Friday 28 October 2022

Thoughts on I6 Ravenloft

“I am the ancient. My beginnings are lost in the darkness of the past. I am not dead. Nor am I alive. I am undead, forever.”
—Count Strahd von Zarovich [I6 Ravenloft – 2]

I6 Ravenloft
Outside the Inn, a fog lies over the town this evening, draping everything in its clammy grasp. The damp cobbled street shines as the light of street lanterns dances across the slick stones. The cold fog chills the bones and shivers the soul of anyone outside.
Yet inside these tavern walls the food is hearty and the ale is warm and frothy. A fire blazes in the hearth and the tavern is alive with the tumbling voices of country folk.
Suddenly, a hush falls over the tavern. Even the flagons of ale seem to silence themselves. The tavern door swings open. Framed by the lamp-lit fog, a form strides into the room. His heavy, booted footfalls and the jingle of his coins shatter the silence. His brightly colored clothes are draped in loose folds about him and his hat hangs askew, hiding his eyes in shadows. Without hesitation, he walks directly up to your table and stands proudly in a wide stance with folded arms. [I6 – 7]

That’s a creepy intro, isn’t it? Pregnant with possibility. Fraught with subtext. Dripping with the essence of hundreds of Hollywood classics. Such a passage could raise goosebumps if you’re in the right frame of mind, picturing the passage in Technicolour and Panavision. Technicolour and Panavision doesn’t seem quite right, though, not for gothic horror. I’m inclined to see it in B&W, in stark light and cloaked in shadow, and a thousand shades of grey.
Tis October; the season, I suppose, that more than a few DMs, and not a few players, would prefer their adventure to have a certain…theme. There are more than a few scenarios out there that fit the bill, but I expect that none are as tailored to the season as Call of Cthulhu® or Ravenloft®. When I say Ravenloft, I might mean TSR’s 2nd edition campaign setting—either should scratch that itch.
They might, and would, but I’d like to rewind a little and draw our attention to the singular adventure module I6 Ravenloft. It’s the iconic adventure that set D&D down the gothic path that was to be TSR’s template for its aforementioned, then future, setting. And it’s arguably still the best gothic horror adventure TSR or WotC have ever produced. Indeed, it tops more than a few lists as the best D&D adventure of all time, regardless of edition.
Is it? It spawned a sequel. A setting. And it has been rewritten under pseudonyms for each edition. That suggests its continued popularity, and its longevity, I imagine. Reverence, even. Lavished with that kind of love, it keeps rising from the dead, you might say. But is it truly the best adventure of all time?
It might be. It’s a challenge, though. Lethally so. It would be. It’s brimming with more undead than just about every classic horror film combined, what with its zombies and skeletons, its ghosts and ghouls. But it wouldn’t have claimed its beloved top spot because of its abundance of undead “cannon fodder;” it did for its namesake: Strahd. Or should I say Dracula? Bram Stoker’s classic novel is, without a doubt, Strahd’s inspiration. And, indeed, for Ravenloft.
Can I say that? You can bet your bottom vial of holy water, I can. You know it, and I know it. Strahd…. Vlad…. If that were not enough, Strahd’s castle mirrors Vlad’s reclusive fortress in the Carpathians. Secluded. Sinister. Strahd also appears to be as attracted to young maidens as Vlad. Ireena Kolyana and Gertruda vis-à-vis Lucy and Mia. Moreover, he too has maiden vampires to attend to him, an army of gypsies, and a madman at his beck and call in Cyrus Belview, whose diet is as deranged as was Renfield’s.
That’s where the similarities end, though. Mostly, anyway. Where Vlad absconds from his retreat for the happy hunting grounds of London, our heroes must face our villain in his own lair. And where Vlad’s gypsies are a little more dedicated in their service of their master in Stoker’s book, ours take little interest in defending theirs—in text, that is.
The mood is as eerie.
A perpetual rolling blackness of thunderclouds casts a gray pall over the land. The darker silhouette of Castle Ravenloft looks over the valley from its 1,000 foot pillar of rock.
[I6 – 6]
Black pools of water stand like dark mirrors about the muddy roadway. Thick, cold mists spread a pallor over the road. Giant tree trunks stand on both sides of the road, their branches clawing into the mists. In every direction the mists grow thicker and the forest grows more oppressive. [I6 – 6]
There is a deathly stillness in the dark Barovian woods. [I6 – 6]
But, where Jonathan Harker could leave at any time, were he able to, our heroes may not.
No one has left Barovia for centuries. This is because of the trapping fog that exists everywhere in Barovia. Once it is breathed, it infuses itself around a character's vital organs as a neutralized poison. […] It does not harm characters as long as they continue to breathe the air in Barovia. However, when they leave Barovia, the poison becomes active. [I6 – 6]

Suffice it to say, Ravenloft would not be Ravenloft without Strahd, as much as “Dracula” would not be “Dracula” without Vlad.
It’s because of Strahd that I6 is #1. And it is because of Strashd that Ravenloft is the challenge it is: A deadly one. Strahd is a vampire, after all.
Strahd is a slightly above-average vampire. He has the normal 18/76 strength and his blows drain 2 life levels from his opponents. Strahd has the usual vampire abilities. He can only be hit by magical weapons and can regenerate 3 hit points per round. He can assume gaseous form at will or shape change into a large bat. He can charm person at will by gazing into a character's eyes, causing that character to make a saving throw vs. spells with a penalty of -2.
[I6 – 3]
If that were not enough, Strahd is also a 10th level magic user. [I6 – 3]
He's genius and should be played as such. The Hickman’s even say as much.
Strahd chooses when he attacks. Strahd is supposed to be a genius, play him as one. Whenever he is aware of the PCs' positions, he is allowed to make an attack how and where he wants. [I6 – 3]
He knows what the heroes are doing:
Strahd has a variety of spies and servants. They report to him four times each day (at dawn, noon, dusk, and midnight). There is a 60% chance that Strahd knows the PCs' location at these times. [I6 – 3]
And he will choose when and where to attack. To his advantage. [I6 – 3]
Strahd chooses the time and method of his attacks carefully. […]
  1. Strahd attacks a single PC for 5 melee rounds, then leaves.
  2. Strahd calls 10-15 Strahd zombies to attack the party. All of the zombies must attack at the same time in the same place.
  3. Strahd calls 3-12 worg wolves to attack the party. All of the wolves must attack at the same time in the same place. [I6 – 3]
Strahd knows when to withdraw. He knows when he is in over his head. If he is losing a battle he becomes gaseous, polymorphs into a wolf or bat, and/ or summons other creatures to guard his retreat. [I6 – 3]
It goes without saying that Strahd might be impossible to beat outside his lair. And maybe in the daylight hours…. And even then…. The players had best hope that the final confrontation isn’t in Strahd’s tome—which it most likely will be—because even gaining entry will be a harrowing experience.
‘Nuff said on that.

If Strahd were not enough, there are other vampires in the keep. Ghouls, skeletons, and zombies, be they the Strahd variety or not. And banshees and spectres, and wraiths and wights. And in random encounter tables, too! These are not the disarmed 5e undead. They inflict disease and paralyse. They have the capacity to drain levels. Permanently! If the PCs are not lucky, exceedingly lucky, they are going to lose levels, and before long the adventure will be above their pay grade. That will take a toll on the party. No one is going to save against all those attacks.
So, is this adventure survivable? It is. If our heroes are careful. If they have a couple high-level clerics. A paladin would be a boon, too, I imagine. Even then, they are going to have to learn to travel by day. That should be apparent, once they came face to face with the undead once the perpetual twilight sets to darkest night.

I won’t describe the adventure in detail. That would be onerous. If I did, those who know it would be bored; those who don’t will be cheated of their future enjoyment. And claustrophobic terror.
I will say that the descriptive passages are works of art. They set the stage, eevoke the mood, and keep the tension taut.
Take the Burgomaster’s house as example:
The interior of the house is well furnished, although the fixtures show sign of considerable wear. Obvious oddities are the boarded-up windows and the overuse of holy symbols in every room. The Burgomaster is in a side drawing room - dead. He is lying in a room that is dark, despite the candles burning in his honor. The stench in the house is horrible. [I6 – 9]
That passage reeks of fear and desperation.
And take Madam Eva’s tent:
Within, all is dimly illuminated in pools of red light. A small, low table stands across from the doorway, covered in a black velvet cloth. Glints of light seem to flash from a crystal ball on the table as a hunched figure peers into its depths. She speaks. Her voice crackles like dry weeds. Her tone soars and falls like the wind outside. "At last you have arrived!" Her sudden cackling laughter bursts like mad lightning from her withered lips. [I6 – 11]
I love Madam Eva. She’s a cunning old bird.

I’ve gushed on about this module thus far. It deserves such praise, I think. It’s well written, beautifully imagined, brilliantly realised.
Even the artwork is top rate.
But is Ravenloft perfect?
Is anything?

Few Barovian citizens are detailed.
The Barovians
Bildrath, Barovian merchant, LN; Parriwimple, Barovian, LN; Arik, Barovian barkeep, CN; Ismark the Lesser, Barovian, LG; Mad Mary, Barovian, CN; Ireena Kolyana, Barovian, LG; Donavich, Barovian priest, LG; Gertruda, Barovian, NG
That’s the extent of them.
Not a single building in the town is mapped. More damning is the question, “how have these people have survived?” The simple answer is that they survive because it’s Strahd’s desire that they do. They are his larder, so to speak. But there’s nary a farm noted on the map or in the text. There is mention of food—at Strahd’s table, at least:
In the center of the room, a long, heavy table stands covered with a fine white satin cloth. The table is laden with delectable foods of every type: roasted beast basted in a savory sauce, roots and herbs of every taste, and sweet fruits and vegetables. [I6 – 14]
Not so much for the villagers. So, I ask you, how are they sustained? Where do they get their food?
No villager has left Barovia for centuries. Those who tried never returned, dying from the vile snapping teeth of the Barovian wolves and the choking deadly fog. [I6 – 6]
Which is quite a different statement from:
No one has left Barovia for centuries. [I6 – 6]
It’s presumed (by me, at least) that the gypsies can.
The gypsies were given a potion by Strahd that cancels the effects of the fog. This potion is jealously guarded by Madam Eva, who buried it in a secret place. [I6 – 6]
If the villagers have not left in centuries, I presume it’s the gypsies that have brought their necessities in. Otherwise, how is Bildrath’s mercantile restocked?
Bildrath trades with the gypsies when they pass through. [I6 – 8]
Obviously. But how does Bildreth pay them? By fleecing adventurers, it would seem.
Bildrath […] will sell the PCs anything on the official AD&D shopping list, except items found under "Religious Items," "Livestock," and "Transport." Everything is ten times the normal price. [I6 – 8]
Food and sundries aside, one wonders how the people have survived predation for centuries.
The poor villagers of Barovia have been terrorized for centuries by "the devil" Strahd. [I6 – 6]
Their constant state of fear would take its toll. Personally, I expect that the villagers would have been driven mad, long ago. As they must have been.
Mindlessly, Arik cleans glasses, one after the other. When they are all clean, he starts over. If spoken to, he takes orders for drinks in a dull, hollow voice. After serving drinks, he returns to cleaning glasses. Arik ignores all questions. [I6 – 8]
[Mad Mary] is lost in her sorrow and despondency. She barely recognizes the presence of anyone in the room. [I6 – 9]
The priest has been praying and chanting throughout the night. His voice is hoarse and weak. [I6 – 9]


The townsfolk aside, the Gypsies are underutilized, at best. And under realised.
The Gypsies
AL NE [I6 – 32]
Gypsies' traditions, humor, and language are dark and mysterious. Only the gypsies can pass through Barovia at will. Their leader, Madam Eva, foreshadows the events that befall adventurers. Gypsies may be found anywhere. [I6 – 32]
They are usually noted as NE, but in one instance as LN; and yet madam Eva is CN.
Their purpose?
They “work for” Strahd.
It was they who delivered “the Burgomaster’s” letter to the PCs.
His accented voice speaks, "I have been sent to you to deliver this message! If you be creatures of honor, you will come to my master's aid at first light. It is not advisable to travel the Svalich woods at night!" He pulls from his tunic a sealed letter, addressed to all of you in beautiful £lowing script. He drops the letter on the table. "Take the west road from here some five hours march down through the Svalich woods. There you will find my master in Barovia."
Amid the continued silent stares of the patronage, the gypsy strides to the bar and says to the wary barkeeper, "Fill the glasses, one and all. Their throats-are obviously parched." He drops a purse heavy with gold on the bar. With that, he leaves. [I6 – 7]
The gypsies are in the service of Strahd von Zarovich and fear the consequences of disobedience. [I6 – 32]
The gypsies were given a potion by Strahd that cancels the effects of the fog. [I6 – 6]
The gypsies will carry dirt from his crypt to his new home. [I6 – 5]
Yet they work for themselves.
Bildrath trades with the gypsies when they pass through. [I6 – 8]
Madam Eva
The gypsies lurk near the door. They own the tavern and see to it that all customers pay their bills
. [I6 – 8] [Gypsies LN]
Yet they are fiercely loyal to Madam Eva.
This old woman may seem crazed and mad to the PCs but she is, in fact, quite cunning and sharp of mind. She is never fooled by adventurers (she has seen a good many in her time) and is very neutral. She serves Strahd as long as that benefits her and her troupe. She never gives aid and never needs any. [I6 – 11]
[O]ne of the gypsies tells [the PCs], "It was fated that you would visit this humble camp. Madam Eva foretold your coming. She awaits you." [I6 – 11]

Its shortcomings are few and far between, though. The PCs were never meant to spend much time in the town of Barovia; and, depending on which fork in the road they choose once they leave that besieged town, they may never meet Madam Eva at all.
That would be a shame. The fortune telling is a great roleplaying moment. I suggest you move the gypsy camp. To where? Perhaps just before the town. Have the PCs follow the gypsies from the very start when they were given that luring letter. Why not follow such a person? Once past the gate, they can watch the gypsies come and go and discover early on that they cannot. That might raise their hackles concerning these gypsies. Once they, the PCs, discover that they are in as dire straights as the Barovians they will empathise with the villagers all the more quickly.
They’re in the same boat, after all.

“…the world seems full of good men—even if there are monsters in it.”
― Bram Stoker, Dracula

Count Strahd von Zarovich
Ravenloft was published as a stand-on-its-own adventure, long before it became a brand or a setting. Long before it became a demi-realm. That means that at one time it could be placed anywhere. Sadly, or maybe fortuitously, I6 does not have a sword-and-sorcery, or a high-fantasy feel. It doesn’t scream Greyhawk, does it? Its tech is gothic, not medieval-esque.
That said, where then might Ravenloft fit in Greyhawk? Some secluded corner of Keoland? I’d like that, but I’m not sure the topography there conforms to Barovia’s. It requires rivers, waterfalls tumbling from towering cliffs amid dense forest. Veluna? Perhaps, but Veluna’s patron is Pelor, NG and not LG. Perrenland would suit, given the names, but Perrenland is a little narrow, to my mind, confined as it is within its enveloping mountain ranges to fit the thematic isolation of centuries Barovia suffers.
My choice is the Pale, betwixt the Rakers and the Troll Fens. That might be best. It’s isolated. Few would travel there, given its dangerous local and its isolation. Even Pholtus fits, standing in for the sun god in question.
Thoughts? Do you agree? Where might you place this disparate adventure?

One must always give credit where credit is due. This post is made possible primarily by the Imaginings of Gary Gygax and his Old Guard, Lenard Lakofka among them.
Nor could this post exist without the wizardry of Tracy and Laura Hickman, without whose inspiration and tenacity, this adventure would not have seen the light of day.

The Art: 
Cover Art, by Clyde Caldwell, from I6 Ravenloft, 1983
The Castle, by Clyde Caldwell, from I6 Ravenloft, 1983
Strahd, by Clyde Caldwell, from I6 Ravenloft, 1983
Undead, by Clyde Caldwell, from I6 Ravenloft, 1983
The Barovians, from Curse of Strahd, 2000
Mad Mary, from Curse of Strahd, 2000
Fair Barovia, from Dungeon #207, 2012
The Fortune Teller, from Curse of Strahd, 2000
Count Strahd von Zarovich, from Curse of Strahd, 2000

1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
2009 Monster Manual, 1st Ed., 1977
2011 Players Handbook, 1st Ed., 1978
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1979
9075 I6 Ravenloft, 1983

Friday 21 October 2022

On Bastro and Armaran

“We have doomed the wolf not for what it is, but for what we deliberately and mistakenly perceive it to be –the mythologized epitome of a savage ruthless killer – which is, in reality, no more than a reflected image of ourself.”
― Farley Mowat, Never Cry Wolf: The Amazing True Story of Life Among Arctic Wolves

Little is said about the far north of the Flanaess. In sooth, this is because little is known about it. And few care what goes on there. It’s a cold place, they shrug, and thus dismiss it of little concern.
A frigid climate and brutal regime combine to make Stonehold one of the harshest lands in all the Flanaess. […] [LGG – 108]
Do those who bask in the southern sun even know that there are people there? I suppose they might surmise as much, if they were to spare a moment to think on it. Should they, though, they would conjure thoughts of men wrapped in furs trudging through waist-deep, windblown snows. In that aspect they would be correct. They would be surprised to learn that there are settlements up there. Indeed, towns.
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]

Who, then, lives there? The Flan.
Most are pure Flan. There is a scattering of Suel and Oeridian blood, but only a drop or two, here and there. Oeridian to the west, where the Great Kingdom pretended for a time that this northern land was part of their continental magnificence; and Suel to the east, where the Cruski have raided since before the annuls of this forgotten stretch of the Flanaess were thought to be penned to parchment.
The Duchy of Tenh are pure Flan [.] [Dragon #55]
The people of the Hold of Stone Fist […] are primarily hybrids, […] Flan/Suel [.] [Dragon #55]
Hold of Stonefist: chaotic evil; Flan, Suloise, [Aerdy], Cold Tongue [Dragon #52]
In high summer [the Cruski] often find fighting by rounding the coasts of the Hold of Stonefist, and the Cruskii have both hatred and respect for the dour inhabitants of that land. [Folio – 11]
Indeed, one wonders how much Oeridian or Suel blood there could possibly be in these people who dwell far further north than the wall of pureblood Flan that exists in the Duchy of Tenh and the Rovers of the Barrens. In this land further isolated by the icy seas that surround it.

White fanged Bay:
The Ice formations common to this body of water resemble the teeth of a predator, and thus the bay is named for the great ice-coated rocks and bergs that menace vessels attempting to land along Its shores. In the summer numbers of seals and walruses (and even odder creatures) bask along these rocky coasts, and there parties of hunters seek after ivory and furs. (Some say that the name of the place is based upon the long teeth taken from these creatures rather than the icicles and frozen spray. [Folio – 21]
White Fanged Bay: The ice formations common this body of water resemble the teeth of a predator, and the bay is named for the great ice-coated rocks and bergs that menace vessels attempting to land along its shores. In summer, vast numbers of walruses and seals bask along these rocky coasts, while killer whales hunt in the waters of the bay. Stonehold folk hunt and fish by the shores. [LGG – 150]

Icy Sea: The Solnor sweeps northward around the Thillonrian Peninsula and ends in the Icy Sea. [WoGA – 47]
These northern waters, likely a part of the circumpolar Dramidj Ocean, remain frozen except in high summer. [LGG – 148]
Even in summer the Icy Sea can be dangerous due to thick fogs and floating mountains of ice. [WoGA – 47]
Whales of all sorts frequent these waters, said to be the domain of a mighty leviathan lord. Ice Barbarians take their ships into these waters to hunt whales and collect walrus ivory and seal furs on the surrounding coasts. [LGG – 148,149]

Buffeted by an unforgiving climate, the Flan here have always been at the mercy of their environment in its most unforgiving. They’d have worshipped its wrath, pled to it for clemency. And they’d have sacrificed to it for leniency.
The Cruel North
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]
It comes to no surprise, then, that they understand cruelty. And worship it.
It also comes to no surprise that when they were introduced to the Oeridians and Suel they adopted those deities of theirs that best mirrored their understanding of the world, as they knew it.
Religions: Erythnul*, Syrul, Beltar, Beory, Obad-Hai [LGG – 108]
Erythnul, OC, Hate, Envy, Malice, Panic CE(N) [WoGA – 63]
Syrul, S, Deceit, False Promises, Lies NE [WoGA – 64]
Beltar, S, Malice, Pits, Deep Caves CE(N) [WoGA – 63]
Theirs was a cruel world. A heartless, unforgiving world. A world in which only the strong were let to live.
This explains Vlek Col Vlekzed, a scion of their fathers who not only understood this, but was also too cruel for even them to tolerate. He was banished.
But he was to return, with vengeance.

c. 430 CY
Vlek Col Vlekzed
Vlek roamed with the Rovers for years. Their raiding pleased him. But his joy in depravity only too soon necessitated that they too should banish him.
Stonefist, then Vlek Col Vlekzed, founded his chiefdom in approximately 430 CY. Vlek was cast out of the Rovers of the Barrens for banditry and lying, but a small number of warriors and their families followed him as leader. For several years he hung around the fringes of his homeland, raiding and stealing from everyone without prejudice. These minor successes attracted a growing following of fellow outcasts, bandits, criminals and like unsavory types. Yet with this strange mixture of fighters, he mounted a highly successful raid into Tenh, swung down into the Bandit Kingdoms and recruited more followers, and then defeated a punitive expedition sent from Tenh. When threatened by a bandit kinglet, Vlek replied by surprising his stronghold, sacking it, and carrying away most of its population. [Folio – 16]
His homeland? I think not.
Rovers of the Barrens: chaotic neutral, neutral [Dragon #52]
Hold of Stonefist: chaotic evil [Dragon #52]
Vlek might have settled in the Bandit Kingdoms. He had the kinglet’s stronghold to raid from into Tenh with impunity. And the Bandit’s method’s suited his own.
Bandit Kingdoms: chaotic neutral, chaotic evil [Dragon #52]
But he didn’t.
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. [Folio – 16]
He rode north, instead. Why? Because he had revenge in mind. Against his true and actual homeland.
The inhabitants of the area, the Coltens Feodality, were tricked into negotiation with Vlek. These negotiators and their escorting force banish himwere slaughtered, the remainder of the Coltens host routed by surprise and ferocity, and Vlek settled down to rule over the whole territory. As Vlek's infamy spread, malcontents from many nations came to his standard, despite his new name of Stonefist (implying both a terrible foeman and an inflexible ruler). [Folio – 16]

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]

576 – 582 CY
Vlek took the “best” of all of his experience and remade his homeland in his own image. His people would raid like Bandits, with the speed of the Rovers. Where only the strong survived.
The descendants of Vlek (he had 219 wives and 351 male children who survived to maturity) compete in a bi-annual "Rite of Battle Fitness." The winner may challenge the Master, one of the Atamen of the three towns, or lead a warband and become a chief. The surviving losers join the standing warbands (the "Fists"), those who did best becoming chieftains, sub-chiefs, and leaders of raiding bands. These savage war and raiding bands commonly raid Fruztii, Tenh, and even the Rovers of the Barrens. [Folio – 16]

The Fists
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]

The Fists would become the terror of the North.
It was from settlements like Bastro and Araman, of the Atamanship of Bastro, that those footmen were drawn. These were not rank and file footmen like those of the south, these footmen were fast; fleet of foot, sled, and ski; and as nimble as the arctic fox upon the snows of the plains they scurried across.
The former Hold of Stonefist is now divided into four Atamanships: Vlekstaad, Purmill, Kelten, and Bastro. [Dragon #57 – 14]
Located at location Y2-32 on the poster map in The WORLD OF GREYHAWK@ boxed set, Armaran is a medium-sized, well-fortified city (see the map on page 43). The leader’s residence, in the center of town on the peak of a hill [.]
[WGS2 – 44]

Armaran is about as isolated a community as you’ll find. Not so far from the glacial ice to the north, it peers out from its hilltop perch upon the plains that stretch out on all sides, days journey from both the sight of man and the sea. The wind howls there. The snow and ice will strip the skin from your bones when it races to the sea. A man can lose himself here with ease, should he venture too far from sight and the pernicious winds rise out of the calm horizon and turn the world white.
The nearest cities […] are Kelten and Bastro. [WGS2 – 44]
[…] to the city of Armaran. The city is 270 miles away. [from Kelten] [WGS2 – 43]
[…] nine-day journey to Araman [from Kelten] [WGS2 – 43]


523 CY
Long years pass. Little changes in Armaran, if anything. Trappers trap. Fishers fish. Those who scratch at the oerth still do so, and hope that what is tilled will bloom, and there will be a harvest to reap before the snows return after too short a reprieve.
Masters come and go.
Storrich col Vlek, of Bastro
In 523 one Storrich of the Hold of Stonefist failed in an attempt to advance himself by less than traditional methods. Poisoners are not highly regarded even in that grim country, and so Storrich and his followers were obliged to flee. Since the season was summer and the Ice Barbarians would not be likely to let his ship pass unmolested, Storrich and his pursuers turned westward. Unfortunately for Storrich and his men, the pilot of the ship ran it aground offshore the Wastes, and Storrich’s company was obliged to take to the land, the pursuit still hot on their heels. As a last desperate measure Storrich attempted entry into the Burning Cliffs region, risking a stone path that he and his men found leading into the smolder. Storrich’s pursuers turned back at this point well satisfied, and informed the Master of the Hold that they had driven Storrich to his death, having waited some days for him to attempt a return and having seen nothing. It proved to be untrue.
[GA – 97]
[There’s no mention where Storrich hails from. Armaran is its own Atatmanship on Anna Meyer's map, but not in any canonical text, where the whole of the north of Stonehold is part of Bastro's. Thus, the Atamanship of Bastro is as good a place as any. To consider fleeing east, he must come from a place where he might consider that route an option. To flee west by ship, he would have to have knowledge of the sea.]
Bastro and Armaran would have suffered from Storrich’s attempt at seizing the Hold, I would imagine.

578 CY
Masters come and go.
In CY 578, shortly after Tenh had coronated its new Duke, the Master of the Hold became Rhelt Seuvord I of Stonehold. [Dragon #57 – 14]
The Hold of Stonefist was also renamed. Now openly calling itself Stonehold, this quasi-kingdom is composed of four Atamanships: Vlekstaad (west), Pumull (south), Kelten (east), and Bastro (north). Four Great Chieftains were named, each equal to an Ataman (Reindeer, White Bear, Walrus, and Forest [Hraak] People). Stonehold has become a force that is greatly feared by all in this region. [TAB – 23]
Several of his cousins took ill from a mysterious flux shortly after the coronation, and about a dozen others were reported fleeing into the Griff Mountains with a small band of loyal followers. [Dragon #57 – 14]
Major Towns: Bastro (pop. 1,700), Kelten (pop. 2,800), Purmill (pop, 1,900), Vlekstaad (pop. 2,200 […]) LGG – 108]

582 CY
Artifacts are scattered across the Oerth. Some in unlikely places. Some more important than others.
It was into this far north that heroes ventured for just such artifacts.
“They are very, very ancient, the five Blades of Corusk. Barbarian magic, barbarian weapons, great heroes of your people in the past. […] The five weapons are lost and scattered, or at least they have been for quite some time. Not even a diviner could find them, the stories say.
“The legends say that if the five blades ire brought together again, greatness shall come upon the barbarian people. The legends say that a great force is unleashed which will beat down the enemies of the barbarians. The power of the weapons themselves will be greatly magnified and expanded when the Five Become One and a greater force will inspire the barbarian folk to glory and dominion. I speak of a Power: The Great God of the North!” fact it's cold as hell!
One imagines that Armaran is a hell on oerth if the masters of the Hold should choose to punish those heroes by banishing them to Armaran should they fail in their attempt to acquire the Five Blades of Corusk.
If the characters do not escape or choose not to escape, they are taken to the city of Armaran. Their captors shackle their ankles with chains, and sell them as slaves. […] When a slave escapes and is caught, he is whipped […] and sent back to his owner. Subsequent escape attempts are dealt with more harshly [.] [WGS2 – 44]

The far north is a cruel land. You’d imagine that the people there would never lift a finger to help their mother if she were in need. In that you’d be wrong.
If they make it to a city, they can find someone who helps them. (Every city has its kind folk.) [WGS2 – 44]
No place is wholly evil. There are good people even in the most heartless places. There always are.

584 CY
Did Vatun rise from his captivity? He did not. It was all a rouse by Iuz. But because of his false rising, the Flanaess descended into War as it had not seen since the Suel Imperium clashed with the Bakluni.
The War passed by the Tundra after Vatun’s “return.” The Fists waged theirs in the Then and the Barrens. Until Iuz, distracted, delirious with the Death he had unleashed, lost hold of the Stonefist.
Sevvord Redbeard
[D]uring a period of Suel raids into Stonehold, the magical affliction of Sevvord Redbeard was ended. Without knowing why, he exploded in a rage that would have killed a lesser man. He gathered the Fists from across Tenh, having them first kill all the clerics of Iuz within their reach, and any locals they could quickly find; then, leaving only a rearguard to occupy Calbut, Nevond Nevnend, and the territory north of the Zumkend River, he returned in force to Stonehold. His army drove the barbarians back from Kelten and secured the pass, while he returned to Vlekstaad with his personal guard.
[LGG – 109]
War had returned to the Hold, if not specifically to the Atamanship of Bastra.
Though untouched, its inhabitants were not spared. They bleed in service of their nation’s “freedom,” as did all the Atamanships.
Kelten and Purmill are more important in the affairs of Stonehold, especially in light of the ongoing warfare with the Suel barbarians. [LGG – 110]
Revenge is widely sought against the northern barbarians for the burning of Vlekstaad, but Iuz's forces are hated even more. Conspiracies are suspected between Iuz and several war band leaders to gain control of Stonehold. Murders of war band leaders (by their fellows) are on the rise. [LGG – 110]

589 CY
Life grinds on in the wake of the War. Trappers trap. Fishers fish. Farmers scratch at the oerth.
And the men of the Atamanship of Bastra raid, as Fists are wont to do.
Bastro (pop. 1,700)
Armaran (Pop. approx. 1,500)
Resources: Furs, walrus ivory
Population: 55,000 [Stonehold]—Human 96% (FS), Orc 2%, Dwarf 1%, Other 1%
Languages: Flan dialects, [Aerdi], Cold Tongue
Alignments: CE*, CN, N
Religions: Erythnul*, Syrul, Beltar, Beory, Obad-Hai
[LGG – 108, interpolated]

In Defense of their Home
They fend off seasonal raids.
The Ice Barbarians are unsteady allies of the other barbarians, raiding where and when they please. [WGS2 – 6]
They raid Stonehold when the opportunity presents itself. [LGG – 149]
The Ice Barbarians have supported the Fruztii to some extent by making naval raids along the northern coast of Stonefist. [WGS2 – 6]
Territorial disputes with Stonehold that predated the wars were finally brought to a head […] 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]

The True North, Strong and Free
And they endure, each in their own way.
The Coltens folk had no place in [the Stonefist] 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]
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. They do not serve as warriors for the Cruski, instead paying tribute to their Suel overlords to be left alone. [LGG – 154]

“You never know when the devil might come calling.”
― Farley Mowat

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:
Hold of Stonefist map detail, by Anna Meyer
The City of Armaran map, by Diesel, from WGS2 Howl from the North, 1991
The Hold of Stonefist, by Ken Frank, from WGS2 Howl from the North, 1991

1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
2023 Greyhawk Adventures Hardback, 1988
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
9317 WGS1 Five Shall Be One, 1991
9337 WGS2 Howl from the North, 1991
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
Dragon Magazine, #52, 55, 209
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer

Friday 14 October 2022

On Glot

“My soul is full of longing
for the secret of the sea,
and the heart of the great ocean
sends a thrilling pulse through me.”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Perched high upon the foot of the Corusks, Glot, the seat of the Cruski throne, sits astride the Halsjaken as it rushes unto Spitzfjord and the sea. Despite its lofty height, a cloak of confluence shrouds its tiers of thatched roofs each spring as the breath of the sea that nurtures the People mingles with the chill of the glaciers that crackle and growl above.
Before long, though, the thick fogs retreat before the Solnor’s insistence, and Glot’s prominence is apparent. It oversees much of Cruski, from the Ustula Highlands to the Sables. Indeed, no fleet might approach the Cruski coast when not guarded by its fleets of rolling bergs without Glot having spied them long before they might land. Nor could they, for Glot is vigilant. They have need to be. For they have many enemies.
The Ice Barbarians inhabit the bleak shores of the Thillonrian Peninsula's north and east coasts. They will raid their cousins to the south, the Snow and Frost barbarians, or raid with them into Ratik or the more tempting Great Kingdom. In high summer they often find fighting by rounding the coasts of the Hold of Stonefist, and the Cruskii have both hatred and respect for the dour inhabitants of that land. Their most despised enemy, however, is the Sea Barons, whose ships they attack on sight, and whose isles they often attack and plunder – usually at a price. Of late these raiders have joined with Frost and Snow barbarians in order to counter the growing strength of the coastal defenders of the Great Kingdom and the Sea Barons. [WoGA – 26]
Their recent alliance with their Rhizian brethren, the Suelii, and the Archbaroncy of Ratik is practical, presently; advantageous to all in sooth, for the time being. Mayhap a necessity, given recent history. But tenuous, at best.
Lolgoff Bearhear
The Ice Barbarians are unsteady allies of the other barbarians, raiding where and when they please.
[WGS2 – 6]
Unsteady, because Lolgoff Bearhear is wise beyond his years. He does not trust the recent benevolence of the Schnai. Nor should he. And he has seen the duplicity of the Order of the Scarlet Sign, and tales tell that the southerners are still to be found in the Halls of the Fruztii and Schnai.
But Lolgoff also knows that keeping these perfidious allies close is wiser than allowing them to prepare their eventual betrayal unobserved.
Until then, he will reap what benefit he might.
The Suelii called themselves by names in the Cold Tongue, too: Cruski, the Ice Clans, who are the most noble and brave; Schnai, the Snow Clans, who are the most numerous and strong; and Fruztii, the Frost Clans, who are the bulwark and first in battle. They battled with each other over the long years since Vatun lay down in the cold, but they would always join their hosts together when an outsider threatened. The Schnai perfected the art of building longships, and the Fruztii found adversaries for the barbarian nations to fight and plunder. The Cruski joined with their cousins on many of these raids, taking special joy in fighting their particular rivals, the Sea Barons of Aerdy. [LGG – 55]

Their raids notwithstanding, Glot has, and always had, prospered, regardless its harsh climate.
Despite the dangers that have hardened its inhabitants. It is this reason Glot has always been vigilant. There has always been peril lurking high above it.
The Corusks
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). [WoGA – 52]
Corusk Mountains: The ice-capped Corusk Mountains are the backbone of the Thillonrian Peninsula. While the lower reaches are farmed with difficulty by humans, giants, ogres, trolls, and other monsters dwell in the central fastness. Monsters are less numerous farther east, but freezing fogs sweep down from the heights to threaten travelers. It is thought that this range possesses little in the way of valuable ores and gems. [LGG – 142]
It is not devoid of either, actually; but few have ventured into its valleys to test the theory.
Glot (Pop 5,100)
Population: 60,000
Demi-humans: Few
Humanoids: Likely in mountains
Resources: furs, copper, gems (I) [I = base value 10 gp]
[WoGA – 35]
Copper is indeed mined north of Glot, if not by the Suelii themselves.

If the Corusks are considered poor in ores and gems, its base and slopes are not in lustrous woods and fur.
Sable Wood
Sable Wood: This evergreen forest is within the realm of the Ice Barbarians. It is a hazardous region, for winter wolves prowl its western half. Sable firs are short but have thick trunks for their size. Their branches make excellent arrow-shafts, and the wood lumbered in mid-winter turns a deep, lustrous black when rubbed with hot oils. The barbarians prize this material greatly and will not export it.
[LGG – 141]
Nor are their coasts poor in fisheries and ivory. Salmon abounds.
Halsjaken: This river drops swiftly from the western Corusks, bending north past Glot to flow into the Spitzfjord. [LGG – 152]
Solnor Ocean: Kraken, Walruses [FtAR#11]
Works of art are realised from the tusks, a wonder to behold. So too their expression from soapstone.
Solnor Ocean: The Solnor ("birthplace of the sun" in Old Oeridian) is believed to be the mightiest of Oerth's four oceans. [LGG – 149]
Solnor Ocean: It is said the Solnor reaches for a thousand leagues and more eastward. The Sea Barons have reportedly sailed eastward for some distance and returned, but these rumors have never been confirmed. Great monsters dwell in the Solnor and sport in Grendep Bay when the sun warms the waters there.
[WoGA – 42,43]
A huge clockwise current sweeps up the coast of the eastern Flanaess, carrying ships from the Thillonrian Peninsula out to sea, and bringing curious debris (doubtless from whatever land is on the Solnor's far side) to the shores, of Hepmonaland and the Lordship of the Isles. [LGG – 149, 150]
If only the Cruski were to carry their curiosities of ivory and stone with them to the ports they “call upon,” and not just their steel. If they did, they would be more welcome. Few have seen their works, though. Indeed, few truly know the reclusive Cruski; fewer still have visited Glot, their capital, and fewer still their innumerable coastal villages, of which there are far more than the “civilised” think. And they have been there for far longer than they imagine.
Though they have always been the least numerous of the Suel barbarians, their royal lineage is the oldest. The king of Cruski holds the title "Fasstal of all the Suelii," indicating his preeminence among the nobles of the Suel race and giving him the right to pronounce judgment on any of them. Politically, this has little real importance, for he has no power to enforce his judgments. However, it is said by some that the god Vatun granted this authority to the fasstal of the Suelii; if Vatun awoke, the full authority of the office would return to the fasstal, and a new barbarian empire would emerge under his leadership. [LGG – 54]
Royal lineage? Fasstal of all the Suelii?
From whence did this come?
Tales tell that the Suelii were once scions of the long-dead Imperium of old.
Or so it is said.

-422 CY
Long ago, Zellifar, the son of the emperor fled his father’s Imperium, and that the father sent his Houses of Pursuit to collect his recalcitrant son and return him to face judgement of treason. It is said that the Houses pursued the prince far into the east, and that they did indeed confront the him.
Zellifar parleys with the Houses of Pursuit. His Archmage, Slerotin, unleashes a mass enfeeblement on the mages of the three Houses, and a mass suggestion upon, the other members of the Houses. Slerotin is blasted by magical energies upon the casting of these mighty spells, leaving the Rift Canyon as the only physical remains of this energy. The remnants of the Three Pursuing Houses flee northeastward. [OJ#11] (5094 SD)
 The three houses that eventually settle in the Barbarian States lose almost all contact with the more ‘civilized’ and good gods of their people. As they begin to multiply and prosper Kord and Llerg become major gods to them but Fortubo, Lendor, Lydia and Jascar are forgotten. [OJ#11]
Farther south in Ratik a slightly different mix of peoples assembles. Gods like Phaulkon, Norebo and Phyton are still remembered. [OJ#11]
So it is said.

-417 CY
Into the Thillonrian Peninsula
It is also said that the Suelii wandered north.
The Three Houses of Pursuit move into the Thillonrian Peninsula. They remember and turn to powers which were basic and strong, Kord and Llerg, forgetting others in the face of the strong magics of Slerotin. Wizardly magic is almost entirely forgotten, all magic is feared and only priests, and skalds used it without fear. Witches are not uncommon, but are forced away from "normal" men. The skalds and priests develop a runic alphabet that carry mystic powers. [OJ#1] (5099 SD)
And coming upon the Corusks, they trekked east, until they could trek no more.
They do not know where they have come from. Their skalds do not know of the Suel Empire. They have retained memory of their more primitive gods such as Kord and Llerg. Some others like Phaulkon are still remembered but the more civilized gods (Lydia, for example), are forgotten! [OJ#11]
So say the seers of Shar.

Did the Houses pursue? En mass? Or were they but a few. The seers do not say. Only that they did. Indeed, the Rhizians might have preceded these pursuers. Mayhap the scions of Fruztii and Schnai and Cruski came upon them already there? The sagas of the skalds, sung as long as memory, presume the ancient mariners sailed out of the trackless western sea, birthed from Vatun’s icy breath. However the Rhizians came to the Thillonrian peninsula, they were not the first to settle it. The Flan had preceded them.
Fruz (The Cold Tongue): This is the language of the frost, snow, and ice barbarians; it is predominantly Suloise with some Flan influences. It has no relation to Common, and even speakers of Suloise find it hard to comprehend. [FtAA -14]
And it was from them the Rhizians learned to survive on this harsh shore.

316 CY
Emissaries from Shar
Long centuries later, supposed kin from the distant south landed upon Rhizian shores with tales of the ancient nobility of the Suelii.
By 5831 CY SD, relations were established with the Suel tribes of Schnai, Fruztii and Cruskii in the northern lands. [SB – 4]
Travelers from the south came to call at the courts of the barbarian Suel. Calling themselves the Brothers of the Scarlet Sign, they claimed to be kin of the Fruztii, Schnai, and Cruski. By blood, perhaps they were kin, though distantly—but, in spirit, they were the same devious manipulators who claimed to rule the ancestors of the northern Suel. They came with tales of the lost glory of the Suel race and its ruined empire. They told how the Cruski were descended from an Imperial House, the noble and loyal servant of the last Suel emperor. [LGG – 55]
They were seen with distrust at first.
The people of the Thillonrian peninsula had adapted their original culture for their cold new homes, and the representatives of the Kingdom of Shar (actually Brotherhood members) took some getting used to.  [SB – 4]

320 CY – 570’s CY
But the emissaries of the Kingdom of Shar are persistent.
Culturally primitive by Brotherhood standards, the northern barbarians were beautiful examples of unpolluted Suel bloodlines, and many specimens were lured to Shar as “emissaries,” with the intent of improving the southern Suel stock. [SB – 4]

500 CY
Old King Cralstag is born. [Conjecture: Cralstag must have lived long enough to gain such a distinction.]

530 CY
Old King Cralstag takes the throne in Glot. [Conjecture.]

540 CY
Suelii Unity
One must never believe the myth of the Suelii. The Suelii are the Rhizians, and the Rhizians are independent peoples. They trust in kin, their jarls, and their thanes; but not distant kin. They raid one another; and sometimes, when the longships are asea, those distant kin are perfidious, at best. The Schnai invaded the Ursula Highlands at just such a time, forever sowing distrust between these close “kin.”
The Schnai also made war on the Ice Barbarians, wresting the Ustula region from them and holding it for several decades. They never conquered the Ice Barbarians as they did the Frost Barbarians, however, for the Cruski are nearly as able seafarers as the Schnai. [LGG – 105]

Old King Cralstag’s nephew Lolgoff is born. [Conjecture.]
[H]is birth city [is] Jotsplat. [Dungeon #133 – 39]
Old King Cralstag is without an heir. [Conjecture. If he did, his nephew would not have been crowned, assuming the throne is hereditary. Norse cultures were, so I assume the Rhizians were.]

c. 562 CY
Assuming [SABRALA STARBREAKER] is 20 at the time of WGS1 (see 582 CY), she would have been born in 562 CY.

c. 570s CY
The Cruski joined with their cousins on many of these raids, taking special joy in fighting their particular rivals, the Sea Barons of Aerdy.
This was the life of the barbarian Suel for hundreds of years, through victories and losses. Their freedom was undiminished, but it was subtly threatened several decades ago. [LGG – 55]
The emissaries of the Kingdom of Shar had returned. They called themselves the Order of the Scarlet Sign.
Old King Cralstag viewed them with distrust, as his father did before him.

573 CY
Old King Cralstag
Old King Cralstag is 73.
The emissaries of the Scarlet Brotherhood, as always, offered many gifts and whispered many promises. They offered passage to any of their brethren who wished to accompany them south. All their whispers sounded like orders to Cralstag’s ears.
Old King Cralstag knew well that his ancestors, be they slaves or scoundrels, were never the lapdogs of an emperor who stank of magic. So he told the Scarlet Brothers, and before all in his court, as his judgment on their words. For this, the Brothers murdered him soon thereafter—not with clean blade or strength of arms, but with hidden venom in his cup. [LGG – 55]
The Brotherhood were cunning and stealthy. But Lolgoff had heeded his uncle’s concerns. And though he was not attentive enough to prevent Cralstag’s death, he was quick to call those responsible to task.
The king's nephew, Lolgoff, knew the old king's judgment and the manner of his death. When the Brothers were brought before him, they spoke words of praise and honor for the dead king, and they smiled. Lolgoff smiled too, as he cut them apart with the old king's sword, for he honored Cralstag in deeds, not words. As king and fasstal, Lolgoff pronounced his judgment: The Brothers of the Scarlet Sign should receive only death in the kingdom of Cruski. [LGG – 55]
Lolgoff is 33.

576 CY
The Cruski have turned their back on us, their southern kin
, the Brotherhood whispered into Orvung’s ear. They blame us for Cralstag’s passing, they said.
Are you, Orvung asked himself? No matter, he decided, thinking such queries might lead to his own passing. We ought not to set our Cruski kin adrift, he agreed, and thus he considered a way that might keep them close.
The Snow Barbarians are the strongest and most numerous of the northern peoples. Several decades ago they captured the west coast below Glot and have managed to hold it since. [WoGA – 35]
He considered their desire to regain the Ustula Highlands. Lolgoff was young and inexperienced; Orvung knew he could wrest the Highlands back from him if he should desire to.

Orvung was not the only one concerned with how the Cruski’s longships might be engaged. Talks began; and one wonders what might have actually been on the table….
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. Supposedly this proposal offers Glot and Krakenheim as possible gains for the Schnai, while the Fruztii and Cruski would divide the Hold, part of Timberway would be returned to the Frost Barbarians, and Ratik would rule Bone March. The reaction to these proposals can not be guessed, but the Schnai are undoubtedly keeping an eye on the joint Fruztii-Ratik ventures of late. [WoGA – 35]
Whatever was agreed upon, Glot remained Lolgoff’s seat of power. The Ustula Highlands were soon to be returned to Cruski control.

577 CY
Perhaps it was agreed that Lolgoff’s longships were to join Orvung’s sailing south. Because they did.
Their raiding served them well. A great many slaves were taken from southern shores. And much silver and gold were gathered from southern ports.
The attention of the Cruski was directed wholly to the south, where choice plunder could be gained during the summer raiding season. [Dragon #57 – 14]
Events amongst the Schnai were quite similar to those of their cousins to the north, in that they generally raided southwards and carried heaps of goods back to towns of their realm. [Dragon #57 – 14]
During the season of 577, much minor activity took place along the coast of North Province and off the northern end of the Island of Asperdi. Some raiders were met and actions were fought; some slipped through, some turned elsewhere. [Dragon #63 – 16]
The Schnai were not as lucky as the Cruski, though.
Suelii Asea
Reportedly a squadron of seven Schnai longships were set upon whilst sinking the hulks of two provincial merchants, the vessels Marntig and Solos. Guided by the smoke and flames, a flotilla of Baronial warships surprised the barbarians. Three of the Schnai were rammed and sunk. In hand-to-hand action, the flagship of the barbarians’ fleet was captured, but the three remaining longships escaped after jettisoning all of their captured cargo.
[Dragon #63 – 16]
The Schnai limped home. And though they put on a brave face, their fleet had taken more damage than they saw fit to reveal. Be that as it may, Lolgoff saw much, and new better.
After a particularly successful venture in 577, the Cruski and Schnai sat down together to bargain on a division of the spoils. In the end, the Schnai agreed to give up the land south of Glot along the east coast. The Snow Barbarians gained more gold and silver, while the Cruski regained their southern harbors. [Dragon #57 – 14]
Unsettled conditions in the Great Kingdom made for rich loot; coupled with the payment made by the Cruski for the return of Ustula, the men of the region were pleased indeed with their wealth in currency, goods, and slaves (thralls). [Dragon #57 – 14]
Mutual cooperation between the Schnai and Fruztii, and the Schnai and Cruskii as well, was at a high level, and the raids from the Hold of Stonefist at a very low level. [Dragon #57 – 14]

578 CY
Not only did the Cruski sail south with the Schnai, they harassed the Stonehold coast as they had not done in many a season.
This made the raids into North Province and the Isles of the Sea Barons all the easier next year, and most of the able-bodied men were away on those journeys when the warbands of Stonefist (now Stonehold) rode into the tundra which the King of Cruski claimed. The few wandering tribes of Coltens there welcomed the invaders, while surviving Cruskii headed east as quickly as possible. The returning warriors were enraged at the boldness of the invasion [.] [Dragon #57 – 14]

579 CY
And continued to the next year, as well.
CY 579 is likely to be particularly good for the Snow Barbarians, for with their northern neighbors looking elsewhere, and the Frost Barbarians busy with Ratik, the choicest areas for raiding will be left to the Schnai. [Dragon #57 – 14]
 [I]t is likely that the attention of the Cruskii will be trained on a war with the Stoneholders in 579. Some 50 ship captains are already pledged to sail, and more are expected. [Dragon #57 – 14]

582 CY
Indeed, Lolgoff exercised his strength upon the Icy and Solnor seas as never before.
The Snow Barbarians, or Schnai, are the most powerful and populous group, dominating Grendep Bay and the northern Solnor Ocean with their longships. Their marauding armies, with those of the Ice Barbarians, have also made themselves into a major force in the land. [WGS1 – 4]
The Ice Barbarians have supported the Fruztii to some extent by making naval raids along the northern coast of Stonefist. [WGS1 – 4]
One wonders what Lolgoff and his jarls agreed to, for their warriors were seen further inland than they had ever ventured, surprisingly so. Who would expect a native of Glot in the Bandit Kingdoms? Moreso, who would ever have expected that a shield maiden from the furthest corner of the Flanaess might overflow with sylvan ancestry?

Sabrala Starbreaker
No one can remember when Sabrala came from the lands of the Ice Barbarians, or how a slip of a girl with an elven father ever got born there. But the wild-eyed young bard with the heartbreaking voice brought her stories and visions to the Frost barbarians and they took her to their hearts. Her pipe rendering of the forlorn Flowers of the Forests has brought tears to the eyes of barbarians long hardened by battle and death, and she has played and sung several times for the King himself.
Sabrala becomes almost possessed when she sings, recites, or plays the music dearest to her. She almost seems to become figures in the legends, to assume their mantles and sorrows, and her performance is breathtaking. The more powerful the legend, the deeper Sabrala becomes immersed in it and the more inspired she becomes.
Sabrala’s taken name, Starbreaker, comes from an old Fruztii expression relating to the exhalation of breath in bitterly cold air. The breath frosts at once and tiny snowflakes fall to the ground appearing like the breaking of stars. The King once compared Sabrala’s ballad voice to the gentleness of breath falling to the ground, and in honor of his compliment she adopted the name she now carries.
Sabrala travels as she will through the world, freespirited and dreaming, wishing only to learn more of legend, song, magic, and timelessness. Other-worldly and strange, she is nonetheless not gullible or foolish. When it is necessary, a bard must sing for her supper and Sabrala knows how to use her charms and wit. [WGS1 – 33]
Elves has never been known to inhabit Cruski’s cold shores, so one wonders where this girl’s parentage might have come from. Then again, little is known about the Corusks, is there?

584 CY
Population 60,000 [FtAR#3]
Capital: Glot (pop. 5,000) [FtAA – 28]
Has this unexpected increase in their Flanaess presence taken its toll on Glot’s population? On Cruski’s?  One can only expect this would be so; but the Cruski have never been forthcoming on how many of their kin dwell upon their coasts.

591 CY
Lolgoff is 51.
Population: 158,800—Human 96% (S), Dwarf 2% (mountain 65%, hill 35%), Halfling 1% (stout), Other 1% [LGG – 54]
Glot and Cruski have prospered of late. They have ventured out into the world as never before. And yet, no one seems to know much about these tight-lipped people.
Except one thing:
Royal hatred of the Scarlet Brotherhood grows, as does distrust of the Frost Barbarians. [LGG – 55]
There are rumours of Brotherhood in Djekul, after all.
Nobles from Ratik have great influence at court but are not always trusted. Scarlet Brotherhood agents are well received but bring strange news and promises. Merchants from the Lordship of the Isles have a growing presence, offering unusually generous trade deals that make some jarls suspicious. Hundgred's court is growing isolated from other northern barbarian nations. [LGG – 45]

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:
World of Greyhawk map detail, by Darlene, from the Folio, 1980

1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
9317 WGS1 Five Shall Be One, 1991
9337 WGS2 Howl from the North, 1991
11374 The Scarlet Brotherhood, 1999
11742 Gazetteer, 2000
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
Oerth Journal #1, #11
Living Greyhawk Journal, #1
Dragon Magazine #57,63
Dungeon Magazine #133 
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer