Friday 23 February 2024

On Melf, Part 2


“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Where did I leave off?
Melf could no longer abide the company of what remained of the Citadel of Eight. Its fellowship was in tatters. They were scattered. Seemingly ineffectual. And chasing their own tail. Indeed, one of them (no matter past) had betrayed their cause. Another was in hot pursuit. Yet forever just “missing him.”
Melf had had his fill of them. They were hypocrites, one and all, he decided. For all their high notions and lofty claims, they could not even police their own, let alone affect the world – or so it seemed to Melf.
He could do far better, he reasoned, on his own.
So, he struck out, as he did once before, on his own, with no more plan than to do what he perceived needed to be done.
What was that? Stemming, and stamping out the evil the Old One had already begun to inflict in the Vesve Forest, to begin, he supposed. 
Since the resurgence of luz […] the northern quarter of the Vesve is filled with hateful settlements of evil humanoids, and these tribes and bands press everywhere upon the human and demi-human folk elsewhere in these woodlands. [Folio – 27]
That would be a start. There, at least, he could be of use. Not manning a lonely tower no one in their right mind would ever attack.

570s CY
So, he plunged into the Vesve, and into the very dark depths of Iuz’s empire.
Melf is a vastly experienced and highly knowledgeable elf. In particular, he has made a study of Iuz and the fiends with which that demipower deals. [FtAC – 69]
And elsewhere.
Melf knows much of deep buried evils across the span of Oerik, knows where bound fiends are yet imprisoned, and where powerful evil artifacts are waiting to be unleashed upon the world. He strives constantly to prevent them from falling into the hands of Iuz or the Scarlet Brotherhood. [FtAC – 69]
Evil appeared to be on the rise everywhere.

576 CY
In time, he found himself home again, back in boring Celene, which he now viewed as a haven of goodness in an ever-darkening world.
CELENE, (Kingdom Of)
Ruler: Her Fey Majesty, Queen Yolande, Perfect Flower of Celene, Lady Rhalta of All Elvenkind [LGG – 38]
(Fighter/ Magic-user, 7th/11th level) [Folio – 9]
A small number of humans and half-elvenfolk dwell in Celene, many serving in its military, for continual warfare is carried on in the Suss Forest and beyond the Jewel River with the Pomarj humanoid tribes. [Folio – 9]
He found himself protecting the very southern border he had once thought too peaceful and passive to be worth his efforts. It did not seem so peaceful and secure, anymore.
The Suss Forest
The Suss is a dreary place, full of thorn trees, brambles, briars, and thickets. Its massive trees are black with age, and seem to whisper and talk amongst themselves when an interloper dares to pass beneath. […]
The humanoid bands of the Pomarj, particularly kobolds, orcs, and gnolls, seem to love this forest, and many hundreds are known to dwell within Its depths. They likewise use It as a highway to move northwards to raid In the Wild Coast, Celene, or even the Ulek states and into Verbobonc. [Folio – 26]
Melf is 176 years old.

Early 580s CY
Indeed, Celene’s southern frontier never seemed more defenceless.
In the early 580s, a new leader emerged to unite the tribes, a rabble-rousing half-orc named Turrosh Mak. [LGG – 88]

Melf petitioned his cousin that Celene had great need of allies, and for her to reach out to the surrounding powers before it was too late. His pleas fell on deaf ears.
Queen Yolande's advisers have led her to decree Celene a virtually closed land, with borders sealed to all but those the land has known well for many years. [FtAC – 68]
Through the years, Celene and [Celene’s] monarch grew ever more isolationist [.] [LGG – 40]
His words did not go unheard, however. There were others who believed as he did.
His old friend, for instance.
Rafendyl, "Gildentongue"
Rafendyl, "Gildentongue:"
11th-level bard
Rafendyl is a Highfolk half-elf, [...] who travels the Reach posing as an itinerant bard and lover of beauty and luxury. […] He knows the Vesve and Gnarley forests well and has many friends among Highfolk, Knights of the Hart, and the Gnarley Forest rangers. However, quite extraordinarily, he is a Knight of Luna, a unique honor for a non-Celene half-elf. […] Rafendyl also knows Philidor the Blue Wizard and actively helps him in his quest within the Vesve Forest [.] [WGR4 The Marklands – 41]
Soon, they and other like-minded spirits began to gather. Soon, they would become what would be known as the Knights of Luna.
The Knights of Luna believe this to be short-sighted and foolhardy. [FtAC – 68]
The order includes in its ranks Melf, Prince Brightflame, a powerful elven warrior-wizard, cousin to Yolande. [PGtG – 27]

His views were considered treasonous, however.
Melf is a very secretive, protective character who does not yield information readily. [FtAC – 69]
Melf will not deal with [others] unless he comes to know them well. [FtAC – 69]
He is most unlikely to reveal anything of his political activities unless he greatly befriends [someone, typically an elf]. [FtAC – 69]

c. 582 CY
Brightflame became a beacon to a great many others.
Prince Melf, who has openly declared himself a Knight of Luna, is generally regarded as the leader of those elves who wish to fight evil in the Flanaess. [TAB – 35]
Prince Brightflame
Melf is a brilliant and knowledgeable elf, a fighter/wizard like his cousin, but his better grasp of the dangers the Flanaess faces has led him to found and declare himself the leader of the Knights of Luna, who seek to involve Celene in the larger world. He knows many powerful rulers and wizards and he works to oppose evil everywhere. [PGtG – 26]
No strict hierarchy exists among the Knights of Luna, though Melf, Prince Brightflame of Celene (NG male elf Wiz14/Ftr[1]4), is their acknowledged leader. [LGG – 159] [Ftr4 in text.]
Knights of Luna
This secret order was founded in Celene by elven warriors and spellcasters who opposed Queen Yolande's neutrality in the Greyhawk Wars. Members work to involve Celene in supporting the elves of Veluna and the Duchy of Ulek in their struggles against evil. [PGtG – 27]
Knights of Luna
Militarily, they believe that the survival of Furyondy and Veluna is the only hope for good in the world, and they also have strong fellow-feeling for the Highfolk. They regard the Highfolk as the key for current conflict and skirmish. Only if Iuz is repelled there and in the Vesve can enough time be bought to secure Furyondy and develop the might needed to overcome Iuz eventually.
[FtAC – 68]
Melf began to dispatch agents to all points of the compass.
The Knights pursue their goals in several ways. First, those who adventure give a tithe from their good fortune to the Highfolk. Second, those who are involved in the politics of Celene use many strategies to influence the Queen or her closest advisers—filtering incoming news, pleading the cases of certain foreigners to be allowed into Celene, and trying to stress Celene’s need for trade in some key areas. The aim is always to weaken the borders a little. Third, the Knights make very careful overtures to selected politically influential people in other lands, gently mentioning that there are those in Celene who wish to support them, seeking allegiances, sometimes offering active support and short-term service. Just as they try to open Celene’s sealed mind and borders, they urge those others not to give up on Celene and to continue with political overtures. [FtAC – 68]

But in being a beacon, Melf had to leave his now beloved Celene if he were to protect it, as his cousin the queen could not tolerate his treasonous opinions to go unpunished.
Currently he lives in exile, sometimes in the City of Greyhawk. [PGtG – 26]
Melf, Prince (City [of Greyhawk]), F[t]AC [– 68,69] [FtAR#13]

582 CY
If the Knights of Luna were successful in any endeavour, it was in supporting those who took the fight directly to the enemy.
Melf is friendly with the Fellowship of the Torch [.] [FtAC – 69]
The Fellowship of the Torch
This small but famous group has dedicated itself to eliminating Iuz, his agents and his threats. [PGtG – 27]
At the outbreak of war, the Fellowship had no doubts as to its allegiance and moral course of action. They readily perceived Iuz as the great enemy of what they held dear and rightful, and hardly needed Grimmri's pleadings (as a Highfolk gnome) to seek service with Furyondy, for they suspected this land was Iuz's target. [FtAC – 71]

583 CY
Celene was less effective. But Yolande did eventually bend to Melf’s belief that she needed allies if Celene were to survive the trials to come. Not that she forgave her cousin for his supposed treason.
Realizing that Iuz’s threat was neither quick nor contained, the southern states consented to ally. First to sign the Treaty of Niole Dra came the largest and most important nation – Keoland – quickly followed by the Gran March, Yeomanry, Duchy of Ulek, and County of Ulek. Celene was last to agree, the elves begrudgingly consenting to send a token force. [Wars – 15]

But where the nations of the Sheldomar and the Wild Coast waited for what might come, others were fully engaged with the enemy.
The Fellowship of the Torch
By the beginning of 583 CY, the Fellowship had headed for the free town of the Highfolk, and fought incursions of Iuz's forces into the Vesve forest. [FtAC – 71]
Later in that same year, they moved south and enlisted with a northern Furyondian noble, fighting in the Battle of Crockport and being engaged in the rearguard of the retreat to Chendl. [FtAC – 71]
When Chendl was liberated, the Fellowship took part in many daring forays deep into the lands of Iuz. [FtAC – 71]
Was Melf in the thick of these events? I doubt he was in Crockport or in Chendl during the siege, although I he would have done his utmost to draw what strength he could of Iuz’s forces away from the besieged city. I also doubt that he would have encouraged the Fellowship to move south at all, preferring that they remain in Highfolk and the Vesve, where he believed they would have done more good; but he would not have dissuaded them from doing so, either. He would have breathed a sigh of relief when the Fellowship survived the ordeal, however.
He was 183 years old, still youthful by all accounts, yet mature beyond his years.

584 CY
Corond and Brightflame
War did eventually come to Celene.
In 584, south of Greyhawk, a half-orc named Turrosh Mak united the vile nonhuman tribes of the Pomarj. Mak's armies boiled north, conquering several of the cities of the independent Wild Coast, then capturing nearly half of the Principality of Ulek. [LGG – 15]
The orcs drove further northwest, virtually unopposed until they reached Celene pass. There a combined force of reservists-humans, dwarves, gnomes, halflings, and even elves from Celene-made their stand.
The Battle of Celene Pass was bloody and hard-fought. [Wars – 18]
With Turrosh halted, the Uleks prepared to counterattack, but even combined their armies were too bruised and weak. Though Celene on the other side of the Lortmils could have virtually assured victory, Celene had no intention of assisting. [Wars – 18]
The appeals of Prince Corond of Ulek to Yolande, the elven queen of Celene, fell upon uncaring ears. Celene closed its borders to even its most trusted allies, refusing to let elf blood fall in human wars. [LGG – 15]
Did Melf rush “home” to the Principality to stem the tide? Of course he did. He was well aware that Iuz was the greater enemy, by far; but he would not, could not, remain idle when the orcs of the Pomarj threatened to overwhelm Ulek. If Corond fell, Celene would soon follow.

That was Melf’s final battle of the War.
Iuz stalled. Turrosh Mak ground to a halt. Days and weeks passed as the nations of Weal awaited the next assault that never came.
Not that peace truly came. But a semblance of peace did.
The treaty to end the war was to be ratified in the Grand Hall of Greyhawk, but brief moments before the signing ceremony, an explosion destroyed the area [.] [Rot8 – 3]
When the fire and dust cleared, constables discovered smoldering robes belonging to two powerful members of the mysterious Circle of Eight—Otiluke and Tenser. The murderer of these wizards, undeniably a powerful mage, was discovered to be a third member of the Circle of Eight – Rary. [Wars – 24]
In the ensuing confusion and shock, Lord Robilar's own troops struck, destroying every one of the dead wizards' hidden clones, assuring the permanent death of both Tenser and Otiluke. [WGR3 Rary the Traitor – 7]
Melf must have shaken his head. Rary? A murderer? And Robilar, once again in the thick of evil doings? Melf must have thanked Corollon Larethian that he was well rid of Mordenkainen and his compatriots, whatever name they donned that decade.
He put them out of his mind. He had work to do.
Celene was safe, for the time being. But Turrosh Mak would ever be a thorn in Ulek’s side.
And Iuz? He did not want to think what that mad demigod would do next…. He had no choice but to, however.
Tired, world weary Melf, an aged 184 years old, headed back north.

One would think that all the nations of the Flanaess rejoiced at the end of the War….
Long distrustful of outsiders, Her Fey Majesty Yolande now let fears and suspicions paralyze her nation. To her mind, humans from the north had “demanded” her aid and thus drained vital troops from her lands. Now dwarves and gnomes, no friends of the elves, pressed her for help in the mountains. No country offered to assist Celene in defending its woodlands from the Pomarj threat, she reasoned, so Celene would aid no others. In a brief and emphatic proclamation, the Queen of Celene recalled her troops from Furyondy and closed the borders of her nation. Others had started these wars and others would solve them-without the loss of elvish lives. [Wars – 18,19]

585 CY
Melf had survived the war. But he had little to rejoice. He remained in exile. Iuz had vastly expanded his empire. The Vesve continued to be violated. Turrosh Mak threatened both Celene and the Principality of Ulek. The Scarlet Brotherhood ruled the southern seas. It appeared that his work had only just begun.
Melf is […] a major force in the innermost councils of the Knights of Luna. His membership of this group and his princely status are not generally known. [FtAC – 69]

Melf, Prince Brightflame
Melf, Prince Brightflame:
Str 14, Dex 18, Con 12, Int 18, Wis 15, Cha 15
Spells: 4 each of levels 1-5, 1 6th
(typically: charm person, detect magic, magic missile (x 2); detect invisibility, ESP, knock, Melf's acid arrow; dispel magic, fireball, fly, Melf's minute meteors; Evard's black tentacles, ice storm, polymorph self, Rary's mnemonic enhancer; chaos, cone of cold, hold monster, teleport; flesh to stone)
Magical items: elven chain mail + 4, long sword +3 of sharpness, ring of free action, ring of water walking, wand of enemy detection (44 charges), beads of force (7), carpet of flying (3 person capacity), amulet that can cast change self 21 day at 18th level ability.
[FtAC – 68,69]
Melf is 5' 8", 147 lbs., and around 200 years old (appearing to be in his late 20's in human terms). His appearance changes from time to time as the grey elf pleases, although he does not appear in nonelven form. […] [FtAC – 69]

Knights of Luna
The Knights of Luna are an order dedicated to involving Celene in the politics of post-war Oerik. […]
The Knights are some 180 strong, most being warriors, warrior-mages, or warrior-priests (usually of Corellon Larethian). Some one-third are half-elves, and this population is the one from which they currently recruit most of their new members. Half of them dwell within Celene itself, many venturing into the Welkwood and beyond to acquire information and support the woodsmen of the Gnarley and upper Suss forests. In the Free City, their main representative is Melf. [FtAC – 68]

One would think that the Knights of Luna were of one mind.
But they were not.
Since the Wars, Celene has maintained its official policy of non-involvement, though many elves have volunteered to fight in the Suss Forest or farther afield. The Knights of Luna are a force of dissension, though many of their most aggressive members are found in the Duchy of Ulek rather than Celene itself. [LGG – 40]
Some of the more radical members of the Knights of Luna seek to depose Yolande and proclaim Melf King, a prospect that deeply alarms Melf. For himself, he strongly prefers mediation, diplomacy, and open channels of communication. In a sense, he is almost naive, believing that if enough good rulers were collected together, sense would prevail and unity would be established. He is sensible enough to know this would take decades, and as an elf, he is not impatient. [FtAC – 69]
It mattered how firmly Melf tried to discourage the most militant members, they persisted in their treasonous thinking.
Rafendyl "Gildentongue” eased Melf’s mind. I’ll keep watch, he said, and I’ll deflect their anger to better use. And he did, freeing world-weary Melf to worry about other things. Iuz, for one, for Iuz never strayed long from his thought.
Melf soldiers on, despite victory appearing still beyond reach.
He has allies, though. It is because of them, their courage, and their dedication, that he carries on.

The Fellowship of the Torch
This small but famous group has dedicated itself to eliminating Iuz, his agents and his threats. The Greyhawk Wars claimed several of the Torch's members: now the grim survivors follow any lead, no matter how dangerous, and engage in any bade against Iuz, no matter how deadly. They eagerly join expeditions to retrieve evil magical items and slay Iuz's followers, and will do anything in their power to see the demigod destroyed. The members of the fellowship have many friends, and it is possible to gain news of their whereabouts through the Gnarley Forest Rangers, the Temple of Rao or the Knights of Luna. [PGtG – 27]
Kirilarien [a member of the Fellowship of the Torch] is usually away in Celene where she has links with the Knights of Luna (and, while in the Free City, she is seen with Melf) [.] [FtAC – 71]
Kiri is eager, impatient by elven standards. She openly espouses the cause of the Knights of Luna, despite Melf’s entreaties to caution and covert action. [FtAC – 71]

Ulek Lands
The rich Ulek lands, in particular, offer subtler delights. The Ulek nations are powerful now; they are rich, dispensers of aid to other lands, and are increasingly influential. However, they are faced with the awkward problem of the elven land of Celene, determinedly isolationist. The hard-pressed central Flanaess needs Celene’s aid, but Queen Yolande has all but sealed the borders of her land. The Knights of Luna, with Prince Melf at their helm, seek to persuade her otherwise and the knights have many friends in Ulek – but also many who would inform on them and see them hang for treason against the Queen.[Dragon #191 – 68]

Parras Haradraith, Ambassador of Veluna
Politically, in addition to its noted concerns, Veluna is very much concerned to end Celene's isolationism and support the Highfolk. Melf speaks with Parras occasionally on such matters, and provides him with useful information. [FtAC – 62]

One wonders whether Melf has crossed paths with Philidor the Blue.
It is said […] that Philidor the Blue Wizard […] has a fondness for the Vesve and its folk, and that his magical alarm systems give them forewarning of the approach of humanoids and other enemies over considerable distances. Whether this will prevent or merely slow the advance of Iuz into this great forest remains to be seen. [FtAA – 54]
It seems implausible that he has not. He is certainly aware of him.
The Archmage Philidor […] is known within the Vesve by the good and powerful. He always appears as a blue-skinned elf, and he never says much about his actions or purposes. He is often referred to simply as the "Blue Wizard." [WGR4 – 54]
But knowing of does not equate with acquaintance. But they must have met, surely.
One wonders what Melf thinks of this mysterious wizard. He probably perceives him a Johnny-come-lately, only appearing after much damage had already been done.

Few see Melf, though. He is carefully guarded. He has to be. He has a great many enemies, after all.
He has become a figure shrouded in mystery. Indeed, there are more than a few persons who wonder if fabled Prince Brightflame exists at all. Others claim he died. But there are always a few who claim to have seen him, that they knew him back in the day, that they adventured with him, that they are close friends, even lovers….
Maybe Melf is the current lover of the Ambassador of the County of Urnst. [FtAC – 87]
The rumours become wilder by the year.
Zagig, The Black One of the Vale of the Mage, Leomund, Melf, and Serten, all powerful archmages and rivals to the circle of eight, watch the comings and goings of the Power Tower. They call themselves the “Ring of Five”. [WGR1 Greyhawk Ruins – 3]
I wouldn’t give credence any of then, personally.

One, however, might be true.
Maybe Elraniel and Melf know each other; perhaps Elraniel is more sympathetic to the Knights of Luna than the script above suggests. [FtAC – 87]
Elraniel Tesmarien
Elraniel Tesmarien, Nyrondese Sage
Elraniel is unique: he is a grey elf who is extremely aged in appearance (80 years old in human terms). He is 404 years old [.] [FtAC – 79]
Residing in the city of Greyhawk, he is in contact with others of the People, throughout the Flanaess and beyond. [LGG – 162]
lraniel is a leading light of the People of the Testing, although it is truly a grouping of elves bound together by the depth of a shared unique experience, not a hierarchical group. [FtAC – 80]
Perhaps a moment might be spared to explain who the People of the Testing are.
The mystic cabal known as the People of the Testing is a society of elves whose members are scattered across the Flanaess. These elves are loosely bound by the memory of their experiences in the elven otherworld discovered through the Moonarch of Schanine. [LGG – 162]
The Moonareh of Schanine
The elves of Celene harbor many secrets, but few are as exotic as the Moonareh. In the spur of the Lortmils northwest of Enkstad (suggested location: hexes R4-99 and Q4-100) stands a sandstone arch some 200 feet in diameter. […]
Only elves can pass through the arch, and then only those of nonevil alignments and some distinction (at least 7th level, or exceptional artisans or sages). Those who enter arrive in a demiplane wherein bewildering tests, trials, and puzzles are set as challenges for them. […]
An elf returning from the tests will often seek The Leaving, usually traveling to Lendore thereafter. […]
Some of those tested become exiles or savants, and a few have formed a secret society across the Flanaess: the People of the Testing. [FtAA – 67,68]
The majority of these elves are powerful individuals, many being wizards of 11th and higher levels, ranger lords, and the like. […]
They share a desire to protect deep, old forest lands, faerie folk, and hidden areas secret and precious to elves. [FtAC – 80]
One wonders whether Melf is among their number. He might very well be, but few publicly acknowledge membership in the People of the Testing. [LGG – 162]
He would appear to qualify in all regards:
The People are present in all levels of society, however, and they use their influence to keep elven interests secure in the Flanaess, no matter what the cost to other races [.] [LGG – 162]
In that vein, then, it seems likely that Melf would know Elraniel, given their mutual aims.
This is a curious comment:
Within his home in Clerksberg [sic], Elraniel has a number of variant crystal balls that permit communication with other members of the People. He speaks with elves in Celene, Nyrond, the Grandwood, and the Lone Heath, the Vesve Forest, and the Rieuwood, among other places. [FtAC – 80]
They remind me of Philidor’s globes.
In many areas he has constructed a network for magical spying using Philidor’s globes. […] [WGR4 – 54]
Philidor's globes are found throughout the Lands of the Tree, in the high elf heartlands where Philidor knows Kashafen, and in a wide area around Quaalsten where Elrenn Walthair is among those who have met the enigmatic Archmage. [WGR4 – 54]
Not that I am suggesting that Elraniel’s are Philidor’s, or even related…. Perhaps I am suggesting just that….
Whatever their relationship, if any, this rumour gives food for thought.
The ultimate goals of the People of the Testing remain mysterious, and it seems the only authority they truly respect is their own inner voice. [LGG – 162]

586 CY
City of Greyhawk
Melf does indeed live.
He’s around, and if one is keen of sight, or lucky, one can catch a glimpse of a slight, shadowy, cautious figure as it hastily bolts from safehouse to safehouse.
His activities in the Free City involve recruitment for forays to retrieve and destroy evil artifacts, to collect funds for the Knights of the Hart, and to spy on the Scarlet Brotherhood agents, especially if he thinks they may have uncovered information concerning fiends or evil magical items. [FtAC – 69]
He has many friends. All wish him well and success. And they would do much to ensure he remains safe while in City.
He is on familiar terms with Kieren Jalucian, Belvor of Furyondy, and the rulers of Dyvers, Highfolk, and Greyhawk itself. Most of these relationships are kept secret [.] [FtAC – 69]
But not with Mordenkainen. One might think Melf has lost faith in his old tutor.
He and Mordenkainen have a mutual respect for each other, though they do not co-operate. [FtAC – 69]
Perhaps not; but they have different goals. And rarely, if ever meet.
Melf is 186 years old.

589 CY
One imagines that Melf continued to spend most of his time and energy in Highfolk and the Vesve. I, for one, would not doubt the truth of that.
Ruler: The Worthy Sir, Tavin Ersteader, Mayor of Highfolk Town (NG male human Wiz11) [LGG – 52]
The mayor of Highfolk, twenty-eight-year-old Tavin Ersteader, was of low birth, coming from one of the region's northern villages. Ersteader distinguished himself as a young man, exploring several mysterious sites within the Yatils and Clatspurs and fighting against the forces of Iuz in the Vesve. Said to be a one-time apprentice to Melf Brightflame, Ersteader enjoys a warm relationship with the local elves, and is a good friend of Loftin Graystand, the former mayor, who retired in 589 CY. Ersteader is a sworn enemy to Iuz, and sponsors far more reconnaissance and attack missions against the Old One than did his predecessor. [LGG – 53]

591 CY
Melf, to this very day, continues to be a thorn in Iuz’s side. One wonders how Iuz continues to suffer Brightflame to live. He surely has made attempts of Melf’s life. But, as I said, Melf is guarded. Melf is protected. Melf has powerful friends.
And Melf rarely spends more than a few nights in one place before moving on.
Melf, Prince Brightflame of Celene, puts on an occasional appearance in [the Free City of Greyhawk.] [TAB – 70]
Is Iuz concerned? Perhaps not. But he ought to be, because Melf is tenacious. And Melf is patient, where Iuz is not. He never has been. And that will, in the end, be his Achilles’ Heel. If he is not careful, and he never is, Melf may one day put in an appearance in Dorakaa, when he least expects it.

Prince Brightflame
Melf is 191 years old. Not exactly young, anymore, though he will officially be mature in another 60 years, when he turns 251.
He remains, outwardly, as he always has.
He is […] charming and urbane. He enjoys good food, culture, and agreeable persons of the opposite gender. [FtAC – 69]
Yet, hhis youthful looks belie the weight of age that press down on his spirit. He bears more responsibility than most elves, certainly more than any other his age.
I expect he comprehends his cousin, Yolande, queen of Celene, far more now than he ever has.

“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Melf has had quite an evolution throughout his narrative, from pampered prince to adventurer, traitor to Celene’s throne to tireless partisan. Perhaps his most perplexing progression is his level and stats. In a word, they are variable, to be generous.
[Wiz1/Ftr1]; Str 17, Int 18, Wis 12, Dex 17, Con 15, Cha 8 Melf stories? | Gary Con Forums
[Wiz10/Ftr9]; Str 14, Int 15, Wis 10, Dex 14, Con 17, Cha 14 [AC1 Shady Dragon Inn – 25] [B/X 10th LVL Lord Wizard]
Wiz12/Ftr13; Str 14, Int 18, Wis 15, Dex 18, Con 12, Cha 15 [FtAC – 68,69]
Wiz14/Ftr4 [LGG – 159], presumably as 20th Lvl is a 3e level cap prior to the Epic Level sourcebook?
[Melf does not make the pages of The Rogues Gallery 1e, probably because at Luke Gygax’s young age he mainly rolled for NPCs (Otis) before taking up Melf after its publication (?). One would have to ask Luke, but as I don’t know the man, and because I prefer, for the most part, to stick to published sourcebooks in researching these posts, I’ll suffice to say that Luke’s Melf and D&D’s Melf are separate creatures.]
That said, stats are part-and-parcel with ruleset, and would be fluid over editions, to conform with the sourcebooks of the day.
More relevant here is his narrative. His most poignant role would be as a partisan leader, specifically against the ravages of Iuz in the Vesve, although he appears to take a hand against Turrosh Mak’s Pomarj in the defence of Celene.
In the north, he would seem to overlap with Philidor the Blue. I suspect most readers here would prefer Melf over the much-maligned Philidor; but to be honest, I would not bet on Melf ever defeating a demigod on his own plane. Sorry Melf. I just don’t see it. Indeed, perhaps only Philidor, conceived as a construct by the gods for just that purpose stands a chance, in that regard (although, I’m on record that I prefer to imagine Philidor as a Child of Johydee and not as Carl Sargent conceived him).
The more believable narrative might be his role as a partisan in exile in the south, defending against Turrosh Mak in the Principality of Ulek, where his actions there and in the Suss would aid in the defence of his beloved Celene.
In either case, one wonders why Melf (or Philidor, for that matter) should reside – however fleetingly – in the Free City of Greyhawk. That is baffling, to say the least.
I wonder if fandom cares either way. I suspect it would rather dispense with both, in preference of The Circle of Eight.
I must opine, though, regardless what fandom might think, that Melf is an elf hero; and I believe that the elves deserve their own hero. Otherwise, they will need be rescued by humans in an altogether largely humancentric setting. Melf serves admirably, in this regard. He appears to care little for human nations. Yes, he might aid Furyondy and Veluna, but only because they are taking the fight to Iuz. He would also only be aiding the largely dwarven nation of the Principality for the same reason, because Corond is taking the fight to Turrosh.
Indeed, he appears to distrust all others except elves. [FtAC – 69]

What do I think of Melf? He’s a serviceable NPC in the setting. He gives life to the independence of all elves. In that regard, I do enjoy his narrative as I have pieced it together here.
But, he’s not really an elf; not really. Yes, his narrative declares him one; and for all intents and purposes, he’s a D&D elf, through and through. But what is a D&D elf but a human with special skills and immunities? Elves are not human. They are separate. They keep to themselves. They don’t really like humans or dwarves, do they? But here, in game, they mix with humans as a matter of course, and adventure with them with regularity. With dwarves too, despite their mutual dislike. They have the same desires and greed (more so like humans here than dwarves, but that’s another discussion, altogether). They are also Tolkien-esque in how we see them, Legolas personified: pointy-eared and good with a bow. In short, D&D elves are not faerie.

Fairies are not human. They are mythical, unpredictable, and dangerous. Otherworldly. Their world is magical, ours scientific (even our magic conforms to a syllabus). And, as seen in all true faerie-stories (not to be confused with fairy tales), their world and their lives rarely cross ours. To expose them to scrutiny is to strip that away and to make them commonplace. Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy-stories,” in Tales from the Perilous Realm explores this far more thoroughly than I could do justice here. Suffice it to say that, although I do not dislike D&D elves – they are what they are in game –, they do not appeal to me as those of Celtic mythology and the fantasy literature based on it that I cut my teeth on, decades earlier, do (regardless how much I may love Tolkien’s works).
I expect you are grinding your teeth reading this potion of my exit essay. What has this to do with anything, you may ask. I hear you. But I’m entitled to my archaic opinion. I realise that my wish and desire of what might have, and could have, been are irrelevant here. D&D is a game, filled with stat blocks and matrices, dice and rules galore. It is as removed from the myths it is derived from as it is from its own early iterations. C’est la Vie. I blame a classical education in the humanities for what I love. That may be why I love Lovecraft, too. His work is suffused with the unknown and the unknowable. Much like Faerie.
My irrelevant misgivings aside, I do buy into Melf and the Knights of Luna – as I do not (at this time of writing) the elven branch of the Knights of the Hart. And I believe that should one campaign in either the Vesve or the Suss that one’s campaign would be lesser without their inclusion. Melf and his knights are wonderful examples that all elves are chaotic; they follow their hearts and not the rule of law as decreed by their queen of Celene.

“Don't tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.”
― George S. Patton

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:
Map detail, by Darlene, from World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
Queen Yolande, by Vince Locke, from Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
The Suss Forest, from Anna B. Meyer's map
Princes Corond and Brightflame, by Vince Locke, from Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000

1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
1068 Greyhawk Wars Boxed Set, 1991
2011 Players Handbook 1e, 1978
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1979
BECMI Expert Rules, 1983
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
9100 AC1 The Shady Dragon Inn, 1983
9292 WGR1 Greyhawk Ruins, 1990
9386 WGR3 Rary the Traitor, 1992
9398 WGR4 The Marklands, 1993
9576 Return of the Eight, 1998
9577 The Adventure Begins, 1998
9578 Players Guide to Greyhawk, 1998
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
Dragon Magazine #191
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The Greyhawk wiki

1 comment:

  1. Fitting bio on Melf. I must admit I turned a blind eye to the Knights of Luna stuff not that I disliked it but bc my campaign focused more on the Vesve than Celene. (and Philidor) Should have I involved Melf? Most likely. I do remember his clunky involvement in the" Ring of Five" during GH Ruins. I often thought, well this can't be real, it's just a slap dash collection of wizards who hadn't already been assembled ala the Circle of 8.
    You definitely know how to opine on a subject, and elfdom in GH is one of your best. Thanks for putting this out. I look forward to your next character bio.