Friday 30 December 2022

On Purmill

“The Lord had given them the day and the Lord had given them the strength. And the day and the strength had been dedicated to labor, and the labor was its reward. Who was the labor for? What would be its fruits? These were irrelevant and idle questions.”
― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

An incessant wind rips across the far north. It matters not from whence it blows, for indeed, there can be but only two sources: from the Icy Sea to the north or the snow-packed peaks of the Griff mountains. In either event, it blows and strips the lifeblood from the bone. It is no wonder, then, that those who dwell under their confluence are a dour folk, pragmatic, as pitiless as the perpetual rustle of its gusting.
A frigid climate and brutal regime combine to make Stonehold one of the harshest lands in all the Flanaess. […] The majority of Stoneholders live a seminomadic existence, moving to the northern tundra in summer and migrating south in the autumn. The remaining third or so of the population dwell in permanent settlements, mostly west of the Frozen River. [LGG – 108, 109]
Frozen River: A swift flow running mainly north from the Griff Mountains through the lands of Stonefist to empty into White Fanged Bay. [WoGA – 54]
This river flows from headwaters in the Griffs to White Fanged Bay and freezes over during the winter months along much of its length. It is rich in fish and krill. [FtAA – 64]

One would think little of Purmill and its low profile of rock walls and mossy thatch astride the Frozen River upon first sight. Little distinguishes it from its environs, the heath and heather, the bare outcrops camouflaged with lichen. It’s a grey and gloomy place, shrouded by long shadows stretching out from the lofty Griffs. But it is more than the sum of its thatch. It was once a seat of power, lording over the windswept northeast, guarding against Tenh and what might flow out of the mountains.
The Griff Mountains
As the name implies, the peaks of these mountains are the habitat of many monstrous creatures. The Griff range extends from the western terminus of the Corusks at Hraak Pass, southwest and west for over 100 leagues. These mountains divide the Hold of Stonefist from the Duchy of Tenh and the Theocracy of the Pale below. Being only a trifle lower than the Corusks, the Griff Mountains are similarly uninviting to human settlement, although there are some sprinkled here and there, for these mountains do contain valuable mineral deposits. There is supposedly a small and beautiful land in the heart of this range. Ruled by a powerful prince, and protected from all invasions by magic and might, this tiny realm is said to have buildings roofed in copper and silver, gold used as lead is elsewhere, and jewels lying about on the ground.
[WoGA – 52]
Few southerners believe the tales of the prince of the Griff Mountains. How could such a kingdom exist when the Griffs are teeming with horrors?
The Griffs contain more monsters, with ogres, various types of troll, and ever-hungry griffons especially noteworthy. White puddings are also a feature of the Griffs. There is reputed to be a great subterranean orcish city, Garel Enkdal, within the Griffs [….] [FtAA – 58]
The rumours persisted, though, about that fabled kingdom in the Griff mountains.
It is commonly held that the Flan peoples of eastern Oerik were simple tribesmen before the events that led to the Suel and Oeridian migrations. There remain to be explained certain ruins found in the Griff and Corusk Mountains. The massive stone foundations, straight level roads, and flattened or terraced areas of mountainside seem from the proportions of the rarely preserved doorways to be intended for creatures of human size, and it seems unlikely that elves or humanoids would have had the inclination to produce such works. What is more, the occasional jade carvings and green ceramic figurines found both at these sites and occasionally in rivers flowing out of the mountains show a people of Flannish features and dress, and there remain in the Duchy of Tenh and among the Coltens stories of a powerful mountain state of Flannish race. Perhaps the dwarves of the region know more, but if so they show the typical reticence of demi-human races concerning prehistoric events. [GA – 97]
What might those kingdoms be? Sagas and legends refer to them as Tostencha and Skrellingshald. Legends they remain, for few who’ve ventured into the Corusks and Griffs have ever returned. What is true is that they have never spoken of such kingdoms. Nor do the dour northerners speak of them, either; but in the long winters, they tell their own tales of those dark days of yore in halting whispers. Of Tostencha and Keraptis.

Some two thousand years ago, the wizard Keraptis established himself as "protector" of Tostenhca—a grand mountainside city of wide streets and towering ziggurats. But the wizard, who had extended his lifespan far beyond that of most mortals in his search for immortality, became more and more corrupt with increasing age. Over four centuries, the cost of his protection grew ever more burdensome, until eventually Keraptis was taking a piece of everything that the people of Tostenhca grew, made, or sold.
[Return to White Plume Mountain – 9]

Nearly 1300 years ago, in a time when the Flan tribes still dominated eastern Oerik, the archwizard Keraptis rose to power in the lands abutting the southern Rakers, and while most historians agree that the mage’s kingdom encompassed what is now known as the Bone March, a few scholars believe the territories that later became Ratik and the Pale were part of this empire as well.
Yet, as is well documented in the little known Legend of Keraptis, the archwizard was a cruel man, so brutal in fact that, near the end of his reign, he demanded his tormented subjects turn over to him one-third of their newborn children as part of their taxes. [Dragon #241 – 77]
With the announcement of yet another levy—one-third of all newborn children—the people rose as one, ousting Keraptis and his personal bodyguard of deranged gnomes. [RtWPM– 9]
Had the Coltens been a meek and craven people they might never have risen up from Keraptis’ yoke. But they did. It is unlikely that sedition began within cowed Tostencha. From where then? The foothills, likely, where Keraptis’ grip was less firm. From Tenh. From the Colten hills.
The peasants did not take this atrocity lightly, and under the leadership of the high priest Gethrun Shoiraine and his ranger followers, the kingdom of the tyrant-mage was sundered. [Dragon #241 – 77]
[The] people rose as one, ousting Keraptis and his personal bodyguard of deranged gnomes. [RtWPM – 3]
Why do they still only whisper the name Keraptis? Because Keraptis had ruled over all he saw with unparalleled cruelty, cruelty they themselves learned well, by necessity; but despite their fierce nature, they were ever wary, fearing his return.
White Plume Mountain
Three hundred years after leaving Tostenhca, Keraptis learned of a great volcano called White Plume Mountain, in which still-living druids of the Elder Age guarded the secrets of immortality. Within the volcano, the wizard found a tangled maze of lava tunnels and an ancient druid serving as the sole protector of Elder secrets. The two fought a titanic battle for ownership of White Plume Mountain and its ancient mysteries, but in the end the wizard prevailed. After casting the druid's remains into a sea of magma, the triumphant Keraptis penetrated to the Druid's Fane, a secret chamber protected by molten rock.
There, among other treasures of ancient sorcery, he found the archetypal iceblade Frostrazor and an enigmatic statuette. Keraptis used the figurine’s power to pronounce a heinous curse that laid waste to distant Tostenhca, thus exacting his revenge at last. [RtWPM – 3,4]

Their fierceness was tempered, though. The Old Faith was strong here, as were the Druids who guided the people through the harsh winters, protecting the firs and the heath from without, and from the seasonal incursions and feints that inevitably flowed down from the heights that loomed over them.
WORLD OF GREYHAWK® campaign (Flanaess only): Beory and Obad-Hai, the latter also known as “The Shalm,” are the major gods of the druids here. [Dragon #209 – 11]
Arctic druid: WG: Thillonrian Peninsula (on which lies the Griff, and Corusk Mountains).
Forest druid (cold): WG: forests along Thillonrian Peninsula (Hraak). [Dragon #209 – 13]
Mountain druid: WG: Corusk-Griff-Rakers chain [Dragon #209 – 14]

c. 430 CY
So it remained for millennia. The Coltens were an isolated nation, a forgotten people. And they might have remained as much if not for one man: Vlek Col Vlekzed.
Vlek Col Vlekzed
Vlek Col Vlekzed, called Stonefist, was a ruthless bandit who had been cast out from the Rovers of the Barrens for his vice and cruelty, and left to wander the fringes of his homeland for several years. Over that time, he gathered a large following of evil men, even sacking one of the old Bandit Kingdoms and carrying away most of its population. Vlek moved them beyond White Fanged Bay, where he established the fortified town of Vlekstaad.
[LGG – 109]
Was Vlekzed a Rover? Of course not. What sane man would look to conquer the frozen north when the opulence of Tenh lay within his grasp?
The forces of Tenh, which had never been strong in the region, were unable to dislodge him. [LGG – 113]
Vlek returned home to the land of his weening when he was cast out by the Rovers. For it was there, he knew, that he could forge a weapon for revenge.
Stonefist, then Vlek Col Vlekzed, founded his chiefdom in approximately 430 CY. […] [Folio – 16]
The banished son had returned.
This infamous warrior was a menace throughout the region for several years, finally choosing to build a settlement on the border of the Coltens Feodality. The Cohens were still vassals of the duke of Tenh, though their atamans had great latitude in determining their own affairs. [LGG – 113]
And he meant to have his revenge on them for having banished him.
The Coltens were very uneasy with his presence in their land, but Vlek promised a truce and offered to negotiate with their leaders.  [LGG – 109]
Vlek also knew that he might not live long if he did not cut off the Coltens’ head before it had time to plan, and to act.
The Coltens
The inhabitants of the area, the Coltens Feodality, were tricked into negotiation with Vlek. These negotiators and their escorting force were slaughtered, the remainder of the Coltens host routed by surprise and ferocity, and Vlek settled down to rule over the whole territory. As Vlek's infamy spread, malcontents from many nations came to his standard, despite his new name of Stonefist (implying both a terrible foeman and an inflexible ruler).
[Folio – 16]
These negotiators and their escorting force were slaughtered, the remainder of the Cohens host routed by surprise and ferocity, and Vlek settled down to rule over the whole territory. As Vlek's infamy spread, malcontents from many nations came to his standard, despite his new name of Stonefist (implying both a terrible foeman and an inflexible ruler). [WoGG – 36]
It was from here that Vlek forged his weapon.
Not all shared his vision, though.
The Coltens folk had no place in this hierarchy, and many fled to the Hraak Forest, or beyond the Big Seal Bay and the northern thrust of the Corusks to dwell in the Taival Tundra, in the land of the Ice Barbarians). [LGG – 109]

Thus it was that the Hold of Stonefist was born, and the seat of power shifted from Purmill to Vlekstaad.
"Rite of Battle Fitness." 
The descendants of Vlek (he had 219 wives and 351 male children who survived to maturity) compete in a bi-annual "Rite of Battle Fitness." The winner may challenge the Master, one of the Atamen of the three towns, or lead a warband and become a chief. The surviving losers join the standing warbands (the "Fists"), those who did best becoming chieftains, sub-chiefs, and leaders of raiding bands. These savage war and raiding bands commonly raid Fruztii, Tenh, and even the Rovers of the Barrens. About 30% or so of the population of the Hold dwell in permanent settlements, and from these people are drawn the bulk of the footmen. Most of the balance of the population are semi-nomadic, moving into the northern tundra in the summer, and migrating south in the fall. From these people come the horsemen and light infantry of the "Fists."
[Folio – 16]

The harshness of the rule and the severe tests placed upon those desiring to do so have combined with the unfavorable climate of the Hold of Stonefist to keep it from becoming a serious threat to its neighbors. [Dragon #57 – 13]

500s – 570s CY
The Hold might never have been a serious threat, but they harried the Rovers and Tenh, the Bandits and the Rhizians; indeed, they ventured as far as the fleetness of their fleet and the Icy Sea allowed, unto the shores of Blackmoor and those of the Nomads.
The armies of Stonehold are comprised of "Fists", war bands of about 250 fighters, of either infantry or cavalry. The bulk of heavy infantry is drawn from the settlements, while the tundra and forest dwellers provide most of the light infantry and cavalry. [LGG – 109]
Cavalry is not unknown on the western tundra, but few tundra-dwellers are Ice Barbarians, most having Flan ancestry and being related to the Coltens of Stonehold. [LGG – 54]
Let it be understood that the Fists and the Coltens were not the same.
The Coltens, despite generations of servitude to the invaders, have slowly emerged as a competing form of leadership, offering their method of election of the most popular warrior as an alternative to the Rite of Battle Fitness. So many aspiring leaders were slain in the often-useless raids of the latter method that its proponents have grown scarce. [Dragon #57 – 14]
The Coltens saw that just as the Rite of Battle Fitness was meant to hone the blade of Stonehold it also weakened it. And as it weakened, the Coltens began to rise up.
The Hold was then divided between those who followed the laws laid down by Vlek Col Vlekzed, and those who claimed that Stonefist’s methods are no longer appropriate and the Coltens Feodality should be restored. The nomads and settlers west and around the Frozen River championed the ways of Stonefist. The population around Kelten and the Hraak Forest wished to establish new forms of leadership. [Dragon #57 – 13]

577 CY
Sevvord Redbeard’s defence against the barbarians was hampered by this sedition, which led to the Barbarians making greater gains than anticipated. Left alone the Barbarians would surely sack Purmill and then Bastra and Vlekstaad, each in turn.
When Ratik and the Fruztii made peace, the subsequent battles for the Kelten Pass brought several telling defeats to “fists” led by the descendant warband leaders. [Dragon #57 – 13,14]
And with his attention turned to the east, Purmill lay vulnerable to Tenh.
[B]oth southern passes to the rich state of Tenh and the lands of the Fruztii were closed to all but a major effort. A major effort was impossible because of the near-revolt of the eastern (mainly Coltens-descendant) bands under Ataman Dyerg Keda […] and supported by over a dozen chieftains and subchiefs. [Dragon #57 – 13]
Seuvord Redbeard, being both tough and intelligent, refused to be drawn into a civil war, for then the surrounding enemies of the Hold would surely take the opportunity offered and destroy the remnants of the state. [Dragon #57 – 13]
Though Sevvord might not be engaged in a civil war, he had need that the strength of Purmill be applied to keep this Dyerg Keda in check while he regained Kelten from the Rhizians. With his Fists so far east, the Hold was open to the razing of the Rovers.
The Rovers of the Barrens were undoubtedly gaining in numbers once again, so no easy raiding prospects existed to the west. [Dragon #57 – 13]
Stretched as thinly as he was, it was only a matter of time until Tenh came to call.
Duke Ehyeh II of Tenh
In 577, the Duke began early actions to the north, working into the mountains and fortifying the southern end of Rockegg Pass, some 20 leagues above Catbut.
[Dragon # 56 – 21]
Strong action by the Duchy of Tenh in the Rockegg Pass was successful due to the division amongst the peoples of the Hold. “Fist” units — warbands consisting of five “fingers” of some 25 fighters each, plus a “palm” of about 75 to 150 —counter-attacking the Tennese fought without quarter and did considerable harm. But their attacks were too disorganized and their numbers too few to cause the Ducal army real concern. Of the two dozen warbands which responded to the Tennese action, over half were killed to a man. Only the arrival of over 2,000 light cavalry and about half that number of light infantry from northern tundra of the Hold prevented the Tennese from moving into the interior and taking Purmill. The Ducal troops under Marshal laba numbered 500 cavalry and 5,000 foot. [Dragon #57 – 13]
The Duke was himself killed in fighting against the Holders, whose units of “fists” resisted with great ferocity the closing of the pass. Despite the death of their leader, the Tennese (now under Marshal laba) finished what their liege had willed, thus effectively securing the Duchy on two sides. [Dragon # 56 – 21]

What kept his Ataman’s loyal, Sevvord wondered? Fear? Certainly. That was well and good; but Sevvord knew that if he and his were to keep hold of the Hold he would require more than mere fear. He required legacy. And sovereignty.
As Seuvord also wished his own line to retain the Mastership of the Hold as a hereditary right, he called a great council at Purmill, with safe conduct for all who attended.
Many observers were surprised that all of the principal leaders of the Hold took part in the convocation, but those aware of the cleverness of Seuvord knew that he was certainly responsible for the showing. What was put forth at the council by Seuvord Redbeard was that the Hold must adapt to the changes taking place and the new alliances against its people. He asked the assembled leaders to grant him the hereditary title of Rhelt; he asked that Atamen also be made hereditary leaders, and also that the chief men of each area be given the right to elect the warband leaders. The Rite of Battle Fitness was not to be done away with, however. Instead, it would qualify warriors for service in the standing army to be formed immediately, with those of exceptional capabilities to be made leaders, companions of the Rhelt, or even war chiefs whose right it would be to expand the realm through conquest and occupation.
There was considerable dissension, particularly from the direct descendants of Stonefist, but enough of them, as well as of the nomadic chieftains, agreed to Seuvord’s proposal to sway the entire assembly. [Dragon #57 – 13,14]

578 CY
The old Duke of Tenh dead, the new duke desired security from his most hated enemy, the Hold of Stonefist.
At a convocation in Nevond Nevend during Neefest, 578, Ehyeh III was crowned Duke, and the Tennese celebrated greatly. The old Duke’s son was more warlike than his doughty father, and his early training as a fighter on the frontiers made Ehyeh III particularly anxious to secure all avenues against invasion. [Dragon # 56 – 21]

Rhelt Seuvord I of Stonehold / Sevvord
He need not have worried. Not yet, anyway, because Sevvord was busy securing his own domain, just then.
In CY 578, shortly after Tenh had coronated its new Duke, the Master of the Hold became Rhelt Seuvord I of Stonehold. [Dragon #57 – 14]
The Hold of Stonefist was also renamed. Now openly calling itself Stonehold, this quasi-kingdom is composed of four Atamanships: Vlekstaad (west), Pumull (south), Kelten (east), and Bastro (north). Four Great Chieftains were named, each equal to an Ataman (Reindeer, White Bear, Walrus, and Forest [Hraak] People). Stonehold has become a force that is greatly feared by all in this region. [TAB – 23]
Several of his cousins took ill from a mysterious flux shortly after the coronation, and about a dozen others were reported fleeing into the Griff Mountains with a small band of loyal followers. [Dragon #57 – 14]

582 CY
He had need to. His spies informed him that Tenh was treating with his other enemies, the Rhyzians and Ratik. What he did not know was that they were trespassing upon his sparsely populated realm.
Duke Ehyeh has become noticeably more friendly to the Frost Barbarians of late. As the actions of Ratik and the Frost Barbarians stir up the Bone March, this causes trouble for the Great Kingdom and for the Theocracy of the Pale. Both states have hostile attitudes toward the Duchy. In view of this, Ehyeh discreetly allows Frost Barbarian emissaries across his lands to organize shipments of weapons from 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 at Kelten. The trade is discreet, but everyone knows about it. [WGS1 – 6]
It was a dangerous trek, transporting weapons to Kelten, so close to Purmill, still a Fist stronghold. Those that did were jumpy, sure every rustle of branch and snap of a twig was the harbinger of death. But the way must be kept open, and “safe.” Or as safe as it could be….
[A] man dressed in green, loose-fitting clothing jumps up from the bushes. He screams meaningless words of caution and death at them, and then he runs away to the south, in the general direction of the Griff Mountains. [WGS2 – 15]
He is a forward scout for Ratik [….] He was sent to scout out the best possible paths to attack the Hold of Stonefist and the Frost Barbarians. After Ratik conquers the North Province, they plan to lay claim to the whole eastern section of the continent. [WGS2 – 15]

584 CY
The War passed by Purmill and the Tundra after Vatun’s “return.” With most of the Fists away, the Barbarians held Kelten with ease. But try as they might Purmill eluded them. Indeed, the remainder of the Hold held them at bay.
And so it remained. Peace had come to the furthest north. If raiding and assassinations and sedition can be called Peace.
Until Iuz, distracted, delirious with the Death he had unleashed, lost hold of the Stonefist.
The Fists Return
[D]uring a period of Suel raids into Stonehold, the magical affliction of Reword Redbeard was ended. Without knowing why, he exploded in a rage that would have killed a lesser man. He gathered the Fists from across Tenh, having them first kill all the clerics of Iuz within their reach, and any locals they could quickly find; then, leaving only a rearguard to occupy Calbut, Nevond Nevnend, and the territory north of the Zumkend River, he returned in force to Stonehold. His army drove the barbarians back from Kelten and secured the pass, while he returned to Vlekstaad with his personal guard.
[LGG – 109]
War had returned to the Hold.
And held dominion as it had not for years.
Kelten and Purmill are more important in the affairs of Stonehold, especially in light of the ongoing warfare with the Suel barbarians. [LGG – 110]
Revenge is widely sought against the northern barbarians for the burning of Vlekstaad, but Iuz's forces are hated even more. Conspiracies are suspected between Iuz and several war band leaders to gain control of Stonehold. Murders of war band leaders (by their fellows) are on the rise. [LGG – 110]

589 CY
Purmill (Pop 1,900)
Resources: […] silver, gems (I)
Population: 55,000 [Stonehold]—Human 96% (FS), Orc 2%, Dwarf 1%, Other 1%
Languages: Flan dialects, Common, Cold Tongue Alignments: CE*, CN, N
Religions: Erythnul*, Syrul, Beltar, Beory, Obad-Hai [LGG – 108]

It appears that Sevvord’s war will rage so long as there are Barbarians within striking distance.
Territorial disputes with Stonehold that predated the wars were finally brought to a head three years ago, when a combined host of Cruski and Schnai entered the eastern hold. They were unable to capture the town of Kelten, but the Cruski reinforced their control of the Taival Tundra. [LGG – 55]
That will be for some time to come….
[The Schnai’s] alliance with Ratik is less cemented than that of the Cruskii, but Ingemar seems amenable to continued cooperation after the events of the Wars. He also has great hatred for the Stonefisters, and wishes to mount a joint expedition with the other barbarian races through the Griff Mountains to lay waste to Kelten. Time will tell if this comes to fruition. [FtAA – 37]

Calbut is busy, with weapons and equipment brought in from the Bandit Lands passing north. In return, the Fists trade platinum and food for it. The priests and mages of Iuz also keep a careful watch on their allies. Sevvord Redbeard himself sometimes visits from Vlekstaad or Purmill, and occasionally the city walls ring with cheers as captured Frost barbarians are dragged in chains into Calbut. However, there are often more dangerous visitations. Hill giants and ogres still storm Calbut's walls with rocks from time to time and flights of griffons attack men and riders outside the city, but Iuz's mages are usually equal to such threats. [WGR5 – 69]

Two former allies, Iuz and the Fists of Stonehold, are now at each other's throat. The Fists occupy a strong defensive position in the cities of Nevond Nevnend and Calbut across the Zumkend River, guarding Rockegg Pass through the Griffs against all other groups in Tenh. [LGG – 112]

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:
The Hold of Stonefist, by Ken Frank, from WGS2 Howl from the North, 1991

1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
1068 Greyhawk Wars Boxed Set, 1991
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
2023 Greyhawk Adventures Hardback, 1988
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
9317 WGS1, The Five Shall be One, 1991
9337 WGS2, Howl from the North, 1991
11434 Return to White Plume Mountain, 1999
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
Living Greyhawk Journal, #3
Dragon Magazine 55,56,57,209 241
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer

Friday 23 December 2022

The Wind Dukes of Aaqa


“It is indeed a mistake to confuse children with angels”
― Douglas Coupland, Hey Nostradamus!

The Wind Dukes of Aaqa
Mysteries abound in Greyhawk:
Tales of the era before the migrations are fragmentary and poorly understood. Did monstrous creatures rule Oerik before the advent of humanity? Did the great races of humans, elves, dwarves, and the like arise by fiat of the gods or journey here from elsewhere? Did the elves raise humanity to civilization, or did humans achieve this on their own? Did the Flan once have their own empires and civilizations? Who built the oldest tombs in the Cairn Hills, the half-buried ruins in the Bright Desert, or the deserted stone cities in the Griff Mountains? Where were the fabled realms ruled by Johydee, the Wind Dukes of Aaqa, Vecna the Whispered One, the High Kings of the dwarves, or the elven King of Summer Stars? What became of the mysterious Isles of Woe, and who dwelled there? No one knows with any certainty. [LGG – 13] (2001)
These are but a few. Some of these were introduced to us within the pages of the OD&D Little Brown Books: Vecna, the Codex of Infinite Planes, and the Axe of the Dwarven Lords, for instance; some from modules: the Ghost Tower and White Plume Mountain; still others like Tuerny and Johydee and Ye'Cind and their artifacts came to us in the AD&D 1e Dungeon Masters Guide; most are but scant paragraphs, perhaps only a line or two attached to some artifact of old.
Rod of Seven Parts: The Wind Dukes of Aaqa are the legendary creators of this artifact. It is said that they constructed the Rod to use in the great battle of Pesh where Chaos and Law contended. There, the Rod was shattered, and its parts scattered, but the enchantments of the item were such that nothing could actually destroy it, so if its sections are recovered and put together in the correct order, the possessor will wield a weapon of surpassing power. [DMG 1e – 160] (1979)

Who might those Dukes have been? They most certainly found their first mention in early play when alignment was limited to Law and Chaos, or Gary Gygax would have spoken of Good and Evil. But aside from the need to create the mentioned Rod (to which we had to furnish with its powers, both baneful and benign), used at the then unknown Pesh, we were left to wonder. And to fill in the gaps.
There were so many gaps then. That leads me to marvel at how unique individual campaigns were then.
Who were these Wind Dukes of yours? Did you even care to ponder; or were such ancient mysteries as these always left unresolved, just names gleaned from a long-forgotten past, etchings on a wall.

Were these mysteries ever resolved? No, not at all, then. Pesh and the Wind Dukes were never mentioned again. Not in the Dragon, not in the Folio or the Boxed Set, not anywhere, despite the expectation that those names and artifacts in the 1e DMG would to be elaborated on. Indeed, we expected they would be, given the clues.
We were invited to obtain one of the commercially available milieux, and place the starting point of your campaign somewhere within this already created world. At the risk of being accused of being self-serving, I will mention parenthetically that my own WORLD OF GREYHAWK, (published by TSR) [….] [DMG 1e – 47]
THE WORLD OF GREYHAWK. This work provides a complete campaign milieu in which to base adventures and characters, place dungeons, etc. Two large full-color maps, a folder, and a 32-page booklet full of ready-made historical and geographical information. [DMG 1e – 236]
Codex of Infinite Planes
Codex of the infinite Planes:
In the distant past the High Wizard Priest of the Isles of Woe (now sunken beneath the waters of the Nyr Dyv - see THE WORLD OF GREYHAWK from TSR) [.] [DMG 1e – 156]
Jacinth of Inestimable Beauty: Legend relates that the Jacinth was possessed by the fabled Sultan Jehef Peh'reen for a time and then passed into the Land of Ket and southward into Keoland (see THE WORLD OF GREYHAWK), where all trace disappeared. [DMG 1e – 158]
That setting booklet would not be made available for another year. And when it was, it was sparse in detail. And alas, the mysteries in the DMG remained just that … mysteries. We were informed that the setting was “ours to do with as we wished.” [Folio – 3]
Pesh and the Wind Dukes were left dangling in the wind, so to speak.

It would come to pass that those who followed in Mr. Gygax’s considerable wake would drop as equally enigmatic hints as his to whom or what the Wind Dukes might be and where they might have sallied forth from to battle upon fabled Pesh.
The following places exist, but their exact locations are unknown or have been lost to time.
The Eternal Storm of the Wind Dukes:
The Eternal Storm of the Wind Dukes
This terrible magical manifestation is said to be invisible to everyone until they enter its half-mile radius, when they are magically drawn toward the eye of the storm. Constant hailstones fall from leaden skies, visibility is greatly reduced, and monstrous, slithering, eel-like reptiles ferociously attack those entering the storm area. Ball lightning and thunderbolts within the storm also beset those entering it, yet in the very eye of the storm is said to be a teleportation device leading to the location of the first part of the fabled Rod of Seven Parts, a mighty magical artifact of great antiquity.
Those who have sought out the storm have never found it; most who encounter it do not return to speak of what they have seen. [FtAC – 37] (1992)
Location unknown? An eternal storm a half-mile in radius should be a beacon, I would think. Perhaps it winks in and out of existence, and never appears in the same place twice?
Was Carl Sargent privy to special knowledge? Did he have access to notebooks and napkins Gary left behind upon his ousting to draw upon? Most likely not. I suspect Carl was as drawn to those relics and hitherto unelaborated references in the DMG as we were and had a burning desire to flesh them out. It make them his own, so to speak. They were wide open, after all – canonically; so, why not lay claim to them, why not fill in the gaps? He could have left well-enough alone. But he did not.

The Isles of Woe
Some of the [Nyr Dyv]'s islands are likewise said to have been home to a group of very seclusive and ancient wizards as powerful as the Wind Dukes of Aqaa or the Glittering Wizards of the Isles of Woe in Oerth's pre-history. These islands are said to be almost alive as entities in themselves, assaulting those who set foot on them with hails of stone and rock as the very earth churns underfoot. Whether any of these tales are true and what remains of the long-dead wizards' magical treasures and hoards, is a matter of pure conjecture.
[WGR5 Iuz the Evil – 60] (1993)
For however reason, the Wind Dukes would henceforth be forever linked to the long-lost Isles of Woe.

All well and good, thus far, though. The Wind Dukes remained mysterious, a glimmer in the imagination, figures in the epic sagas like the whispering hymns of the long-dead Wind Dukes of Aaqa. [Ivid – 86] (1995)
I like that. But I’m from an era when adventure modules were hard to come by and sourcebooks were few, when these vague and leading lore drops inspired us to create our own adventures, our own worlds.
2nd Edition changed all that. The pace of publications was swift; adventures exceeded 30 pages; and descriptions of magic items filled a page or two, and not just a paragraph or two. Why make mere mention of the Dukes and Pesh, as was the case in the 1e DMG, when an epic ancient war between Law and Chaos could be told in full?

Eons ago, a great war was waged between the Wind Dukes of Aaqa (the guardians of Law) and the Queen of Chaos. Those polar forces each craved the annihilation of the other, and were so obsessed with enforcing their ideologies that they spared no thought for Good and Evil. For many years the balance of power shifted back and forth, and neither side could achieve the upper hand.
The Captains of Law Surrounded the Wolf-Spider
Then the Queen of Chaos found and appointed a new commander: Miska the Wolf-Spider, who was so brutal and terrible to behold that the Queen also took him for her consort. With the arrival of the evil Miska, the forces of Chaos were bolstered and the Wind Dukes began to fear eventual defeat.
Therefore, they left the Captains of Law to hold the line while they combined all of their powers and created a magnificent ebony rod. With the newly created artifact in hand, the Wind Dukes rejoined the war at the battle of Pesh. The Dukes gave the Rod to the Captains of Law and bade them vanquish Chaos.
A fearsome battle raged for weeks, and the advantage shifted repeatedly between the foes. Finally, the Captains of Law surrounded the Wolf-Spider, and before the legions of Chaos could swarm to their leader's side, the Rod was driven through Miska's body. For a moment, every soldier stood terrified by the horrible scream of the general. Miska's foul blood covered the Rod and penetrated it as he writhed on the ground, and the magical forces of Law that had been infused into the Rod were combined with the essence of Chaos in Miska's blood, which ruptured the Rod and shattered it into seven pieces. Meanwhile, the Wolf-Spider was cast through a planar rip created by the explosion, and he remains lost on an unknown plane. The Queen's soldiers converged upon the site in an attempt to capture the parts of the Rod, but the Wind Dukes intervened and magically scattered the pieces across the world.
Ever since that time, agents of the Queen have been ordered to seek out the Rod at any cost. It is rumored that if she regains all the parts, she can use the reconstructed Rod to find the Wolf-Spider and return him to her side, whereupon the wars will begin anew. [Book of Artifacts – 91] (1993)

That passage in the Book of Artifacts is epic. I wonder, though, at the level of detail expounded in the above passage. It’s as if this were but a blurb of what was already in the production queue.
And lo and behold, could it be anything but? Just two years on, the Wind Dukes were raised from obscurity, indeed from their long-dead [Ivid – 86] presumption, for a boxed set!
Aeons ago, in the Age of Legends, a great war arose between Law and Chaos. The roots of the conflict are obscure, shrouded in the mists of antiquity. Perhaps Chaos arose to spread decay and promote autonomy, maybe Law embarked on a crusade to stamp out discord and promote unity. Or perchance a monumental conflict between the two opposing forces was simply inevitable.
[Ri7P 3 – 2] (The Ring in Seven Parts, 1996)
I won’t share the entirety of the passage – it’s easily twice the length of the one above – it’s altogether identical to the other, too, if far more detailed. It’s far “bigger,” too.
Warfare raged on several worlds (dozens by some accounts). The opposing armies were mighty. The guardians of Law were the Wind Dukes of Aaqa, scions of an empire already ancient at the way's beginning. [Ri7P 3 – 2]
Bigger, greater, and far more ancient: Prior, in the DMG 1e, only the battle of Pesh was mentioned, with no hint where said Pesh might be; in the Book of Artifacts the was is described as "great," equally mum on location; but this boxed set takes it to an entirely different level: It’s larger than life: THE WAR – full caps intended – so to speak, maybe the First War, presumably; the War that decided the ultimate fate of the multiverse; a war that found its climax on Oerth.
When the Rod was completed, the seven champions rejoined the conflict at the battle of Pesh, on the world of Oerth. After weeks of maneuvering, the two armies clashed on a vast, volcanic plain. [Ri7P 3 – 2]
Some presume that vast, volcanic plain to be in the shadow of White Plume Mountain.
The eons of conflict between the two opposing forces finally reached a conclusion of sorts on the Fields of Pesh, a land in the shadow of White Plume Mountain on the world of Oerth. [Age Before Ages, GreyhawkWiki]

As to the Wind Dukes, all their past mystery has been set to rest.
The Vaati
The Vaati (VAH tee), or Wind Dukes, are a race of immortals dedicated to Law.
[Ri7P 4 – 13]
Aeons ago, the vaati ruled a vast empire spread over several worlds on the Prime Material Plane, with footholds throughout the planes. When war between Law and Chaos erupted, the vaati were nearly annihilated. They survived only by creating the Rod of Seven Parts and using it to end the war. [Ri7P 4 – 13]
Indeed, no detail is left to the imagination. People, society, classes, castes, are laid bare. As are they.
Vaati look like statuesque humans. They are tall, muscular, and androgynous. As a rule, they wear no clothing, but usually wear belts or harnesses to carry weapons and equipment. Vaati have smooth, ebony skin, brilliantly white eyes that sparkle with inner light, and velvety black hair (which usually is kept closely shaved). [Ri7P 4 – 13]
This race of lawful immortals has mostly withdrawn from the affairs of mortals as it tries to recover from the losses it suffered during the war against Chaos. A small, dedicated cadre of vaati have remained to dedicate themselves to tracking the Rod and thwarting the queen. Yet all is not well in the beautiful Vale of Aaqa. One Wind Duke has grown impatient with the uneasy truce that has existed between Law and Chaos, and seeks to reopen the war by releasing Miska. [Ri7P 1 – 3]

A couple of the Wind Dukes are named:
Arquestan, a good-hearted vaati [Ri7P 1 – 3]
He is a Wind Duke, a member of the race that created the Rod of Seven Parts. [Ri7P 1 – 28]

His thirst of for a new war with Chaos has been festering for millenia [.] [Ri7P 2 – 62]
Qadeej's answer is a complete fabrication. The queen wants the Rod assembled so Miska can be restored to full health and escape the cocoon of law, and Qadeej knows it. Once he has convinced the PCs that assembling the Rod is the best thing to do, Qadeej vanishes back to Aaqa. [Ri7P 2 – 44]

Others are named later: Amophar, Darbos, Emoniel, Nadroc, Penader, and Uriel. [Wind Dukes of Aaqa, Greyhawk Wiki]
So too those slain: Icosiol and Zosiel [Dungeon #129 – 40] (2005)

This is all well and good. It’s an adventure. For high level characters, characters that are higher level than most kings in the Gold Box.
[T]his adventure is written for a party of five to seven characters at the 10th to 12th level of experience (60-70 character levels in all). [Ri7P 1 – 4]
And high level characters require greater challenge. Greater stakes.
But, to my mind, the cost of this epic adventure is mystery and wonder.
Are the Wind Dukes of Aaqa still the legendary creators [DMG 1e – 160] of the Rod in Seven Parts when [a]ny sage can tell the party that the vaati are a lost race of immortals more commonly known as the Wind Dukes of Aaqa. [Ri7P 3 – 4]
A sage versed in folklore, history, or law […] can tell the party the whole story of the battle of Pesh and the events leading up to it. [Ri7P 3 – 4]
Theories from sages and historians tend to reveal more about their authors' preferences than they do about the truth of the matter. [Ri7P 3 – 2]

Indeed, they are no longer “a group of very seclusive and ancient wizards as powerful as the Wind Dukes of Aqaa” [WGR5 – 60] at all if they are the vaati, an ancient race that seems to have more in common with divine and infernal beings than mere mortals.
The Battle of Pesh
In ages long past, before the rise of elves, dwarves, or humans, the legendary Wind Dukes of Aaqa ruled a vast empire, bringing Law and elemental magic to many barbaric worlds. Air and lightning powered their magic, and their ties to the Plane of Elemental Air were very strong. In time, they mastered other elements as well, and as they grew more and more powerful, dozens of other elemental and lawful races swore fealty to them, from the lofty djinn and the proud salamanders to the least of the mud sorcerer cults and the inevitables, servants of the Wind Dukes. At its peak, the empire of the Wind Dukes comprised most of the elemental planes, from the oceanic palaces of the marid to the City of Brass. The Inner Planes were harmonious, united under one rule, and their civilization thrived — until forces led by the demonic Queen of Chaos rallied slaad, demons, and others against them.
The fight against the Queen of Chaos was long and relentless, and it culminated in the Battle of Pesh. The Wind Dukes won a pyrrhic victory there — the loss of so many of their greatest leaders (including the great Wind Duke General Icosiol) weakened their hold on not only the Material Plane but the Inner Planes as well. Over time, their elemental allies drifted away, and more realms were sealed from the planar byways.
The decline of the Wind Dukes took centuries. In that time, they built enormous tombs to honor their dead, choosing sites on the Material Plane near to where they fell as the locations of their eternal rest. One of the greatest of these tombs was that of Icosiol, the general who defeated the Queen of Chaos and her lackey, Miska the Wolf Spider. Icosiol used a potent artifact called the Rod of Law to cast them into the outer darkness. This great victory came at a significant cost, for the Rod of Law fragmented to become the Rod of Seven Parts , and Icosiol himself was slain in the final battle. Millennia later, the Wind Dukes have passed into legend, and this tomb still remains hidden under the Fields of Pesh, its entrance concealed hundreds of miles to the south behind a collapsed section of tomb for another Wind Duke (Zosiel, slayer of the demon Kizarvidexus) known today as the Whispering Cairn. [Dungeon #129 – 40] (2005)

Figures of Myth and Legend
I suppose the Wind Duke’s rise from myth and legend to extraplanar elemental beings was inevitable. I can’t prove this, but it seems that each edition saw higher and higher levels of play.
Your PCs should hit 12th level at some point in this adventure […] [Dungeon #129 – 39]
Adventure Paths in Dungeon Magazine are quite similar to the weighty tomes of 5e that followed, taking their cast of characters from infancy to eventual epic feats, defeating the likes of archdevils, elder evils, and Queens of Chaos; so much so that I expect the first made the latter possible. Bigger and better, some may opine. They got what they wished: heroic characters engaged in epic exploits.
Am I a fan? No, but I see the appeal; so, I don’t judge.
I prefer a smaller scale, one reminiscent of when I began, of a decidedly mortal man, delving ever deeper into the dark depths of an ancient tomb, his torch sputtering, his arrows or spells few. The light of the torch plays across the glyphs etched into the limestone. They’re old, ancient in fact; but he’d come across similar ones before. One stands out from the others: Aaqa!

There are others who share my view, I imagine, who harken back to those days of yore, before PCs began flitting about the multiverse. Note this passage:
Rod in Seven Parts
Created by the Wind Dukes of Aaqa in prehistory to defend Oerth from armies of Chaos, the Rod was split into seven parts and scattered. [Dragon #299 – 103] (2002)
I detect no mention of elemental vaati or planar travel. What I detect is a potential for creation.

“Without myth, however, every culture loses its healthy creative natural power: it is only a horizon encompassed with myth that rounds off to unity a social movement.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy

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:
Codex of Infinite Planes, by Daniel Frazier, from Book of Artifacts, 1993
The Captains of Law Surrounded the Wolf-Spider, from The Rod in Seven Parts, 1996
Vaati, by Glen Michael Angus, from The Rod in Seven Parts, 1996
The Vaati, by Glen Michael Angus, from Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume 4, 1998
Vaati tomb detail, from Dungeon #124, 2005
Dragon, by Erol Otus, from The Rod in Seven Parts, 1996
1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
1145 The Rod in Seven Parts, 1996
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1979
2138 Book of Artifacts, 1993
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
9399 WGR5 Iuz the Evil, 1993
9577 The Adventure Begins, 1998
11434 Return to White Plume Mountain, 1999
11621 Slavers, 2000
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
Oerth Journal #1, 2
Living Grayhawk Journal #2
Dragon Magazine #82, 167, 293, 294, 295, 299
Dungeon Magazine #129
The Greyhawk Wiki
Greychrondex, Wilson, Steven B.
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer

Friday 16 December 2022

The Sea Barons, Part 2

“The sea is a desert of waves,
A wilderness of water.”
― Langston Hughes, Selected Poems

“Those who live by the sea can hardly form a single thought of which the sea would not be part.”
― Hermann Broch

The Guardians of the Seas
Are the Sea Barons the guardians of the seas, the protectors of the coast? If not them, then who?
We are privateers, they say. Their ships may bear letters of marque from the Overking, but a writ from Rauxes is but a piece of paper. There are those who call them pirates, regardless their letters of marque, saying that there’s little distinction between their methods and those they vie with. What’s in a name, then? Privateer or pirate; each of them fall upon those that take their trade to the high seas, each take their prize, with one supposedly reaving and thieving, the other declaring they are upholding law and order and suppressing smuggling, only targeting “enemies of the state.”
Guardians of the seas, the protectors of the coast? If they are, a perfidious protector are they.

577 CY
In 577 CY the Sea Barons finally landed a blow upon the northern Barbarians.
During the season of 577, much minor activity took place along the coast of North Province and off the northern end of the Island of Asperdi. Some raiders were met and actions were fought; some slipped through, some turned elsewhere. Reportedly a squadron of seven Schnai longships were set upon whilst sinking the hulks of two provincial merchants, the vessels Marntig and Solos. Guided by the smoke and flames, a flotilla of Baronial warships surprised the barbarians. Three of the Schnai were rammed and sunk. In hand-to-hand action, the flagship of the barbarians’ fleet was captured, but the three remaining longships escaped after jettisoning all of their captured cargo.
The flagship was occupied with the help of prisoners who broke free during the confused fighting and set fire to the vessel’s sail. Jarl Froztilth, leader of the Schnai, many of his men, and the captured ship were all taken to Asperdi. News of this success was said to have greatly heartened the Herzog.
This event notwithstanding, many of the vessels from the cold north did manage to avoid patrolling warships and successfully raid North Province and the Baronial Isles. Captured cargo and undesired weapons are said to find a ready market at Dekspoint (at the easternmost tip of Loftwood Peninsula) or at Marner in Ratik. [Dragon #63 – 16]

577 – 578 CY
The Turmoil Between Crowns and the sundering of the south that created the Iron League had taken their toll. The ties that bound the Houses to the Malachite Throne had tightened as taut as they might stretch. One wondered which strand would snap next.
During the period of CY 577 to 578, the machinations of the See of Medegia seemed aimed at sapping the strength of the Malachite Throne as much as they chivvied the Great Kingdom’s enemies south and east. Likewise, the prideful Sea Barons appeared bent only upon their own ends. [Dragon #63 – 15]

578 CY
The Overking fretted over the constant threat from the north. Luckily, for the Malachite Throne, the Ice Barbarians had divided their attention, looking to their own most hated enemy.
The Snow Barbarians gained more gold and silver, while the Cruski regained their southern harbors. This made the raids into North Province and the Isles of the Sea Barons all the easier next year, and most of the able-bodied men were away on those journeys when the warbands of Stonefist (now Stonehold) rode into the tundra which the King of Cruski claimed. [Dragon #57 – 14]
But it wasn’t these enemies that concerned the Overking. The Barbarians were rabble, to his mind. The real enemies were Nyrond and their ally, Almor. Ivid ordered the islanders inland in support of his cousin, Grenell. The Sea Barons were reluctant to obey, expecting waves of Barbarians from the north that still had not come, but the obeyed, as bid.
A fleet from the recalcitrant Sea Barons has been dispatched to aid the cousin of the OverKing, who commands North Province.
It is rumored that this movement came down as an Imperial order from Rauxes to help alleviate the problems created by the incursions of Almor and Nyrond into the southern part of Bone March, as well as to answer the North Provinces’ call for aid against these attacks. These incursions come at a time of continued raids from the humanoid bands near Bellport who have not thrown in their banners with the Herzog as of yet. [Dragon #59 – 24]

The forces of the Sea Barons were not only sent to him by the Overking, but they are excellent troops as well. [Dragon #63 – 16]
They would be. They had tangled with the Rhizians and southern pirates on both land and sea.
With the addition of the contingent of troops from the Sea Barons, the Herzog’s array again approaches a strength of 10,000, and attaining that size would likely prompt the Herzog into initiating a campaign of his own. [Dragon #63 – 15]
It would seem that Grenell was as reluctant to receive these recalcitrant pirates as those privateers were to aid the Naelaxians.
It is known to Herzog Grenell that his new general is not in favor of having any of the troops from the Sea Barons with the main body of the North Provincial array. Hooglish detests and distrusts the eastern islanders. Friction, including insults, is rife between the General’s command and that of Lord Aldusc. [Dragon #63 – 16]

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

580s CY
“Ivid” notwithstanding, Ivid’s war with the Golden League ground on, causing as much devastation inland as “Ivid” had wrought on the coast.
War has been a steady diet of the Overking’s realm for several years. Allies are few, but include the Herzog of South Province, the See of Medegia, certain tribes of humanoids to the north (those crushed in actions between the North Province and Bone March) and certain factions of the Sea Barons, though the latter—as a whole—are quite untrustworthy. [WG8 – 69]
The Sea Barons’ commitment to Ivid’s war was tepid, at best. They answered his call, but only insofar as by manning coastal garrisons, their ships always at the ready, eager for any excuse to abandon the Naelaxian cause they believed was none of their concern. They set sail at the merest suggestion that the Barbarians had been spotted on the horizon, and at any hint that there might be trouble on the southern seas.
Elven ships were also sighted farther east on the Solnor by Sea Barons' ships in the late 580s, perhaps exploring or trading with distant elf colonies. [LGG – 68]

581 CY
Few Asperdi were committed to Ivid’s cause. Some abandoned the Great Kingdom altogether, dodging his draft. Ivid’s war was an Aerdi war, after all, a Celestial Houses war; and very few of the Asperdi considered themselves a member of any of those august pureblood clubs. What Suel or Oeridian/Flan Asperdi would call their self an Atirr or a Garasteth, let alone a Naelax or a Torquann? None, truth be told. Certainly not Sheroyl Kubiak.
Sheroyl Kubiak
Wasim Qharallah’s Golden Scimitar
This mercenary group has traveled in nearly all parts of the Flanaess. They settled in private quarters in Greyhawk City, looking for work but have had trouble finding employment, possibly because of their Baklunish appearance. In the suspicious and prejudiced times of the past few years, no one has been willing to gamble on a group that might be spies from Ket or worse.
Certain reliable rumours indicate the group is trustworthy, pointing to the Suloise wizard who ravels with these men as evidence. Sheroyl Kubiak, an albino Suloise from the lands of the Sea Barons, has been part of this band for ten years. Wasim Qharallah and his men would all die for her, and Sheroyl will do host anything for her band of brothers. [PGtG – 31]
The odd person among them is their mage, Sheroyl Kubiak, an albino Suloise from the lands of the Sea Barons who has a past she does not speak of. She joined the group in Sefmur in 581 CY. [FtAA – 74]

582 CY
Others remained. Most remained, and did their bit, whatever that might be. What might that be? Whatever their feudal lords told them it was.
Basmajian Arras
The Commander of the Sea Barons is a middle-aged copper-haired man, survivor of decades of piracy, ship-to-ship battles and assassination attempts. [PGtG – 24]

Others found their way into Ivid’s service; and then out of it.
Erthara (Kallarn)
Erthara (Kallarn)
Small at 5' 1" and slender of build, Erthara (almost always known by her first name alone) is 37 years old, with long wavy auburn hair and hazel eyes. […] Erthara's father is a captain among the Sea Barons, and she still manages to get some goods smuggled into Rauxes through that route and via Roland. She has to pay the Town Guard, but she can afford that from her looting of many nobles' houses in the past.
Erthara is an important council member of the Thieves' Guild (long driven underground by Ivid). […]
Erthara is a good "street level" contact within Rauxes. She has maps of Undercity areas and knows the patrol times of the Town Guard in various sections of Rauxes. However, she is thoroughly unprincipled, and she is not above informing the Town Guard of one or two subversives from time to time. Dealing with her is safest if one can offer some magical aid to disguise her (especially a permanent magical item). Such an item would be useful for her forays into the city. [Ivid – 37]

Sencho Foy
Whether coerced, or not,
Sencho Foy answered Ivid’s call for troops. Before long, young sharks and old salts were finding their land legs, wondering why in the Hells they were knee-deep in mud in the inlands where no mariner was ever meant to be, drummed into Ivid’s service, and embroiled in a war that was none of their business. Served them right, their kin might opine, for having strayed so far inland, where no shark had reason to be.
Ivid V ordered the Great Kingdom's armies to muster, with the intention of paying back his foes for centuries of impudence. The war that followed was staggering in scope and consequence. [LGG – 15]
Ivid expected a quick victory. He was wrong.
Though the winter halted armies, it seemed to spur diplomatic efforts forward. The Bone March, fairly reeling from promises of gold and land, cast its lot with Ivid V, pledging to march when the snows lifted. Ahlissa, sensing its fate could have been like Medegia’s, affirmed its intention to fight at the Overking’s side. The Sea Barons too expressed their steadfast resolve, while the North Province crowed about its ever faithful loyalty to the crown. [Wars – 14]
Steadfast resolve does not equate with actual action, though.
Sencho Foy might have confirmed the Sea Barons’ cooperation and resolve, but Admiral Basmajian Arras decided that protecting his fleet for what might come was more important than spilling the blood of his sharks in battles with Nyrond. There were enough enemies afloat on the sea, much closer to home, for islanders to go looking for trouble elsewhere, in his opinion.
He was not wrong, in that regard.
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. [WGS1 – 4/ WGS2 – 6]
Admiral Basmajian Arras
Admiral Basmajian was not the only one to think that.
During the wars, [the Mage-prince] Lakaster cooperated fully with Ivid’s orders regarding the use of Winetha as a vital supply port and in cooperating with the Sea Barons. Lakaster saved himself that way, and he also saved the Winethan navy by confining it to port for fear of barbarian sea raids. Indeed, shortly after Ivid demanded that Lakaster dispatch his vessels to Asperdi to support the Sea Barons (an order Lakaster refused), the barbarians raided the city and Winetha’s six war galleys were vital in preserving the city. Ivid did not issue the same order to Lakaster again. [Ivid – 62,63/Dragon #204 – 53]

When at last spring came […] ships from the Sea Barons and the Lordship of the Isles raced to Grendep Bay to end the barbarians’ longship raids. [Wars – 15]
Basmajian’s remaining fleet remained in perpetual defence of the home islands.
Under Admiral Basmajian, the Sea Barons remained out of the Wars and kept their fleets largely confined to their ports and the Solnor Ocean. [FtAA – 36]
Ivid was livid!
The Sea Barons were not as successful: though they gained control over the Aerdi fleet, the Overking closed all mainland ports to them. Left with only hostile non-Aerdi neighbors, the Sea Barons sued for peace. [Wars – 4]
Sencho Foy ordered Basmajian to “cooperate” thereafter, concerned about reprisals. This is not to say that any more of his sharks were shipped inland.
As the clouds of spring cleared in the east, [s]hips of the Sea Barons – the sharks of Ivid V – patrolled the waters of the Aerdi Sea. [Wars – 19]

582 – 584 CY
Asperdi City
Militarily, the Sea Barons simply stayed out of the Greyhawk Wars. With war far to the west, and Rauxes many hundreds of miles away, the old Lord High Admiral Sencho Foy could decide that the threats of the northern barbarians, clearly excited into a war-seeking frenzy, were too dangerous to ignore. Dispatching navies to Relmor Bay to fight Nyrond would be suicidal, especially with the overthrow of the Lordship of the Isles leaving the southern waters of the Aerdi Sea more dangerous than ever.
[Ivid – 88/Dragon #206 – 35]

Ivid was not the only one livid. Basmajian Arras had had enough of Sencho Foy’s deference to the Malachite Throne, however soft his submission.
The old High Admiral, Sencho Foy, suffered a sad mishap early in Aerdy's entry into the Greyhawk Wars. He choked on a fishbone stuck in his throat (although some say the dagger which had impaled the fishbone first did the important damage). [FtAA – 36]
The old admiral suffered one of those sudden deaths so common among Aerdy rulers, and his replacement is a stern and hard man who has the support of the barons of the two remaining isles, Fairisle and Oakenisle. All are aware that they are faced with increased threats and unknowns. [Ivid – 88/Dragon #206 – 35]

The Sea Barons
The Sea Barons
Pop.: 45,000 (plus 8,000 on Leastisle)
Capital: Aspedri (pop. 7,750)
Ruler: Lord High Admiral Basmajian Arras
Rulership: Moderate-High (except Leastisle)
Cost Multiplier: 110%
[Ivid – 88]

[Basmajian] Arras kept the Sea Barons out of the Greyhawk Wars and favors neutrality, though there are concerns about the Sea Barons' ability to stay neutral in the face of recent shipbuilding efforts by the Great Kingdom of Northern Aerdy, which may allow Aerdy to attack. He lives richly and well. [PGtG – 24]

Lord Basmajian thought it best to reaffirm mutual protection pacts and trade alliances with those coastal settlements that had begun to distance themselves from Ivid’s mad rule.
Historically, the cities of Rinloru and Winetha have not been as intimately intertwined as the now-common appellation Twin Cities implies. Winetha developed as a naval base and fishing town, and also as a trade port for importing goods the Sea Barons brought in from their isles and the lands to the south. [Ivid – 62/Dragon #204 – 53]
Pearl Beacon also trades with the Sea Barons, though most vessels head for Winetha rather than to this southern outpost. [Ivid – 66/Dragon #204 – 56]
He felt lesser loyalty to those who had not.
The Sea Barons now raid parts of the eastern coast of Aerdy (though they trade with Rel Astra), skirmish with Lendore and the Lordship of the Isles, and prefer to avoid needless combats with the barbarians. [FtAA – 36]
The old Medegian lands offer a soft target and the Barons raid there, but apart from the occasional foray into Hepmonaland to loot the spices, ivory, and furs which come from that vast land, that is about the limit of the Barons' current exploits. [Ivid – 88/ Dragon 206 – 35]
The Sea Barons and northern Barbarians raid the Lordship’s fleet. [TAB – 18]
A shark has to live, after all.

583 CY
Did the war stir up sahuagin up from the deeps? It was as if they knew the surface dwellers were vulnerable, and that the coastal settlements were left all but undefended.
In the past two years, the sahuagin have grown more bold and even attacked a coaster recently, and some fear that someone, or something, is organizing and directing the creatures. Since their numbers, and home location, are unknown, this makes people increasingly anxious. [Ivid – 89/ Dragon #206 – 36]
The Barons began to patrol in the vicinity of the Sinking Isle, expecting to find their archipelago increased by one, or at the very least, its narrows aboil with the savage fishy folk.

They also wanted to investigate developments in the Duxchan Isles.
[A]sudden coup replaced Prince Latmac Ranold of the Lordship of the Isles with his distant cousin, Prince Frolmar Ingerskatti. The new ruler surprisingly proclaimed his support of the Great and Hidden Empire of the Scarlet Brotherhood. [Wars – 15]
What might that mean to access to the western seas? They were soon to find out.
With Duxchan ships and charmed monsters, the Brotherhood set up a blockade along the Tilva Strait, effectively choking mercantile trade between the east and west. [LGG – 98]
A complete blockade of the straits was applied, with only ships of the Scarlet Brotherhood or Lordship of the Isles being allowed free passage. Cargo from other states could be shipped by Lordship vessels through the straits for an exceptionally high fee. [LGG – 150]

584 CY
With his fleets north and south, try as he might, Basmajian could not stem the tide of the desperate fleeing from the madness of the Overking.
Lord Basmajian has worked hard since his accession during the wars to ensure that the fate that befell so many other nations is not shared by his own. He kept his fleets out of the Greyhawk Wars, but the Sea Barons were not prepared for the sacking and capture of the smallest of their realms, Leastisle, by marauders in 584 CY. [LGG – 100]
Leastisle fell to pirates and buccaneers at the end of the Greyhawk Wars. Most of these men were fleeing the eastern coastal cities of Aerdi, but they brought enough mercenaries and seapower to sack Vernport. They now sail widely, attacking any target which looks soft enough, from North Province to Hepmonaland. As yet, they have avoided any raids on the other isles of the Barons after one abortive attack against Port Elder. The Sea Barons lack the will to strike against the 8,000 or so ne'er-do-wells on Leastisle, again because they fear that the men and ships they might lose in such an action would leave them vulnerable to other enemies.
[Ivid – 88/ Dragon #206 – 35]
These usurpers pale in comparison to the external threats that the remaining three barons face, and they are confident they will win back the small barony. However, they cannot afford the effort so long as the Scarlet Brotherhood's threat in Duxchan exists, and so long as they lack a treaty with the barbarians of the north. For the time being, Vernport on Leastisle remains a free city, if a dangerous and anarchistic one. [LGG – 100]
Leastisle's baron was overthrown in 584 CY, and the isle is in complete anarchy. [LGG – 99]

Lord Basmajian was not alone in his troubles.
So, after the wars Lakaster is in a strong position. His military forces are intact. Winetha is subject to barbarian coastal raids, but these are not as severe as those inflicted on the Sea Barons. [Ivid – 63/Dragon #204 – 54]

585 CY
The Sea Barons were finding their island nation more isolated by the year.
Basmajian and the other Barons want to keep their ships close to home for protection [.] [Ivid – 88/ Dragon #206 – 35]
A grave future threat is sure to come when the shipbuilding programs of the Great Kingdom of Northern Aerdy and the United Kingdom of Ahlissa turn these realms into naval giants over the next decade. [TAB – 18]
Basmajian began looking for allies in the most unusual places.
Agents of the Sea Barons have approached Evaleigh to gain access to Marner. [LGG – 91]
Basmajian favors an alliance, or at least a truce, with the barbarians and Ratik. His argument is that this would remove the greatest threat to the Sea Barons, and leave them better able to handle the others. However, the Barons of the other isles do not agree. They point out that such an agreement might not go down well with the eastern Aerdi cities with which the Sea Barons trade. [Ivid – 88/ Dragon #206 – 35]

But young sharks will be young sharks.
A New Astrolabe
[T]he younger men want to sail the blue seas and oceans in search of adventure and bounty, freed as they now are from rulership by Rauxes.
[Ivid – 88/ Dragon #206 – 35]
And now, they could venture further out asea than ever before.
The new astrolabe […] has just invented [by the wizard Livensten]—and his almanacs showing how to compute latitude and distances from the position of sun and moons—is receiving considerable approval from the galleon captains. These aids have enabled the Sea Barons to become true ocean-goers should they wish, in contrast to their traditional role as coastal defenders and patrollers. [Ivid – 90/ Dragon #206 – 37]
Although tech was not always a match for mother Beory, Velnius, or Xerbo.
Recently a Sea Barons vessel was blown off course and sighted the [orc] camp [at Montesser]; an initial attempt to loot it was swiftly fought off by the well-drilled orcs, and the captain of the Asperdi vessel was sufficiently impressed to make peace with them. Now, the Sea Barons ship goods here, as the orcs desperately want better weapons and armor to defend themselves and tools to work their gardents. In exchange for the goods, the orcs provide foodstuffs and information about events in Medegia. The captain of the Asperdi vessel is always interested, given his trading with cities north of this troubled land and his periodic raiding of Medegian coastal towns and villages. [Ivid – 105]

Basmajian kept his ear to the trade winds. But news from the Duxchan Isles was scarce and of mixed reliability. Had he believed the rumours that the Duxchan’s alliance with the Scarlet Brotherhood was not as portrayed, he might have attempted to infiltrate those hated isles, he might have considered aiding his most hated foes. He might also have discovered that the would be rebels there had little desire to lash out against their overlords, rather preferring to spend their strength against his people, instead.
Many [Duxchan] isle lords chafe at the rule of the Scarlet Brotherhood, despite the improved opportunity to take revenge on their longtime enemies, the Sea Barons. [LGG – 72]

586 – 589 CY
Across the Solnor Ocean
A cold war had replaced the spent hot one.
The realm of the Sea Barons seems little changed – different faces, same daggers in the backs, as one wag remarked. [TAB – 29]
Had the Duxchan pirates infiltrated the Asperdis? None could believe that could be so. Besides, their fears had become fixed on the threat from the mainland.
The Sea Barons are very disturbed at events in the Great Kingdom of Northern Aerdy and are undoubtedly considering raids against shipbuilding facilities in Winetha and elsewhere. [TAB – 29]
Trade waned. Very soon the ports of the east coast began to wonder what might lay over the eastern horizon.
 A small fleet of ships set sail across the Solnor Ocean from Asperdi in 586 CY, to discover what did. [TAB – 29]
Next to nothing is known of events in the Spindrift Isles, though elven ships are often seen cruising the Aerdi and Oljatt Seas. The fleet sent forth by the Sea Barons across the Solnor in 586-589 believes it saw elven ships on several occasions many hundreds of leagues from the Spindrifts. Were they exploring, or on regular runs to elven colonies elsewhere? [TAB – 29]
In the years since the Greyhawk Wars, some of the surviving exiles have joined together with half-elven captains on the Medegian coast. It is an open secret that they are smugglers, willing to transport any cargo for a price. Several of these ships secretly accompanied the flotilla of the Sea Barons in their voyage over the Solnor in 586-589 CY. The Spindrift exiles were thought to be searching for the last members of the Council of Five, who had fled across the waves when the clerics of Sehanine usurped their authority. [LGG – 69,70]

587 CY
Assassins Among Us
The cold war continued to heat up. The Duxchaners had indeed infiltrated their hated foes supposedly impenetrable island fortress.
[T]he Duxchaners, with the resources of the Scarlet Brotherhood at their backs, have made a comeback. Two captains loyal to the Sea Barons were killed and replaced by agents of the Brotherhood in 587 CY. The spies were uncovered, but the Sea Barons are extremely concerned that they will be targeted by the Scarlet Ones to suffer the same fate. For that reason, they have allied with Lord Drax and the Free Cities of the Solnor Compact, keeping a close watch over the activities of their captains. [LGG – 100]

589 CY
The fleet that set sail in 586 CY return[ed] late in 589 CY (missing several ships and many crewmen) with startling tales of the lands beyond the horizon. This has sparked general interest in a return voyage, particularly in Ratik, Rel Astra, and the villages of the northern barbarians, as well as among young sharks of the Sea Barons. [TAB – 29]

590 CY
Why do the Duxchaners hate the Asperdi so? I suppose a long habit is hard, if not impossible, to break.
The [Duxchan] islanders have a long history of animosity toward the Great Kingdom particularly the Kingdom’s former province of the Sea Barons, whom the Lordship islanders hate with a fury. The sailors, diplomats, and others who have come from the Lordship appear to share this attitude to an extreme, leading to speculation that these crews were carefully recruited for their absolute loyalty and with the promise that their success at such trade would move the Brotherhood to aid them in some way in their eternal war with the Sea Barons. On the other hand, one wag has stated that he would be on his best behavior, too, if his family were in the hands of the Brotherhood’s treacherous goons. That no red-robed overseen were found among the crews is usually credited to the faith that the Brotherhood has in them, though the same wag as before – a merchant of some standing – said it was just good marketing on the part of the Brotherhood to gain everyone’s sympathy and get others to let their guard down. [TAB – 34]

591 CY
Having discovered who lay behind the assassination of their captains, the Barons are cautious about outsiders. Indeed, they are somewhat paranoid concerning them.
It comes to no surprise then that emissaries of the Scarlet Sign were turned away, regardless how enticing the diplomats were with offers of trade deals and mutual beneficence.
The seamen and barons here are very uncertain of their future, not knowing with whom to ally. They have kept Scarlet Brotherhood "advisers" at a safe distance after seeing what happened to Latmac Ranold. Basmajian himself is believed to favor an alliance with Ratik and the Frost Barbarians, but it will be years before the other barons agree to any kind of binding concord. [FtAA – 36]

They need not worry. Yet.
Korenth Zan [is] ignoring the Sea Barons and the Spindrift isles, seeing them as insignificant forces, or at best potential thorns in the sides of Ahlissa and Northern Aerdi. [SB – 24]
The Scarlet Brotherhood already extends its tendrils into southern Aerdy, and the probable initial goals of the Brotherhood are the capture of the Sea Barons and the subversion of South Province. [Ivid – 25]

Rel Astra

Basmajian’s main ally at present are Rel Astra, Ountsy, and Roland, the Solnor Compact.
Rel Astra has a new defensive alliance with Ountsy and Roland (the Solnor Compact, signed in 589 CY), and it has very friendly relations with the Sea Barons. [TAB – 18]
Sea trade has been much expanded with Ratik, the Sea Barons, the Lordship of the Isles (under great scrutiny), and any northern barbarians willing to lay aside their weapons to bargain for goods. [TAB – 18]
Rel Astra[’s] vast shipyards offer safe harbor. In its expansive markets are displayed half the wonders of the world, and its streets are trodden daily by dark-skinned folk of Hepmonaland, golden Baklunish in flowing cloaks, and pale, gruff barbarians of the far north. At any time, a great chaotic fleet of ships chokes its harbor, bearing the flags of numerous states, but dominated by those of the Sea Barons and the Free Cities of the Solnor Compact. [LGG – 92]
But Basmajian and his Sea Barons had best beware. Lord Drax might prove a greater enemy in the long run than the Lordship of the Isles, or the Scarlet Brotherhood, could have ever posed.
A New Coastal Garasteth Kingdom
Drax desires to absorb the Sea Barons into the Solnor Compact and create a new coastal Garasteth kingdom, with Rel Astra as its capital.
[LGG – 94]
The Sea Barons do not desire a permanent alliance with the Cities of the Solnor Compact, distrusting Drax's motives, but they feign friendship. The Sea Barons fear assassination or worse by the Scarlet Brotherhood, and treat with strangers in their lands harshly. Expeditions launched to the mysterious south in the last few years have returned with tales of fantastic wonders and riches [.] [LGG – 100]
Ships from resource-hungry lands of the eastern Flanaess are striking out in search of trading partners, hoping to rebuild from the wars. The Sea Barons and the east coast city-states of Rel Astra, Ountsy, and Roland are now exploring the mini-continent of Hepmonaland, returning with fantastic tales and riches. (Many fall prey to disease, pirates, monsters, and privateers from the Scarlet Brotherhood and Lordship of the Isles, however.) Several major kingdoms full of new peoples are said to lie in this tropical land, some rumored to be at war with the slave-taking Brotherhood. [TAB – 38]

We need not worry about them, though. The Sea Barons have always kept their options open. They are likely alwread wary of Lord Drax; he’s a Garasteth, after all; and the Garasteth have always had designs on their Islands since losing them to the Atirr.
The Barons know who they are, after all. They’re Atirr, not Garasteth.
Atirr vessels also trade with the Sea Barons, although not as often as they once did. [Ivid – 51]

They are more than Atirr, as well, though, aren't they? They are Suel. They are Flan. Most of all, they are mariners. They sail the seas, North and South. None shall bar their way, no matter that they might try.

The Solnor Ocean and the vast Grendep Bay are disputed among the Sea Barons and Ice Barbarians, the latter holding greater sway the farther north one goes. [FtAA – 48]

These waters comprise the Aerdi and Oljatt Seas, the Tilva Strait, and the Spindrift Sound. The Scarlet Brotherhood controls much of these seas, contesting northern areas with the Sea Barons and in a few incursions from Ice Barbarians [.] [FtAA – 48]

“The sea, the snotgreen sea, the scrotumtightening sea.”
― James Joyce, Ulysses

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

The Art: 
Sea Barons map detail, by Darlene, from World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983

1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
1043 The City of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1989
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
1068 Greyhawk Wars Boxed Set, 1991
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1977
2023 Greyhawk Adventures Hardback, 1988
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1981
9253 WG8, Fate of Istus, 1989
9317 WGS1 Five Shall be One, 1991
9337 WGS2 Howl From the North, 1991
9577 The Adventure Begins, 1998
9578 Player’s Guide to Greyhawk, 1998
WGR Ivid the Undying, 1998
11374 The Scarlet Brotherhood, 1999
11742 Gazetteer, 2000
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
Dragon Magazine #57, 59, 63, 204, 206
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The Map of Anna B Meyer