The Council of 8
The World of Greyhawk
THE PATH OF HISTORY
The commonly understood history of the Flanaess begins just over one thousand years ago, when the great conflict between the ancient Suloise and Baklunish empires forced massive migrations eastward across, around, and even under the western mountain ranges. This resulted in the mixture of races and cultures that defines the modern Flanaess.
Tales of the era before the migrations are fragmentary and poorly understood. Did monstrous creatures rule Oerik before the advent of humanity? Did the great races of humans, elves, dwarves, and the like arise by fiat of the gods or journey here from elsewhere? Did the elves raise humanity to civilization, or did humans achieve this on their own? Did the Flan once have their own empires and civilizations? Who built the oldest tombs in the Cairn Hills, the half-buried ruins in the Bright Desert, or the deserted stone cities in the Griff Mountains? Where were the fabled realms ruled by Johydee, the Wind Dukes of Aaqa, Vecna the Whispered One, the High Kings of the dwarves, or the elven King of Summer Stars? What became of the mysterious Isles of Woe, and who dwelled there? No one knows with any certainty.
Even histories of the early years of the migrations are unclear on many points. The Oeridian tribal realm of Thalland was so thoroughly absorbed by the kingdom of Aerdy that it survives only in name as the Thelly River. The ancient kingdom of Ahlissa, ruled by the Flan and easily conquered by Aerdy, is known today only for its founding wizard-queen, Ehlissa the Enchantress, and a magical nightingale she made. (The Flan here have almost vanished through intermarriage.) So it goes for much of recorded time.
What is presented here is a history of the land accepted by most learned authorities and understood by almost anyone with a rudimentary education. The current time is the Common Year (CY) 597, which is also 1241 OR (Oeridian Record), 6112 SD (Suloise Dating), 5059 OC (Olven Calendar), 3256 BH (Baklunish Hegira) and 2747 FT (Flan Tracking).
DISASTER AND MIGRATION
The root cause of the animosity between the Suel Imperium and the Baklunish Empire is lost in time, but the end result of their final war haunts even the modern day. After decades of conflict, the Suloise Mages of Power called down the Invoked Devastation upon the Baklunish, resulting in an apocalypse so complete that its true form remains unknown. Entire cities and countless people were purged from Oerth, leaving few signs of the great civilization that thrived from the Sulhaut Mountains to the Dramidj Ocean.
In retaliation, a cadre of Baklunish wizard-clerics, gathered in the great protective stone circles known as Tovag Baragu, brought the Rain of Colorless Fire upon their hated enemies. The skies above the Suel Imperium opened, and all beings and things beneath this shining rift in the heavens were burned into ash. So terribly did these attacks plague the world that they have come to be called the Twin Cataclysms, a term understood by nearly every resident of the Flanaess. The Dry Steppes and Sea of Dust are geographical reminders of this unbridled magical power, now lost to all people—perhaps for the better.
Thousands survived the early years of the Suel-Baklunish conflict by fleeing east over the Crystalmists. The Oeridians, a confederation of barbaric tribes in close proximity to the warring empires, took the wars (and attendant raids from orc and goblin mercenaries in the employ of both sides) as a sign to migrate eastward in search of their ultimate destiny. They were the first large group to enter the lands of the Flan, which they termed the Flanaess.
Suloise refugees soon followed, sometimes working with the Oeridians to pacify the land, but more often warring with them over which race would dominate it. For over two centuries, Suel and Oeridian fought for control of the region from the Crystalmists to the Solnor Coast. Many Suloise were debased and wicked, and they lost most of these battles and were pushed to the periphery of the Flanaess.
Though some Baklunish folk migrated eastward, many more fled north toward the Yatil Mountains, or to the shores of the Dramidj Ocean, where their ancient cultures flourish to this day. The very nonhuman mercenaries the Oeridians had sought to avoid found themselves swept up by these migrations. Many of the foul creatures that now plague the Flanaess arrived following the Oeridians and Suel. These renegade mercenaries trailed after human migrants in search of plunder, food, and slaves.
KEOLAND AND AERDY
The most successful union of Suel and Oeridian came in the Sheldomar Valley, where Keoland was founded eighty years after the Twin Cataclysms. The Suel Houses of Rhola and Neheli joined with Oeridian tribes on the banks of the Sheldomar and pledged themselves to mutual protection and dominion of the western Flanaess, an agreement that set the course of history for the region for the next nine centuries. Of all the new realms formed during those tumultuous days, only Keoland remains.
Farther east, the most powerful of all Oeridian tribes, the Aerdi, reached the Flanmi River. From there they spread outward again, conquering indigenous peoples and fellow migrants alike. In time, the kingdom of Aerdy ruled the whole of the eastern Flanaess and moved its borders westward. One hundred and ten years after the defeat of the last meaningful threat to Aerdi sovereignty, at the Battle of a Fortnight’s Length, the leader of Aerdy was crowned as overking of the Great Kingdom. Overking Nasran also marked the birth of a new calendar, and with the Declaration of Universal Peace, the sun arose in the east on the first day of the first Common Year. The writ of imperial Aerdy eventually encompassed holdings as far west as the Yatils, controlling the southern Nyr Dyv with a small garrison at an insignificant trading post known as Greyhawk.
From 213 CY on, the Aerdi overkings grew lax, caring more for local prestige and wealth than for the affairs of their vassals in distant lands. This period was called the Age of Great Sorrow. As each sovereign passed, he was replaced with a more dimwitted and less competent successor, until the outer dependencies of Aerdy declared their independence. The viceroyalty of Ferrond led the way, becoming the kingdom of Furyondy. Other regions also broke away from the ineffectual government of the overking over time, creating their own governments after achieving success in their wars of rebellion.
By 356 CY, the ruling dynasty of Aerdy, the Celestial House of Rax, had grown especially decadent. In response, the western province of Nyrond declared itself free of the Great Kingdom and elected one of its nobles as king of an independent domain. Armies gathered from all loyal provinces of Aerdy to suppress this brazen act. At this time, however, barbarians from the Thillonrian Peninsula raided the Great Kingdom’s North Province, forcing the overking to divert troops from the western front. Nyrond easily survived and thrived.
The Kingdom of Keoland awoke from a long slumber in the third century, expanding to dominate its neighbors. This short-lived Keoish empire lasted almost two centuries before far-flung wars and internal strife laid it low. The outer dependencies declared their autonomy, and Keoland resumed its peaceful isolation
THE IVIDS AND IUZ
The darkest chapter in the history of Aerdy began in 437 CY. In this year, the upstart House Naelax murdered the Rax overking, inaugurating a series of gruesome civil wars called the Turmoil Between Crowns. Within a decade, Ivid I of Naelax was recognized as the undisputed overking of all Aerdy. As Ivid was rumored to be in league with powerful evil Outsiders, the Malachite Throne of the Great Kingdom became known as the Fiend-Seeing Throne, and the once mighty and upright empire became a bastion of evil and cruelty.
The lands of the Flanaess soon became acquainted with an altogether less subtle form of evil with the rise of Iuz, in the Northern Reaches loosely aligned with Furyondy. In 479 CY, a minor despot in the Howling Hills left his domain to his “son,” a being known as Iuz. Within a handful of years, Iuz had conquered his neighbors, setting up a small realm for himself. Tales told by refugees entering Furyondy spoke of unmitigated evil: Iuz was building a road of human skulls from the Howling Hills to his capital, Dorakaa. Worse, divinations and rumors marked Iuz as the offspring of an unholy union between necromancer and demon; he was seen to be a half-fiend towering 7 feet in height, driven by a thirst for blood, destruction, and conquest.
Political struggles within Furyondy prevented the king from acting decisively in this period, when the evil of Iuz might have been permanently checked. Instead, the cambion lord flourished until 505 CY, when he appeared to vanish from Oerth. In truth, Iuz was imprisoned beneath Castle Greyhawk by the Mad Archmage Zagig Yragerne, former lord mayor of Greyhawk. In Iuz’s absence, orc tribes and disloyal former subjects squabbled for control of his lands, allowing the forces of weal to rest for a time.
Three developments kept Furyondy and its allies from complacency. First, part of Iuz’s leaderless realm soon broke away to be ruled by a nearly equal evil, the Horned Society.
Second, the notorious Horde of Elemental Evil arose, a collection of cultists and villains headquartered at a temple south of the town of Verbobonc. The Horde was the puppet of Zuggtmoy, Iuz’s abyssal consort, who instructed it in bizarre teachings at the behest of her absent lover. The Horde’s banditry was finally vanquished in 569 CY at the Battle of Emridy Meadows, where Prince Thrommel of Furyondy led forces from Furyondy, Veluna, Verbobonc, and other realms in victory and the destruction of the temple. Adventurers put down an attempted resurgence of the Temple of Elemental Evil in 579 CY.
Third, faithful orc and human servants of Iuz became zealots dedicated to their absent lord. In time, the leaders of these cults devoted to Iuz displayed magical power, igniting Furyondy’s worst fears. In 570 CY, a meddlesome warrior-adventurer named Lord Robilar freed Iuz from his imprisonment. Iuz returned to his lands more powerful and wicked than ever before, with an unholy priesthood leading his forces in his unholy name.
The years from Iuz’s return to the Greyhawk Wars (570–581) are often seen in retrospect to be the prelude to later conflict. Several destabilizing forces came into play, upsetting the old balance of power in the Flanaess. The most insidious of these powers was the Scarlet Brotherhood, a secretive monastic order first reported in 573 CY, the same year in which Prince Thrommel of Furyondy, hero of Emridy Meadows, vanished from the world.
Semiregular skirmishes between Aerdy’s South Province and Nyrond erupted into open hostilities in early 579, when Overking Ivid V made war against the so-called “Golden League” (Nyrond, Almor, and the Iron League). Though this dreary war lasted through to the end of 580, it resolved nothing except to drain the coffers and manpower of both Aerdy and Nyrond, leaving them weakened when continental war erupted in 583.
The ravaging of the Shield Lands by both the Bandit Kingdoms and Horned Society in 579–583 CY similarly served to weaken this entire region, leaving the Shield Lands in ruins. Iuz took note of this and made use of it in his grandiose plans for conquest.
An important though seldom noticed event took place in 581 CY, when an agent of Vecna, the Whispered One of ancient Flan legend, struck down the entire Circle of Eight. The Circle had acted subtly as a balancing agent for years, preventing any one power from dominating too much of the Flanaess. Though the Circle’s leader, Mordenkainen, returned his colleagues to life using powerful magic, the group was in disarray when war again erupted in the distant north in 582.
THE GREYHAWK WARS
In 582 CY, the god Vatun appeared to his subjects among the barbarian tribes of the Thillonrian Peninsula. Ancient legend predicted that the return of Vatun, who had vanished centuries ago, would signal the birth of a barbarian empire in the north. Unfortunately, this particular “Vatun” was actually Iuz, whipping the northmen into a war frenzy.
The barbarians invaded the Hold of Stonefist, which allied with them after Iuz ensorcelled Sevvord Redbeard, the Master of the Hold. The combined host then smashed through the Griffs and into the duchy of Tenh, which was swiftly overwhelmed. The barbarian alliance soon crumbled, but the damage was done: Tenh and Stonefist belonged to the Old One. Returning to his homeland, Iuz then conquered the Horned Society, Bandit Kingdoms, and Shield Lands in quick succession. Furyondy was invaded, and much of its northern territory was captured and laid waste. Iuz held the northern Flanaess in a death grip.
Taking advantage of the chaos, Ivid V ordered the Great Kingdom’s armies to muster, with the intention of paying back his foes for centuries of impudence. The war that followed was staggering in scope and consequence. Almor was utterly destroyed; Nyrond was invaded; Sunndi was conquered. The nobles of the Great Kingdom fell upon one another, terrified of their insane overking and eager to steal the lands of their neighbors. In the chaos, Medegia was despoiled and Rel Astra attacked by the Great Kingdom’s own military. Ivid attempted to ensure loyalty by having his generals and nobles assassinated and reanimated as intelligent undead (animuses), with all the abilities they possessed in life. He in turn was also assassinated, though the church of Hextor restored him to undead “life,” after which he became a true monster known as Ivid the Undying.
The madness of war bred more war. In 584, south of Greyhawk, a half-orc named Turrosh Mak united the vile nonhuman tribes of the Pomarj. Mak’s armies boiled north, conquering several of the cities of the independent Wild Coast, then capturing nearly half of the Principality of Ulek. The appeals of Prince Corond of Ulek to Yolande, the elven queen of Celene, fell upon uncaring ears. Celene closed its borders to even its most trusted allies, refusing to let elf blood fall in human wars. To the west, hordes of savage giants, spurred by an unseen power, descended from the Crystalmists to overwhelm the marchlands of Geoff and Sterich.
This same year, decade-old paranoia regarding the Scarlet Brotherhood came true, as advisers in courts throughout the Flanaess were found to be Brotherhood agents. The Lordship of the Isles, Idee, Onnwal, and the Sea Princes fell under the influence of the Scarlet Sign, from treachery or invasion. Barbarians from Hepmonaland and the Amedio Jungle were used to secure captured lands. The Brotherhood was revealed as an evil, racist order dedicated to preserving the culture and purity of the ancient Suel Imperium, without regard to the lives of others.
For three years, the whole of the Flanaess flew banners of war. Nations fell as new empires were born. Demons and devils from the Outer Planes were summoned en masse by Iuz and Ivid V, and hundreds of thousands of mortals died. Finally, the battle-weary combatants gathered in Greyhawk to declare peace. Harvester 584 CY was to see the signing of the Pact of Greyhawk, fixing borders and mandating an end to hostilities.
On the Day of the Great Signing, however, Greyhawk suffered a great treachery: Rary, one of the Circle of Eight, destroyed his companions Tenser and Otiluke in a great magical battle, then fled. Many suspected that the former Archmage of Ket had hoped to hold the ambassadors hostage, perhaps capturing Greyhawk itself in the process. Instead, he and his cohort, Lord Robilar, went to the Bright Desert to form their own kingdom. Fearing further disruptions, the delegates hurriedly signed the Pact of Greyhawk. Ironically, because of the site of the treaty signing, the great conflicts soon became known as the Greyhawk Wars.
The “Year of Peace” (585 CY) saw little of the sort. War raged in the Principality of Ulek against orc invaders from the Pomarj, and efforts to retake Sterich were initiated in the west. The Circle of Eight was brought to full membership once more and began acting against every power its wizards perceived as tyrannical or dangerous to the common welfare.
In the fall of 585 CY, King Archbold III of Nyrond was almost assassinated by his younger son, Sewarndt. Fighting erupted in the capital, but Archbold’s eldest son, Lynwerd, won the day, taking the throne in Fireseek 586. In 587, King Lynwerd incorporated much of ruined Almor into Nyrond, but he now struggles to maintain his tottering realm in the face of staggering difficulties.
In Coldeven 586, Canon Hazen of Veluna employed the Crook of Rao, a powerful artifact, in a special ceremony that purged the Flanaess of nearly all fiends inhabiting it. Outsiders summoned by Iuz, Ivid, or independent evils fell victim to this magical assault, which became known as the Flight of Fiends. King Belvor III of Furyondy quickly joined Canon Hazen in declaring the Great Northern Crusade, an ambitious military action aimed at regaining land lost to Iuz during the Greyhawk Wars. By the end of 588 CY, the armies of Furyondy had restored the nation, as well as Critwall and Scragholme Isle in the old Shield Lands. The destruction and debauchery revealed as Iuz’s agents fled sickened the crusaders. King Belvor declared eternal war upon the Old One, pledging to settle for nothing short of the complete destruction of Iuz himself. Raids against Iuz from Furyondy and the Shield Lands continue to the present.
Wars on the border of Iuz’s empire burned in the east as well. Iuz’s control over the ruler of Stonehold ended in 588. Swiftly afterward, a many-sided war began in Tenh, involving the mutually hostile forces of Iuz, Stonehold, the Pale, and Tenha expatriates. The war goes on today.
Immediately after the Flight of Fiends, it was announced in Rauxes that Ivid V was no longer overking, though it was unclear if he had actually died. Conflict engulfed the capital in a matter of hours as many of Ivid’s generals and nobles, filled with rage and ambition, marched upon Rauxes. No one can explain the events that followed, but the city itself was soon engulfed in a strange magical field. Few willingly approach Rauxes now, given the bizarre eldritch forces that prevail where the ruined city stands.
The provinces of the broken Great Kingdom are now reunited, but into two mutually hostile powers. In 586 CY, Grenell, Herzog of North Province, declared himself overking of the Great Kingdom of Northern Aerdy. Overking Xavener I rules the United Kingdom of Ahlissa (founded in 587) from his new capital of Kalstrand. Both leaders would like to destroy each other, but financial problems and internal power struggles have forced them to devote their energies toward rebuilding their armies and infrastructure. Sunndi, the largest surviving member of the Iron League, became a kingdom in 589.
The Scarlet Brotherhood gained much in the Greyhawk Wars but suffered later reversals. In 586, the people of Onnwal rose up against their occupiers, reducing the Brotherhood’s holdings to the capital, Scant. Idee was lost to Ahlissa in 587, and the Hold of the Sea Princes collapsed in a bloody civil war that began in 589 CY. Still, the Lordship of the Isles remains under the Scarlet Sign, and agents of the Brotherhood creep into courts across the Flanaess, sowing their evil plots.
The Flanaess today stands on the verge of a dynamic new age. The last decade has seen terrific wars, refugee migrations, the rise and fall of whole nations. The exploration of foreign lands is on the rise, trade is surging upward once more, and opportunities for heroism (and profits) are unlimited. The Flanaess awaits those who would seize its adventures and shape its future.