4 – Balston

Chapter 4: The Balstonian Empire

Only with the benefit of ages past do we get a better glimpse into the nature of the Balstonian Empire. We know that the shadow of that empire cast itself across the entirety of earth. We know that the empire of darkness originated in a land called Balston, far across the world from the Party’s origins in Greyhawk – so far that it seems like a cosmic manifestation of the polar opposition between light and dark.  We know that at its head was a mage of great power by the name of Clinchor. The burning historical question remains: How did a single man manage to dictate his law across the earth, subjugating and oppressing diverse peoples to the very edge of the world?

The answer to that question remains unclear and it is important that this is stated up front, before I propose what amounts to a historical theory. Like all theories, it takes the scant evidence that has survived the ages and attempts to consistently interpret it while providing a coherent and plausible story.  In this particular case, the story is also informed by a much broader philosophy about the mystery of the cosmos, the nature of light and shadow, and the Party of the Pendants’ seemingly integral role in the destiny of the universe.

In this attempt to explain what seems inexplicable, I will begin with some philosophical reflections. They are speculations grounded in the Party’s experience of the cosmic battle as it has played out over the past several centuries – and the possibility that the second of the prophesized five cataclysms came to pass with Clinchor’s reign of terror.

From such philosophical heights I will return to the locus of the dark empire – to the mage Clinchor and a plausible explanation concerning the origin and spread of his power. In so doing, we will traverse time, oscillating back and forth between old and new world knowledge. We will also traverse space, taking a geographical tour of earth as we speculate on the spread of Clinchor’s tentacles to lands as distant as Greyhawk. But first, a brief philosophical interlude.

Many religions of this earth, and even the spiritual lore of Middle Earth, affirm a single truth in numerous ways. Their creation stories, as diverse as they are, have common threads. It matters not which example I choose, as the stories point to the same cosmic truth – understood and articulated through the mirror of the culture within which they exist. I will provide a brief example, from those creation stories I am most familiar with, to aid in understanding. Know that I know the limitations of such articulation.

The source of all existence is One. It is Being. Good. True. Beautiful. It always has been and always will be, infinite and eternal. It is often understood as light, perhaps the most apt metaphor we have for reference.

Yet nothing can be distinguished in the One light. There are no forms, no time, no space. For a created world to be, the One had to become many, to embody itself in time and space, to take forms.

In the land of my birth, known as Middle Earth, the stories refer to this One Being, eternal and infinite, as  Eru. Eru became incarnate in the Valar – became many.  As the One light of Eru became many, Shadow also became. It was a necessary consequence of plurality. The One, in the process of becoming many, necessarily created a Second One. As the one harmonious chord of Eru became many, disharmony came to exist. It was a necessary consequence of plurality.  As One Being became many beings, the void of nothingness became. As creation became manifest in form, destruction came to exist. As life became, so too death. In order for the world we know to exist – in its ever changing, temporally racing, spatially occupying glory – Being created Nothingness as a Second One.

While originally united with the will of Eru, the Valar were also uniquely free to create. Through their harmonious songs, existence multiplied into the beautiful diversity of the created world. But light has no form without shadow and harmony remains unheard without disharmony.  The One, in becoming many, created a Second One. The freedom of created creators was born.

Morgoth, one of the Valar, broke with the will of Eru.  He let go of the One creative light at his source, rejecting the pursuit of truth and goodness innate to it in order that he could be truly Other. He rejected Eru and Ego was born.

But in order to be truly Other, Morgoth had to embrace all that Eru was not – he had to embrace the other One, the One that was born as a necessary consequence of plurality – Shadow, disharmony, void, destruction, death, evil. Morgoth became shadow incarnate. Not shadow itself. A fallen angel. The Fallen Angel.

Lucifer rejected God in favor of his own will. The freedom to do so was a consequence of the Second One. The rejection required embracing the Second One. Shadow, disharmony, void, destruction, death, deception, evil. Lucifer is the Shadow incarnate. A fallen angel. The Fallen Angel.

Lolth rejected the One existent in favor of her own will.  The rejection required embracing the Second  One. Shadow, disharmony, void, destruction, death, deception, evil. Lolth is the Shadow incarnate.

The Light is. It is the First One. The gods and the saints of the world faiths are light incarnate, in a pure form. The light is also incarnate in the minions of good, though less purely so.

The Shadow is. It is the Second One. The fallen angels of the world faiths are the Shadow incarnate, in a pure form. The Shadow is also incarnate in all the minions of darkness, though less purely so.

Conscious life involves the knowledge required to make a choice and the will to choose.  Angel of God or Servant of Darkness? What will we be?

If we do not know the difference between light and dark we are ignorant and can only be liberated through knowledge. If we know the difference but lack the will to choose the good, then we are sinners who can only be saved through devotion. If we know the difference and have the will to choose the good, but still choose to serve the shadow, then we are not just ignorant sinners. We are a more pure form of Shadow incarnate.

Perhaps the only thing that is certain is that most servants of the One or Second One, light and dark alike, are ignorant and lack will. Therefore, they only imperfectly incarnate those cosmic foundations of the One and the Second One. This is a matter of degree, however, and both history and religion teaches us that in rare cases the servants of light more perfectly incarnate the qualities of the One, Eru’s knowledge and will shining through them unimpeded. Unfortunately, the same can be said for the servants of darkness who more perfectly incarnate the qualities of the Second One. Morgoth’s knowledge and will shining through them unimpeded.

Clinchor, Arch-Mage of Balston, was a powerfully  pure incarnation of the Shadow. He was, however, a mere minion of an even more powerfully pure incarnation – the Dark Lord Asmodeus, ruler of the nine hells. It is such for almost all of us that begin life in the frailty of our mortal coils.  Too ignorant and weak to know and embrace the Light or Shadow as they are, in their pure form as One and  Second One, we attach to manifestations of them incarnate in something more familiar. We learn the teachings through another, a more limited and understandable form, transcending as we grow. We are devoted to the will of our masters in a form that we can implement and understand, making their will our own.

Although his origins remain shrouded in mystery, the extent of Clinchor’s success serving the Shadow make us imagine a youth eagerly devouring the knowledge of the the arcane and a will tainted, by birth or experience, so that it hungered for power and the assertion of control. Any historical explanation of Balston’s ascension to power pivots on this man and the mysterious connection he had to the nine hells.

Tales of old speak of a deal that the Arch-Mage of Balston made with Asmodeus, selling the Arch-Ruler of the nine hells his soul in return for the power the Dark Lord could grant him. The concept of a sold soul is difficult to grasp, so I favor an interpretation more in keeping with the philosophy espoused earlier. Clinchor, by whatever cause and means, embraced darkness over light and sought to serve the shadow – believing that doing so would grant him the all consuming authority and control his own ego hungered for. Clinchor was intimately aware of the Dark Lord Asmodeus and began to serve the Shadow through homage to that concrete form. It is possible that Clinchor inherited a Balston that had already founded itself as a society in service to Asmodeus, much as Alakavia is based on that religious culture today. Whether the two were connected in this manner from some lost and ancient time or it was Clinchor’s influence alone that created the similarity is not known, perhaps it never will be.

In either case, Clinchor’s devotion and worship garnered the Dark Lord’s attention and Asmodeus, a kindred ego lusting for control through devastation and destruction, obliged. He gave Clinchor the key to the nine hells. With the Dark Lord’s blessing and his own mastery of the arcane arts, powerful demons began to arrive to do Clinchor’s bidding. His army of demons would grow to immense proportions, but the most powerful servants – the Pit Fiends, would come to serve a special purpose.

The methods by which Clinchor would be able to assert his dominance across the world are likely best understood by imagining them in the concrete locale of his homeland. The mage secured his power locally before it grew like a fireball rolling down a mountain of molten lava.

The civilization in which Clinchor first asserted his authority was known as Balston. It was a rugged land along the eastern coast of the large continent in the north of the western hemisphere. Its rocky coasts give way to plains of jagged rock, before transitioning to more fertile grasslands,  flat plains, and massive forests. As one progresses west across the continent, foothills give rise to a mountain chain, descending again into hill country to the western coast. Although Clinchor’s home was on the far eastern shores of this massive continent, the entire continent still bears the name of Balston.

Today, nothing remains of the human civilization that was Clinchor’s home. The best reflection of its people and purpose is to be found in Alakavia, far in the east. The mysterious human culture of Clinchor’s Balston may have always lived in service to Asmodeus, or was forced to do so under his reign. In either case, we do know something about the nature of the subjugation.

Fundamental to ruling over his people with an iron fist was a forced servitude to the lord and master Asmodeus. Those who did not voluntarily accept the will of the Dark Lord as their own would be persuaded to do so, either through the Arch-Mage’s powerful magics or fear of death.

Clinchor had prepared for this day. As a budding mage he quested for the Orb, Jewel, and Crown of Charisma. The trio of items gave him an immense presence, encouraging those who heard him to bow to his will and be persuaded by his deceit. He flipped the order of the cosmos upside down, speaking to his subjects of the power of the dark and the pain of the light. Good was bad and bad was good. A will to power the ultimate pursuit, love and compassion mere weakness. No doubt most of his subjects fell under the sway of his potent charisma. For those that needed more convincing, Clinchor had an answer.

The populace of Balston was branded with a pentagram between their shoulder blades, indicating their submission to the will of Asmodeus. Without such a pentagram, people were subject to instant death at the hands of Clinchor’s patrolling demons. The Pit-Fiends, in particular, flew unhindered throughout the population – feeding on those who had not submitted themselves and who did not bear the mark of Asmodeus. Worse, the Pit Fiends’ capacity to sense goodness – to know when someone still worshipped the light –  meant that they could eradicate it whenever the opportunity availed itself. Not only did the people of Clinchor’s Balston have to submit to the mark of Asmodeus, their submission had to be complete. If not, they would become demon food.

With such rigid control over the will of his subjects, Clinchor’s eyes likely expanded to the populations most accessible to him. The northern Balstonian continent, we know today, is home to a great number of indigenous tribes that span from coast to coast. It is also home to a great number of Norse clans, not indigenous to the land but migrants from the northeast at some point in the distant past. Both are semi-nomadic warrior cultures, promising assets to a megalomaniac who dreamed of ruling earth. It is likely that a combination of magically-enhanced charisma and fear of death by demon subjugated these peoples to Clinchor’s purpose. Those who he could not persuade with the power of his magic and unnatural charisma, he would subjugate by force – setting the fires of hell down upon all who disobeyed. By such persuasion, and conquest, his army rapidly grew.

And the people obeyed, giving up the light of their old ways, because they had to believe it was right. If they did not, they died a demonic death.

With the continent of his homeland under his supreme authority, the Arch-Mage would take his ever burgeoning army to his next target. Although history does not afford us a precise map of the Dark Mage’s conquest, there are references couched in ancient terms that can be interpreted to provide a theory of Balston’s growth. The order in which I present the fall of people across earth may not be precise, but between sparse records and most-likely scenarios, I will paint a picture of Clinchor’s conquest that is reasonable, if not perfectly accurate.

Early in his rise to power, Clinchor got his first taste of a united front. As the prophecy received by Meneleus warned – only the unity of peoples against their common enemy could save them. Clinchor learned this truth early, and carefully constructed his conquests to ensure that people would live in ignorance of the threat that he posed. He wanted them to remain isolated in the safety of their own lands until it was too late.

The Resistance came from a land the old histories of Greyhawk referred to alternately as Ulvorn and Evenstoke. The lands are at the southern tip of the Balstonian continent, connecting it to the continent below by a narrow land mass. The area is covered in lush forest and is still home to one of the largest populations of Elves on earth – despite the near cultural genocide that befell them. The ancient race, due to their longevity, tend to have a better understanding of the world in which they live than human cultures. Clinchor’s conquest of the continent to their north did not escape Elven sight and the various  tribes of the region united to resist the threat.

The Elves of Evenstoke share the land with human cultures, specifically the Mayan, Aztec and Inca. Contact between them was not well established and any attempts that may have been made to secure an allied resistance ended in failure. Despite being greatly outnumbered by the indigenous tribes and Norse clans supporting Clinchor’s growing army, the Elven people felt forced to offer a united resistance and stop the southerly advance of the Balstonian Empire.

The songs of the Elven bards celebrate the courage and skill of their warriors and reveal that the resistance may have met with some early success – even liberating some of the indigenous tribes subjugated to Clinchor’s will. Yet the illusion of victory would soon be dispelled. Clinchor’s army of demons grew by the day. The Elven people were enslaved and nearly eradicated, owing to their steadfast refusal to succumb to the Dark Lord’s will and abandon their deities. The Mayans, Aztecs and Inca were soon to follow the Elves into slavery.

Clinchor now had his link to the southern continent in the west. His armies prepared to march on the region known to the old world as Wittsburgh. Today the term Wittsburgh only refers to the southern part of the continent of Hyboria – a very populated land mass with a staggering diversity of culture. It was here, perhaps more than anywhere else in his conquest, that Clinchor would succeed by persuasion and rapidly bolster the ranks of his army. Having learned of the challenges that a united resistance could pose, Clinchor careful segregated the various cultures of Hyboria and ensured they did not see the threat of subjugation until it was too late.

The Western world was firmly under his sway, his demons ensuring that the populations were loyal subjects. Clinchor very likely appointed his Pit Fiends to govern and control limited populations of the subjugated people. With every conquest came more power.  The resources of the lands were now controlled by the new Demon Lords. The ancient cultures pillaged mercilessly to fuel the dark mage’s cause.

Clinchor was ready to take his army east, across the great sea. It is unclear whether the Balstonians had naval capacity themselves, or whether they relied on the extensive naval prowess of their conquered subjects. In either case, a massive armada with Balstonian and demon troops – supported by diverse armies of the conquered – set sail from Balston to Albornia.

Albornia, as it is still called today, is a massive land mass in the north, separating the eastern and western hemispheres. It is an ice realm, sparsely populated by Norse and ice orcs. It fell under Balstonian control with little resistance.

The armada proceeded east to a region the old world knew as Osworn. Today we know that the myriad of civilizations referred to by this term fell, one by one, with little resistance. The celts of Briton and Scotland. The celts of the twin Isles of Ireland. The Arthurian Britons of Angleland. From the west it moved east. Franks, Saxons, Danes, Slavs and Scythians. North of the great Serpentine Mountains the tentacles spread, coalescing again in the strange land of Alakavia. Some believe that the Balstonian civilization actually originated in Alakavia, others that it was brought to Alakavia from Clinchor’s homeland. In either case, his people were reunited under a single banner, as were most of the civilizations in the world.

Further south they also fell. From the west it moved east. Aragon, Castille, Granada, Rome, Greece and Persia. South of the great Serpentine Mountains the tentacles spread east into the land dubbed Bluestone by the Greyhawkians. Today we know that these are the arid lands of the Babylonians, Sumerians, Phoenicians and Assyrians. The army from hell was arriving on Greyhawk’s western border.

But the tentacles spread further, to a land known in the old world of Greyhawk as Northwood. This misnomer serves to show how little our ancestors knew of the world around them. Now known as Ghana, the northern portions of the continent are dominated by the world’s largest desert – the Ankh Desert. The region is populated by Lybians, Egyptians and Carthaginians. In the southwest, tribal cultures such as the Ashanti, Masai and Zulu had survived since the dawn of time, or at least our knowledge of it. The eastern side of Ghana is a massive jungle, populated by Indian peoples in lands now known as Khalistan, Hindustan and Islamastan. In the south, a pale-skinned culture from the north who call themselves Abyssinian. Worlds within worlds, diversity so rich it is palpable. All enslaved.

The mere thought of the immensity of Clinchor’s control sends chills down my spine. What a horrid and dark world, the creative light of diverse people snuffed out by an overpowering shadow.

And it was not done.

The noose was tightening on our Greyhawkian heroes. Their cataclysm was near and the horrifying army they would soon face from the west was amassing in Alakavia. But we know from the story of Ulysses of Kaldon, that Clinchor went north first – conquering the sparsely populated northerners before making his play on Greyhawk. One can only speculate why it was that Greyhawk, together with a land the Greyhawkians referred to as Pennesalia, were the last to fall. Perhaps it was as simple as the fact that they are on the opposite end of the earth from where Clinchor’s reign of darkness began.

The old histories refer to both of these lands as the last to fall. It may be that the final conquests occurred simultaneously. The sheer size of the Balstonian army, with its subjugated warriors, certainly would have made it possible.

Clinchor’s armies sailed east from Ghana into the region known as Pennesalia. This region is now known as the continent of Quistom, surrounded by several large islands which were at the time populated by humanoid races such as orcs, goblins, hobgoblins, bugbears, beastmen, ogres, giants, kobolds, lizardmen and draconians. It is likely these creatures voluntarily joined Clinchor’s Empire as soon as they had the opportunity.

This was an unfortunate reality for the Elves, Dwarves and Gnomes that populated the forests, mountains and hills of Quistom. They had no doubt dealt with the threat of the humanoids on the islands surrounding them for centuries, but never before would they have to face those races united under the banner of a world empire.

Elven ballads again tell of heroic resistance, even victory, against the first onslaught of Clinchor’s hordes. United with the Dwarves and Gnomes, the Elves of Quistom stood their ground and drove the initial invasion back. But the Balstonian’s had what seemed an infinite army, bolstered by the recruitment of the neighbouring humanoids. The songs sing of devastation. The Elves, Dwarves and Gnomes fell together on the northern coasts of Quistom – their populations nearly annihilated because of their refusal to betray their gods and submit to the will of Asmodeus. Remnants of Elves escaped into the forests, Dwarves into the mountains, and Gnomes into the hills. If their races were to survive on Quistom the only thing left to do was run and hide.

I have already relayed the tale of Greyhawk’s fall, and the exodus on the Liberation to the hidden island of Shemar deep in the Southern Sea. Clinchor’s victory was complete and his reign of darkness smothered the planet in deep shadow. But flickers of light remained.

 

3 – The Exodus

Chapter 3: The Exodus – Escaping the Cataclysm

Magma Notuwut had seized control of the Republic of Greyhawk at the wrong moment in history and inherited a demonic apocalypse. As the Alakavian hordes spread throughout the countryside,  fulfilling the words of the old man’s prophecy, Magma knew that it was over and that his people were lost. There was nothing he could do to save them.

The hand of slavery swept the land, the people were put in chains. Evil and pain came hand in hand. The Devil held the power.

In a moment where lesser men would succumb to hopelessness, Magma Notuwut hoped for a better future. The Hordes were pressing in on Greyhawk City and soon all would be lost. All that he could think to do, perhaps all that could be done, was save a small contingent of his people and seek to create a new life away from the Devil’s grasp.

Magma ordered his best ship to be readied in the harbor and aptly named it “Liberation”. When loaded with the necessary supplies, the ship would carry fifty passengers. Then he put out the call and the selection process began. Word reached the Bay of Biscay. The now famous Party of the Pendant, with their proven dedication to their Greyhawkian homeland, were issued a direct invitation by Lord Magma himself.  The remaining members of the families Baldwinov, Miltonov, Blackrazor and Arak were invited to join Magma on the “Liberation” in search of a new home.

Recognizing the hopelessness of the situation, the families packed their heirlooms and left the castles their ancestors had built. Together they would ride to Greyhawk City and attempt to flee their beloved lands, escaping the cataclysm that had come.

Arak II with his wife and children, Alexander Blackrazor with his wife and son, Elrond II with his wife and son, and Matina of the Blackwood with her husband Laurethian, were part of a group of nearly fifty souls who hoped to escape their impending doom.

Enroute to Greyhawk City the caravan was ambushed by a group of Alakavian soldiers. Party members, their wives and children, cut down in a bloody massacre. Arak II fought on, losing his will to live and succumbing to his wounds after watching the brutal death of his wife and children. Alexander watched his wife and son fall to enemy blades before he too met his demise. Most of the families of the original Party of the Pendant were eradicated on that fateful day. Their family lines wiped out, they would never be represented in the Party again.

Sensing the hopelessness and unable to save his friends, Elrond II set his wife on the back of his cherished mount, a winged steed, the pegasus. Clutched in her arms was their young son, Titanius III. With one final glimpse back at the devastation, Elrond Baldwinov took to the sky – tears streaming from his courageous and steely eyes.

Arrows sang in the air around them, one finding the thigh of the infant still clutched in his mother’s arms. The pegasus summoned a strength from deep within and flew its family to safety behind the walls of Greyhawk City. Miraculously, the young child survived his wound.

With the soldiers’ attention drawn to the fleeing magnificence of the winged steed, the two Elves, Matina and Laurethian, slipped into the shadowy cover of a nearby copse of trees. Matina, an accomplished alchemist, held a potion out to her beloved husband and they both drank. The magic of the potions transformed them to birds and their fluttering escape from the treetops toward Greyhawk City went undetected by the enemy soldiers. The surviving two party members sought out Lord Magma and helped him with final preparations for the Exodus.

Matina and Elrond II would become the link connecting the old world with the new, along with some interesting individuals whose personal histories give us further insight into the nature and extent of the Balstonian cataclysm. I will relay the tale of four of those individuals, who made their own personal exodus to the safety of Greyhawk City and would eventually establish the new Party of the Pendant in the distant south.

Ulysses the Sacred was born and raised in a coastal settlement far to the northeast of Greyhawk, in an ice kingdom the Greyhawkians referred to as Kaldom. Ulysses’ father was King in those lands, and he was heir to the throne. When he arrived in Greyhawk as a young lad, Ulysses thought he had escaped the demonic hordes that had ravaged his people. The cataclysm that fell upon Greyhawk was larger in scope than first imagined, and Ulysses soon realized that he had not escaped it after all. As an emissary of good from the north, who brought news of relevance to Lord Magma, the young priest was selected for passage on the Liberation.

Kaylan was raised on a small pig farm in a forested region of rural Greyhawk, south of the city of Cornelius. His parents were woodcutters of no particular renown, but rumors of his mother’s stunning beauty spread throughout the land. While in Cornelius purchasing supplies, Katerina and her husband Mikel crossed paths with Magma Notuwut. The leader of Greyhawk was immediately smitten and became obsessed with Katerina. Magma attempted to persuade the beautiful woman to give up her life of swine herding and woodcutting and to join him in Greyhawk City. Loyal as always, she refused.

When the demonic hordes came and small villages were being razed to the ground, Katerina recalled the intense affections of Lord Notuwut. She set out for the capital with young Kaylan at her side. The records do not indicate what happened next, but when the Liberation set sail, Kaylan was aboard.

A young elf from Blackwood Forest in northwestern Greyhawk experienced first hand the horrors brought by the invading hordes. The Blackwood Elves were among the first communities to be overwhelmed by the evil that had arrived. Young Markus witnessed the rape of his mother and sister by a band of ogre minions who served the black army. His family slaughtered, the tenacious young elf escaped to the east and fled to Greyhawk City. As one of the few surviving Elves in the republic, Markus was given sanctuary and selected for passage aboard the Liberation.

Argonius was a giant of a man, quite literally. Though his origins are unclear, it is believed that his grandmother was captured and raped by a hill giant band north of Greyhawk City and a female child was produced from the encounter. Argonius’ mother was raised for several years by the hill giants until the clan was wiped out by Greyhawkian soldiers. The half-giant child was viewed as a monstrosity and drifted through orphanages in Greyhawk City until she was purchased as a slave by an elderly man who operated the dockyard. The massive woman gave birth to a son.

The boy’s mother died shortly after the birth and Argonius was raised by the dock owner. His hill giant blood made him exceptionally large and his strength was a valuable asset on the docks. An oddity, the lad drew scorn from those around him and learned to fight in order to defend himself. He was just a young teenager when one fateful afternoon his “father” ordered him to stock a ship for the Lord Magma. The ship had to be loaded and prepared for departure by nightfall. Argonius worked all day but as chance would have it, he struck his head on a beam in the cargo hold and knocked himself unconscious. He woke to the slapping of waves and the rocking motion of a ship already at sea. The dockboy was selected, by fate, for passage on the Liberation.

Magma’s selections were made. Evening fell and the chosen were ushered through the darkness to the docks, carefully screened as they boarded the Liberation. All they knew was that they were sailing for some mysterious land far to the south. Lord Magma referred to their destination as Shemar, a place he had learned about from legends so ancient they inspired confidence that the small island would be uninhabited – and unknown to those who might wish to bring them harm.

As the Liberation set sail from Greyhawk’s port, an eerie silence accompanied the rippling waters. The fifty passengers were afraid to speak, overwhelmed with their situation and afraid of being heard. As the shores receded in the distance they shared a silent reflection on the life they had known and left behind.

Lord Magma must have thought about the loyal ninja who had served as his bodyguard, the Iron Claw. Many had been left behind. His mind must have recoiled from the burden of his leadership. The selection process had not been easy and any man forced to make such choices would live with them forever. Lord Notuwut selected only seven of his fifty man ninja guard and  had tried to blend the old with the new, selecting four of his veteran ninja and three young but promising initiates. Among the young was Hi-Chung.

Hi Chung was an angry youth, embittered by the death and destruction he had witnessed. Tales of old suggest that Chung cursed the impotence of the gods and swore never to worship another. He had already made a pact with himself to trust only his own sword and act only on his own will, for the satiation of his own anger. He would have a long history within the Iron Claw and the Party of the Pendant.

Lord Elrond II, representative of the famous Baldwinov family who had influenced Greyhawk for generations, had a deep respect for Lord Magma and was grateful for the opportunity he had provided to Elrond’s young family. This respect did not extend to the Iron Claw, however, and Sir Elrond despised the ninja’s code of conduct in battle. The Holy Warrior of War and Magic had also accompanied himself with some young squires, more suited to the chivalry and honor that he championed.

Elrond’s five squires were chosen not only for their skill as warriors and connection to their gods, but for the lawful code of conduct that seemed so natural to them. They would be instrumental to maintaining law and order in the new civilization. Two of the five of those young knights –  Sir Diomedes des Isles and Sir Avtar le Legitime – would eventually become members of the Party of the Pendant as it re-formed to explore a new world.

We have already introduced some of the other occupants, by telling the story that led them to set foot on the Liberation. The Elven contingent from the Blackwood Forest included Party member Matina and her husband Laurethian and the young elf Markus, whose own history with the Party would span centuries.

Two Dwarves from Rockland, the only Dwarven realm in Greyhawk, were also on the ship. One of them, a priest of Moradin known as Drassa the Holy, would eventually make his mark as the Dwarven representative in the Party.

One other passenger was on board, unknown to the rest. But I will wait to tell that story until we meet that shadow incarnate again in the future.

The various occupants of the ship began to break their silence as time passed and Greyhawk receded into the distance. Though death, destruction and remorse still hung thick in the air, a glimmer of anticipation and excitement took birth. Magma took that opportunity to tell his people more.

He informed the eager listeners that he believed the cataclysm was much greater in scope than they could imagine, that the Dark Lord’s grasp extended across the world. For that reason, the Liberation was sailing into the deep south to a lost island, hidden from the world by the coral reefs surrounding it. Magma had discovered an ancient and unique map indicating the lost island and believed that within its sanctuary the group of fifty could escape the shadow’s grasp.

And so it was. The vessel sailed through the Dacron Sea, the Oriental Sea, the Scattered Sea and into the Great Southern Sea – a journey of four months. As weariness neared overwhelming, land was spotted. This was the land of Shemar. It was their land, wild and untamed. Here they would be free.

The Liberation sailed into the bay on April First, settling on a large rock that protruded from the northern shore of the large island. That rock would soon be named “Foundation’s Rock.” From it a new world was born.

(Author’s Note: The dating system that this history will use, in order to better frame the chronology of events, takes the arrival at Foundation’s Rock as the moment of foundation).

 

 

2 – Next Generations

Chapter 2: The Next Generations

The detail in which I have discussed the origins of the Party, through one individual life to four, will not be possible to maintain. As the generations pass, party members multiply exponentially. While their will be occasion, particularly early in our story, to identify individuals and their exploits – the exploits of individuals will gradually give way to the exploits of the Party – as a homogenous whole –  an entity whose parts all uniquely contribute to the light in its cosmic struggle against darkness.

In its early history, however,  the Party of the Pendant was dominated by the familial lines of Titanius, Conan, Elrond and Arak. Titanius’ sons Menelaus and Demetrius Baldwinov, Arak’s sons Arak II and Stevenius, Conan’s son Rodrick and daughter Melissa, Rodrick’s son Alexander, and Elrond’s daughters, including Saren Miltonov, Arch-Mage of Greyhawk, would continue the traditions set by their fathers.

As the subsequent generations continued their adventures in Greyhawk, and occasionally beyond, they were joined by a couple of new faces. Matina of the Blackwood, an alchemist and the first elf in the Party, and a samurai known as Tronja, joined the fellowship. As their circle expanded, the Party began to understand the mysterious vastness of the world they inhabited. The samurai was from a distant land to the south-east, unlike the Greyhawkians in appearance and fighting style. The elegant elf, emerging from the depths of the forest, simply evoked wonder.

Much like their predecessors, the Party continued their adventures in search of fame and fortune. Arak II, like his father, provided moral guidance in the pursuit. Arak II, who became the Saint of Loyalty and Compassion, persistently guided the Party’s endeavors towards the light and kept the diverse group united to the cause of good. The almost natural righteousness of the Elven maiden Matina made Arak II’s task easier, and the two persistently guided the group to loftier goals.

Again the foes were too many to name. The group encountered local slavers, devil worshipping cults, aquatic bands of fish-men known as Sahuagins, and the dark Elves of the underdark – this but a minor selection of the evils they had faced. I will digress into a few specific tales that have survived the intervening ages. My hope is that such tales will not only shed further light on the forms of the shadow that re-emerge throughout the Party’s history, but also that through these tales we can convey more of the world that was Greyhawk.

On that later note, we get a better glimpse into the politics of Greyhawk through the life of Rodrick Blackrazor, son of Conan. The master thief had passed his art to his son who, as a young lad, was sent to Greyhawk City for special training in a mysterious combat style imported from the east. Rodrick forged a friendship with his sensei while learning the art of ninjitsu.

After losing his sister Vanessa, killed while adventuring at the tender age of 14, Rodrick exercised a cautious courage on his adventures through the lands of Greyhawk. He succeeded, surviving to later life and becoming involved in Greyhawk politics. His old sensei, Magma Notuwut, called upon Rodrick to return to Greyhawk City and support a coup d’etat that Magma was leading against what he perceived to be a corrupt regime. Rodrick was instrumental to the success of the coup and Magma was named dictator of the new Republic of Greyhawk. For his efforts, Rodrick was named Chief of Security and would be an influential commander of Greyhawk’s armies.

It is through a love story, one that resulted in the first marriage between members of the Party, that we encounter a new enemy of the fellowship and the birth of a young man who would wield tremendous influence in the future.

Saren Miltonov, daughter of Elrond, apprenticed with her father in the arts of evocation and travelled with the Party for years. Her power grew to new heights and she was eventually named Arch-Mage of Greyhawk.

Demetrius Baldwinov, like his father Titanius, was trained as a warrior and travelled with the Party alongside Saren. The two fell in love and were married, having three children. The first of the three, Titanius II, joined the Party while his father and mother were still adventuring and his untimely and early death devastated Demetrius. The last of the three, Elrond Baldwinov II, became a Holy warrior of the Gods of War and Magic. His name will arise again later in this tale because he would come to play a crucial role in the Party’s future history, linking the old world with the new.  As a youth, however, he too faced the tragic plight of an orphan.

A powerful darkness had risen, unassuming, in the lands near the Bay of Biscay. A local Count, Margus Von Straud, had seized his noble inheritance by selling his soul to the Lord of Darkness. He poisoned his own father before a change in will would bequeath the county to his younger, twin brother, Sergio.

Count Von Straud became the first of the vampires in this manner, quietly working his evil machinations and growing in power while serving the Lord of Darkness.  Straud would go on to have a long history  with the Party, and that tale will be recalled throughout. Demetrius, son of Titanius, would meet his demise to the shadow that was Straud.

Little is known about the death of Demetrius’ betrothed, Saren. She survived only a few years beyond her beloved. Distant rumours tell of her betrayal by someone close to the Party, a betrayal that ended in her murder. With her death, young Elrond II was left alone in the world.

The ballads of old sing of the military prowess and courage of Party members. In particular, Stevenius of Arak, Rodrick Blackrazor, and Menelaus Baldwinov – all who rose through the ranks of the Greyhawkian army to serve as generals. Tales whispered across the rivers of time give us fleeting glimpses into the world of Greyhawk during their lifetime.

The Greyhawkian forces rallied in a counter-attack against the known enemy to the north, from the land the Greyhawkians dubbed Cornia. Although the campaign was successful and the Mongolian people to the north of Greyhawk were subjected to the laws of Magma Notuwut, the conquest only served to enlarge the world and discover new enemies.

North of Cornia, in a land our heroes called Dacron, more Mongols awaited. A warrior culture, whether eager to conquer or simply retain their independence, provided the next threat to the security of Greyhawk. It was natural for the Party’s military heroes to assume that Dacron was an ally of Cornia and not simply acting out of its own interest. The people were similar in appearance and displayed familiar military tactics. The Mongol aggression, whatever it’s true motive, was perceived as a northern alliance attempting to conquer the south.

Though news of the world abroad was sparse, occasionally rumors would trickle in through the tales of travellers. In such a manner our Greyhawkian heroes would learn that another nation from the far north, known as Albornia, had defeated a nation called Bluestone in the south. Today, the land of Albornia is still known by that name and includes Norse, Inuit and Ice Orc populations. We know now that Bluestone was a vague term the Greyhawkians used to refer to a broad territory including Sumerian, Babylonian, Phoenician and Assyrian peoples.

The news, however inaccurate, reinforced the belief that the entire world was at war and there were two sides – the evil aggressors in the north, and the defenders of the good in the south. False, simplistic, but prophetic.

A new threat emerged from the west. The heroes of the Party were summoned to drive back an invading army on Greyhawk’s western border. It is not clear how this new enemy was perceived by our heroes, though in retrospect it seems that the invasion was coming out of a land known today as Alakavia. The culture of the Alakavians, along with an ancient culture existing in the far western reaches of the world known as Balston, remain a mystery to this very day. The two cultures seem to have a connection to each other – a shared connection to the ancient arcane, to darkness, to the Abyss and the Nine Hells.

It was around this time that Menelaus Baldwinov was approached by an old man who shared a prophecy. Subsequent legend believes that the old man was a god in disguise, attempting to awaken our heroes to the threat that loomed and aid in their cause, however he might. It would prove to be a deadly accurate summation of what was occurring on Greyhawk’s western borders, but its message is timeless and its truth born throughout history.

The end marches forward, with the approach of the force. 
The massive formidable enemy; man, weapon and his horse.
 
Yet we shan’t believe, trying desperate, avoiding war. 
Security in our homes until they’re at our door.

Yet we ask, “Where was our army to stop this invading foe? 
Where was our bravery? Why would we act so slow?”

But regret is late in coming, death ravages our land. 
Our men attempt to arm themselves for one decisive stand.

The bulking armies come together, forming a giant mass. 
Flesh falls in torn heaps, down in the mountain pass.

In minutes, battle standards wave, the invading force has won. 
Our last hope defenders scattered, for them the war is done.
 
The hand of slavery sweeps the land, our people put in chains. 
Evil and pain come hand in hand, like the coming of the rains.

We dwell on happier times, when liberty passed the rule. 
Why were we ignorant of the attack, why were we such fools?

Evil runs the kingdom now, the Devil holds the power, 
And all of us beneath him merely run, hide and cower.

The war is over, the evil has won.  
The war is finished before we knew it begun.  

The war is over, the end is near. Our lives are hopeless, we’ll die in fear.


Arriving at its western borders and confident in their prowess given the recent victories against the Mongolians in the north, the Greyhawkian army would soon experience something unlike anything they had possibly imagined.

The Alakavian army, with its blood red standards and glistening heavy armor, thundered into the lands of Greyhawk bringing death and destruction to all they encountered on the way.  By the time the Greyhawkian army arrived to make a stand, much was already lost. Our heroes scoured the intimidating force, held in fearful awe by the sheer number of well armored enemies and the unique, tightly held formations they assumed. The heavy cavalry and infantry stood on the horizon like a giant band of metal, flanked by immense numbers of lightly armored archers. If it was all they faced, hope may have survived.

The Alakavians, however, were accompanied by mixed hordes of cultures that had not even existed in the imaginations of our three military heroes. With the benefit of hindsight, we can understand the surprise and confusion Menelaus suffered through his eyes that day.  Castillians, Franks, Gauls, Greeks, Romans, Scythians – all standing astride the invading force of Alakavian/Balstonians. They emanated subjugation, unwillingly forced to serve some new master’s army.

If that was all they faced, hope may have survived.

Above the blood red Alakavian army, accompanied by its conquered hordes, circled thousands of massive demons from the nine hells. Darkness hung thick in the air, helplessness welled within. The armies clashed and the power of the mysterious foe was even beyond what it appeared. The Greyhawkian army was devastated, its remnants scattering in a desperate attempt to survive the onslaught.

All three of our heroes fell on that day. The tale of Stevenius’ death, passed through the ancient bardic songs, is all we have left of them.

The song sings of Lord Stevenius taking up his bastard sword “Defender” and leading his armies to face the onslaught of the horde in the west. As the army was being overwhelmed and it was obvious the battle was lost, Stevenius refused to surrender. The hordes closed in around him, but he and his bodyguard fought on. As the Greyhawkian battle standard fell to the ground, Stevenius fought his way to it, picked it up, and  proudly thrust it into the air in a symbolic gesture of defiance.  Swords cut into him, arrows penetrated his armor, the blood from his numerous wounds eerily matching the blood red colors of the enemy.

Stevenius of Arak could stand no more. He slid down the pole, dropping to one knee while still holding his head high. The wounds continued to be inflicted until he could hold no more. The Greyhawkian battle standard slowly toppled to the ground, still in the clutches of Stevenius’ lifeless hand.

1 – Origins

Chapter 1 – Origins

For anyone who knows anything of the Party of the Pendant’s history, including their numerous world-changing victories against powerful agents of shadow, this account of the Party’s origin may seem unbelievable. How can such unassuming origins, originating through a single boy with a tragic youth, transform into a group of heroes with a dense history? How can such a simple tale of an individual life, collide with other such simple tales, to create a band of adventurers that would be deemed saviors of the world time and time again? It is, indeed, a mystery of cosmic significance. It is a story, when viewed with the benefit of retrospect, that seems guided by unseen forces – gods, the fates, the light – however one perceives them.

In the far northeastern reaches of earth was a land known as Greyhawk, a land dominated by a great mountain chain known as the Drachensgrab. Scrawled upon the most famous peak in the chain is the ancient prophecy of the Spider Kingdom. It is here the story begins.

Titanius Baldwinov was raised in a small village outside of Greyhawk City. His family was massacred, along with his entire village, during a raid by a feudal lord vying for power and control. Titanius was orphaned, born into vengeance, and learned how to handle a sword at a tender age. He grew up in the wildlands of the Drachensgrab foothills, surviving however he could, growing in size, strength and proficiency with weapons. He soon discovered that the life of a wandering mercenary, in search of lost treasures, offered far more promise than any copper he could earn doing odd jobs or becoming a soldier in the army of Greyhawk..

The young warrior headed to the capital city, determined to find others of like mind. Though his heart was wrought with anger and vengeance, Titanius was a charismatic young man and a natural leader. It was not long before he met another of similar ilk, Conan Blackrazor.

Conan was born into poverty in the western Greyhawkian city of Cornelius. He was left on the steps of an orphanage when just an infant and ran away at the tender age of five. He soon banded with a gang of young boys known to the local thieves’ guild and was recruited by them to hone his art. As a young man, Conan headed east towards the capital city to seek his fortune – though the young thief already knew that he wanted to utilize his skills for more than greed and profit. He wanted to change the world for the better.

When Titanius and Conan met they fast became friends. Two young men with formidable skills, without roots, seeking purpose. The two became inseparable as they began to explore the lands around them. Too young yet to realize what purpose fate held for them, the foundation of the Party of Pendant was laid, deep within the naive yet inquisitive hearts of two young men.

Two would soon become three. Elrond Miltonov was also from western Greyhawk. His life took an abrupt turn when both of his parents were killed by a sickness and the money-lenders seized his future. Cast out, the young man was fortunate enough to be taken in by an old master of the arcane arts. He was trained by the wizard until his master fell ill, at which point Elrond set off to Greyhawk city to find his own path. It quickly intersected with the path of Titanius and Conan and the three youth, sharing similarly tragic pasts, became like family.

The trio were driven by angst, vengeance, and a desire for fame and wealth. Their tragic youth veiled the sense of higher purpose they each held in their heart and their early goals related directly to the void that lived in each of them. They had been poor, alone, unknown, unimportant. Their time had come. They would be rich, famous, and significant – together.

Such motives have persisted in the Party of the Pendant throughout its history. Sometimes they are pursued without a second thought to a higher purpose. Sometimes, as we will see, future incarnations of the Party of the Pendant would pursue them to the exclusion of all else – including morality.

But then as now, the Party was not corrupt of heart. At times the more base of human motives dominated and provided the direction. But not all times.

The Party of the Pendant, despite all the salvific deeds performed through its history, has no claim to moral perfection.

One could argue, however, that there has been growth. From its earliest days the Party began to fight for the oppressed, motivated by righteousness. This seed was not randomly sown, it was nurtured. The band of three were joined by a fourth, a young cleric of a local religion. The religion lives on in the Party today, and the young cleric that joined the group hundreds of years ago is its founding saint.

Saint Arak was born in a small village in the Drachensgrab Mountains, just east of Greyhawk City. In this small village, the religion of the Gods of War and Magic was founded and Arak became the second cleric of the faith. The young cleric left the village to preach the word of his religion in the lowlands and it was during this time that he met the group of three that would be his lifelong friends.

As the four young men travelled the lands of Greyhawk, they increasingly became a bastion of justice in an otherwise barbaric and turbulent land. Their mercenary work often saw them paid to combat the forces of darkness. Arak consistently served as the conscience of the group, helping to ensure that the wealth and fame they sought was garnered in service to the light.

Arak was instrumental in solidifying some of the principles of that first fellowship that remain fundamental to the Party today. His group would seek justice, be harbingers of good, champions of light. Though not above the base elements of their natures, and diverse in motive, they served the cause of righteousness nonetheless. Solidarity and unity, despite diversity, would serve the light against shadow for centuries to come.

The four grew in power, fame, and fortune. They rose to significance within the land of Greyhawk, facing local foes too numerous to name – save one.  The Lady of the Snowmist, an immortal demi-goddess, has had an extensive history with the Party since she first encountered Arak centuries ago.

The ice-goddess had lured Arak into giving her a daughter, prior to his understanding the nature of the Lady’s immortality. She uses her children as mortal “containers” and as one becomes worn the demi-goddess shifts bodies to maintain her immortality. After discovering this, Arak enlisted the aid of his friends, who time and time again attempted to save his child from this fate. The Lady of the Snowmist fended off the attacks and, in a cruel twist of fate, Arak ended up slaying his own daughter – believing she was the Lady herself.

Despite such trials and tribulations, the fellowship of four, using their newfound fortunes,  all constructed castles along the eastern shores of the Bay of Biscay. By doing so they established familial legacies, remaining friends and neighbours even after the spirit of adventure had passed through to the next generation.

While they had expanded their worlds, knowledge of the lands outside of Greyhawk remained thin. The foundation was established, however, for the Party to begin gaining knowledge of a larger world. Titanius became the first party member in its history to take a military post, becoming a general  in the Greyhawkian army. In his elder years he began to become aware of a threat to Greyhawk’s immediate north, though its particular nature remained unknown.

The oral histories, passed through the families of the original party members, show little knowledge of the world outside of Greyhawk. They refer to peoples that were not part of their world, but in doing so they used Greyhawkian terms that did not reflect the self-identity of the people they referred to and greatly simplified the stunning diversity they grasped to understand.

Over the centuries the world has become smaller, so to speak. Through trade and military conquest most Kingdoms or Empires have an awareness of the different cultures around them. That said, knowledge of the immense complexity of  the broader world remains minimal for most – extending only to the sphere of influence allowed by trade and conquest. Communication between different peoples, now as then, remains limited. It is through the Party of the Pendant, world travellers with a wealth of collective experience, that our knowledge is able to exceed that of the Kings and Emperors who rule over their subjects. I will use that knowledge, together with the terms used from the perspective of the first historians, in an attempt to accurately portray both the vast diversity of our world and the simplistic view of our ancestors.

For Titanius, then, the rise to commander of Greyhawk’s army afforded a glimpse into the world beyond. A threat had emerged to the north of Greyhawk, from a land they called Cornia. We know now that the lands north of Old Greyhawk – known to them as Cornia, Dacron, and Kaldon – were a continuum that faded from Slavic into Mongolian cultures.

When the oral histories speak of attacks on his world, it is likely that the Slavic people under the purview of Titanius’ military protection were being attacked by other Slavs and Mongols from the north. Titanius led his army and enlisted the help of his friends to stave off the attacks. The histories speak of a large scale battle in which Titanius and his friends led their armies to repel the northern aggression. Their world was at stake and they were fighting for control over their own destiny. It is not remarkable that they believed the victory over the northern threat to be epic in scope, a battle involving most of the world, a battle of northern evil against southern good.  Though filled with exaggeration, these oral histories were indeed prophetic.

 

Preface

Preface

This is a history of the world. Any author worth his copper knows that a daunting task lies ahead. To tell the story of existence, infinite as that seems to be, requires a framework. It necessarily frames the unframed, bounds the boundless, and limits the limitless – from some perspective or another.

Such would be true even if this were the history of a single person. That truth magnifies as the tale attempts to capture so much more.

One weave throughout the tapestry of this story is cosmic in scope. From ancient, arcane prophecies to the mysterious cosmic order they indicate. From the Heavens to the Hells, the fullness of creation to the void of the Abyss. From Gods to Demons. From light to shadow.

So little is known, so little is recorded, that the best this tale can do is point towards those ominous truths so far from our reach. The perspective that necessarily frames this story, that provides a launch point, must be more firmly planted upon the ground – lest I falsely portray a knowledge of the unknown.

So it is to earth we must turn.

Another weave binding this story together in its multi-colored and ever expanding fabric is global in scope. It tells of races and species, their relationships, their political, economic, religious and social structures. It speaks of perpetual conflict and fleeting alliances, expansion and contraction. It relays stories of the rise and fall of empires and it too is inadequate to the immense complexity of the reality. So little is known, so little is recorded, and there is too much to tell.

It appears, then, that the history of civilizations is still too lofty a launch point. It fails to provide the more limited perspective from which a coherent tale can be spun.

This story should be told from a place where our feet can be planted on the ground but our minds can soar into ever-expanding and complex mysteries of global and cosmic scope. It should be told from a place of oral and written knowing. It should be framed upon a solid foundation of experience, but experience that is global and cosmic in its scope.

Fortunately, such a foundation exists – and I am part of it.

The Party of the Pendant is an international band of heroes dedicated to fighting for the Light and destroying the shadow in all its forms. From humble beginnings five hundred years ago, when a band of heroes first explored the world beyond their castle walls, to its current renown as the most powerful emissary of light on earth, the Party has the knowledge of collective experience unique to this world. I am blessed to be part of that group, as were my ancestors before, and to have access to their oral and written traditions. I am Meneldir of Archet, grandson of Markus Anoraran, an Elven King whose service to the Party of the Pendant spanned centuries. This is the foundation of my knowing.

The history of the Party of the Pendant, therefore, provides the perspective that will frame this ambitious tale. Through their story, a coherent story can be told. It is one that originates in the naivety of the newborn first exploring existence around them. It is one that grows into the passion and fervor of youth – eagerly exploring, categorizing, and influencing the broader world. It is one that grows into the wisdom of its age, recognizing that the black and white categories of its youth are inadequate to the mysteries that abound.

In this age of wisdom, existence once again becomes new, filled with mystery. The mysteries of the world, the cosmos, and the self. The history of the Party of the Pendant is a story of growth, through experience to understanding, so that the fate of the Party seems inextricably bound to the fate of the earth and the cosmos. The fate of the three seem ever converging, like they will erupt in a glorious but dreadful epiphany at some point in the future.

But that future is not yet here, so our story marches onward. This makes it even more challenging for the author attempting to capture a reality outside of his own, neatly compacted, fictional world. This tale has not reached a conclusion.

Our story will begin with the origins of the Party of the Pendant five hundred years ago. As the story shares the experience of that infamous band, knowledge of global history will be gleaned. It is not exhaustive. It is knowledge that is acquired through experience. Not all peoples are known, not all lands are explored.

By following me on this journey you will experience the lands and peoples touched by this famous group of heroes. While that does impose limits, it is also important to recognize how extensive five hundred years of collective experience can actually be. There is much to be gained from this perspective.

As the tale weaves its fabric, experiences of a mysterious cosmic order – shrouded in ancient prophecies and visions – will also emerge. It would be arrogant to call this knowledge, for even those who have had direct experience of the events in question will testify to their continued state of unknowing. But their experience can be shared, so that the book of our own knowing is written within.

On that note, before we begin to explore the early origins of the Party of the Pendant, I will share a couple of these famous prophecies. Perhaps if we start at the outer reach of time and space, then return to plant our feet in the newborn’s shoes, we can grow with a wisdom that was inaccessible for those who had the original experience.  Such is the benefit of hindsight, the boon of historical knowledge, and the fruit of collective experience.

Elven lore speaks of a distant past, a past shrouded in a mist of temporal obscurity. It speaks of a prophecy of five cataclysms, the first of which had come to pass. It was a civil war amongst Elves, between the Sun King and the Sky King. The Sun King’s armies were victorious and drove the Sky King’s people into the Underdark – they became the Drow, Elves of the spider, worshipers of Lolth.

The Elven lore does not speak to the remaining four cataclysms but as this story unfolds you will experience three other points of known history that could arguably fit the definition of a cataclysm, with a fourth looming like a shadowy eclipse on the horizon.

Another prophecy can be found etched into the White Plume Mountain, the greatest summit in a chain known as the Drachensgrab Mountains of Old Greyhawk – birthplace of the Party of the Pendant:

       And o' the Kingdom of the Spider shall last one 
thousand
       years and the people shall suffer one thousand 
years and
       this time shall be a time of Darkness for the 
Shadow of
       the Spider shall be law, indeed the people shall 
pay
       tribute to the word of the master and live in 
bondage.  In
       the valleys of the shadows, even to the very 
midst of
       the volcano that sleeps above. Take heed for 
when the
       thousand years is done a man will come to 
promise a
       different way and he will believe and many will 
be
       persecuted. The sign of the man shall bear witness to 
the legend.