The Final Act
Scene 1: Sunset in the West
The madness of war bred more war. Added to the phalanx of forces poised to strike came a new force: the hitherto unremarked humanoid rabble of the Pomarj. In 584, united under a half-ore leader of greater strength than had been seen before, one Turrosh Mak, they strove to reclaim the “birthright” their new tyrant stressed to them: their old homes in the Lortmils. Mak’s armies boiled north, conquering several of the cities of the independent Wild Coast with their squabbling cities. Striking into lands poorly defended as the southern armies moved northward, Turrosh’s armies then capturing nearly the eastern half of the Principality of Ulek (now unaided by any neighbor).
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.
Mak’s armies were stopped at the Pass of Celene by brave dwarves, gnomes, humans, and a handful of elves furious at the unwillingness of Queen Yolande of Celene to help the main cause of good. But Turrosh was satisfied; his fief had swollen in size, and while stymied in further territorial ambitions, there was none to threaten him with retaliation.
To the north, Ket raiders beset Bissel, and the Ulek forces crucial to its defense dithered between defending that small state and protecting Furyondy against Iuz. Bissel was eventually forced to surrender by the fierce horsemen of Ket. This could have been avoided but for another fell stroke worse than the eruption of humanoids from the Pomarj. From the Crystalmist Mountains, great forces of giants and humanoids swept down into the Grand Duchy of Geoff, Sterich, and into the Yeomanry. In the latter, they were repulsed by peasant levies as worthy in battle as many seasoned veterans. Geoff and Sterich fell, the Keolandish armies too distant to oppose the invaders.
The giant troubles, as they were called, have been ascribed to all manner of evil scheming. Some sages say that the tanar’ri power Zuggtmoy, freed from her prison in the Temple of Elemental Evil by the meddling Lord Robilar, allied with Iuz and drew forth the giants via agents in the Underdark. Some say Lolth had her own schemes and her drow organized the giants. Still others see the hand of the Scarlet Brotherhood in this, as in so many things. The truth is obscured from our view. In this matter, Istus spun her web impenetrably. But the effect was to present the Keoland-Furyondy axis and its allies with threats from the west when they were beset in the north. It destroyed all possibility of sweeping back the forces of Iuz.
But Iuz was well defeated by Belvor of Furyondy, acting with the elves and rangers of the Vesve Forest, to prevent his drive into Furyondy from gaining any further lands, and Chendl was secured. The forces of Veluna held off Kettite incursions aimed at Mitrik. If good could not win, it held evil at bay.
Scene 2: Death of a Kingdom
Overking Ivid V decided to command his armies personally in the campaign of 584 CY, the greatest mistake he ever made. Paranoid virtually beyond the limits of mere insanity, the Overking’s assault on Nyrond was broken at the battle of Innspa where Aerdy forces were utterly routed. Ivid’s response was characteristic: he executed anyone involved in leading the armies. He executed more of his own nobles. He executed servants, sages, and serfs. Finally, Ivid V decided to create utterly loyal servitors among his generals and nobles. He expediently had them murdered and raised in unique undead forms; each was revived as an animus, an undead being possessing all the skills and talents of the former living person. With the logic of the terminally deranged, Ivid came to see this revivification as a reward for his favored courtiers.
Unsurprisingly, as Nyrond defeated Aerdy forces and their demented monarch offered them death and eternal restlessness as a gift, the nobles of the Great Kingdom schemed and plotted and had Ivid assassinated. Unfortunately for them, priests of Hextor (with fiendish aid, most agree) revivified Ivid who rose as an animus monarch. Executions were no longer enough for Ivid. Now he instigated wholesale massacres and genocide.
The North Province seceded, and with the aid of humanoids from the Bone March, succeeded in repelling Nyrondese forces in the Flinty Hills. Wisely, the Nyrondese held off from further massed battles, perhaps sensing the imminent scion did indeed trigger the complete disintegration of the Great Kingdom. Animus nobles across the land (and the few still living) withdrew all support and the remnants of their armies from the Overking. The Great Kingdom was no more; a welter of petty states, ruled by disputatious nobles (many of them undead), was all that was left. An empire that had stretched from Perrenland to the Aerdi Sea had been wholly expunged in less than four hundred years. Sic transit gloria mundi (or its Oeridian equivalent): “so passes away the glory of the world.”
Scene 3: Those Who Watch . . .
The biggest winners of the Greyhawk Wars were those who never fielded a force of their own people on the plains of battle. 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 Scarlet Brotherhood pursued their own ends by treachery, deceit, intrigues, magical compulsion, and strategies unused by others: the breeding of special monsters and the enslavement of so-called savages. When the Great Kingdom sought to exert its power in 583 CY, the Brotherhood did indeed support the Iron League secretly: with weapons, equipment, funds, advisors, and mercenaries. The Father of Obedience wanted a buffer between the Brotherhood and the mad Overking. But at the same time, Brotherhood agents undermined the unity of the League, and when the Great Kingdom fell apart, the Scarlet Brotherhood demanded the surrender of the Iron League states. When they refused, assassins slew nobles and rulers by the score.
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.
Far to the west, too, the Sea Princes capitulated to the unknown assassins of the Brotherhood, and as Onnwal and Idee fell to the fleets and Hepmonaland armies raised by the men in red, the Brotherhood secured an iron grip on the Azure Sea. The Lordship of the Isles, Idee, Onnwal, and the Sea Princes fell under the influence of the Scarlet Sign, from treachery or invasion. From the Sea Princes’ lands and ports, the Brotherhood even sought to take Gradsul, the vital southern Keolandish port, but were repulsed.
Not all of the old Iron League was lost. Wily Cobb Darg of Ironwall knew exactly where his support had been coming from, and had every Scarlet Brotherhood agent executed or exiled as Idee and Onnwal were falling. Sunndi still stood, its formidable natural defenses of hill, woodland, and swamp defying all attempts made against it. But the Brotherhood had time on their side. Alone of the major forces of the great wars, they were not spent. Not everything had to be achieved in one fell swoop. The Father of Obedience still had many agents in readiness.