“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
|A Cold Vigil|
Long ago, we faced north, anxious for coming of the Barbarian hordes that crashed upon our walls, wave after wave, howling, bellowing bloodcurdling death songs, the singers eager to join their ancestors in the afterlife. Now we peer into the south, expecting the bloodthirst euroz to fall upon us yet, as they have, time and again. They lurk in the heights of the Rakers, they lurk amid the tall pines of the Loft Hills, waiting for our patrols to emerge.
We hold the wall. Like our fathers did, and their fathers did before them, as our sons will when we have fallen in defence of life, empire, and the cause of liberty.
So it was, so it is, so it will ever be.
Ratikhill (pop, 5,500) [LGG – 89]
Ratik is populated chiefly by folk of Aerdi descent, with an Oeridian-Suel mix being common. Few Flan are here, though many Fruztii and some Schnai are present, expatriate farmers from their homelands. Dwarves and gnomes are numerous in rougher lands. Only humans prefer the coasts, where their fishing villages are located. Ratik is well settled despite being located so far north of the population centers of the former Great Kingdom, partly because so many refugees fled here from Bone March. [LGG – 89]
Some farming is conducted during the short growing season in the open lands between Marner and Ratikhill. [LGG – 89]
It is a very much a northern town, despite its southern roots. The snows come early here and stay long.
The climate of Ratik is wintry much of the year, with heavy snows swollen with moisture from the Solnor falling steadily during the height of Telchur's sway. The windswept Timberway remains the greatest focus of the realm. It is a hunting ground that produces the pelts and furs used widely in the dress of the nation. It also provides Ratik with its greatest bounty, the timber and shipbuilding supplies that drive much of the economic activity of the archbarony. [LGG – 89]
Hard work and windswept bitter cold. That hardens a people.
They hold the line, the Rakers to the east, the Loftwood and the Sea to the East.
Rakers (The): A southern arm of the Griff Mountains which runs downward into the central part of eastern Flanaess is known as the Rakers, since the tall, sharp peaks seemingly rake the skies. […] Although infested with humanoids and fearsome creatures, these mountains also provide a home for a number of groups of dwarves and mountain dwarves. It is not known how much valuable ore is contained within these peaks. [Folio – 24]
The western border of Ratik is an endless range of foothills, inhabited by dwarves for millennia. These mountains are dotted with mines of gold and precious gems situated between citadels of stone that protect the ways from the denizens of the deep mountains. [LGG – 89]
Loftwood: The small Loftwood lies along the Solnor Coast between Bone March and Ratik. Its pines were once much prized for shipbuilding. The site of a great Ratikkan victory over Bone March orcs (578 CY), the wood was partly despoiled by nonhumans setting fires (584—585 CY). It is once again a battleground between Ratik in the north and orcs and gnolls in the south. [LGG – 141]
Its southern border is marked by the fortified hills separating Ratik from Bone March. These extend east all the way out to the Loftwood, where the hearty woodsmen are allied with the archbarony. [LGG – 89]
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. During high summer, great sea monsters are often seen sporting in the bay. 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 – 147]
While these barriers have profoundly isolated Ratik from the rest of the Flanaess, they also have served to protect it from invaders for centuries. [LGG – 89]
It has not always been Aerdian, however.
The Flan have dwelt here for ages, and before them the dwarves and the gnomes. Until the Suel came.
One of Zellifar's minions, the High Priest Pellipardus, slips away from the Zolites and takes his minor family to the Ratik area, in the North. [OJ#1]
Zellifar does not pursue, fearing that this will take his attention away from the Three Houses of Pursuit: the Schnai, the Fruztii, and the Cruski. [OJ#11]
-423 to -200 CY
But the Suel did not remain in the Loft Hills. They spread north.
And then were pressed north by the coming of the Oeridians.
For two centuries the Oerid and Suel battled each other and the fragmenting humanoid hordes for possession of the central area of the Flanaess, incidentally engaging the Flannish and demi-humans. [Folio – 5]
Finding the north all but empty, except for a few nuisance Flan clans and some scattered Sylvain settlements, the Suel claimed these empty northern lands for themselves.
The Three Houses of Pursuit move into the Thillonrian Peninsula. [OJ#1]
The known history of the Suel of the far north is a combination of legend, myth and tradition. Their earliest tales are of the battles they fought as they may their way across the Flanaess, dogged by the Oeridians who allowed them no habitation in the rich central lands. […] The ancestors of the Suel barbarians hated the Suel nobles and aristocracy almost as much as they hated foreign races. They acknowledged no masters, and after a century of travail finally crossed the Rakers into Rhizia. [LGG – 44]
Bresht was founded to protect newly acquired Oeridian conquests.
The walled town of Bresht was renamed Ratikhill in honor of the new baron [….] [LGG – 90]
|Beleaguered by the Oeridian Invaders|
The Aerdi freed Johnsport in a pitched battle with the barbarians before the onset of winter. Sensing that this would be only the first phase of a long struggle, Aerdi commanders summoned thousands of contingents from North Province over the objections of the herzog, a Hextorian who had wanted to lead the forces into battle himself. [LGG – 36]
With the defeat of the Fruztii at Johnsport, the call went out that winter, and thousands of their kinsmen poured south along the Timberway the next year. [LGG – 36]
109 - 110 CY
The Oeridians were victorious, despite hard Suel resistance. And they meant to have more.
The Aerdi drove the surviving barbarians out of the hills, controlling the land all the way to the Loftwood by the following spring. [LGG – 36]
But the Suel did not go willingly. Nor did they admit defeat.
When the Kingdom of Aerdy became an empire, its leaders determined to crush the troublesome barbarians pushing down from the Thillonrian Peninsula and settling in the strip of land between the Rakers and Grendep Bay. [Folio – 9]
Those Fruztii thanes who chose to remain bent the knee to their new overlords and ruled the lands north of Marner in their stead.
The Fruztii north of the Timberway were not defeated. Nor had they bent the knee. Nor did they admit those lost lands relinquished. They meant to have them back.
In 128 CY, the Fruztii and Schnai allied to create an invasion flotilla. They launched a concerted attack on Marner during the spring that almost caught the Aerdi by surprise. In defense, General Ratik set the major approaches to the port ablaze, forcing the armada through a narrow approach where it was cut to pieces by the siege engines of the fort and a squadron of the imperial navy. [LGG – 90]
After a raiding fleet was roundly beaten, the Overking elevated this general to the nobility, creating him Baron Ratik. [WoGA – 32]
The overking was sufficiently impressed with the victory that in 130 CY he elevated Pelgrave Ratik to the aristocracy, granting him the title of baron and the new lands as a personal fief. The family of Ratik gained the status of a minor noble house within the Great Kingdom. The walled town of Bresht was renamed Ratikhill in honor of the new baron, and it quickly prospered from trade with Spinecastle passing through Kalmar Pass. [LGG – 90]
This did not conquer the Fruztii spirit. They would not relent. If they could not defeat the Aerdi they would raid them without respite.
130 – 350 CY
Can one separate the history this city from the state? If not, then the history of Ratik and Ratikhill is very much married with that of the Bone March. Ratik sprang from the March, after all.
Thereafter a succession of [Pelgrave Ratik’s] descendants have ruled the fief, bravely combatting raiders so as to gain their respect and even friendship from some, while humans and demihumans alike prospered. [WoGA – 32]
The baron and the marquis of Bone March became fast allies, and their descendants enjoyed a great deal of peace and success over the next two centuries, needing only to fend off infrequent raids from the Timberway and the Rakers until the middle of the fourth century CY. [LGG – 90]
Ratikill repurposed. Trade passed its gates and its garrison dwindled, there being little need for legions when companies sufficed.
No sally, no sortie, nor siege had ever dislodged the Aerdi from Ratikhill. The Rhizians decided to cut Ratik off from its lifeblood by encircling it. Should the Bone March fall, surely Ratik must, as well.
[A] massive invasion by a unified host of Fruztii and Schnai threatened to overwhelm the nations and sweep into North Province in 356 CY. The Rax Overking Portillan was concurrently embroiled in a struggle over the secession of Nyrond and had assembled an invasion force to head west, which he was forced to divert north to counter the new threat. The attack was soon turned back, though at great cost. So fierce was the defense of the men and dwarves of Ratik that even the Fruztii were impressed. [LGG- 90]
The Celestial court would accomplish what the Fruztii could never do. Its myopic rule turned inward, and for centuries the Great Kingdom waned, shrinking ever smaller. It was only a matter of time before Marner realized that there could be no help from the Malachite Throne, not then, not ever. It must look to itself and its closest ally, and none other, were it to survive.
Ratik and Bone March gained semipalatinate status following the Turmoil Between Crowns, which saw a shift of power from the Malachite Throne to the provinces. Few of Ratik's riches headed south in tribute, and Alain II of Ratik took to calling himself archbaron henceforth. [LGG – 90,91]
In 443 CY, Ivid I set about hunting down and destroying the remaining Knight Protectors, for they opposed his ascension to the throne after he assassinated the last Rax overking. He did not succeed in destroying them, but they were widely dispersed, and some disappeared from the courts of the provinces to go into hiding. [LGG – 158]
560 – 563 CY
|The Euroz This Way Came|
In 560, nonhuman tribes from the Rakers and Blemu Hills struck into Bone March, subjugating the land in 563 and slaying its leaders. [LGG – 91]
When the hordes of humanoids began attacking, Ratik had ample warning from the dwarves dwelling in the mountains. Companies of men and gnomes hurried west to aid their countrymen against the invaders, while couriers were sent south (and north) to alert the people there. Resistance was so fierce that the area was bypassed, and the attackers fell instead upon the Bone March. […]
The Baron's forces are able to defend Ratik, but they are not strong enough to dislodge the humanoids from the mountains of the plain to the south. [WoGA – 32]
Ratik and its baron, Lexnol III, had been forewarned and deflected most of the invaders, but could not prevent the disaster that befell the march. Lexnol, a skilled leader and tactician, realized that he was now isolated and no succor would be forthcoming from the south or the court of Overking Ivid V. He approached the lords of Djekul, who had grown less wary of the proud Aerdi in the intervening years and were even grudgingly respectful. With the Fruztii, Lexnol forged an affiliation called the Northern Alliance. Ratik subsequently became fully independent of the Great Kingdom and had the might to both hammer the orcs and gnolls of Bone March and dissuade an invasion from North Province. [LGG – 91]
The isolated barony has since been ruled as a fief palatine. [WoGA – 32]
Most Knight Protectors of the Great Kingdom live now in Ratik, refugees from Bone March, where Clement was a powerful member of the order until the province's fall in 563 CY. [LGG – 158]
The successful alliance of the Barony of Ratik and the Frost Barbarians has caused much consternation in Bone March (and among the Baron of Ratik's political enemies in Rauxes). The tribes of the Bone March are still smarting from the drubbing they received last year from the combined Ratik-Fruztii armies, so the evil leaders of the humanoids have determined that the northern alliance must be dissolved. Certain espionage elements in Marner that usually work for the Overking were contacted, and an agreement was reached. In a daring raid, the Seal of the Alliance was stolen from the Baronial Vault. This symbolic parchment was endorsed and blessed by the gods of both Ratik and Fruztii, and the superstitious Frost Barbarians place great store in its continued safety. Once it is learned that the men of Ratik were unable to keep it safe, the alliance will probably fall apart. or at least be greatly damaged. The Seal is now being taken to Spinecastle, where it will be displayed and its theft publicly announced. [WoGG – 29,30]
However, regaining the Seal will not be easy, for the thieves and assassins from Marner are now riding with an armed group that was waiting for them with the border guard.
This group includes:
- 24 ores, including some leader types.
- An evil human magic-user of high level, with appropriate magic items. (He now carries the Seal.)
- 5 ogres, all well-armed and armored.
- A charmed minotaur which protects and obeys the magic-user. [WoGG – 30]
|In Hot Pursuit|
In 580 CY, intruders from Bone March attempted an audacious act of treachery by stealing the Seal of Marner, an object blessed by the gods of the Suel barbarians that was the symbol of the new Northern Alliance. [LGG – 36,37]
Rangers were deployed from Ratikill in hot pursuit of the thieves.
The plot was foiled when the raiding party was captured in Kalmar Pass before making it back to Spinecastle with their prize. [LGG – 36,37]
[The] Seal of Marner was stolen by agents of Bone March, an effort by the nonhumans to quash the alliance between Ratik and the Frost Barbarians. The document was recovered before it was secreted to Spinecastle, but not before news of the theft drove a small wedge between the Fruztii and Ratikans. [LGG – 37]
If the theft had driven a small wedge between Ratik and the Fruztii it also increased their resolve. The Northern Alliance sought to drive the euroz from the Loft Hills and the Loftwood, once and for all.
The alliance between Ratik and the Frost Barbarians against the humanoids of the Bone March has born fruit over years of cooperation. The forces of Ratik now occupy the Loftwood and are preparing for a major assault on the city of Johnsport, backed by a naval attack along the coast to the east. [WGS1 – 4]
Had they tempered that resolve, if only a little.
Infighting soon broke out between several of the nonhuman tribes, and the sides remained stalemated until 586 CY, when Alain IV, Archbaron Lexnol's son and heir, launched a raid into the fallen realm that was composed in large part of expatriates of the march, it was a doomed mission. The unusually organized nonhumans laid a trap for the force in the hills north of Spinecastle. Horrified survivors who escaped back to Ratikhill reported that the trapped raiders were dragged from their horses, torn apart, and eaten alive before their eyes. [LGG – 37]
Alain’s death rejuvenated the euroz. They began inching forward into the Loft Hills and Loftwood once again, testing Ratikhill’s defences.
Raids into the archbarony from Bone March have resumed. [LGG – 37]
Folks living along the southern reaches of Ratik have always lived with the threat of humanoid incursions from occupied Bone March, across the Rakers. Ratikhill has stood at the mouth of the Kalmar pass—a great barrier against these evil waves. As Telchur’s frozen breath comes across Grendep Bay once again, the armies from the south move through the pass, towards Ratikhill’s great walls. To the east, the foresters of the Loftwood report that various orc and gnoll clans are gathering. With the bulk of Ratik’s army stationed at Ratikhill, many fear that the militia of House Bredivan may not be able to hold the Loftwood border. [LGJ#2 – 30]
|We Stand the Wall|
Attacks against the borders of Ratik have besieged the militia of the northern and southern nobles over the past several months. Lives have been lost. Lumber production in the Timberway and Loftwood has plummeted. All the while, Archbaroness Evaleigh has done nothing. The Council of Lords pleads and demands for decisive action to no avail. The majority of the army remains entrenched at Ratikhill to support the Bone March campaign, while the Lords of ratik sacrifice their own troops in the country’s defence. Finally, some of the noble houses have begun to plot more immediate and drastic action. At the same time, the plummeting economy and lack of trade has driven the various guild members to take actions of their own. The throne of the Archbarony, the noble Council of Lords, and the merchant guilds appear to be deploying for and internal conflict which could devastate the country more than any invading army. [LGJ#4 – 30]
What will become of Ratikhill, one wonders?
Do not despair.
We stand the wall, they would say, for life, empire, and the cause of liberty, like our fathers did, and their fathers did before them, as our sons will when we have fallen.
So it was, so it is, so it will ever be.
“Fall down seven times, stand up eight.”
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.
World of Greyhawk map detail, by Darlene, from the Folio, 1980
1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
2023 Greyhawk Adventures Hardback, 1988
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
9317 WGS1 Five Shall be One, 1991
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazeteer, 2000
Living Greyhawk Journal, #2, #4
Oerth Journal, #1, #11
Greychrondex, Wilson, Steven B.
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer