Greyhawk: From the Ashes
History of Oerth
The first gods to exist, in unknown order were; Beory (Oerth itself), Pelor (god of the Sun and Healing), Nerull (god of Death) and Tharizdun (The mad god). Many hold Tharizdun was first, alone and mad in the darkness. When the others arrived he desired their death because he could only stand being alone. Soon all the gods came into existence. How that happened is a matter each group’s theology addresses. What all agree on is that soon Tharizdun attempted to kill all the other gods.
The Demi-human Deities
Before the Mad god attempted to destroy all others there also arose the god of the Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes and different demihumans. The Gnomes insist they are not from Oerth and their home is elsewhere. They are the last race to arrive on Oerth and their claim seems likely. The Elves and Dwarves however say that across all the planes of existence and the worlds, Oerth is their home. And much evidence backs their claim. The Dwarves were not born, but forged, by Morradin the All-Father.
The Elves came about due to a battle. When the father of all elves, Corellon Larethian, came to be he was met by the father of all Orcs, Grummnsh. An immediate hatred was born and the two fought across Oerth. Where their blood fell, elves and orcs arose. Corellon took Grummnsh’s eye and as the battle reached a climax the god war erupted.
The Mad God
Desiring to be the only thing alive, and some believe it wanted nothing alive at all, Tharizdun attempted to destroy all life. So great was his power that it took the collected might of all gods, human and demi-human, good, evil and neutral to subdue it. They cast it into a deep sleep and locked it in a prison beyond the known planes of existence. No one knows where that prison is, but no one on Oerth will speak the name Tharizdun. Because if you do…it wakes slightly and hears. Even in prison and asleep, the mad god is not powerless. It answers the prayers of it’s few mad followers.
The God Pact
After the war the Gods agreed that they would not interfere in the affairs of Oerth directly. Should they come to battle, they knew full well, everything would be destroys. Some leeway is given to the elves and orcs since they are made from the blood of their gods. For these races the relationship is closer. For humans, except on rare occasions, all interaction is through the clerics and their ability is limited to some degree. This pact only binds all gods except for Beory since she is Oerth itself. It also does not bind a god who was once a human. This flaw of the pact would eventually undo everything.
The Pre-History of Oerth (-2000 CY to -500CY)
Only a thousand years of Oerth history is know with any certainty. That seems odd in a world with elves, who live for over a thousand years. But there is a reason. A name that, like the mad god, is unspoken and unwanted: The name of Vecna.
In the eastern part of the continent there thrived the great Elven empires. The City of Summer Stars, The City of Autumn Leaves, The City of Winter Snow and the City of Spring Waters. Also in the east, called the Flaness, they were the primitive humans called the Flan. The flans were ruled by the necromancer kings, the Ur-Flan, who worshiped the mad god and death in profane whispers.
There were other humans of the Flan who were, considered by the elves to be, more evolved than the rest of their people. These humans were welcomed in the empires and taught to use magic that was not tainted by death. One such mage was a human of unknown name. He was smarter than any human the elves had ever seen. Ambitious and brilliant he was soon looked on with favor by Araushnee, the consort of the god of the elves. A goddess with pure black skin and the goddess of destiny in the Elven pantheon…she was not all she seemed.
No one knows who seduced who or, indeed who was more evil than who. What is known is that the human mage betrayed the Elven kingdoms. And by his own power and cunning magic he destroyed the City of Summer Stars, creating the twisted Bright Desert. He sank the City of Spring waters beneath the waves. The City of Autumn Leaves, to his rage vanished from existence before he could destroy it. And the City of Winter Snow was lost in the reaches of the North. Vecnahad a history unknown to the Elves.
Vecna was born as a human, centuries ago as a member of the untouchable caste in the Flan city of Fleeth on Oerth. He was initially trained by his mother, Mazzel, in the arts of magic, before she was executed by the government of Fleeth for practicing witchcraft. Vowing revenge, Vecna eventually assumed a mastery of the dark arts achieved by no mortal before or since. Some say this achievement was due to direct tutelage by Mok’slyk the Serpent, believed to be the personification of arcane magic itself.
The elves were mystified at how a human could be this powerful until they met him on the battle field. The man, now lord of the Ur-Flan, had done something unspeakable to himself. He stood before the Elven kings a hideous thing for which they had no name. Undead but with a mind of his own; His power increased a hundred fold and immune to much of the magic they used…the stood against Vecna the Lich Lord. His armies of necromancers, undead and demons…led by his creation, the Vampire general Kas, decimated the Elven forces. The war raged for 1000 years.
At some point during his long life and unlife, Vecna undertook arduous researches into the nature of life itself in a hidden temple buried in the mines near what is now Diamond Lake; the site of this laboratory is now known as the Dark Cathedral.
A combined army of Elves, Dwarves and good humans fought him to a standstill. But it seemed only a matter of time until he would conquer the whole of Oerth. In the end he was undone and seemingly killed by the betrayal of his power hungry general, Kas. Killed by a magic sword he had made for his general, all that remained of him were a hand and an eye. For her part, Araushnee, now more demon than goddess, was cast (with all her followers of black skinned elves) into the underdark of the world. Taking the name Lolth and naming her people Drow she seeks the destruction of all Evles.
The West and the end of pre-history (-484 CY)
No one knows what started the war between the two human groups the Seul and Baklunish. All that is known is that at one point the Backlune were the slaves to the Seuloise. What is also known is a great war was waged and in the end the terror of it forced nearly all people to migrate east into the Flanaess.
The Oerdian people fled the wars and began to lay the foundation of the Great Kingdom in the east. And in the end the Seul mages cast a spell called the Invoked Devastation and destroyed the Baklunish Empire. In retribution the surviving Baklunish mages and priests gathered at the Holy Site of Tovag Baragu and called down the Rain of Colorless Fire, destroying the Seul.
Many Baklunish remained in what was left in the West. But except for the Kingdom of Zeif the Baklunish lands were transformed into the Dry Steeepes. All that remains of the once great empire are the stones of Tovag Baragu. Standing in what was once a capital. This magical place is called the Naval of Oerth and no one knows its secrets. Held holy by the Dervishes of the Steppes, it is protected at all times.
The Seul emperor led the Seul west, out of the wasteland of their former glory…now called the Sea of Dust. To this day the Sea of Dust ripples with magical energy. The destruction of the Baklunish empire was thorough, almost no cities remain, although the Dry steppes are habitable. And although explorers sometimes find Seul cities in the Sea of Dust, only madmen go there. Some Seul vanished at the edge of the Northeastern Sea, some crossed it to the Lendor Isles and the Hold of the Sea Princes, Some went south and vanished and some stayed in the north and became the Frost Barbarian tribes still there today.
So the great migrations began. And the fully recorded history of Oerth began in -470 CY with the Oerdian founding of the Great Kindgdom. An empire that spanned from the far Eastern shores of the continent of Oerik to the doorstep of a small trading area that was growing rapidly into a town and would eventually become the greatest city in the world.
The Elven Kingdoms
Still devastated from the fight with Vecna nearly a thousand years before, the slowly repopulating Elves fell into Four groups, not counting the hated Drow. There were the High Elves. They had a kingdom near but not in the Vesve Forest and freely associated with humans. There were the scholarly and isolationist Grey Elves on the south eastern edge of the Great Kingdom in the forest kingdom of Celene. The Sylvan or wood elves, the common elves in the forests And there were the barbarian Grugach living in the forests of Oerth, primarily the Vesve and Gnarly forests.
The Free City of Greyhawk
In -319 CY a record emerges of a city being built in an area frequented by grey hawks. It specialized in wood trade and garment making. Soon the City of Greyhawk was fully established. As a part of the Great Kingdom of the Oerdian people, Greyhawk rose to be the greatest city in the world. But as the Overkings became too cruel and demanding, the people of Greyhawk began to distance themselves from the Kingdom. In 310 CY after just short of 600 years of Oerdian rule, Greyhawk broke away from the Great Kingdom proclaiming its’ independence.
The Great Kingdom would have crushed the city, had it not been for 10 years of infighting on other issues. As they waited, Greyhawk prospered and grew. They elected a mayor. He was a quiet man who knew how to get what he wanted from the ruling council. A brilliant man who was a mage and seemed content to let the city do what it did and grow. So onto the stage of history enters Zagig Yragene: Pirate mage of the Wild Coast, Lord Mayor of Greyhawk, Protector and Defender of the realm…and (unknown until years later) bat shit insane mage and demi-god.
Zagig knew of something deeply dangerous dwelling in the world: A being born of the Demon Orcus and an Elemental Human witch; Iggwilv. This creature, named Iuz, began to raise an army. Zagyg (now spelling his name with a Y for fun) fought him and secretly imprisoned him in Castle Greyhawk, Zagyg’s fun house twisted, cartoonishly absurd castle.
Under the Mad Archmage, the Free City prospered like never before. But as he became increasingly insane it became harder to enjoy the prosperity. From mostly harmless ideas like pant-less Godsday to insane actions like building elemental walls of Fire, Rain, Living rock and magical hurricane, Zagig, now Zagyg…had lost his mind. So when he vanished in 489 CY everyone breathed a sigh of relief. However had they know the reason for his disappearance they would have not been so happy, and that they known the result of an unmaintained Castle Greyhawk, they would have been terrified.
It turns out that it is not so easy to kill the Archlich, first of the undead kings, Lord of Whispers, Maimed one, Whispered Lord and Vile serpent of lies. Who knew. But Vecna, the ancient enemy of Elves and men rose again in the Flanaess. Zagyg assembled a band of adventures and manipulated them into stopping the lich lord from gaining full power. Now a lesser God who could live on Oerth and was no subject to the God pact, Vecna (like Zagyg) had few restrictions on what he could do. In the end he was gravely wounded and taken away by mysterious mists. The adventurers rejoiced, but Zagyg saw in those mists the ancient terror that had stalked the dreams of gods since the first days.
The Greyhawk Wars
Iuz the Old
Vatun, god of the north barbarians had been missing for years. Heroes of the north Barbarians assembled the legendary Blades of Corusk that could summon their god no matter where he was. And in a great ritual they summoned Vatun. Or at least they thought they did. A band of adventurers had foolishly let Iuz the Old out of the trap Zagyg had put him in, and the demon arrived disguised as Vatun. Scattering the swords to the four corners of Oerth, he took Vatun’s place.
Gathering power he soon controlled all the barbarian tribes and ordered them to invade the Duchy of Tenth and the County of Urnst. Since he controlled the tribes and the Hold of Stone Fist, Iuz made short work of the two small countries who were unprepared for invasion. The barbarians began to doubt their god and refused to follow him…but the lands were firmly in his grasp. Evil humanoid mercenaries, undead and minor fiends and demons had become the main force of the Old one’s army, he had no further need of barbarians.
Iuz returned to his former home in Furyondy and seized power. In the capitol of Dorakaa in 583. During his absence, his chaotic empire had already begun to disintegrate. Iuz responded by executing the exiled Furyondian nobles who had been his vassals and replacing them with things from the Abyss—nabassu, cambions, vrocks, hezrou, and mariliths.
On the night of the Blood Moon Festival of that year, Iuz struck against the Hierarchs of the Horned Society ( a group of evil priests who worshiped Nerull, the god of death) his agents slaughtering all but two of them (who were away at the time) and adding the Horned Lands back to his growing empire. With the hobgoblin warriors of the former Horned Society bolstering his own troops, Iuz swept into the Shield Lands in the Flocktime of the following year. Perhaps the Shield Lands could have resisted, but they refused to allow the Furyondians to aid them, fearing re-annexation by their former Furyondian rulers. The Shield Lands were conquered, and Iuz moved on to the borders of Furyondy. Worse yet for the forces of Good, Iuz had managed to acquire an alliance with Ket, who had long born a grudge against the peoples of the Sheldomar Valley. With Ket flanking them on one side and Iuz attacking on another, the defenders were hard pressed to resist. At the same time, Lolth manipulated hordes of giants into invading Geoff and Sterich, distracting the peoples of the Sheldomar still further.
Somehow, despite losing much of its northern territories and the Vesve, Furyondy managed to hold. With tens of thousands of his troops slain, Iuz agreed to the sign on to the Pact of Greyhawk. He would consolidate his gains for a time before striking anew. Before this could happen, however, Iuz’s armies were hobbled by the Crook of Rao, directed by Canon Hazen to perform a miracle no one, least of all Iuz, had dreamed it capable of. The vast majority of the fiends in Iuz’s armies were banished for a hundred years. After the Flight of Fiends, as it became known, many of Iuz’s generals and subjugated populations rebelled. Furyondy gained back most of its territories in what was named the Great Northern Crusade, and Iuz neglected the Rovers of the Barrens and the Bandit Kingdoms to war against Furyondy. But other forces had been at work and Iuz was not the only front in the Greyhawk wars.
The Scarlet Brotherhood
In the summer of 573 CY, few save the vigilant elves of Sunndi had insight to the peoples who populated the Tilvanot Peninsula, south of the Vast Swamp. On that year, seafaring merchants from the Lordship of the Isles first reported signs of civilization there. These newly discovered individuals, apparently a sophisticated order of militaristic monks, called themselves the “Scarlet Brotherhood,” and they did not appreciate the Lord’s ships alighting their coast. These reports brought a great deal of interest to the peninsula, and several agents were sent, on behalf of neighboring governments, to determine the nature of this new found monastic order. None of these agents returned. When further information had been gathered, the curious rulers still had little information with which to content themselves.
It was known that the residents of this land possessed largely Suel ancestry and that their society was carefully monitored by silent men in red robes. These men seemed to act as both police force, religious advisers and government, though the exact forms of these, such as which religion these priests adhered to, remained a mystery. The Scarlet Brotherhood, as a nation, was fiercely distrustful of non-natives and conducted little, if any, trade with outside nations.
In time, it was learned that their society, at least around the coasts, was strictly agrarian, with single plantations farming several hundred acres of arable land. These people seemed to be a simple folk, sheepherders and raisers of livestock. Many advisers to the courts of Idee, Sunndi and others suggested leaving these simple folk as an enigma. After all, they offered, the bulwark of the Vast Swamp provided ample protection from invasion. Logic, however, eventually won the day.
Information gathering in the lands of the Scarlet Brotherhood (as the nation itself began to be called, though a considerable amount of information suggests that they themselves refer to the nation as the “Land of Purity”) was a case study in frustration. For instance, spies were able to detect that the Brotherhood itself was led by an enigmatic man known as the Father of Obedience. The Brotherhood preached a doctrine of Suel superiority, a message the populace took up with pride. It was suggested by many that the Brotherhood (which sanctioned only strictly arranged marriages and births) had initiated extensive breeding programs in Hesuel Ilshar, with the intent of purifying the racial strain of the Brotherhood lands. Rumors flowed of the Father of Obedience’s wishes of an Oerth-wide conquest in which all but the most pale of skin would be eradicated.
Again, this settled poorly with the rulers of the surrounding lands, and many suggested bringing arms against their southern neighbors. Latmac Ranold, in fact, advocated a plan of raid and pillage, suggesting several methods by which the strain of the Brotherhood might become “impure.” In all instances, however, cool-headed advisers restrained their leaders from action. “Without a navy,” they opined, “the Brotherhood is no threat to us.”
It took several years for the Scarlet Brotherhood to prove those advisers wrong. It is not known how the Brotherhood managed to get a party of men to the Pomarj, but their existence there was revealed in the last days of Flocktime, 580 CY. After a siege that had lasted nearly two months, the forces of Prince Olinstaad Corond of Ulek sacked Strandkeep Castle, in the Drachensgrabs. The key to any effective invasion of the Pomarj on the western front, Corond thought to encounter legions of euroz and jebli and was surprised to be met by human spellcasters, ogres and trolls.
During the Greyhawk Wars, the Scarlet Brotherhood established itself as a major victor. In a matter of months, entire nations fell to that order’s assassins. It was revealed that the advisers of many of the royal courts of the Flanaess had been Brotherhood agents, giving their leaders poisoned advice from the beginning. Some nations, such as Sunndi, the Sea Barons and most notably, Irongate, discovered this ruse in time to save their governments. Others did not.
Where guile and deception failed to win the day, the monks of the Scarlet Sign employed brute force. The Hold of the Sea Princes, already weakened by the murder of 27 of its nobles in a single night, saw hordes of “savages” from the Amedio Jungle unloaded into their lands by ships bearing sails of Scarlet. At one point, captured Sea Princes ships were made to attack the Keoish port of Gradsul, though Uleki assistance rebuffed the effort. In the captured lands—Idee, Onnwall, the Lordship of the Isles and the Hold of the Sea Princes—Scarlet Brotherhood agents now hold nearly every position of power.
The Fall of the Great Kingdom
Ivid V, last Overking of the Great Kingdom was born in 532 or 533 CY, the second son of Ivid IV. To solidify his position as heir to the throne, Ivid murdered 122 of his siblings, until only his elder brother remained. The two spent many years waging a war of intrigue and assassination in their prison-palace until the younger brother finally prevailed. Ivid V would eventually gain the Malachite Throne in 556 CY by hiring one of his father’s concubines to pour acid in the overking’s ear.
Ivid V rule was brutal. His madness and evil devastated the society that it had taken hundreds of years to build. In 582 CY, Ivid ordered the invasion of Nyrond and Almor, perhaps hoping that wars abroad would distract the people from the increasing unrest at home. With all the resources of the Great Kingdom, Ivid’s armies ought to have been able to crush their foes, but Ivid was distracted with punishing trivial affronts and, although Almor was destroyed, managed to fight Nyrond only to a draw. After the wars, Ivid decided to ensure the obedience of his nobles by transforming them into undead loyal to him; instead, these embittered creatures simply retreated to their own lands and defied him. When an assassin struck him with a poisoned and enchanted dagger, Ivid himself was transformed into an undead creature called an animus in order to preserve his rule. Something failed in the process, however, and Ivid is still prey to the same wasting disease that he suffered from when he was alive. Ivid the Undying continued to die by the day. In 586 CY, Ivid’s capital of Rauxes disappeared in a magical conflagration. Ivid’s fate is unknown.
Baklunish During the War
During the war only the Baklunish of Ket did anything significant during the war, by siding with Iuz. But in Zeif and the lands of the Tiger and Wolf Nomads they stayed removed from the war. After the migrations thousands of years ago the Baklunish engaged in unprecedented peace. Under the guidance of their god, Al’Ackbar, they lived in peace. They always hold Istus, the Lady of Fate, in a place of high honor.
The Pact of Greyhawk, The end of the wars and Betrayal
At the close of 584 CY, of all people, the Scarlet Brotherhood began spreading word of peace. They feared losing what they had gained and strongly desired time to plan. Since very few still knew of them (since many of their conquests were puppet governments) They arranged for a treaty to be signed In Harvester of 584 CY in the Free City of Greyhawk. Greyhawk had been untouched by the wars. Also it was home to the most powerful group of mages in the world — The Circle of Eight, keepers of peace and seekers of truth. The Day of the Great Signing came. But something happened in the Grand Hall where the peace treaty was to be signed.
No one knows exactly what happened, but apparently after a magical battle ensued through Old City two members of the Circle of Eight were dead, unable to be resurrected, their clones destroyed. Otiluke and Tenser. It is said that one of their own, Rary of Ket turned traitor for unknown reasons slaying two of his own. Rary fled with Lord Robilar to the Bright Desert. Why this occurred, no one knows for sure. The delegates hastily signed the treaty…hoping for no other incidents.