“You never know when the devil might come calling.”
|On the Frozen River|
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]
One wonders why they chose such a place to settle. But they did, their towns and villages dotting the shores of the Icy Sea and climbing the steep wooded inclines of the Hraak Forest. Was it the furs and ivory that lured them there, and held them? Or perhaps it was the ores in the foot of the Bluffs, and later, in the Griffs; those the dwarves have long mined. For surely the Flan did, once, too.
What is sure is that the Flan have been here a very long time. Indeed, they preceded Keraptis, having set roots here even before the first cornerstones of Totencha were set. And they have never left.
Nor do they mingle much with those who came after them, content in their high towns, their hidden coves, their dark woods. Even less so do the hermits in their hovels and caves, deep within the Hraak and the mountain fastness, tending the ancient circles, the barrows, and the long-weathered stones.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]
Salmon spawn in the shallows of the Frozen and vast herds of reindeer graze the tall grass of the fields.
But in soothe, its forests teem with fur, with sable and mink, and artic fox and ermine, their pelts as thick and as luxurious as only the richest of gentry and merchant-princes can afford, for few of their bounty ever makes it to market outside Vlekstaad, or Jotsplat, depending where the contested border lies any given season, depending how brave those who venture within it might be, as well.
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]
Hraak Forest: The Hraak is a largish pine and fir woodland within the territory claimed by the descendants of Stonefist. It borders the Corusks north of Hraak Pass. [WoGG – 52]
The warlike Forest People (a [Coltens] tribe now part of Stonehold) live within. [LGG – 141]
This pine forest is exploited by the Fists purely for fuel, trapping, and hunting. Great bears and wolves roam its depths and, most unusually, a fair number of white dragons lair within it. [FtAA – 55]
The days are short here, no matter the latitude. The Griffs cast long shadows, and even at the sun’s apex during the endless days, twilight reigns in all but the height of high summer.
Up in these northern latitudes, the sun comes up for only a short time each day. At most, three hours of sunlight illuminates the frozen landscape. There are about two hours of twilight, and the rest of the day is spent in darkness. However, the stars are unusually bright, allowing some limited sight. [WGS2 – 16]
The longest days are in winter, when there is no light at all except that of the aurora dancing overhead. Then, the peaks flash and flare mysteriously, though none would ever venture into them to discover why, as calving ice thunders and the eeriest howls and screeching descend from whence the flashing and flaring light.
This is not the time for such foolishness, the Coltens have always opined, this is the time of home and hearth and tending to the herds that too venture no further than the cackling of fires are heard.
|The Griff Mountains|
Few 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 Corusks form a bow. the backbone of the Thillonrian Peninsula which runs from the Solnor Ocean in the east, north and west and then southwest where the range terminates (Hraak Pass). While the lower parts of the mountains are inhabited by humans, various bands of evil humanoids and monsters of all sorts dwell in the central fastness. It is thought that this range possesses little in the way of valuable ores or gems. [WoGG – 52]
Were the Coltens always so? Agrarian? Simple fishers and trappers and herdsmen? Cowards and villeins? Not so.
The warlike Forest People (a tribe now part of Stonehold) live within. [LGG – 141]
Sevvord Redbeard has deployed these folk even before his Fists; and had Vlek Col Vlekzed not seen the need to take measures against them to ensure the longevity of his rule.
c. 430 CY
|Vlek Col Vlekzed|
Was Vlekzed concerned about the Coltens? One would think that he was not.
The forces of Tenh, which had never been strong in the region, were unable to dislodge him. [LGG – 113]
But he was, because the Coltens had been weened by the cruelty of Keraptis, long ago; and they had learned their lessons well.
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]
But prior to Keraptis’ cruelty, they were a part of a greater kingdom.
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]
Had they 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]
And Vlek col Vlekzed knew this. Because although he rode with the Rovers, he was indeed a Colten. Banished for wanton cruelty upon his own people.
Stonehold began as the Hold of Stonefist, a bandit chiefdom founded in the territory of the old Coltens Feodality. 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. [LGG – 109]
Riding unmolested through the lands of his former people, but not caring to test their fighting ability, Vlek moved beyond White Fanged Bay and established a fortified settlement as a permanent camp. [WoGA – 36]
Vlek moved them beyond White Fanged Bay, where he established the fortified town of Vlekstaad. [LGG – 109]
|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.
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 were very uneasy with his presence in their land, but Vlek promised a truce and offered to negotiate with their leaders. [LGG – 109]
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]
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]
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 weren’t the only people discontent with the rulership of the Hold.
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. 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 – 14]
|Big Seal Bay|
In high summer [the Cruski] often find fighting by rounding the coasts of the Hold of Stonefist, [WoGA – 26]
It is rumored that the Baron of Ratik has sent messages to the King of the Schnai proposing four-way cooperation to take the Hold of Stonefist and the Bone March. [WoGG – 35]
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." [WoGA – 21]
Repeated strikes and raids slowly began to do just that, but as the Fists are fierce, each inch was won at great cost.
The other joint operation of these states has been against the Hold of Stonefist. Fruztii forces have now secured the pass south of the Hraak forest and control the land for some 20 miles around. [WGS1 – 4]
They were unable to capture the town of Kelten, but the Cruski reinforced their control of the Taival Tundra. [LGG – 55]
The Ice Barbarians have supported the Fruztii to some extent by making naval raids along the northern coast of Stonefist. The Snow Barbarians have concentrated on attacks on Great Kingdom and Sea Baron shipping, although some of the Schnai have been seen “assisting” the Frost Barbarians in Stonefist. [WGS1 – 6]
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]
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." [WoGG – 37]
Sevvord Redbeard’s defence against the barbarians was hampered by sedition, which led to the Barbarians making greater gains than anticipated.
[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]
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]
|To the Kelten Pass|
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’s a dangerous trek, transporting weapons to Kelten, so close to Purmill, still a Fist stronghold. Those that do are jumpy, sure every rustle of branch and snap of a twig is the harbinger of death. But the way must be kept open, and “safe.” Or as safe as it can 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]
There have been reverses in the east: a Stonefist force from Kelten inflicted a severe defeat on one group of Frost Barbarians a couple of weeks ago. [WGS1 – 37]
Kelten houses nearly 1000 persons, mostly of barbarian ancestry. A few [Colten] refugees from the Hold of Stonefist have settled here as well. Weapons of all types can be seen in Kelten, mainly designed for northern living-spears, ice picks, ice saws, etc. Dried vegetables and meats are big items here; cold-weather clothes are popular commodities, too. Parkas lined with wolverine fur are the best clothing value to be found in these parts. (Wolverine fur in the lining of the parka hood keeps moisture from building up on its surface.)
If [travellers] are looking for a warm, safe place to rest, several inns are available. Their services cost double what southern inns charge, but the food and beds are of a comparable quality. [WGS2 – 16]
|Never Far Away|
Notwithstanding the Barbarian’s occupation of Kelten, the Stonefist’s legacy is strong here, in Kelten. One would think they’d have torn down his temple, but they are wary, terrified, in fact, of the malice He would inflict upon them if they should.
Erythnul’s temple in Kelten [WGS1 – 38]
Alignments: CE*, CN, N
Religions: Erythnul*, Syrul, Beltar, Beory, Obad-Hai [LGG – 108]
Erythnul (The Many), the god of Hate, Envy, Malice, Panic, Ugliness, and Slaughter is not easily exorcized. Nor banished. His clerics may not be in residence, but they are never far away, either.
Erythnul's clerics are cruel, sadistic, and hateful. They foment rebellion, murder, and riots in civilized areas, lead troops of bandits, raiders, or nonhumans, and commit murder when they grow bored. They deface beautiful things and disfigure attractive people for fun. They aren't above betraying their own allies to suit their own motives or protect their own hides. They travel to bring ugliness and strife to pleasant places or to escape those that would persecute them. [LGG – 170]
And despite their absence, those ancestral residents that remain head their call and creed, and yearn for their return.
Destroy anyone who would take what is yours away from you. Covet that which you do not own. Blessed is he who can take something from a rival. Maim those you cannot destroy, and cause fear in the hearts that you cannot maim. Bloodshed for its own sake is reason enough, and if you can shed the blood of a hated enemy, so much the better. When Erythnul's gift of blood rage comes upon you, be sure to use it well. [LGG – 170]
It is a wonder that the Barbarians did not impale the lot of them, to be sure of their continued loyalty.
What kept the Keltens in check is Barbarian’s greater presence, a stone’s throw away.
The nearest barbarian tribe lives directly north of Kelten. It is off the beaten track, but a sledge team-rented from the man who is talking to the characters-can take them there with little effort. They live in a region south of the forest where the ice and snow never melt. (This is false. The man is only trying to get the characters to rent or buy a dog-sled team, which will cost them 30 gp or 120 gp, respectively.) [WGS2 – 16]
Never trust a Kelten, the barbarians would say. And in that, they would be correct.
It is true, though, that the Barbarians are encamped in force.
A number of tents and crudely made log buildings crowd inside a log fence. Human movement can be seen inside the camp, but sight is very limited. Grey smoke belches from the peaks of the tents and from make-shift chimneys on the log houses. Dark, four-legged shapes can be seen padding about as well, their noses to the ground or to the air. The wind blows at your back, sending a chill through your bodies. [WGS2 – 20]
These tents belong to the married members of the tribe. Each family lives in a separate tent. They are isolated from the others areas of the camp so no one need listen to their incessant fighting. Married men and women of this tribe are very jealous of their spouses, and they want to make sure they are far from the single members of the community. [WGS2 – 24]
Kabloona Starskull is the barbarian chieftain. He received his first name because his skin and the whites of his eyes are unusually white, especially when compared to the yellowed eyes and skin of the native northern folk.
He obtained his last name because spirits touched him years ago. His mind lives in the stars of the Swan themselves. This makes it hard for him to think and to react properly while with normal folk. (Kabloona went insane soon after he was driven from his tribe.) [WGS2 – 16]
Those Rhizian Barbarians caught scent that their fabled Swords of Corusk were hidden in the Hold, and were motivated that they would be theirs again. With all five, they could release their imprisoned lord, Vatun, from bondage. They banded together, and Vlekstaad could not hold them back.
In 582 CY, the god Vatun appeared to his subjects among the barbarian tribes of the Thillonrian Peninsula. [LGG – 15]
The deity looks over your heads toward the northeast. A smile breaks across his leathery face, showing pearly white, perfect teeth. “Look, the great armies of the Ice Barbarians come to fight at our side. Behind them, the Snow and Frost Barbarians prepare to join the fray. Our peoples are finally as one. This is the way it was meant to be since the dawn of Oerth.”
As you turn to look behind you, the faint sound of seal skin drums and mammoth tusk horns reaches your ears. Riding on beasts ranging from horses to musk oxen, the barbarians approach just as the Great God said. The god turns and looks at the approaching enemy armies. A glint of pleasure gleams from his night-black pupils. He heaves a sigh and turns to look at you. “It has begun.” [WGS2 – 42]
Sadly, for the Barbarians—fortuitously for a great many others—Vatun was not Vatun.
No matter, this Vatun’s return was to spell misery for thousands upon thousands of souls upon the Flanaess.
Unfortunately, this particular "Vatun" was actually Iuz, whipping the northmen into a war frenzy. The barbarians invaded the Hold of Stonefist, which allied with them after Iuz ensorcelled Sevvord Redbeard, the Master of the Hold The combined host then smashed through the Griffs and into the duchy of Tenh, which was swiftly overwhelmed. The barbarian alliance soon crumbled, but the damage was done; Tenh and Stonefist belonged to the Old One. [LGG – 15]
The Great War, later called the Greyhawk Wars, had begun.
The War passed by Kelten 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.
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]
Resources: Furs [,] silver, gems (I)
Population: 55,000 [Stonehold]—Human 96% (FS), Orc 2%, Dwarf 1%, Other 1%
[LGG – 108]
It appears that Sevvord’s war will rage for 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]
“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
―Travels with Charley: In Search of America
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.
Stonehold, by Ken Frank, from WGS2 Howl from the North, 1991
Kelten map, by Diesel, from WGS2 Howl from the North, 1991
Kabloona's Camp, by Ken Frank, from WGS2 Howl from the North, 1991
The 5 Swords, 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
9577 The Adventure Begins, 1998
11434 Return to White Plume Mountain, 1999
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
Dragon Magazine 55,56,57,209 241
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer