Friday, 14 January 2022

On Djekul

“I always avoid prophesying beforehand because it is much better to prophesy after the event has already taken place.”
― Winston S. Churchill

One expects great things from great cities. Their very existence presumes destiny; why else had they risen above those other settlements that dot the landscape around them while those others languished and became subservient to their magnificence. Had their plot afforded better shelter from the lashing storm; or had their soil coaxed richer harvests. Might they have been at a more advantageous crossroad; or might they have been the vanguard of the civilization? Or had the prophet decreed this mound of dirt more blessed than that? Someone somehow saw their potential. And in time so did others.
There are others less fortunate. Always lesser than their greater. Too for from the centre. Too near the enemy. Too dry. Too wet.
Djekul is one such city. Little more than a town, no more than a dot on the map, really; so far from the capital, Krakenheim, that it could only have been a lesser thane, perched above a cold, turbulent sea.

Above the Timberway Forest
The Frost Barbarians, or Fruztii, dwell in the lands above the Timberway Forest, bounded by the Griff and Corusk Mountains to the west and north. The western edge of the Spikey Forest marks the border with the Snow Barbarians, and the southern and eastern shores of the kingdom of Fruztii end at the waters of Grendep Bay. The climate here is much more temperate than in the northern parts of Rhizia (as the Thillonrian Peninsula is named in the Cold Tongue), and farming is an important part of the economy of the kingdom (though the growing season is short). Fishing is also very important on Grendep Bay, as is mining in the eastern Griffs. However, the most notorious pursuit of the Frost Barbarians is raiding, and it often proves the most lucrative, as well.
[LGG – 44]

Grendep Bay: This great arm of the Solnor Ocean is crossed by northern barbarians when they raid southwards, and only they have sure knowledge of the many western inlets and eastern fjords. [LGG – 148]
These brave sailors are usually anxious to cross southwards as early in the spring as possible, however, and return late in the fall; for during the warm summer, great sea monsters are often seen sporting in the bay. [Folio – 20]
It is an unfriendly area in winter as well, when freezing winds churn its waters. Sea Barons' traders here are raided by Snow and Ice Barbarian ships. [LGG – 148]

What do we really know about Djekul, anyway? Little.
We know how many people live there:
Major Towns: Djekul (pop. 3,100) [LGG – 44]
More recently, we learned that it is where a certain cheese hails from.

Creamy, Powerfully Aromatic Cheese
A delicious, creamy, powerfully aromatic cheese from the Fruzt settlement of the same name. A growing fancy in the County of Urnst is to spread the fish-scented cheese over crisp-heated bread wedges. Where ovens are not at hand, simply use the cheese as a dipping sauce for raw greenstalks or dried tomatoes.
[Dragon #271 – 74]

That’s not much to go by, considering how pivotal it was at one point in its history. And how pivotal it may be again.
Indeed, aside from its placement on the map betwixt the Frost Barbarians and Ratik, it doesn’t warrant a mention in the Folio.
The Frost Barbarians are the weakest of the three nations (of Suel peoples) inhabiting the Thillonrian Peninsula, called Rhizia by these peoples. They have never recovered from the Battle of Shamblefield, and have been under the suzerainty of the Schnai for the past two decades – and several times previously as well. The supposed figurehead placed upon the throne of the Fruztii has, however, built his kingdom carefully, and in actuality it is now independent in all but oath. A recent pact concluded between Fruztii and Ratik saw a joint army wreak havoc in the Bone March, and during the next campaigning season clear the north pass of the "Fists" [...]. [Folio – 10]

The Timberway Forest
When the Bone March was created by the Overking, a further outpost was desired, and the Aerdi banners pushed northwards as far as the Timberway. A military commander was appointed to see to the establishment of a secure territory and lumbering was gotten underway, as the great pines of the area were highly desirable in shipbuilding. The active commander soon sent such a stream of riches southwards (he was a just man, friendly with the Dwerfolk, and an able tactician too) – accompanying them with detailed reports of successful actions against the last of the Frost Barbarians in the area – that the Overking took notice. After a raiding fleet was roundly beaten, the Overking elevated this general to the nobility, creating him Baron Ratik.
[Folio – 10]

What might be inferred from these sparce paragraphs? That Djekul was once far removed from the Fruztii’s border. Very far removed. That might have made Djekul insignificant, a tiny farming/fisher village.
I suggest that it only grew after the “appointed military commander” annexed Fruztii territory south of (and potentially including) the Timberway Forest.

Timberway Forest: This vast stretch of pines, firs, and other northern forest growths reaches from the lands of the Frost Barbarians all the way to the Barony of Ratik, from the shores of Grendep Bay to the shoulders of the Rakers. Although its growth is not as fine as that of the Loftwood, it is still very valuable in shipbuilding. [Folio – 20]

Little else might be inferred.
Maybe a lot might be inferred with a little application of imagination.
What might we glean from the Folio map? That Djekul is sets upon a deep and wide grassland (or sparsely wooded region), as that stretch is a uniform pale green, devoid of hills; but I would suggest that those grasslands roll, judging the short distance between the Griff and Corusk mountains and the sea. Such rolling, windswept grasslands may not be ideal for crops, although root vegetables would certainly thrive there. As would animal husbandry; most notably wholly sheep and shaggy coated Highland cattle.
I would also suggest that a river spills out from their confluence, seeing how the Grendep nestles that stretch of coast. Anna Meyer agrees, having placed one on her map.

The Griff Mountains
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. [Folio – 24]

We see that the Fruztii and the “Fists” have been at odds for some time.
A recent pact concluded between Fruztii and Ratik saw a joint army wreak havoc in the Bone March, and during the next campaigning season clear the north pass of the "Fists" [...]. [Folio – 10]
They have not been without allies in this.
Allies: Ratik, dwarf and gnome clans in Griff and Corusk Mountains [LGG – 44]
I presume their animosity is long-lived, indeed.

122 CY
Life in Djekul was as life always had been, until...
General Sir Pelgrave Ratik of Winetha
General Sir Pelgrave Ratik of Winetha, a wily veteran of the barbarian campaigns, appointed in 122 CY to oversee an expedition that would attempt to drive the Aerdi frontier all the way to the foothills of the Griff Mountains. Ratik and his forces inaugurated their expedition by crossing Kalmar Pass, taking the town of Bresht in a blustery winter campaign that cost the Fruztii dearly.
[LGG – 89]
Over the ensuing months, General Ratik established a military fort overlooking Grendep Bay at Onsager Point. [LGG – 90]
The Fruztii had been soundly defeated at Spinecastle, and then again at Bresht. Indeed, they had been pressed north unto the Timberway. Even there, their hold was tenuous, if at all existent.
Ratik soon began exploiting the shipbuilding opportunities afforded by the tall pines of the Timberway, and Marner grew from a sizable stronghold to a small port city. [LGG – 90]

128 CY
The Barbarians banded together to rid themselves of the invading Aerdi!
n 128 CY, the Fruztii and Schnai allied to create an invasion flotilla. They launched a concerted attack on Marner during the spring that almost caught the Aerdi by surprise. In defense, General Ratik set the major approaches to the port ablaze, forcing the armada through a narrow approach where it was cut to pieces by the siege engines of the fort and a squadron of the imperial navy. [LGG – 90]
They failed.

130-350 CY
Djekul was fortified, lest the Aerdi seek to put an end to the Barbarians’ raids once and for all.
[O]ver the next two centuries, needing only to fend off infrequent raids from the Timberway and the Rakers until the middle of the fourth century CY. [LGG – 90]
The Ratikians never once retaliated north of the Timberway. They were content with the spoils of that lofty wood.
Nor did the thanes of the forest rebel after a time. They had pledged allegiance to Ratik and the Great Kingdom; and had gained stability and wealth beyond their wildest dreams.

356 CY
The Barbarians never lost belief that the Aerdi could and would be defeated. The Timberway would be theirs again; those thanes lost to the rule of the Great Kingdom would be brought back into the fold.
However, a massive invasion by a unified host of Fruztii and Schnai threatened to overwhelm the nations and sweep into North Province in 356 CY. [LGG – 90]

c. 560’s CY
Djejul profited as the vanguard of the Fruztii. It grew. Its walls rose. Its fleets swelled. Indeed, it grew to rival Krakenheim in size and importance. To whit Krakenheim took note.
But war never came to Djekul. Only the “Fists.”
Just as the Fists came to the north Timberway. Before long, Fruztii berserkers and Ratikian rangers occasionally discovered that they could be of aid to one another against a common foe.
Ratik and its baron, Lexnol III, had been forewarned and deflected most of the invaders, but could not prevent the disaster that befell the march. Lexnol, a skilled leader and tactician, realized that he was now isolated and no succor would be forthcoming from the south or the court of Overking Ivid V. He approached the lords of Djekul, who had grown less wary of the proud Aerdi in the intervening years and were even grudgingly respectful. With the Fruztii, Lexnol forged an affiliation called the Northern Alliance. Ratik subsequently became fully independent of the Great Kingdom and had the might to both hammer the orcs and gnolls of Bone March and dissuade an invasion from North Province. [LGG – 91]

582 CY
Indeed, the Fists were more brazen than ever these days.
The Barbarians are banding together against their common enemies.
“The Trinity is a new council that leads all three barbarian lands. The ruler of each land has a seat in the council. Since we shall soon be fighting for our very existence, we must band together in order to save themselves. But the Trinity is doomed to failure unless the Great God can be brought forth to forge us together into one people.” [WGS2 – 32]
Where might they have treated together against their common foes? Surely in neither’s capital. That would presume a certain trust that was only then burgeoning.
Djekul was chosen: close to their common foes, a sheltered port, and one familiar to their Ratikian ally.

The Tenha are nervous, and they too are looking for allies.
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. [WGS2 Howl from the North – 6]
“We were bringing (weapons to the) Frost Barbarians (at Djekul) when we were attacked by the Theo(cracy of the Pale). All of our people were (murdered and our cargo) taken.”
“They just let us die. They (did nothing to help the) innocent that were with us. As their leader (passed me, he) spoke of a successful attack against (Djekul. He said that) the battle (left the city) in complete ruin.” [WGS2 – 31]

“We had well over 30,000 gp worth of weapons and armor for the Frost and Snow Barbarians. They are amassing weapons from the Bandit Kingdoms because of rumors about the movements of armies from the south. “The threat of the Great Kingdom and the Hold of Stonefist is very real. That is why we need the Great God so desperately. Do not fail us! We need heroes now, and we need our sleeping god.” [WGS2 – 31,32]

“I am glad I caught you.” The rider’s soft voice prepares you for the startlingly beautiful woman’s face that appears when her helmet is removed. “I have news of greatest importance. The city of Djekul has been invaded by forces from the south. It is presumed these forces hail from the Bone March, because of the insignia on their armor. However, since the Great Kingdom sometimes disguises its warriors with the devices of other nations, we are not positive of our enemy.
“I have been sent to ask you to make haste in recovering the Blades of Corusk before it is too late. Have you had any luck?” [WGS2 – 32]
It seems that the Barbarian’s allies took umbrage to the Barbarians’ solidarity with Ratik.
Djekul was not destroyed. It survived, if somewhat charred. It was taken by surprise, having never been attacked until then; but its walls held, and its invaders were put to the axe and sword.

586 CY
Djekul would be avenged. They pressed hard into the Stonehold. But alas, their conquest of the north was brief. Sevvord saw to that.
His army drove the barbarians back from Kelten and secured the pass, while he returned to Vlekstaad with his personal guard. [LGG – 109]

590 CY
The Wars did not touch Djekul. Indeed, it never again touched any of the Barbarian lands. They were too remote, and too fierce; for what gain? For ice and snow, and bitter winters? None desired their peninsula.
No. That would be untrue. Mayhap none desired their peninsula, but there were those who desired their bloodlines.
Ambassadors from the Scarlet Brotherhood were spied in Djekul. [LGG – 91]

The Lords of Djekul listen to the whispers of their distant kin. But do they believe them? I wonder. It depends on what is promised. Independence? The Lords of Djekul are of the same mind as northern Ratikians, an independent lot. Neither are particularly obedient. They pay scant heed to the edicts of Krakenheim and are unlikely to trade one master for another. But they are loyal to those they choose. They never break a promise. But they also sail where the best winds blow.
Longships of the Frost Barbarians, often in cooperation with the other Suel barbarians, raid southward in spring to pillage along the coast of the new Great Kingdom of Northern Aerdy and sometimes further south. The crews are typical examples of barbarian warriors, wildly brave but rarely disciplined. No lack of discipline afflicts the soldiers of the king of Fruztii, however; his standing army is highly organized and well trained. The king's men are also well armored with chainmail and shield, bearing swords or battle-axes. Several companies of archers and a small force of cavalry based in Djekul are present. [LGG – 44]
For now the best winds blow from Fruztii.

“In this place I am a barbarian, because men do not understand me.”
― Ovid

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:
Caravan illustration, by Ken Frank, from WGS2 Howl from the North, 1991
Assassin of the Scarlet Brotherhood illustration, by Sam Wood, from The Scarlet Brotherhood, 1999

1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
9317 WGS1 Five Shall be One, 1991
9337 WGS2 Howl From the North, 1991
9386 WGR3 Rary the Traitor, 1992
11742 World of Greyhawk Gazetteer 3e, 2000
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazeteer, 2000
Dragon Magazine 57,63
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer


  1. Good stuff as usual. Northern Alliance against the North Kingdom's depravations

  2. That was an excellent deep dive. As always I never knew there was that much material on this area. Fun enough I was reading about Fruztii recently so this was well timed. Thank you for this work, my friend!