Friday, 16 September 2022

On Tenser, Part 1

“A man might desire something for a moment, while a larger part of him rejects it. You'll need to learn to judge people by their actions, not their thoughts.”
― Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Jinni

Who is Tenser? A wizard? Yes. An archmage? Definitely. An adventurer? Tenser is a medium-sized man, with brown hair and prominent nose. He is polite, quick-witted, and outgoing. He enjoys socializing; when not on an adventure. [WGA4 – 88,89]
He surely was then, once. Did he continue to be an adventurer after becoming a member of the Circle of Eight? One assumes as much, but that’s a point of discussion. He must have been, though, of a sort; his Art became more powerful as time passed, and he, being who he is, could hardly have done so by research and experimentation alone. That he achieved greatness has never been in doubt.
Still other mortal wizards, villains, thieves and heroes have had such an impact that in a hundred universes great spells and magical devices bear their names: Mordenkainen, Iuz, Bigby, Drawmij, Heward, Iggwilv, Tenser, Acererak, Nystul, Tuerny, Ehlisra, Otiluke, Serten, Bucknard, Sustarre. These people made the Flanaess the greatest of legendary lands. [PGtG – 18]
Tenser kept company with a great many of those noted. Proof of it was in his correspondence, and in the memorabilia scattered about his citadel.
C14. Hall of the Great.
This hallway’s blue walls are hung with portraits of adventurers Tenser knew in the past. One interesting picture shows a grinning man with a short haircut, a blue tunic buttoned down the front, worn blue pants and a strange metal device in his hand […]; a brass plate identifies the subject as “Murlynd.” A life-sized bronze statue in the hall’s center is of Bigby as a young, clean-shaven man. [Rot8 – 32]

Was his familiarity with them a matter of coincidence? I doubt that. The great and powerful tend to find orbit around one another.
One wonders, though, whether Tenser was anything like those he kept company with.
Before his death in 584 CY, this wizard was the strongest advocate for law and good in the Eight, and often found himself at loggerheads with those members who prized balance above all. [PGtG – 23]
He is the strongest proponent for the causes of Law and Good within the Circle of Eight. [COG:FFF - 24]
That said, his “means to an end” was not always the most virtuous or forthright, to my mind.
He is known to be slightly disrespectful of the rights of others in such matters, being quite ready to use the geas spell to force others into serving those causes dear to his heart. [COG:FFF - 24]
He will sometimes enspell good magic-users to go on dangerous missions to aid the cause of good. [Rogues Gallery – 47]
I expect all the Eight were guilty of that sort of thing, employing others to pursue their ends—and do their dirty work, from time to time—and that they all enspelled a few of those, from time to time, with geas to ensure those ends were pursued vigorously. Most are Neutral, after all, and I have no doubt that none of them would not have batted an eye about the morality of doing such.
Tenser, of course, only employed geas in the pursuit of Law and the Greater Good. He probably didn’t need to, though, in most cases: There were and are plenty of applicants in such causes, to say nothing of those wishing bragging rights for having been in the employ of one of the greatest wizards the Flanaess had ever seen.
You stand before a great throne of lapis lazuli. The massive chamber in which it rests is also blue. Even the air has an indigo quality-perhaps from the weirdly convoluted coils of smoke rising from braziers of azure metal. The youngish figure encompassed by the great chair is a personage, a man whose presence inspires awe, Tenser the Arch-Mage. [WG6 – 6]
[T]he Summoner was the renowned Tenser, boon companion of many of the most redoubtable adventurers in the Flanaess and one who is privy to the Council of the shadowy figures who are the determiners of the course the world will take.
[WG6 – 6]
Tenser is, if anything, charismatic. He’s charming. He’s persuasive. And he’s not adverse to dropping a name or two to impress.
“Most of you are familiar with the name Robilar, and perhaps a few have knowledge of his brother, Terik. It was in this company, and with Merlynd as well, that I first ventured to the Isle of the Ape...” [WG6 – 6]
Not that he should need to. After all, who in the service of the cause of Law and the Greater Good would deny him a service asked for? Not that I believe Tenser would abuse the privilege of their service. I think it is safe to say that Tenser would never send those souls he employed into situations he did not believe they could handle. Nor would he ever send those in his service into any danger he would not face himself, and he likely would have, if he could be in two places at once, because if anyone can have claim to have been the moral compass of the Circle of Eight it would be Tenser.
Tenser’s concern for thwarting the plans of Evil is indicated by his contacts in the courts of Furyondy, Urnst, and Nyrond, and by his very strong friendship with the High Patriarch of Rao in Mitrik, none other than the Hazen, priestly ruler of that bastion of righteousness.
While Mordenkainen and the others feign boredom with Tenser’s continual warnings concerning the ambitions of Evil, there is no doubt he is often right in his claims, and his desire to shift the balance of power towards Law and Good is tolerated by other Circle members at least in part because of the extensive intelligence network he has. [COG:FFF - 22]
The others might feign boredom, but I suspect they always paid heed to his concerns. Even if they did not always follow his lead.
[Tenser] is something of an alarmist, always decrying the threat of evil in this quarter or that. [WGA4 – 89]
Although they should have. Always.

How did Tenser become the notable he is? Like many adventurer, it would seem; by leaps and bounds, and by the road of great risk.
525 CY
Tenser is born.
Legendary natives of the Wild Coast include such persons as Mordenkainen, Robilar, and Tenser, to name but a few. [WoGA – 42]
Tenser does not discuss his origins, but he seems to have been born in 525 CY, probably in the city of Fax. [Rot8 – 58]

Fax (approx. pop. 2,000) [LGG – 86]
Until recently, the only armed warships on Woolly Bay were privateers, paid by coastal tom to protect their own ships while raiding others. Safeton, Fax, Elredd, Highport, Blue, and even Scant of Onnwal took part in such part -time piracy, with Highport the worst offender. [Slavers – 38]
It is unlikely that his ancestry was gentry, landed or otherwise. Indeed, it is unlikely his people were anything but pirates.

Mid-500s CY
Whatever his origin, Tenser must have abhorred Faxians’ “adventurous” leanings.
AL: LG [Rogues Gallery – 47]
The misery and strife their pursuits caused kept him from pursuing a life “at sea,” as they would have called it. That said, he coveted the fine things those piratical ships returned laden with, things he could never hope to afford should he remain in Fax, were he not to take up their trade. How might he then? He realised that a bright lad, such as he, could earn as much wealth as the pirates did, perhaps more, were he to take to the road, as they said adventurers did. After all, the adventurers who’d passed through Fax always seemed fat with coin. They had better armour, better steel, and they didn’t have to brave the capricious sea. Theirs looked like a romantic pursuit to his young eyes; especially those berobed few who never seemed to have to carry as much as the armoured ones… He thought he just might be bright enough to do what they did.
Int.17 [Rogues Gallery – 47]
The School of Magical Arts
So, one day he struck out up the Wild Coast towards the Free City of Greyhawk, where all things seemed possible.
The [Greyhawk University of Magical Arts] is known for its harsh academic life and intense, focused studies; Mordenkainen, Bigby, and Tenser of the Circle of Eight learned their craft here decades ago. [TAB – 6]
Where he excelled. And after years of study, he too “took to the road.”
Here the Arch-Mage pauses to adjust his flowing robes of midnight blue. [WG6 – 6]
In his adventurous youth, he traveled throughout the Flanaess and beyond and met Mordenkainen, Riggby, Merlynd (now the quasi-diety Murlynd), Robilar, Bigby and other now-famous personages. [Rot8 – 58]
To the average man of the modern era, the Crook [of Rao] existed only in scripture and hymn. In the mid-sixth century CY, however, the adventurers Tenser, Terik, Merlynd, and Robilar discovered the artifact in the depths of Castle Greyhawk, only to lose it again in a bizarre demiplane known as the Isle of the Ape. [Dragon #294 – 95]
The hermit of Wavenair was a 13th-level druid from the Gamboge forest. Tenser visited him to learn about elemental water magic. [Dragon #191 – 67]

Despite his bookish study, he never did divest himself of the romance of the hero plunging into danger, wielding his sword.
Aggressive when Roused
Human 14th-level M-U
S10, I16, W11, D16, C16, Ch16
[Rogues Gallery – 47]
He is aggressive when roused, and uses offensive spells in combats immediately when this is feasible. [COG:FFF - 24]
Contrary to most magic-users, Tenser has always been a lover of battle. Occasionally he will seemingly forget his spells and charge into melee with his staff, depending on his magical protections to preserve him. In many ways, it is felt that his temperament was better suited to be a fighter.
At the same time, Tenser is no fool. He has no aversion to using magic and generally will chose it first. […]
Tenser has dust of disappearance, a wand of negation, a staff of the magi, a ring of protection +3, a displacer cloak, a ring of human influence, a wand of metal and mineral detection, a potion of protection from dragon’s breath […], and dust of dispelling air elementals [….] [Rogues Gallery – 47]

However successful Tenser became, no matter how famous his exploits were, his were always eclipsed by another mage who hailed from the Wild Coast.
When Mordenkainen had gathered his initial band of follows, henchman, and followers numbering a score or two, keeping them became a problem. It wasn’t a matter of loyalty or what to do with them. The sheer cost of paying upkeep and wages was quite staggering. The rewards for dungeon exploration were sufficient to maintain the group in modest fashion, but certainly a mage with vision needed more than such a small company to achieve his goals. […] [Dragon #299 – 18]

It was only a matter of time before these two talented mages would cross paths.
In the mid-500s, a Wild Coast wizard named Mordenkainen quietly began to confer with several sorcerers in the Greyhawk area about the possibility of forming a group dedicated to the preservation of the Flanaess from external threats. This group became known as the Circle of Eight, an outgrowth of an earlier group of eight powerful individuals formed by Mordenkainen known as the Citadel of Eight, said to be headquartered in the Yatil Mountains at Mordenkainen’s retreat.
[TAB – 60]
Mordenkainen lives in his Obsidian Citadel in the Yatils [.] The Citadel houses Mordenkainen’s unequaled library which is said to contain spellbooks of every known spell (except those designed by individual wizards), intelligence reports across the continent, and a detailed and continuously updated history of the Flanaess. Only Bigby and Tenser know of his home’s precise location. [PGtG – 22]
Tenser might have had converse with Mordenkainen, but his world view coincided more closely with that of the great mage’s apprentice, Bigby; and it was with him that Tenser became fast friends.
A few of the members of the Circle of Eight have been publicly named, such as Bigby and Tenser. The latter was already a semi-resident of the Domain of Greyhawk, as he had taken control of an ancient castle on the southern shore of the Nyr Dyv near the city. [TAB – 60]
Magepoint is a small town at the foot of a land bridge that thrusts half a mile into the Nyr Dyv. At the end of the peninsula is Tenser’s Castle [.] [Rot8 – 2]

Tenser, it would seem, was not as eclipsed by Mordenkainen as some might believe. Mordenkainen had his citadel, and so too did Tenser have his.
TENSER'S TOWER (Fortress of Unknown Depths, The Hidden Fortress)
Tenser's Tower
Tenser's castle at hex Z3-83
[FtAA – 73]
Tenser’s castle is several days’ travel from the city, set on a huge rock in the Nyr Dyv, connected to the shore by a promontory [.] [Rot8 – 18,19]
This lonely edifice, standing proudly on its rocky promontory and nearly surrounded by the waters of the Nyr Dyv, is visible for miles in all directions.
The promontory juts into the water of the lake for nearly half a mile. And for most of its length is barely two or three paces wide across its top. The surface is broken rock, so rough that a person must slow his pace to a crawl in order to walk here. [COG:GOTF – 21]

Tenser's castle, dominated by its Great Tower, stands on a rocky outcrop overlooking Midbay. High-walled, with a magically reinforced gatehouse, drawbridge, and portcullis, it is nigh on impossible to raid. Magical illusions and distortions mask its traps and defenses, and a network of permanent wizard eye globes allowed Tenser to scry any part of his home with complete accuracy whenever he wished. [FtAC – 30]
Many locals know it as the Fortress of Unknown Depths. The castle is pale blue. While no one knows much about its defenses, everyone agrees that they must be impressive, and involve walls, towers, magic and monsters. [Rot8 – 18,19]
Tenser had many aquatic friends [.] For a time, a mist dragon aided him; when it left, Tenser studied the lake’s fauna until he discovered a beast that he magically forced into service as a guardian. The monster was a verme, a gigantic foul fish. [Rot8 – 22]
Some of the defenses are golems of his own creation.
Strange, golem-like figures of silver with eyes that shine with a lambent blue radiance seem to appear from nowhere. [WG6 – 6]
Tenser does like to tinker. Indeed, he does….
On a shelf over the stacked books is what appears to be a marvelously detailed toy or model of a fantastic sailing ship, only I foot long. This is Tenser’s ethereal transport in miniaturized form, capable of carrying up to 40 people on its journeys. […] . It shrinks and grows on command [.] On another command, it enters the foggy Ethereal Plane over a one-turn period, glowing sapphire as it does. The ship sails through the Ethereal Plane until it reaches a portal to another plane or demiplane; this portal can be opened by a spellcaster on the ship, and the passengers on the ship can cross over to that new plane. [Rot8 – 42]
One wonders why Tenser chose to live where he does. And why others did before him….
Tenser knew about the Endless Well long before he claimed the castle. The Well was the reason he wanted the castle in the first place, though he did like its blue color. However, for years he was unable to get the machinery to function. [Rot8 – 47]
Oerthblood seeps into The Endless Well from deep within the Fortress of Unknown Depths, the dwelling place of the archmage Tenser. His ancient keep was built by migrating Oeridians to guard and harvest this rich magical ore. Few know Oerthblood exists—Tenser has been studying the substance in seclusion for decades—and no one knows exactly what it is. [Dragon #294 – 93]

He soon discovered that his Hidden Fortress of Unknown Depths harboured far darker secrets than he originally suspected as he plumbed ever deeper into its depths.
When Tenser first moved to the Fortress of Unknown Depths, he was astonished to discover a gate leading from a storage closet in the keep. […]
The other end of the gate exited in a small stone hut, apparently centuries old. When Tenser stepped outside the hut, it was plain that the gate opened onto the rain-soaked surface of Luna, Oerth‘s larger moon. […]
Tenser discovered the overgrown ruins of a human-scaled village a few hours’ walk from the hut. These ruins had been built barely a century ago. In the central building, Tenser found an extensive alchemical laboratory and evidence that the village had been built for the archmage Iggwilv, mother of Iuz. He immediately abandoned his explorations and removed all traces of his presence before returning and closing the gate. [Rot8 – 20]

560 CY
Events of WG5 Mordenkainen’s Fantastic Adventure
The adventure is assumed to take place before 570 CY, perhaps as early as 560, because of the lower levels listed for Mordenkainen and Bigby.  [TAB – 3]

Yrag, Mordenkainen, Bigby, and Riggby

Adventuring, while well and good, was not enough for Mordenkainen anymore. He wished to affect the Flanaess at large—to keep it safe, as it were—and he needed others to help him.
At that table, nearly thirty years ago, Mordenkainen debated with his young apprentice, Bigby, the merits of taking an active hand in maintaining the celestial balance of power. Thereafter, the two struck upon a plan to gather a group of like-minded individuals that would act to hinder advances by those who would dominate the Flanaess. That their expected exploits would impart upon the mages no small amount of lost magical lore only served to hasten the alliance.
[LGJ#0 – 4,5]
That group of like-minded individuals became the Citadel of Eight.
Within months, Mordenkainen had brought the renowned warrior Robilar to his cause, as well as the cleric Riggby, and his zealous assistant, Yrag. From the shores of the Nyr Dyv, Mordenkainen recruited the righteous Tenser, who in turn introduced the dim-witted though well-meaning Serten to the assembly. Finally, the young woodsman, Otis, rounded out the group. [LGJ#0 – 5]
[Otis is] a ranger knight (Level 10), an agent of the King of Furyondy, a Knight Bachelor of Veluna [.] [T1-4 – 34]
Tenser is 35.

[T]he Citadel of Eight, was a known opponent of darkness in its many guises. Its members stood, and fell, protecting the balance and defending Oerth from the influence of malign beings and, rarely, benevolent interlopers, as well.
[LGJ#0 – 4]
In the years of their companionship, both Robilar and Yrag were ennobled by Greyhawk, and Riggby was promoted speedily within the church of Boccob in Verbobonc. Tenser, Bigby, and Mordenkainen likewise advanced in their own wizardly ways, gaining arcane knowledge and power. [LGJ#0 – 5]

569 CY
Their aim was true. And noble.
But their Fellowship was not to last. Some of them were not as dedicated to their cause as others.
Hommlet, Nulb, the Temple—all are vital parts of Greyhawk. […] Many veterans […], as well as many newcomers, began adventuring in and around Hommlet about ten years ago. From these […] rose Burne and Rufus, Jaroo, Terjon, Otis, Y'dey, and the rest. After clearing out all of the Temple's agents in the Hommlet area, various characters banded together to assault the Temple itself.  [T1-4 – 28]
Robilar's ravages were followed by the army of enraged Good folk, led by Tenser and associates—including Otis, Burne, Rufus, et al. [T1-4 – 28]

Robilar never quite bought into Mordenkainen’s philosophy, and he and Tenser often bickered over matters of morality. Serten, though seen as useful, was never truly respected and Otis, tired of underground excursions and forays into urban territories, left the group, decrying his friends as cave-delvers and treasure seekers blind to the real problems of the world. [LGJ#0 – 5]
Alas, the Citadel was to have dissolved at just the time the Flanaess needed their vigilance the most.
Battle of Emridy Meadows
Nearly a decade after the Citadel's formation, Otis' critical words took on the air of prophecy. In 569 CY, when the first arrow flew at Emridy Meadows, the Citadel was noticeably absent. Whether investigating magical secrets far to the west or unearthing lost passages in Urnst's Maure Castle, these self-absorbed celebrities were too preoccupied to influence one of the century's most critical battles. All were absent save Serten, who fought valiantly at the side of Prince Thrommel against the hordes of Elemental Evil. When Serten fell, none of his friends stood at his side. [LGJ#0 – 5]
Tenser blamed Mordenkainen for the death of his friend, and retired inward to his castle. Terik and Yrag vanished, some said to the anonymity of the Bandit Kingdoms. Even the loyal Bigby left the side of his one-time master and returned to Oldridge, where he adventured for a time with a band of boyhood friends. Mordenkainen, the man who had brought the Citadel together, simply shrugged and returned, with cold eyes, to his studies. [LGJ#0 – 5]
Tenser is 44.

570 CY
Tenser remained true to his beliefs and the Citadel’s aim, even if the others had lapsed in that regard.
Robilar … not so much.
In the course of one of these adventures, he earned Iuz’s enmity. [Rot8 – 58]
[Iuz] had been trapped for decades in a chamber beneath Greyhawk Castle by the mad archmage Zagyg. [WGA1 – 46]
Originally, three set out to investigate the prison of Iuz below Castle Greyhawk. These were Lord Robilar, his orc henchman Quij, and Riggby, Patriarch of Boccob. Unfortunately, the investigation freed Iuz. Whether this was by error or perhaps design on the part of Robilar, who secretly carried a pair of highly unusual dispelling magics about himself on that fateful day, sages cannot say. What is known is that at the moment of Iuz's being freed, Archmage Tenser arrived on the scene together with Bigby the mage and a powerful fighter going by the unlikely name of Neb Retnar. Tenser had learned of Robilar's plan, feared that Riggby was being duped, and came post haste to prevent their action. Tenser and his cohort began battling the freed, enraged demigod. Riggby at once aided the assault. Robilar and Quij considered flight and felt their chances would be best if they made odds of four against one into six against one.
[WGR5 – 5]
The archmages Bigby and Tenser arrived, intending to kill [Iuz], but during Iuz's incarceration the half-demon had transformed, and he emerged a demigod and escaped. [PGtG – 24]
That was fortuitous. Did Tenser distrust Robilar? Have him followed? Did he scry his old ally? No matter the means, what is curious is that Tenser should have suspected Robilar’s plan at all; unless he was keeping watch on him. That Tenser was too late to prevent Robilar was unfortunate. It is also unfortunate that Tenser and Bigby weren’t able to put an end to Iuz, once and for all.
Iuz was very nearly destroyed in that conflict, escaping to the Abyss just before Bigby would have destroyed him with his infamous crushing hand spell. He left behind him a backwash of chaotic evil magic which altered the alignment of Retnar, left Riggby catatonic for days, and caved in a large part of Castle Greyhawk's deepest dungeon complexes. Since that time, Iuz has always protected himself with a carefully secreted soul gem hidden on an unknown, unbelievably well-guarded Abyssal plane. He can be killed on the Prime Material, but unless the soul gem is destroyed beforehand, he cannot be destroyed forever.
Iuz's most burning desire is to have revenge on those who freed and tried to slay him. [WGR5 – 5]
luz has vowed to bring ruin upon Tenser the Archmage and Lord Robilar and the others who tried to slay him when his prison was sprung. [WoGA – 27]
Since that fateful brush with extinction, Iuz has schemed to destroy those six. [WGR5 – 5]
He dreams of destroying the Free City of Greyhawk and those who nearly killed him when he was released. [PGtG – 24]

Tenser realised then that if he were to affect the course of the Flanaess then he had better create a network of like-minded soils who could and would help him. Some might know what that mission was, others not; but all would aide him in his realising it.
He has gathered about him a firm power base for law and good and will readily use it if necessary. […] He is reported to have alliances with various non-human races and even some that are considered monsters. [Rogues Gallery – 47]
It was they who worked tirelessly at mapping out the demesnes of Flanaess for him, and all those within it they thought deserving Tenser’s attention.
The walls of this large room are lined with deep shelves only a few inches apart, of the sort used for storing flat papers. […] The maps depict the lands around the Nyr Dyv. [Rot8 – 32]
No stone was left unturned.
While many of the books in the castle have been removed, for some reason the shelves here are still filled with books and documents tracing family lines in the central Flanaess, especially around the Wild Coast. [Rot8 – 32]
[T]hese books […] reveal much about a PCs family background – criminal records, court proceedings, claims of treasures found or lost, back taxes owed and land grants that were lost or forcibly taken away [etc.] [Rot8 – 32]

Where was Mordenkainen when his fast friend Robilar was unleashing dire Iuz upon the Flanaess? Had Mordenkainen turned a blind eye…to preserve the Balance? Or was there a greater threat looming that required his attention? Mordenkainen is mum on the subject.
Wherever he might have been, Iuz’s release certainly drew his attention.
Had he been lax in his self-appointed purpose, he wondered? Need he be more attentive, more vigilant, as Tenser was becoming?
The chaos surrounding the return to power of the demigod, luz, in CY 570 prompted Mordenkainen to consider a new paradigm. [LGJ #0 – 6]
Mordenkainen the archmage […] formed the Circle of Eight as a tool to manipulate political factions of the Flanaess, preserving the delicate balance of power in hopes of maintaining stability and sanity in the region. Mordenkainen's view of "enforced neutrality" is not tit-for-tat equality, but rather a detailed theoretical philosophy derived from decades of arcane research. He has fought ardently for the forces of Good, most recently during the Greyhawk Wars, but just as often has worked on darker plots to achieve his ends. In all things, the Circle of Eight prefers to work behind the scenes, subtly manipulating events to ensure that no one faction gains the upper hand. [LGG – 156]
Mordenkainen invited some of the most prominent magi in the Flanaess to join him. [LGJ #0 – 6]
It took years to collect the mages he thought worthy.
Did he ask Tenser to join his new Circle? He did not. Was it because he thought Tenser would not accept his invitation; or might it be that he believed that Tenser would not labour towards Balance, but towards the Greater Good, and the Rule of Law?
The majority of the members of the Circle of Eight are of pure neutral alignment, and do not revere one diety to the exclusion of others. [CoG:GotF – 21]

571 CY
Indeed, a year on, Mordenkain had still not included Tenser in his gathering of magi.
By the first month of 571 CY, he had gathered eight mages to his cause, among them Bigby, Otto, Rary, Nystul, Drawmij, and the affable Bucknard. [LGJ #0 – 6]
Who were the other two? Who can say? Did they perish in Mordenkainen’s pursuit of Balance?

574 CY
It was three years before Tenser’s inclusion in the Circle came to fruition.
And it was by Tenser’s initiation. Not Mordenkainen’s.
Tenser: “As my power grew, so did my determination to aid those seeking to maintain equilibrium. In due course I sought the Circle of Eight, and in time I was accepted in their ranks. Now I sit as one of the Eight Magi and am charged with overseeing the whole of the territory roundabout. [WG6 – 6]

The membership of the Circle changed little in the years between its inception and 574 CY, when Tenser, still bitter over the dissolution of the Citadel, sought membership. After one of the founding mages of the group abandoned Oerth to explore other planes of existence, the petition was granted, and Tenser brought his unique, if less-than-subtle, ambition to the ideology of the group. [LGJ#0 – 6]
Of course Mordenkainen accepted Tenser. Tenser was as powerful as he; and Tenser’s list of allies and network of spies were as extensive as his own.
Tenser has many allies that include court contacts in Furyondy, the Urnst states and Nvrond; rangers and clerics: demihuman communities and noble houses; so-called monsters such as firbolg, centaurs, sirines, nixies, werebears, brownies, sprites and galeb duhr. The contacts in his intelligence network can soon be reassembled. [Rot8 – 57]
Tenser is 49.

576 CY
Jallarzi Sallavarian moves to the Free City of Greyhawk in 576 CY at 27 years of age. [Conjecture]
Later travels brought her to Greyhawk. There, under the tutelage of Tenser, she became the youngest mage ever inducted into the Society of Magi. [LGJ #0 – 8]
Tenser recognised talent when he saw it. And potential. And maybe more. I don't mean romantically. Jallarzi was his apprentice, and I expect that over time he developed a rather paternal relationship with her.
Besides, I believe she had eyes for another. Through Tenser Jallarzi became acquainted with Bucknard, and was enamoured by his affability…. You get the picture.
9 months later, Skye “the Lion” is born.
[Skye the “Lioness”] is 9-year[s]-old [.] [Rot8 – 14]
If Skye is 9 years old in 585 CY, then she was born in 576 CY, before Bucknard disappears.
Why would I suggest this possibility? Because Bucknard’s tapestry is pretty thin and needs a few threads to reveal the pattern within.
I digress. It’s just a suggestion; do with it what you will.

c. 576 – 579
Tenser might be a member of the Circle of Eight, but he was his own man, of course. He would not be directed in his own pursuit of “The Balance.” He preferred to pursue that end as he pleased.
While Mordenkainen might be the “leader” of this group, it is not a hierarchy, but a close group of wizards with similar concerns. [CoG:GotF – 21]
He also knew that the pursuit of his purpose had drawn the attention of powerful enemies. It seemed prudent that he protect the walls of his citadel on the inland sea.
Tenser in His Tower
Tenser (MU of 19th level): Hidden somewhere along the southern shares of the Nyr Dyv is the fortress of Tenser. It is likely that the identity of the master of the place is kept secret. Reported troops are:

Armored Infantry: 50 (Guards)
Heavy Infantry: 100 (Regulars)
Light Infantry: 100 (Levied)
Heavy Archers: 50 (Regulars)
Light Archers: 50 (Levied)

Tenser is accompanied by a high-level cleric and various other figures of relatively high level, some reported to be demi-human. Some say that the ranger, Otis, is with him. The force is Good in alignment, but its exact disposition is unknown. It is suspected that troops from the surrounding area will join with Tenser in time of need. [Dragon #37 – 11,30]

578 CY
Events of WG6 Isle of the Ape
This quest is assumed to occur years before the Greyhawk Wars. [TAB – 3]
Tenser always suspected that Iggwilv would reappear one day. He was tireless in his preparation for her return.
Indeed, Tenser had a number of irons in the fire, so to speak. Artifacts, good and evil, sought; agents and allies to be courted; correspondences to be kept, however banal. All these needs be attended to, then and always:
The secret drawer conceals a handful of loose papers including the following:
·        An unfinished letter to Canon Hazen, ruler of the Archclericy of Veluna, inquiring about the whereabouts of the Crook of Rao [….]
·        A letter from Jallarzi Sallavarian, asking for information on the now-destroyed Slave Lords of the Pomarj. She has come across curious rumors in the underworld of the City of Greyhawk indicating that one or more Slave Lords have resurfaced within Turrosh Mak’s Orc Empire of the Pomarj.
·        A brief note from Otto [.] This is a “bread-and-butter’’ note, expressing thanks for an enjoyable visit to Tenser’s castle and looking forward to meeting Tenser at the upcoming signing ceremony.
·        An unsent letter to Mordenkainen, thanking him for letting Tenser know that an old book with information on Tenser’s castle exists within the Great Kingdom, in a landholding called Errantkeep. The tome is a century old, but an unknown person has recently added marginal notes on its defenses and staff. Tenser writes that he is preparing to get the volume himself. The letter is dated the 1st of Harvester, 584 CY, just before Tenser died."
·        A scrap of paper that says simply, “Give Cymria the doorknob.”
[Rot8 – 32]

Some more important than others; some secrets and artifacts needing to be secreted away, some hopefully to never again see the light of day.
·        A captured evil artifact, such as the Scepter of Might, part of the Regalia of Might […] Tenser found and locked away this item to keep it from falling into wicked hands. [Rot8 – 43]
·        A burned and battered platinum signet ring missing its gemstone. The signet ring’s coat of arm matches that of Prince Thrommel of Furyondy. Just before his marriage a decade ago, the prince was kidnapped and his whereabouts cannot be determined. […] Tenser learned that this ring once held a magic jewel to which the prince’s soul fled when his mortal body was destroyed. The damaged ring rests on an old parchment, a forgotten prophecy made to the first King of Furyondy, Thrommel I, that provides clues to rescuing the prince. [Rot8 – 43]
·        A chicken leg wrapped in a filthy old red cloth. If taken outdoors and tossed on the ground, the chicken leg begins to grow, until […] it has changed into the Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga. [Rot8 – 43]

But was Iggwilv’s eventual return that haunted him and possessed his greatest attention. Deservedly so.
Iggwilv reappeared in the late 570s, after the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth were rediscovered and her vampire-warrior daughter Drelzna was destroyed. Iggwilv, who had apparently regained her old powers – and then some – on other planes or worlds, attempted to attack the Flanaess with a vast army of fiends and monsters. [Rot8 – 55]
Iggwilv learned of her foe’s efforts to gain the Crook, so she took what steps she could to foil their plans.
[WG6 – 43]
She was thwarted by Tenser, who sent heroes to recover a lost artifact (the Crook of Rao) that blocked her extraplanar forces from entering the Prime Material Plane on Oerth. [Rot8 – 55]
Upon her reappearance, the Archmage Tenser set in motion a series of events that would see to the recovery of the Crook of Rao, which Tenser himself unwittingly carried into one of Zagyg’s demiplanes, where he lost it. A band of adventurers was charged with recovering the Crook, and was able to do so and turn it over to Tenser, despite Iggwilv’s attempts to stop them. [Dragon #225 – 52]
The artifact’s subsequent rescue by a group of adventurers led by the redoubtable Warnes Starcoat of Urnst is not a popular tale with bards throughout the Central Flanaess. [Dragon #294 – 95]
One would think that Tenser would have retrieved the crook himself; but he did not. He had other things to attend to, safeguarding Iggwilv’s gate into his citadel being one of them.
[Tenser] was finally able to get the golems and machinery to tap a vein of molten oerthblood eight years ago, in 578 CY, but it was six years before he could bring up a useable sample [.] [Rot8 – 47]
It was crucial that the oerthblood should not fall into her possession.

579 CY
Bucknard disappeared, not that any of the Circle were concerned about his absence, at first. They, each of them were known to “travel” from time to time. But as the weeks and months marched on, without word from their colleague, the members of the Circle became concerned. His continued absence left the Circle depleted.
In 581 CY Jalarzi Sallavarian replaced the powerful wizard Bucknard, who vanished in 579 CY while exploring an unknown demiplane. His fate is not known. Bucknard was fairly young when he disappeared but he was rumored to have become an archmage and was well-known in royal courts from Keoland to Nyrond. [PGtG – 23]

580 CY
20th-Level Mage
Lawful Good (Neutral tendencies)
S10, I17, W11, D16, C16, Ch16
Spells: 5-1st, 5-2nd, 5-3rd, 5-4th, 5-5th, 4-6th, 3-7th, 3-8th, and 2-9th

Tenser’s Traveling Spell Book:
1st Level (5): Cantrip, Change Self, Chill Tough, Comprehend Languages, Dekect Undead, Feather Fall, Grease, Jump, Read Magic, Spook, Taunt, Tenser’s Eye of the Tiger*, Tenser’s Floating Disc, Tenser’s Steady Aim*
2nd Level (5): Blur, Detect Invisibility, Forget, Hypnotic Pattern, Knock, Melf’s Acid Arrow, Protection from Cantrips, Pyrotecnics, Spectral Hand, Tenser’s Brawl*, Tenser’s Hunting Hawk*, Web, Wizard Lock
3rd Level (5): Clairvoyance, Fireball, Flame Arrow, Gust of Wind, Haste, Hold Person, Invisibility 10‘ r., Leomund’s Tiny Hut, Protection from Evil, 10’ r., Tenser’s Deadly Strike*, Tenser’s Eye of the Eagle*, Vampiric Touch
4th Level (5): Contagion, Emotion, Evard’s Black Tentacles, Hallucinatory Terrain, Minor Creation, Rary’s Mnemonic Enhancer, Shout, Tenser’s Flaming Blade *, Tenser’s Giant Strength*, Tenser’s Running Warrior*, Tenser’s Staff of Smiting*
5th Level (5): Bigby’s Interposing Hand, Chaos, Demi-Shadow Monsters, Major Creation, Sending, Summon Shadow
6th Level (4): Chain Lightning, Death Fog, Death Spell, Eyebite, Reincarnation, Shades, Tenser’s Transformation
7th Level (3): Banishment, Charm Plants, Delayed Blast Fireball, Limited Wish, Mordenkainen’s Sword, Power Word Stun, Prismatic Spray, Shadow Walk, Statue, Teleport Without Error
8th Level (3): Bigby’s Clenched Fist, Incendiary Cloud, Mass Charm, Maze, Mind Blank, Monster Summoning VI, Polymorph Any Object, Power Word, Blind
9th Level (2): Meteor Swarm, Power Word Kill, Weird, Wish

Magical Items: Ring of protection + 3, cloak of displacement, staff of thunder and lightning, amulet of proof against detection and location, dust of disappearance, pearl of the sirines, ring of fire resistance, wand of enemy detection, Zagyg’s spell component case

Tenser is 57 (47), 5’ 10” tall, 157 lbs., with dark brown hair and eyes and a prominent aquiline nose. He always dresses in blue garments, light predominating over dark, and his home is decorated in the same way. He is polite, quick-witted, and gregarious; he enjoys intelligent conversation and likes entertaining guests in his home. [COG:FFF - 22]
Tenser was as affable as Bucknard, regardless his alarmist reputation.

The Golden Phoenix
Lady Valderesse Sharn, Tenser, Otto, Jallarzi Sallavarian (sometimes looking for Edwina, who is friendly with the pastry chef here and may be too fat to fly home), Nerof Gasgal, and Org Nenshen are all among the [Golden Phoenix’s] regular patrons, so this is an ideal place to [meet personages] of the highest levels of political involvement—or even members of the Circle of Eight! [CoG:FFF – 63]

High Tower Tavern and Hostelry
This is the favorite gathering place of the powerful wizards of the Council of Eight, when one or more of them are in Greyhawk. On most occasions, these wizards disguise themselves before venturing out in public. Otto, Tenser, and Nystul are the three wizards most commonly encountered here. [COG:GOTF – 63,64]

There is no doubt that Tenser was fast friends with Serten, and Bigby, and with Otto and Jallarzi.
Tenser is a not-infrequent visitor to Greyhawk City, coming out of curiosity, concern, or simple sociability. Any sniff of excellent imported rich fabrics (Tenser is slightly vain), unique ornaments and decorations which he could buy for his home, or rare magical items he could purchase or barter for will bring him to the city. He usually stays either at the house of his good friend Otto […], with Jallarzi […], or treats himself to a little luxury at The Golden Phoenix [….] The Wizard’s Hut Inn […] is another hangout of his. [COG:FFF – 22]
Otto is well-liked among the rulers of Almor, and has a large town house there. If he needs to carry out magical research, he uses the resources of the Wizards’ Guild of Chathold, or those at Tenser’s fortress. […]
Otto is a frequent visitor to the Free City of Greyhawk and keeps a well-appointed town house there [….] He visits to see Tenser, to trade, but mostly to attend major cultural events in Greyhawk, especially the opera. [CoG:FFF – 23]

If he is not fast friends with Nystul, he certainly trusts the Tehna as much as he does Bigby, enough to allow him continuous and instant access to his secretive citadel on the Nyr Dyv sea.
Bigby is never without a teleport without error spell which can take him to Mordenkainen or Tenser should he become trapped in these tunnels. [COG:FFF – 23]
Nystul visits Greyhawk on occasion, seeking magical items or new spells which fill his ever-expanding shelves in the inconspicuous house he maintains in Redspan. He travels using a teleport without error spell to Tenser’s fortress, and makes his way on from there. [COG:FFF – 24,25]

580s CY
Jallarzi Sallavarian
Bucknard had not returned from his “travels.” And however they might search for him, he was not to be found. It was time to consider his replacement. Tenser tabled Jallarzi Sallavarian as a candidate.
[Mordenkainen:] “We do not need another agent in Greyhawk. Otiluke is our eyes and ears there, and we learn all that transpires at the Oligarch’s councils.”
[Tenser:] “So? Jallarzi is friendly with Derider Fanshen, and learns much more of the seamier side of the city. Many travel there and conduct business in disguise which the Oligarchs do not hear of. She is wise, Mordenkainen, she sees what others do not. And she is related to the Palatine Duke, and is close to the councils of Urnst. She has advanced far in so few years. She would strengthen our hand, and return us to full circle again.” [COG:FFF – 27]

But Mordenkainan was not yet convinced.
We are already down one member, Tenser argued. What if something should happen to another one of us, he added.
Tenser had reason to argue that point.
Mordenkainen thought on Tenser’s reasoning. His visits with another famous mage brought Tenser’s argument to the fore.
The Mage of Greyhawk looked thoughtful. […] “Tenser and Bigby have both been attacked by magic, worked by someone strong enough to conceal his, her, or its identity; someone of Oerth, or who has studied our ways.” […]
“Tenser, at least, is shrewd enough in the ways of adventurers to smell out any ruse. If one such was trying to make his attacks look like those of a mage of Oerth, he would see through it.
[Dragon #185 – 58]
[Readers familiar with events on Oerth will note that this meeting of archmages {Mordenkainen and Elminster} took place before the events of module WGA4 Vecna Lives or the GREYHAWK® Wars boxed set. {Dragon #185 – 62}]

Mordenkainen relented, finally, to Tenser’s insistence.
Jallarzi, at 42, is the Circles youngest member, and its only female. Born into minor nobility in the Duchy of Urnst, she studied magic as a teen under the mysterious Seer of Urnst and the redoubtable Warnes Starcoat. Later travels brought her to Greyhawk. There, under the tutelage of Tenser, she became the youngest mage ever inducted into the Society of Magi. [LGJ#0 – 8]
In the early 580s, the Circle of Eight included Bigby, Drawmij, Jallarzi Sallavarian, Nystul, Otiluke, Otto, Rary of Ket and the archmage Tenser. [PGtG – 21]

581 CY

Was Mordenkainen pressed into doing so? The Circle of Eight sensed a great danger afoot, but somehow their divinations were blocked. All evidence pointed to the Cult of Vecna, whatever their intent. Mordenkainen sent the others of the Circle to investigate.
Their quest did not turn out as planned.
Alerted to a rising evil in the Flanaess, the Circle hastily gathered for a nearly unprecedented field operation in 581 CY. A new power sought to join Oerth’s vast pantheon, and its efforts threatened to corrupt the magical order of the known world.
The Circle traveled to the hills south of Verbobonc, where they investigated the tomb of a long-dead Oeridian tyrant who was thought to have possessed the awesome artifacts known as the Hand and Eye of Vecna. Finding the tyrant alive, after a fashion, and completely controlled by the Whispered One, the ill-prepared Circle of Eight panicked, and was defeated. [LGJ#0 – 6]
Tenser was dead. Indeed, the whole of the Circle, with the exception of Mordenkainen, were dead!

“This is worse than a calamity,” he said dryly. “It's getting to be a nuisance.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, Family in the Wind

To be continued…

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:
Tenser, Greyhawk Trading Card #213, 1992
Tenser detail, by Gary Williams, from WG6 Isle of the Ape, 1985
Cover art, from WG5 Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure, 1984
Flying Carpet, by Jeff Easley, from WG5 Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure, 1984
Bigby, by Jeff Easley, from WG5 Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure, 1984
Riggby, by Jeff Easley, from WG5 Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure, 1984
Robilar, by Jeff Easley, from WGR3 Rary the Traitor, 1992
Tenser detail, by Gary Williams, from WG6 Isle of the Ape, 1985
Iggwilv, by James Ryman, from Dungeon #149, 2007
Jallarzi Sallavarian, by Sam Wood, from Living Greyhawk Journal #0, 2000
Tenser detail, by Sam Wood, from From the Ashes Boxed Set Ref card #13, 1992

1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
1043 The City of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1989
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
9031 The Rogues Gallery, 1980
9112 WG5 Mordenkainen’s Fantastic Adventure, 1984
9153 WG6 Isle of the Ape, 1985
9309 WGA4 Vecna Lives! 1990
9576 Return of the Eight, 1998
9577 The Adventure Begins, 1998
9578 Player’s Guide to Greyhawk, 1998
11621 Slavers, 2000
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
Dragon Magazine #185, 191, 294, 299
Living Greyhawk Journal #0
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda

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