure of infected neo-otyughs which, in turn, shelter within a deep temple of Tharizdun and are themselves horribly altered—they have tentacles, pincered beaks, and have the special defense of displacement (as per the cloak).) [FTAC – 49]

The Pomarj Peninsula
Stalman convinced his elder brother upon his return that he had discovered the means by which their eventual triumph would be made certain. And Feetla believed him. Although, to give Feetla credit, he never actually believed the Brotherhood’s claim that their only wish was to raise them, true scions of the Suel, to what was their right: suzerainty over the Sea Princes and the Amedio. Naively, Feetla believed that the Brotherhood could be used, even controlled. Poor Feetla. He could not even see that Stalman had become the mastermind behind the whole enterprise.

But how could they gain entry to that den of chaos that was the Pomarj? They turned to the Scarlet Brotherhood for suggestions. The Scarlet Brotherhood claimed that they had already made inroads into the Pomarj.
Ships from the Scarlet Brotherhood, the Lordship of the Isles, the Brotherhood-controlled Hold of the Sea Princes, and many independent pirates make landings in Blue. [Slavers – 87]

A Cunning Assassin and Spymaster
They suggested that they knew just the man who could open a dialogue with the orcs. They did indeed already have one of their own in place: Nerelas, a silent and cunning assassin and spymaster.
Nerelas informed the Klims that he knew of a half-orc who can be used as a go-between: Theg Narlot.
Stalman agreed to meet the half-orc.
Theg is an unattractive half-orc who can easily pass for an ugly human. (When presenting himself to his orcish hordes, he normally uses his Disguise ability to mnke himself look more orcish.) [Slavers – 105]
What’s in it for me? Theg Narlot would surely have asked.
Theg Narlot
We will put you upon the throne of the Pomarj,
Stalman would have promised him. But we will need money to gain our kingdoms, Stalman would have said. A lot of it. Theg Narlot would have been unconvinced, just then, understandably. From where, Theg Narlot would have asked. We can help, Nerelas would have promised, without admitting to any direct connection to his Brotherhood. We will take slaves and sell them to raise the money will need, Stalman would have said, already versed in the Princes’ propensity towards slaving; and Theg Narlot, being little concerned with the life and liberty of those who could not defend themselves from his needs and desires would have agreed, surely, and became the slavers’ master of espionage, searching out the easy prey along the coast, and further afield as they grew more successful, and keeping watch on any and all who might stand in his way of gaining his kingdom of the Pomarj.

Markessa
The slaves needed to be kept somewhere while they awaited their final fate. Theg Narlot would have met with the orcs of Blue and Highport and negotiated their price for safe harbour, and eventually a piece of the action, as those orcs were not blind and could see for themselves the slaves being brought into port.
Pens would be needed, and able keepers, too. But who? I know just the right person, Nerelas would have suggested. An elf. Theg Narlot would have objected. At first. Until he met the maid Markessa. And recognized, in her, a kindred spirit.

Posing as a priest of the Earth Dragon, Stalman plunged inland as ports were secured, and stockades erected, divining where the black heart of the Elder Eye resided. Its beating drew him further inland, until he had scaled the Drachensgrab Mountains, where its throbbing was thunderous in his ears.
Many years ago, the worshipers of Tharizdun conceived a bizarre plan to promote and reinvigorate the power of their religion. Their agents, as insidious as they were insane, infiltrated the ranks of other evil religions. […] Once their agents were in place, they began a campaign of lies, misdirection, and manipulation. [RttToEE – 5]

They took their first slaves as Suderham fell, and were soon trolling ever further out, until they were as far afield and Darkshelf Quarry in Nyrond. But as promising as Suderham was, it was not the heart he sought. It was in, or under, Mount Drachenkopf. It was here, he realized, deep underground. It would take time to unearth, years maybe; and hundreds of lives before he was done. And it was here that he raised his temple to the Earth Dragon, with its secret altar to the Elder Elemental Eye, in exclusive, and reclusive, Kalen Lekos, 

The first conclave was held in Suderham’s halls. In attendance were Stalman Klim, Feetla Klim, Nerelas, and Theg Narlot. And two others:

Kerin
[Brother Milerjoy] and his disciple Brother Kerin mysteriously appeared at the first Council of the Slave Lords. It is an indication of the growing strength of the Scarlet Brotherhood that Brother Milerjoi was immediately accepted into the Council.
[A3 – 20]
Who were these red-robed strangers? Stalman Klim demanded to know.
My brothers from Shar, Nerelas said, for it was he who had brought them. These monks knew secrets known only to the initiates of the Elder Eye, Nerelas said, and it was they who would keep their superiors appraised of their great discoveries within the Pomarj. Their superiors might have included the Father of Obedience, but only insofar as their gains into the Pomarj, and not the Black Brotherhood’s true purpose.
[Brother Kerin] is a man in his mid-[twenties] [mid-thirties in Slavers], average height, and wiry-strong. His hair is blond, his eyes gray, and his skin fair. [Slavers – 104]
[Several groups within the Scarlet Brotherhood] are investigating ways to draw raw magical power from the sites and artifacts believed to be associated with [Tharizdun, but] only citizens on the fringe of Brotherhood society actually revere him.
However, the brotherhood does use Tharizdun’s name as a threat. [SB – 13]
And the Elemental Eye as a leverage tool.

A plan was agreed upon.
The Slavelords
Feetla would command the fleet. He took the name Eanwulf while abroad, to the purpose of foiling pursuit, and not drawing attention to his true Suloise Sea Prince heritage. Most pirates would require an alias, I should imagine, lest they find themselves apprehended while in less than friendly ports, and suffer the same fate of Calico Jack and Edward Teach.
Feetla is a master buccaneer and current leader of the Slave Lords. His daring raids and naval strength have helped the Slave Lords dominate the region. [A3 – 19]
Theg Narlot would send out spies into the Woolly Bay and Gearnat, and keep the orcs in check.
Also in his belt is a scroll listing all of the Slave Lords’ agents among the Lords of the Gearnat area, and an order for the assassination of all the relatives of the adventurers that can be found. Theg Narlot is in charge of all espionage activities for the Slave lords. [A4 – 20]
Nerelas would infiltrate the cities of their enemies, and take what measures he saw fit, as needed.
[Suderham’s assassins] guild will not provide any information concerning the catacombs (“impassable sewers filled with rats”), and will report anyone questioning them on these matters to Nerelas the Assassin, who functions as the local guildmaster - and as one of the Slave Lords. [A3 – 11]
And Stalman would supervise the excavation of the sacred site under the mountain.
Mordrammo is the chief priest of the Temple of the Earth Dragon. He is a strong enemy, but his self-preservation instinct is strong. [A3 – 20]
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. [Dungeon #215 – 32]

In time, their conclave grew in number.
Slippery Ketta
Nerelas invited his sister Ketta, for her skill in infiltrating ports, and to gather information on the defenses of those they thought to raid.
Ketta’s corps of thief infiltrators are present in all the towns along the Sea of Gearnat, and it is through these informants that the slavers always know exactly when to strike. [A4 – 22]
I've suggested in an earlier post that Ketta be slipped into the narrative as early as A0 Danger at Darkshelf Quarry, a friendly face, as it were, and one that might keep tabs on the heroes, eventually betraying them.
Lamonsten

The Brothers invited Ajakstu, a Suel Mage of no small skill, and the illusionist Lamonsten, to weave the phantasms that would instil fear in their captives, not to mention keeping their books.
Ajakstu, the magic-user, has been quite useful to the Slave Lords with [her] staff of power, crystal ball and ring of spell storing. The crystal ball in particular has enabled them to escape traps set for them and eliminate any dissent. [A3 – 19] [As a side note, I preposed in a prior post that we change Ajaksu’s gender, seeing that the Slavelords were a wee bit male heavy.]
In a water proof case on Lamonsten’s back is a deed to mining rights in the hills near Hardby [A4 – 20]

It came to further surprise when an ebon-skinned elf arrived, invited by none other than the Father of Obedience, himself. He and Eclavdra have an understanding. They both wish to sow confusion upon the Flanaess, each for their own reason, and Eclavdra has agreed to send her protégé to aid the Father, in that regard. [That’s thin ice, but I cannot come up with a better reason.]
Edralve is an exile from Erelhei Cinlu, from which she barely escaped after an abortive coup. The other Slave Lords both respect her abilities and fear her devious cruelty. She devised the morale-breaking fear tactics employed by the slavers in their raids. [A4 – 20]

Stalman was not pleased. Here, in his midst, was a cleric of the Elder Elemental God, a presumed rival to his Elemental Eye. Edralve would surely not aide him in his quest.
She did not. She placed her own agent, the thief Sturm “Dirk” Buckholtz, in Highport. Stalman placed his acolyte Pieta there to counter Sturm, instructing her to pose as a cleric of Grummsh, to draw support from the orcs there.

We come abreast of the events in the original series.
Brubgrok
Anarchy persisted for decades until the mid 560s, when a group arose to seize control of large swaths of the Pomarj and put it under central authority. Calling themselves the Slave Lords, these humans brokered deals with the orc chieftains and began fostering an illicit trade in flesh.
[LGG – 88]
For several years, organized bands of pirates and slavers have made a living by raiding the coastal towns on the Sea of Gearnat. Ranging from Onnwal to the Wild Coast, they have descended quickly and ruthlessly on the small towns and villages, and carried off innocent citizens into the night. [A1 – 2]
This includes the sleepy town of Darkshelf, not so far from Onnwal.
A quarry located a half-mile from the village of Darkshelf (so named for the dark, stony seabed in the harbor), on the coast of the Sea of Gearnat in Nyrond, has been producing modest amounts of granite and limestone for decades. [A0 – 6]
The Temple
The half-orc is part of a growing network of slavers who are taking captives and funneling them to the despoiled city of Highport in the Pomarj. Brubgrok acts as a broker, buying slaves from bands of slavers and hiding them in the depths of the quarry until they can be shipped to Highport.
[A0 – 6]
Brubgrok being a half-orc is fitting. He is Theg's "man" on the scene. Whether he is annoyed that the Slavers foisted acolytes of the Elemental Eye on him is anyone's guess. I would suggest that he is not, but what's a half-orc to do. He's following orders, and what Theg wants, Theg gets.
Brubgrok brought in a small group of evil clerics to assist him with his operations. The clerics worship an unspeakably evil god they refer to as the Elder Elemental Eye, or simply the Eye. [A0 – 19]
Not the Earth Dragon. Not Grummsh, either. The Elemental Eye.

We know the story that follows. Heroes are gathered, etc.
[Our heroes] have entered the no-man's land that is the Pomarj in the attempt to track the slavers to their lair. In the course of your adventures, you received information that the next bastion of the slavers was in the Drachensgrab Mountains. After many fruitless attempts at following parties of slaves and slavers, you discovered that they disappeared beneath one great peak in the Drachensgrab Hills. [A3 – 2]
The heroes awake in the bowls of Drachen Keep, the Mount Flamenblut, and must race for their lives to escape the supposed wrath of the Earth Dragon, and ultimately confront the last of the surviving Slavelords.
Or not.
If you were playing this back in the day, it surely was their end…because it was.
But this was not the end, was it…?

In the hidden city of Suderham, in the maw of Mt. Flamenlut, they confronted the masters [,] vanquished their foes and scattered them to the four corners of the Flanaess, the mountain woke, its fiery blood. [Slavers – 2]

Ajakstu
Vanquished is not necessarily dead, is it? We know now that many of the Slavelords did survive. Markessa did. So did Theg Narlot. Not to mention Kerin. Our original heroes may have survived their ordeal, but they did not put an end to the Slavelords. They escaped, and plotted their return.

And Ajakstu? If you recall, I suggested that he become a she, and that she be LN and not the unspecified evil expected. Did she survive A3? Did she, could she, betray her assigned cause, assigned to her by the Scarlet Sign? Was she killed by her co-conspirators for her betrayal?

More importantly, what happened to Stalman and Feetla?
If you recall, they had a fortress from which to plot, in Jeklea Bay.
The heroes had the Slavers on the run, and if they had discovered Stalman Klim’s true intent, they would have realized that he and those members of the Black Brotherhood who had toiled to return Tharizdun would have been the true threat, and spared no effort in tracking them down.
In this location-based adventure, the adventurers explore a ruined monastery to hunt down the last surviving Slave Lord, Mordrammo, also known as Stalman Klim. The priest of the Earth Dragon has arranged for a Scarlet Brotherhood wizard named Geoffrey to watch over the monastery until the clone finishes growing. Klim regards the wizard and his lackeys as expendable. When Klim awakens in his new body, he plans to fetch his treasure and quit the place for safe harbor in Cauldron by way of his pet wyverns. [Dungeon #215 – 33]

They failed.
Stalman Klim foiled their every attempt to put an end to his plans.
And in their hast to chase Klim, they underestimated Theg Narlot’s potential threat.
The Slavelords escaped. And in time, they returned, better prepared than ever.

Who are the new Slave Lords?
Stalman Klim P 16
Stalman Klim
Doomdreamers are the elite among the ranks of the cult of Tharizdun. The name comes from that they all claim to have been contacted by the Dark God in their dreams. They are all extremely evil, raving lunatics or sadistic, brooding and cruel individuals of singular corruption. All doomdreamers are masters of ancient, forbidden knowledge and madness, and devotees of nihilism.
[…] They travel far and wide, however, working out the steps of their mysterious, convoluted plans to bring their deity out of imprisonment. They know that such an act would bring an end to the world—but they do not care. In fact, they are so mad that they revel in the thought of it. [RttToEE – 162]
In their studies of forbidden lore, doomdreamers stumble upon all sorts of foul but useful knowledge and secrets. Some of these come from experimenting with dangerous drugs, speaking with demons, or mad visions. [RttToEE – 163]
Smoke of Little Death: During […] magical slumber, those [under the influence] of the oil’s effect [experience] strange and vivid dreams. Priests […] say they commune with their god during this sleep, while others report nightmare visions. [Slavers – 127]

Markessa Elf F12/M13
When out of her house, Markessa is accompanied at all times by her bodyguard and lover, a man named Devon who was once horribly scarred but now looks quite attractive because of the work she has done. He would sacrifice himself to protect her. [Slavers – 104]

The Slave Lords
Brother Kerin 
Mon 10
Brother Kerin’s home has three bedrooms and three full-time servants. In addition to the normal uses of a home, he occasionally entertains emissaries from the Scarlet Brotherhood here; there is a 35% chance for any given week that he has a guest—, a monk, assassin, or thief agent of the Scarlet Brotherhood of 7th level or higher. [Slavers – 103]

Theg Narlot/Turrosh Mak Half-orc F10/Ass12
Tall, with a strong body, he is starting to go gray at the temples and probably will be considering retirement in the next few years, as he is middle-aged for a half-or'. Still, he is a ruthless and intelligent wamior, and he will nor hesitate to use every dirty trick he knows to keep himself alive. He will try to kill anyone who dares to attack him. [Slavers – 105]

Unjan F10; AL LN
Unjan, a former paladin of Mayaheme, was involved in the Great Northern Crusade to reclaim the Shield Lands lost to the evil demigod's armies during the Greyhawk Wars. Shocked by the horrors inflicted upon the land and its people, he somehow acquired a perverse desire to collect trophies and ocher loot from reclaimed Shield Lands territories. This activity soon began to threaten his paladin vows of charity and poverty, and when he disregarded warnings, he lost his paladinhood and became a normal fighter. Now Unjan is obsessed—almost maniacally so—with collecting riches and displaying them in his home. He is not a thief, for he is more than willing to barter for or purchase items that catch his interest. Other than this quirk, he is a friendly man with field-tested knowledge of naval and infantry tactics. He was recruited by the Slavelords because of this expertise. He made the alliance because of the treasures he'd he able to obtain through the Slavelords' ~extensive contacts. [Slavers – 105, 106]

Ah-Bay Half-Ogre F8/P8 (of Beltar); AL CE
Ah-Bey himself is a half-ogre priest of Beltar, and he represents the religious interests of the humanoids in the slaving operations. Born of a human mother, he was abandoned to an orphanage and raised under the careful scrutiny of the other orphans and the stern priests of St. Curhbert. After fleeing their repeated attempts to "knock some sense into him," he lived on the meets of Greyhawk for several years and finally traveled into the Orcish Empire of the Pomarj in an attempt to learn more about his nonhuman heritage. He was taken in by a group of ogres and mined by the tribe's priest. Respected for his intelligence and significant strength […], he was a natural choice for the Slavelords as a representative of the spiritual life of the humanoid tribes. [Slavers – 106]
The temple [of Beltar] is strongly supported by the Scarlet Brotherhood, and the priests make weekly sacrifices to this foul goddess. [Slavers – 93]

Kent Halfling T10; AL NE
He also is a cunning schemer and financier, and is responsible for many of the underground and "gray market" contacts the Slavelords use in Dyvers and Hardby. He rarely leaves the city, but sends his agents (such as the halfling Gormadoc in Hardby) to other cities to speak on his behalf and gather news. [Slavers – 106]

Nadanru M14; AL N
He comes from the Lordship of the Ides (a subsidiary stater to the Scarlet Brotherhood) [….] Nadanni is the master of communication for the Slavelords. He relays information to the various leaders of the operation via his magic [….] When not working, he is not communicative and prefers to just sleep, avoiding mast of the people in town and the other Slavelords. If confronted by a hostile bunch of adventurers, he will surrender if given the choice, explaining that he was only hired to rend messages and could not disobey because his family is being held as insurance for his cooperation (mostly true--the Scarlet Brotherhood controls his homeland, and if he refused this assignment, they might threaten his family to get him to agree to work). [Slavers – 107]

Stalman Klim continues to pose as a priest of the Earth Dragon, and has manipulated the demigod’s Flannae acolytes to his cause. Should our new heroes convince these faithful of Stalman’s true intent, they could become allies in their cause. (Okay, maybe not Rofa.)

Torwil
Torwil
is a powerful priest of the Earth Dragon Cult, second only to Stalman Klim himself. Torwil presents a pleasant exterior and makes friends easily, but is in truth a skilled manipulator, using people for his own purposes and betraying them m such a way thar they cannot reveal his duplicity. It is through this method that he became the high priest of the Earth Dragon Cult shortly after Stalman Klim vanished in the destruction of Suderham. […]
Torwil is a man in early middle age, small and wiry. His hair is brown brit graying at the temples, and his eyes and skin are somewhat dark. [Slavers – 116]

Sham is a dedicated priestess of the Earth Dragon and a strong supporter of Stalman Klim. She has an aggressive personality but treats underlings fairly, showing her hard side only when crossed. It is she who pushed for educating the orcs in the teachings of the Earth Dragon, and she is largely responsible for winning them over despite their natural bias against females. […]
Shav has bronzed skin, black hair, and amber eyes. [Slavers – 116]

Rofa is an introspective priestess who feels that she has an especially strong connection with the Earth Dragon. […]
Rofa is relatively young, with brown-black hair. coppery akin, and dark brown eyes. […]
In her room are a number of letters from Markessa (the real one), with whom she is close friends. [Slavers – 117]

Long Sought
Insofar as Stalman’s purpose, perhaps his excavations beneath Mount Drachenkopf have paid off, and he has unearthed the temple he has long sought.
Our heroes descend into its depths, and behold a chilling evil, more ominous than anything they could have imagined.
Although Tharizdun’s time has long since passed, his temples remain dens of evil. This cavern and the temple beyond were enchanted by powerful divine magic to radiate a terrible cold. As a result, the temperature in this cave hovers at just below -10° F. [Dungeon #85 – 43]

This large cavern Is a thing of cold beauty. The entire place is covered with a fine coating of frost. Frozen puddles dot the floor, and thankfully there isn't a spot of scarlet fungus to be seen. The ceiling looms out of sight. Despite the quiet of this immense cavern, the sight of il fills you with chills and feelings of despair and fear. Perhaps it is merely the unnatural cold, or perhaps it is something far more sinister lurking within the darkness before you. [Dungeon #85 – 43]

This place is COLD. Exposed flesh immediately [freezes]. Torches must likewise be clasped by means of the robe sleeve covering the hand, although the heat of their burning cones helps to keep the adventurers from suffering more than chilblains. [WG4 – 18]

In the hemisphere of black needlerock (floating as if by levitation) a huge form could be seen. […] The misty form was black and indistinct and enclosed in vaporous purple energy as well. No ritual, no spell, no magic could pierce the enigma. [WG4 – 3]

The name of Tharizdun will rise unbidden to the individual's lips whenever he or she is under stress and needs aid. [WG4 – 18]



There you have it, my reimagined backstory of the Slavers epic. I wonder if I patched the holes I believe plague the originals. Maybe I did; maybe I didn't. I must say that it was fun tinkering with the story, but I'm wont to do such things. And I expect you are too, some of you, at least. After all, the old modules were modular, and were meant to be tinkered with, I should think.
Enough said.
I pray you enjoyed it.

Am I done with the A-series?
No.
I've mentioned that Carlos Lising of casl Entertainment has added his own sequels to the series. I'll deal with those in turn, but not to the same degree that I did these classic adventures. His are new, and spoilers would assuredly spoil them, if you understand me.




“In each of us, two natures are at war – the good and the evil. All our lives the fight goes on between them, and one of them must conquer. But in our own hands lies the power to choose – what we want most to be we are.”
― Robert Louis Stevenson, "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde"







One must always give credit where credit is due. This History is made possible primarily by the Imaginings of Gary Gygax and his Old Guard, Lenard Lakofka among them, and the new old guards, Carl Sargant, James Ward, Roger E. Moore. And Erik Mona, Gary Holian, Sean K. Reynolds, Chris Pramas, 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.
An object lesson of the Scarlet Brotherhood, by Vince Locke, from Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
The Last Slave Lord "cover" art, by Noah Bradley, from Dungeon Magazine #215, 2013
Theg Narlot/Turrosh Mak detail, by Wayne Reynolds, from Slavers, 2000
Markessa by Mike Lowe, mli13, originally from A0-4 Against the Slavers, 2013
The-Slave-Lords by Francis Navarro, francisrpnavarro, originally from A0-4 Against the Slavers, 2013
Brubgrok, by Rich Longmore, from A0-4 Against the Slavers (A0 Dander at Darkshelf Quarry), 2013
The Temple, by Rich Longmore, from A0-4 Against the Slavers (A0 Dander at Darkshelf Quarry), 2013
The Slave Lords, by Wayne Reynolds, from Slavers, 2000



Sources:
1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1979
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
9039A A0 Danger at Darkshelf Quarry, 2013
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
9065 WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun, 1982
9112 WG5 Mordenkainen’s Fantastic Adventure, 1984
9147 T1-4 The Temple of Elemental Evil, 1985
9167 A1-4 Scourge of the Slavelords, 1986
A0-4 Against the Slave Lords, 2013
11374 The Scarlet Brotherhood, 1999
11621 Slavers, 2000
Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, 2001
Dragon Magazine #294
Dungeon Magazine #85, #215, #221
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000

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