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.