Friday 29 December 2023

On Otis


“The nicest feeling in the world is to do a good deed anonymously – and have somebody find out.”
― Oscar Wilde

Membership in Mordenkainen’s Citadel of Eight was, shall we say, fluid. People joined. People left. For the most part, though, its core remained the same: Mordenkainen, Bigby, Tenser, Yrag, Riggby, Robilar, and Serten – one wonders why then the Citadel of Eight was not actually the Citadel of Seven. But Mordekainen appears to be enamoured with the number eight, for one reason or another – perhaps the number eight has some multiversal significance lost to us mere hoi polloi.
Why did people come and go? You’re guess is as good as mine. Some died – although there is only the most vague mention of that ever happening – but as I said, most just… left.  I suppose those that did preferred to make their own way in the world – Mordenkainen would appear a my-way-or-the-highway sort of leader to my mind.
Mordenkainen: There is perhaps no individual in all Oerik who sees himself as embodying the spirit of Balance as do you. Your philosophies are one-sided on the matter, and many a worthy cause has gone unanswered because of your neutral-minded convictions. Your view of balance is no tit-for-tat equality but a highly detailed and extremely theoretical philosophy. You will fight ardently for the forces of good, but could with equal vigor work as a shadow player for malevolence. In all things, you prefer to maneuver behind the scenes, subtly manipulating events to ensure that no side gains the upper hand. [COR1 – 00 The Citadel PCs – 1]
If this were true, then you can’t blame them in that regard that they should decide to push on after a time, can you.
One assumes, then, that that variable eighth member would become progressively younger as the years passed. The last to join this august troop of adventurers, nine years after the Citadel’s inception, was a young ranger by the name of Otis.
Why did he join?
I suppose he joined because the thought that in doing so he could do greater good….

534 CY
Otis is born in Hommlet.
Otis hails from the village of Hommlet, in the Kron Hills south of Verbobonc;
[Date calculated from his date of joining (560 CY), and not 551 CY {LGJ#0 – 4}; reasons follow.]

Hommlet is a sleepy place. Besides being a crossroads, little happens here.
Hommlet as it is commonly called-is situated in the central part of the Flanaess, that portion of eastern Oerik Continent which is known and "civilized". The village (actually hamlet-sized, though local parlance distinguishes it with the term "village") is located some 10 or so leagues southeast of the town of Verbobonc, on the fringe of the territory controlled by its noble Lord, the Viscount of Verbobonc. It is at a crossroads. To the north is the mighty Velverdyva River, along whose south bank runs the Lowroad. [T1The Village of Hommlet – 2]
It is a prosperous place, for the most part, in its small way.
Hommlet grew from a farm or two, a rest house, and a smithy. The roads brought a sufficient number of travellers and merchant wagons to attract tradesmen and artisans to serve those passing through. The rest house became a thriving inn, a wheel and wainwright settled in the thorp, and more farmers and herdsmen followed, for grain was needed for the passing animals, and meat was in demand for the innfolk. Prosperity was great, for the lord of the district was mild and taxed but little. Trade was good, and the land was untroubled by war or outlaws or ravaging beasts. [T1 – 2]

540s CY
Farming did not interest Otis much. He preferred exploring nearby woods, tracking animals and observing them unobserved, if he could manage it.
[Y]ou grew up the eldest son of simple farming folk, who taught you to respect the land and others. When you were very young, you became lost while camping in the Gnarley Forest. You became fast friends with the elves who rescued you, returning often to learn of the woods and what they had to teach you. [COR1 – 00 – 13]
Population: 12,000
Demi-humans: Sylvan Elves (7,000), Gnomes (3,000), others
Humanoids: Some
Parts of the Gnarley Forest are claimed by Celene, Dyvers, Verbobonc, and Greyhawk. Most is generally considered as part of the Wild Coast region, however, and the inhabitants of these woodlands are free-spirited-folk, so no formal government is ever likely to hold sway as long as there are deep woods to shelter resisters. The Viscount of Verbobonc is well liked by the folk dwelling in northeastern portions of the Gnarley, while the Queen of Celene is favored by those in the south. The forest is home to many fierce creatures as well, and many humanoid bands rove about seeking to murder and loot. These invaders work their way up from the Pomarj, through the Suss and Welkwood. Some come via the mountains and hills from the north. [Folio – 22]

551 CY
Otis was not the only person with an adventurous spirit. Mordenkainen the mage too loved to see what was over the horizon; but adventuring 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.
[N]early 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. [T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil – 34]
They called themselves the Citadel of Eight, taking the name from Mordenkainens renowned Obsidian Citadel, in the Yatil Mountains. [LGJ#0 – 5]

555 CY
The Young Woodsman
The elves trained Otis well.
Eventually, you learned to be a ranger from those elves, and advanced in the ranks of the Gnarley Rangers faster than any of your peers. The elves solitary, chaotic nature appealed to you, and you still consider more elves your friends than humans. [COR1 – 00 – 13]
Otis begins training as a Ranger. [see 560 CY]
…becoming the young woodsman, Otis [LGJ#0 – 5]
Otis is 21 years of age. [DMG 1e – 12]

Late 550s CY
Over the years, the Citadel played home to such luminaries as Prince Melf Brightflame, of the Olvenfolk, the half-orc Quij, Felnorith, Robilar's brother Terik, and even, at one point, the Quasi-Deity Murlynd, in disguise. [LGJ#0 – 5]
Would Otis have heard of the Citadel? Probably not.
In the years that followed, their adventures focused on Greyhawk and the Selintan valley, and the crags of the Cairn Hills and depths of the Suss Forest were opened to their prying vision. [LGJ#0 – 5]
Those places were far removed from where Otis trekked. Indeed, those names were likely mere names to him, places of mystery he would likely never see, he believed.

And likely never would, what with so much banditry plaguing the roads about Hommlet to date. It was getting that hard-working farmers could not bring their crops to market without being accosted, lately.
The area was too free, too beautiful, too bountiful, at least in the eyes of some. Whether the evil came west from Dyvers as is claimed by one faction, or crept up out of the forestlands bordering the Wild Coast as others assert, come it did. At first it was only a few thieves and an odd group of bandits molesting the merchant caravans. Then came small bands of humanoids – kobolds or goblins – raiding the flocks and herds. [T1 – 2]
But his vigilance went a long way to help make the surrounding counties safe.
Local militia and foresters of the Waldgraf of Ostverk apparently checked, but not stopped, the spread of outlawry and evil. [T1 – 2]

556 CY
Hommlet and the fields of Emridy safe, Otis decided that he would like to see a little more of the Viscounty. Perhaps he would even cross the Lortmils. Or travel as far as Veluna and the Vesve. He heard that the forest was the most beautiful to behold there.
Leaving Hommlet
Four years ago, you left Hommlet and the Gnarley to see more of the world, and ran into many adventures in that time.
Reserved in front of humans, you are nonetheless friendly when drawn out. You are not garrulous, but you can maintain a conversation. You like listening, though; the elves taught you that listening was more important than speaking. The motivations of others are revealed in their words, and the person who is sensitive to that goes far.
Though you carry such equipment as you think you need, you are equally ready to rely on your own skills. Others have called you independent, and that is what you are. You like being that way. When you feel a personal quest is necessary, you bravely set off by yourself to accomplish it, not really needing others most of the time. You have run from your share of monsters when alone, but you have survived, and usually prevailed in the end. [COR1 – 00 – 13]
Otis, a man-at-arms ex-mercenary […] NG
S 18/07 115 W15 D17 Co 18 Ch 13
[T1-4 – 32]
Otis is 22.

559 CY
Otis did indeed behold the Vesve. And he crossed the Lortmils. But the fields and forests there were not his. He grew homesick for Hommlet, the Gnarley, and the fields of Emridy.
A year or two ago, a wizard named Mordenkainen and his apprentice Bigby helped you defeat a band of trolls near Hommlet, and you remember them as good allies. [COR1 – 00 – 13]
Otis is 25.

560 CY
How did Mordenkainen’s Citadel of Eight fare? People came. People went.
[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]
It just so happened that the Citadel was just then shy of its optimal eight.
When Mordenkainen asked you to join his adventuring group, you agreed. It will be a chance to practice working with a team. [COR1 – 00 – 13]
So, only a year after returning home, Otis was off again. Mordenkainen must have convinced the receptive young ranger that his talents were better suited suppressing even greater evils abroad than at home.
Finally, the young woodsman, Otis, rounded out the group. [LGJ#0 – 5]
Who actually recruited the idealistic young Otis? Mordenkainen, officially. It says so above.
How’d they meet? By chance. Perchance. Mordenkainen and Bigby just happened to be in the vicinity to help Otis defeat that band of trolls.
I wonder. It’s possible, I suppose. But as Mordenkainen and Bigby were hitherto concerned mainly with, and engaged mostly in, the environs adjacent to the Free City of Greyhawk, why might they have been in the vicinity of so tiny a town? Might someone have brought the young woodsman to their attention? That seems likely, doesn’t it? Who might hail from around there, then? Serten. This seems likely, doesn’t it, that Serten might be familiar with goings-on so close to his home, if he might hail from Verbobonc.
Whomever took notice of the young woodsman, Otis took his leave of the Kronn Hills and the Gnarley Forest. And his beloved sleepy village of Hommlet.
Otis […] took service with some gentlemen and is away seeking his fortune. [T1-4 – 7]
[Otis is] a ranger [.] [T1-4 – 34]
Race: Human
Class: Ranger
Level: 7
Align: NG
Height: 5 ft. 7 in. Weight: 170 lb Age: 26
S18, I15, W15, D17, Co18, Ch13

Thus Otis became a member of the Citadel of – once again – Eight.
What did Otis think of the others in the group:
Mordenkainen (10th level human male wizard): This man is fueled by ambition, and you know that he will one day be a great archmage. Though you consider him a friend, that thought troubles you, as you are not sure if he will use his powers to benefit others, or to benefit himself. Mordenkainen, you are certain, operates under a very clear agenda. He has strong beliefs that the Balance of power in the world must be maintained actively, and that this adventuring group was the tool to do it. You don't like being used as a "tool," even if it means ridding the Wild Coast and Gnarley Forest of evil creatures. Your continued support of Mordenkainen as leader of the group will cease the moment his concept of "Balance" tips to the side of evil.
(8th level human male fighter): This brash warrior seems more at home in a tavern, despite his efforts to appear as woods-wise and capable as yourself. He likes his fun, though, and can be very entertaining when he tells of some adventure or other. Usually he figures prominently in these stories. Still, Robilar has a disturbing mean streak that might get the better of him some day.
Bigby (7th level human male wizard): Gaunt and monk-like, Bigby seems to push himself way beyond what is reasonable. You know that he is not trying to impress Mordenkainen, as the master is well pleased with his student. So you think there is something in his past which drives him. That could be dangerous, and you hope that when his past catches up with him that he is prepared (or the whole group could suffer). He is capable as a wizard, and seems to be more adept at strategic use of magic (especially defensive magic) than other wizards you have met.
(7th level human male cleric of Boccob): You stay clear of this priest, though you try to appear not to. He is overbearing and proud and sure that he is right, all the things you find distasteful in civilization. He should go far in his church, and his heart is in the right place.
Yrag (8th level human male fighter): This cautious man is good to have around, because he always plans for alternate contingencies. The elves taught you that things don’t work out according to the first plan more often than not, but you have not mastered the idea of considering backups and consequences the way you should. Watching Yrag, you hope to learn more. He is otherwise friendly, but you don’t know much about him. He is a close friend of Riggby, and does not seem to open up to anyone else in the group. [COR1 – 00 – 13]
(7th level human male cleric of Saint Cuthbert): No mention is made as to what Robilar thought of Serten, but one might imagine that he found the cleric often been more a source of exasperation to adventurers than a great help. He is, quite simply, stupid but likeable. He likes to adventure, but is basically not bright enough to be trusted on his own; therefore, he will always be found with a group. He understands the physical side of melee very well and can seldom resist getting in and mixing it up with his foes. This often creates problems as he is too dumb to know when to run away, requiring the rest of the party to rescue him. He may not cast his spells for the cleverest of reasons either. [Rogues 1e – 46]

But no sooner had the idealist young ranger joined the Citadel did half of his new companions fly of on a magic carpet, without so much as a how-you-do, or where-you-going.
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]
Did they tell Otis what they’d been up to while absent? They did not.

560s CY
Indeed, the core members were ever off to here and there while Otis was left to mid the store, as it were.
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]
Otis did get to know the Selintan Valley and Cairn Hills quite well while they were out and about. He spent a fair time patrolling the northern Wild Coast, too; more and more time, as the years crept by, all the while gazing into the Gnarley Forest, hearing it call to him.
He began to wonder why he had ever left it. The Citadel of Eight was not what he imaginined it to be; it was rife with politics, and personality conflicts. Not cohesive, by any stretch of the imagination.
For a group that so decisively defeated its enemies, there remained several problems. Robilar never quite bought into Mordenkainens 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]

And all the while he was gone, rumours of evil doings in the Gnarley and the fields of Emridy filled his ears.
The thickets and marshes around Nulb became the lair and hiding place for bandits, brigands, and all sorts of evil men and monsters alike. The chapel grew into a stone temple as its faithful brought in their ill-gotten tithes. Good folk were robbed, pillaged, enslaved, or worse. In but three years a grim and foreboding fortress surrounded the evil place, and swarms of creatures worshipped and worked their wickedness there. The servants of the Temple of Elemental Evil made Hommlet and the lands for leagues around a mockery of freedom and beauty. Commerce ceased, crops withered, pestilence was abroad. But the leaders of this cancer were full of hubris, and in their overweaning pride sought to overthrow the good realms to the north who were coming to the rescue of the land being crushed under the tyranny wrought by the evil temple. [T1 – 2]

There were others doing his work while he was whiling away the years patrolling lands he cared little about.
Burne and Rufus
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.
[T1-4 – 28]
Canoness Y'dey—Level 6 Cleric [of St. Cuthbert] [LG] [T1-4 – 34]
Canon Terjon (6th level cleric [of St. Cuthbert]) [LN] [T1 – 6]
Jaroo Ashstaff (7th level druid […] [TN] [T1 – 6]
Burne: "His Most Worshipful Mage of Hommlet": 8th level magic-user [LN] [T1 – 7] [Burne] is clever and a trifle on the greedy side. […] He Is a follower of St. Cuthbert [.] [T1 – 7]
Rufus: 6th level fighter [T1 -7] Rufus is also lawful good [.] [T1 – 7]
[Some alignments are noted in T1, others surmised.]
Otis wondered what in the Nine Hells he was doing in the Domain of Greyhawk.

569 CY
The fellowship of the Citadel of Eight was not to last. Some of their number were not as dedicated to their cause as others – if they ever were.
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]
Otis decided that it was high time he went home.
Otis is 35.

Homeward Bound
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. [LGJ#0 – 5]
Where was Otis? En route. Still in the Gnarley. Delayed by all manner of Evil that had infested his beloved forest while he was away.
Gnarley Forest
Ogre 1e
The forest is home to many fierce creatures as well, and many humanoid bands rove about seeking to murder and loot.
[Folio – 22]
An enclave of ogres, gnolls, and orcs (Blackthorn) is hidden within [the forest], and roving orcs from the Pomarj annually attempt to use the forest a s cover for a massive flanking maneuver against Narwell and Safeton. [LGG – 140]
Otis did not arrive in time.
Perhaps that was because the odds of his doing so were tacked against him. Rangers, for the most part, are a solitary sort.
Rangers may not hire men-at-arms, servants, aides, or henchmen until they attain 8th or higher level.
No more than three rangers may ever operate together at any time. [PHB 1e – 24]
And there must have been innumerable evils lurking in the forest betwixt him and Hommlet just then.

All the while he fought his way through the Gnarley, a far greater drama was unfolding upon the fields of Emridy.
A great battle was fought to the east, and when villagers saw streams of ochre-robed men and humanoids fleeing south and west through their community, there was great rejoicing, for they knew that the murderous oppressors had been defeated and driven from the field in panic and rout. [T1 – 2]
When he did, the battle was long done.
When Serten fell, none of his friends stood at his side. [LGJ#0 – 5]
I imagine Otis wept when he heard the news. Were they tears of grief. Certainly. They were also tears of rage.
Upon learning of Serten’s death, Otis discovered that, while he’d been left to keep the home fires burning, Robilar had become mixed up in the goings-on in his home turf! And Tenser too!
The Temple of Elemental Evil
Lord Robilar eventually entered the Temple with a small party.
[T1-4 – 28]
He found and confronted Tenser. Tenser as contrite. The Citadel had wronged the young ranger, he realised that. Serten was dead; there was nothing to be don about that. But there was still the Temple to be put to rights.
And perhaps Robilar too.
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 freed the demoness Zuggtmoy, who was imprisoned beneath the temple complex. [OJ#7 – 42]
Robilar left with pursuit hot on his tail, Quij wearing a new poncho he'd made from "master's flying rug" (two days being a long time to wait in the cold)! [T1-4 – 28]
Robilar and Otto fled back to his castle, with the Force of Good in hot pursuit. The druid Jaroo, in falcon form, followed Robilar and Otto over 200 miles back to Robilar's castle. After they were informed of his whereabouts, the good war party eventually rallied outside of Robilar's castle. Robilar and Otto abandoned the castle and it fell to the Forces of Good. [OJ#7 – 42]

Though the good townsfolk of Hommlet spoke kind words to him when he arrived home, he could not help but see what lay behind those word, the question, “Where were you when we needed you most?”
Otis vowed he would never leave them again.
He resumed his vigilance.
Life quickly returned to a semblance of what it had been before the rise of the temple, and in the decade since, the village and surrounding countryside have in fact become more rich and prosperous than ever before. A monstrous troll which plagued the place for a time was hunted down by a body of passing adventurers. With its ashes, these fellows returned a goodly fortune as well, leaving a portion with the villagers to repay them for their losses before going elsewhere to seek their fortunes. [T1 – 2]

What became of the Citadel? He no longer cared. But he was kept abreast by Tenser.
Though most [of what remained of the Citadel] attended [Serten’s] ostentatious funeral service in Verbobonc, a crucial rift had been torn in the organization. The Citadel was crumbling. [LGJ#0 – 5]
And Tenser was none too kind in his appraisal of Mordenkainen and his Citadel.
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]
Otis was pleased to know that others were as critical of Mordenkainen and his pursuit of “Balance.”

574 CY
Otis was true to his word. He scoured the Gnarley. He trekked the crossroads. He oversaw the fields of Emridy. And wondered if he could have saved Serten had he been there?
And on occasion, he beheld that dour edifice, the Temple of Elemental Evil. And wondered, might he have prevented such a thing if he had remained where he ought to have?
After some five years, adventurers stopped coming to the area, as it seemed that no monsters were left to slay, no evil existed here to be stamped out. [T1 – 2]
Otis is 39.

c. 576 – 578 CY
Regardless his vigilance, few laid eyes on Otis in the coming years. Not some few wondered if he had left the Viscounty in shame.
Indeed, there were rumours that he had.
Tenser (MU of 19th level):
Hidden somewhere along the southern shores 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:
  • Heavy Cavalry: 50 (Guards)
  • Medium Cavalry: 100 (Elite)
  • Light Cavalry: 50 (Regulars)
  • Medium Horse Archers: 100 (Regulars)
  • 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]
Such is the way of rumours. Of course, Otis was not with Tenser. Why would a woodsman be so cloistered within Tenser’s tall tower? But there are those who believe he was to this very day.

578 CY
For all his vigilance, Otis could not stem the tide of evil.
But evil was not done with the Temple of Elemental Evil. Slowly, over years, its creatures and servants returned to the place and brought with them the taint of evil that hung like a shadow over Hommlet a second time. [RttTEE – 9]
He realised he needed help.
[B]andits began to ride the roads again – not frequently, but to some effect. This seemed all too familiar somehow to the good folk of Hommlet, so they sent word to the Viscount that wicked forces might still lurk thereabouts. This information has been spread throughout the countryside, and the news has attracted outsiders to the village once again. Who and what these men are, no one can be quite sure, although all claim to be bent on slaying monsters and bringing peace and security to Hommlet, for deeds speak more loudly than words, and lies cloak true purposes of the malevolent. [T1 – 2]

They were malevolent, indeed.
[A]s the temple was rebuilding itself, a particularly devious and vile cleric named Lareth the Beautiful took control of the moathouse. Lareth commanded a small number of troops, mostly humans and bugbears, who occupied only the dungeon of the moathouse. [RttToEE – 19]
The Moathouse
The Moathouse
5th level cleric […]
Lareth the Beautiful is the dark hope of chaotic evil: young, handsome, well endowed in abilities and aptitudes, thoroughly wicked, depraved, and capricious. Whomever harms Lareth had better not brag of it in the presence of one who will inform the Demoness Lolth! He has been sent into this area to rebuild a force of men and humanoid fighters to gather loot and restore the Temple of Elemental Evil to its former glory. Of course. Lareth is but one of many so charged, but he is looked upon with special favor and expectation. [T1 – 16]
Evil to the core, Lareth is cunning, and if the situation appears in doubt, he will use bribery and honeyed words to sway the balance to his favor. [T1 – 16]
[W]hen Lareth the Beautiful commanded the moathouse (the outpost for the Temple of Elemental Evil), both Zuggtmoy and Lolth believed him to be their priest—when really he served none other than the Elder Elemental Eye (and Tharizdun). [RttToEE – 5]
7. BRIGANDS: There are 8 normal men and a 2nd level lighter leader holed up in the "Block Chamber", the quarters of the former lord of the castle. [T1 – 13]
9. PRIVATE ROOM: This place houses a strange pair, a hulking fighter of 2nd level [,] Kobort by name; and his associate, a small and thin monk of 3rd level [,] called Turuko, a Bakluni from unknown parts. Kebort was passing through and fell in with the monk, and Turuko convinced the huge fellow that he could make them wealthy and famous. The fighter is neutral (for he isn't bright enough to be any alignment), while Turuko is lawful evil. [T1 – 9]
The brigands are merely pawns, easily discarded, easily replaced.
Agents roam near and far to bring all sorts of evil humans and humanoids into service. River pirates and brigands are major sources. Humanoids come from all quarters. [T1-4 – 43]
Lareth is the only true concern.
Lareth has been sent to this area to rebuild a force of men and humanoid fighters to gather loot and restore the Temple of Elemental Evil to its former glory. [T1-4 – 26]

Evil had learned its lesson. Lareth was far more cunning than the Temple masters then.
Of course, Lareth is but one of many so charged, but he is looked upon with special favor and expectation. He and his minions have been careful to raid far from this area, never nearer than three or four leagues, traveling on foot or being carried in wagons of the traders from Hommlet. None of the victims are ever left alive to tell the tale, and mysterious disappearances are all that can be remarked upon, for no trace of men, mounts, goods, wagons or draft animals is ever found. [T1 – 16]
Help us, the good people of Hommlet cried. Otis tried, but he could do little, operating alone as did most rangers. He set trips to trip up the brigands, all for not. More often than not, he would arrive to discover his traps tripped, and caravans and wagon trains burning. He buried the dead, and wondered what he might do next.

He came to the obvious conclusion that he could not defeat this evil alone. He needed help; so he sent a plea to Verbobonc for aid.
His Lordship the Viscount of Verbobonc (Fighter, 10th level)
Verbobonc, Viscounty and Town of: Wilfrick, F 10 [WoGG – 17]
Lord Wilfrick was only too willing to answer Otis’ plea. He had no wish to repeat past perils again. And so, His lordship tracked down Y’dey and asked her to return to Hommlet.
This time, however, the inhabitants of Hommlet chose to get involved. A young man named Elmo and his brother Otis worked with Canoness Y’dey of the Church of St. Cuthbert to spy on the temple’s activities. [RttTEE – 9]
Canoness Y'dey
[Canoness] Y'dey
, the Canoness of the local church [T1 – 4]
Y’dey called for her steadfast companions, who were only too willing to answer.
Rufus the fighter, and Burne the magic-user […] came to Hommlet some three years ago, had some considerable success in adventuring, including the defeat of a large bandit force which had plagued Verbobonc, and it is rumored that they gained considerable treasure in killing a green dragon which preyed in the Kron Hills to the west. It is well known that these two men are tough and very cautious but willing to give some aid to adventurers for a price. [T1 – 7]
Rufus leads a squad of men-at-arms and has been appointed as the overall commander of the village troops as well. [T1 – 7] [W]hen he reaches 8th level he has been Instructed to return to Verbobonc for special service In the Viscount's behalf. [T1 – 7]
[Burne is] very conscious of his duty to protect the village and to watch for evil [.] [T1 – 7]
Jaroo is an agent of the Druids of Gnarley Wood, sent to Hommlet to see if the Temple of Elemental Evil is totally destroyed, and to help repress any rise of evil of this sort. [T1 – 6]
The villagers say that Terjon is not particularly friendly and his sternness is a cause of some speculation. Actually, this cleric is not a bad fellow at all, but he is rather displeased at being called to care for the church while Y'dey is on a quest, for Terjon is desirous of being off adventuring himself, and ONLY the request of the Archcleric of Veluna keeps him on station. [T1 – 6]
They each arrived in haste, and began their watch.

Little did they know that they too were being watched by Rannos Davi (10th level thief) and his partner Gremag (7th level assassin).
Rannos Davi is chaotic evil and highly suspiclous. Gremag Is as evil and even more chaotic. Both are servants of the Temple of Elemental Evil, report activity In Hommlet to a brigand courier, and aid any and all other evil creatures who come In Temple service. [T1 – 4,5]

579 CY
It’s been a long time since we’ve visited Hommlet. Things have changed, what with its renewed siege of evil.
Think of the day-to-day life in these small villages, and imagine the needs of the local folk. A new mill or winery would not find much welcome, as these are already represented in Hommlet. But a new blacksmith might provide a convenient excuse, in drawing off business, for Elmo and/or Otis to become a bit more active in their secret tasks. [T1-4 – 6]

Otis’ family is still in residence. His parents are far older than they were.
An elderly couple herein are master and mistress [.] [T1-4 – 7]
The elders say that their son Elmo would be interested in talking with strangers—he's at the inn having a jack of ale. [T1-4 – 7]
Although young Elmo has grown up. Some wonder about him, though.
Elmo is strong, but not too quick, and is overfond of brew.
[T1-4 – 7]
Elmo's speech is slow and halting. He often appears tipsy and jovial, frequenting the Inn of the Welcome Wench much of the time. [T1-4 – 7]
Elmo will reveal his status (man-at-arms) to any who ask. While in town 'carousing', he is unarmored but carries (as always) his dagger +2. If asked about it, he proudly proclaims "My brudder Otis gave it to me!" [T1-4 – 7]
He is not what he seems, however.
Elmo only pretends his inebriation; he is a 4th level ranger, and an agent of the Viscount of Verbobonc. His town visits are for the purpose of observing newcomers, to insinuate himself in their expeditions. [T1-4 – 7]
He is Otis’ eyes and ears within Hommlet.
Elmo: […] Level 4 Ranger […] S 18/43 115 W 16 D 16 Co 17 Ch 11 [T1-4 – 8]
If anything untoward befalls Elmo, his brother Otis will eventually hear of it and seek redress. [T1-4 – 8]
Because Otis and Y’dey are away.
Otis is a 10th level ranger away on a quest with Y'dey, the Canoness of the local church, and an elven accomplice named Murfles [.] [T1 – 4]
[Canoness] Y'dey, the Canoness of the local church [T1 – 4] [has] left [Hommlet] unexpectedly and has not returned. [T1 – 6]
Where? In the local heart of scum and villainy: Nulb.

The Evil and Good factions in the village of Nulb are not isolated groups who act randomly and ignore events elsewhere. If one place is attacked, someone is likely to see or hear, and spread the word. [T1-4 – 31]
Otis, Y'dey, and Murfles, as agents of Good, must be handled as rational, clever, intelligent, thoughtful individuals. They do nothing foolish, nor offer aid to unproven groups. They will not risk losing their cover identities, let alone their lives, for no purpose. [T1-4 – 31]
[I]n most cases do not help even Good individuals— for that would reveal their true identities and betray their greater purpose. [T1-4 – 31]
[P]articipation in a death-stroke to the Temple (an expedition with purpose, planning, sure goals, and solid chances for success) is logical and reasonable. [T1-4 – 31]
Otis will accompany adventurers to the Temple of Elemental Evil if the opportunity arises. [T1-4 – 34]

They are undercover.
The Smith/Otis
The smith is a very powerful man, with a bushy beard and large hands forever working some piece of iron.
[T1-4 – 32]
[Otis is] a ranger knight (Level 10), an agent of the King of Furyondy, a Knight Bachelor of Veluna, and formerly a watcher of activity in Hommlet. [T1-4 – 34]
He slays or misleads evil creatures and helps those of Good while not unduly risking his life. [T1-4 – 34]
Otis is Neutral Good, and cooperates with Y'dey and Murfles (see area 3, seven special followers— Murfles […], two giant owls, and four sprites. [T1-4 – 34]
[Canoness] Y'dey is the chief cleric of the church of St. Cuthbert in Hommlet, away on this 'sabbatical'. [T1-4 – 34]
Mother Screng: An herbmonger (also Canoness Y'dey—Level 6 Cleric [T1-4 – 34]
Hruda: Mother Screng's daughter (a.k.a. Murfles, Otis' fellow – adventurer and follower, an elven warrior-footpad, Level 2/2 Fighter/Thief [.]) [T1-4 – 34]

There is great evil brewing in that foul edifice, the Temple of Elemental Evil, again. And they mean to put an end to it before the forces of weal need rise again, as they had to all those years ago.
It was fortuitous then, that other adventurers had arrived, hard on the same scent that drew Otis and Y’day there.
If Otis requests aid, Burne (at Hommlet) assists magic-users, furnishing them with spells for their books at the cost of 1,000 gp per spell level. [T1-4 – 31]
Furthermore, if Otis happens to be along on an adventure during which the true numbers and power of the Temple are revealed, he informs Burne. The latter will, in turn, summon powerful characters from Veluna and Verbobonc. [T1-4 – 31]

And none too soon. Lareth the Beautiful was prepared to succeed where prior masters of the Temple had failed. Otis and Y’dey and the newly arrived adventurers stuck just as final preparations were taking place.
They soon discovered that Lareth was not alone in his schemes.
Supreme Commander Hedrack, [Cl 9] High Priest and Most Honorable Emissary of Iuz Himself. [T1-4 – 101]
Ashren: This bitter old man was once the chief cleric of the air temple [of the Temple of Elemental Evil.] [T1-4 – 111] He wears ill-fitting and damaged chain mail, taken from the body of a larger fighter, and carries a scarred shield bearing the symbol of Sir Robilar (a green dragon on yellow field). [T1-4 – 111]
Barkinar [Cleric 7] worked his way up through the ranks over the last six years. He came to the Temple ruins to scavenge treasure, and stayed to serve and earn even greater wealth. [T1-4 – 97]
Deggum [Cleric/Magic-User 5/4] is a half-elf, a renegade and runaway from his people in Welkwood. Drawn by rumors of the resurrection of evil might, and by the promises of Lareth […] and others like him, Deggum has found success and a fast rise in power through his Temple position. [T1-4 – 97,98]
Falrinth, an 8th level magic-user […] is very evil and power-mad. [T1-4 – 87]
Smigmal Redhand, a half- orc Fighter/Assassin [7/7]. She is the leman of Falrinth […] and leader of the band of brigands in the outer ruins (Tower). [T1-4 – 87]
There were others, many others, all evil, all ambitious, not all of whom were friendly to one another [.] [RttToEE – 6] Such is the way of evil, though, isn’t it?
Otis and Y’dey took good advantage of that distrust and hatred they held for one another.
[Y’dey] and [Otis] fought together against the second rise of the Temple of Elemental Evil. [RttTEE – 10]
[T]he Temple of Elemental Evil was discovered before its forces could fully prepare. Instead of armies, parties of adventurers made quick but painful strikes against key personnel and winnowed down the number of guards. The heroic bands were given succor by the locals, who at times even lent a sword arm or a spell to bring down the evil temple. [RttToEE – 6]
After clearing out all of the Temple's agents in the Hommlet area, [Burne and Rufus, Jaroo, Terjon, Otis, and Y'dey] banded together to assault the Temple itself. [T1-4 – 28]

Assaulting the Temple

They succeeded in thwarting Lareth’s plans, defeating him, the wizard Falrinth, [and] Barkinar the commander [.] [RttToEE – 6]
[Lareth] and his servants were slain by the small band of heroes who helped defeat the temple, with the aid of locals such as Y’dey and Elmo [.] [RttToEE – 19]
But at such a cost.
Y’dey was not able to get to Otis’s body quickly enough to raise him. [RttTEE – 10]
Otis was 45 when he died.

To Fight Another Day
Sadly, not every evil villain was put to the sword that day. A few escaped to fight another day.
Smigmal Redhand is a half-orc assassin who wears a half-elf disguise most of the time. She is the associate of Falrinth the wizard […] and they have worked together since the days of the old Temple of Elemental Evil. [RttToEE – 141]
Hedrack slipped the noose as well.
While Lareth was indeed slain by adventurers in this room, an even more powerful cleric of the Elder Elemental Eye, named Hedrack, raised him from the dead soon afterward and spirited him away. Now Lareth lives as a recluse in the nearby village of Nulb [.] [RttToEE – 30]
So, one might say that Lareth escaped that day, as well.

591 CY
Otis may be gone, but he is not forgotten.
Elmo […] does not interact with Canoness Y’dey or anyone associated with the Church of St. Cuthbert [.] He still blames Y’dey for the death of his brother Otis twelve years ago [.]
Elmo: Male human Rgr6
[RttTEE – 10]
Elmo is not the only one to mourn his loss. The druids and rangers of the Gnarley honour his memory, still. How could they not? He was one of them. Most importantly, so too does the village of Hommlet. They, if anyone, will always light a candle for their native son, who sacrificed all in their defence. They light candles to Saint Cuthbert for him; but they also raise great bonfires, dance about them, and fair maidens wear crowns of holly on the day he died. And always will.

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”
― John Bunyan

One must always give credit where credit is due. This History 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:
Village of Hommlet map, from T1 The Village of Hommlet, 1979, 1981
Map detail, by Darlene, from World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
Mordenkainen detail, by McLean Kendree, from Mordenkainen's Tome of Marvelous Magic II, 2020
Robilar, by Kristoph Nolen, from Oerth Journal#29, 2019
Riggby, by Jeff Easley, from WG5 Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure, 1985
Sertenfrom Finger of the Wind, 2000
Bigby, by Jeff Easley, from WG5 Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure, 1985
Burne and Rufus, by Jeff Dee, from T1 The Village of Hommlet, 1981
Ogre, by David C. Sutherland III, from Monster Manual 1e, 1977
The Temple of Elemental Evil, by Keith Parkinson, from T1-4 The Temple of Elemental Evil, 1985
Yrag, by Jeff Easley, from WG5 Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure, 1985
Regional map, by Dave Sutherland, from T1-4 The Temple of Elemental Evil, 1985
The Moathouse, by David A. Trampier, from T1 The Village of Hommlet, 1979, 1981
Dungeon Level Three illustration, by Jack Fred, from T1-4 The Temple of Elemental Evil, 1985
Temple illustration, by David Roach, from Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, 2001

1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
2011 Players Handbook 1e, 1978
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1979
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
9026 T1 The Village of Hommlet, 1979,1981
9147 T1-4 The Temple of Elemental Evil, 1985
9577 The Adventure Begins, 1998
11843 Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, 2001
Dragon Magazine #37
LGJ #0
Oerth Journal #7
Greychrondex, Wilson, Steven B.
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda

Wednesday 27 December 2023

The Bells


Silver bells!
Hear the sledges with the bells —
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells —
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.


Hear the mellow wedding-bells
Golden bells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
Through the balmy air of night
How they ring out their delight! —
From the molten-golden notes,
And all in tune,
What a liquid ditty floats
To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats
On the moon!
Oh, from out the sounding cells,
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
How it swells!
How it dwells
On the Future! — how it tells
Of the rapture that impels
To the swinging and the ringing
Of the bells, bells, bells —
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells —
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!


Hear the loud alarum bells —
Brazen bells!
What a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!
In the startled ear of night
How they scream out their affright!
Too much horrified to speak,
They can only shriek, shriek,
Out of tune,
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire,
Leaping higher, higher, higher,
With a desperate desire,
And a resolute endeavor
Now — now to sit, or never,
By the side of the pale-faced moon.
Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
What a tale their terror tells
Of Despair!
How they clang, and clash, and roar!
What a horror they outpour
On the bosom of the palpitating air!
Yet the ear, it fully knows,
By the twanging
And the clanging,
How the danger ebbs and flows;
Yet [[Yes]], the ear distinctly tells,
In the jangling
And the wrangling,
How the danger sinks and swells,
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells —
Of the bells —
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells —
In the clamour and the clangour of the bells!


Hear the tolling of the bells —
Iron bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
In the silence of the night,
How we shiver with affright
At the melancholy menace of their tone!
For every sound that floats
From the rust within their throats
Is a groan.And the people — ah, the people —
They that dwell up in the steeple,
All alone,
And who, tolling, tolling, tolling,
In that muffled monotone,
Feel a glory in so rolling
On the human heart a stone —
They are neither man nor woman —
They are neither brute nor human —
They are Ghouls: —
And their king it is who tolls: —
And he rolls, rolls, rolls, rolls,
A pæan from the bells!
And his merry bosom swells
With the pæan of the bells!
And he dances, and he yells;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the pæan of the bells —
Of the bells: —
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the throbbing of the bells —
Of the bells, bells, bells —
To the sobbing of the bells: —
Keeping time, time, time,
As he knells, knells, knells,
In a happy Runic rhyme,
To the rolling of the bells —
Of the bells, bells, bells: —
To the tolling of the bells —
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells —
To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.



The Bells
—  by Edgar Allan Poe
Published posthumously in Sartain's Union, November 1849

The Art:
Illustrations by Eduard Dulac, from The Bells and other Poems, 1912