Authors: Jim Greenfield
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Be welcomed to this place called Landermass! Breathe in the fresh cool air of Amloth, the warm most air of Cathar, the turbulent air of Anavar, the thin air of Kolstaar and the dry air of Ryammar. These lands comprise the major continents of Landermass and host the majority of the varied peoples of this world. The Altenguds created the first peoples and shepherded the land. Later came the Jungeguds and they kneaded the land to their purposes. The people of Landermass survived, thrived and held their own against the gods. But the Jungeguds never tire of meddling with mortals.
The peoples of Landermass have been cursed with the light and the dark of the gods that created them. Altenguds created most races; Zidar, Men, Anethean, Daerlan and Tuors. The Jungegud Moruga, called the God of Twilight, created the Celaeri. Moruga was the only Jungegud to create a major race of Landermass. Most of his brethren did not possess the patience nor was their purpose to create. Moruga found a way to create the Celaeri with their pale blue skin and talent to rival the Daerlan. However, the Altengud Dwallond created the Daerlan and Dwallond's love of Landermass shone from the Daerlan, not so with the Celaeri.
From Gerrand's Histories of Landermass.
The memories of a vanished race still cling to the land where they dwelt and shades of forgotten people reach out to infect intruders, setting a darkness within them that time cannot shake. Ian Greyrawk sat on the outer wall of the crumbled ruins of Castle Greyrawk in the northern part of the kingdom of Cresida on the eastern side of Amloth. He turned his head as he listened to the soft voices of his dead ancestors that dwelt amongst the fallen stones. The ruins perched atop a large hill, called Greyrawk Mountain by the people of Cresida. Long ago it was called Adan's Hill by a forgotten people. The hill provided a view of the land in all directions, a commanding position for a castle that had housed the Greyrawk clan for generations. Greyrawk looked around him, trying to recognize some feature of the land from his boyhood. A light mist surrounded the hilltop and the weak sun did not chase away the damp chill. He pulled his cloak tighter again. The hill had grown wild now; no one tended it as he remembered. Vines threaded their way through the tumbled stones and bricks overrunning what man had built. From a distance, the shape of the castle had been difficult to discern; the hill had reclaimed it. Up close, he could make out the shape of the tower he lived in with his parents during the last years of the castle. Most of the rest of the castle appeared as mounds of grass and shrubs. Almost four decades had passed since he had seen the castle. He had been a child then and the castle had still stood although in failing repair. He remembered how his grandfather, Lord Aryar Greyrawk, sat in his carved chair holding his sword. The sword was longer than the height of the small boy that admired it. The blade felt cold and hard to the boy, but the metal would sing when his grandfather swung it. The curved handle seemed far too long for him to hold and later the boy learned it was a two-handed blade. Strange creatures were carved on it and a pale blue jewel was set in its hilt. War was coming and Greyrawk and his mother were sent far away to the south. Months later, the word came of the castle's fall. Grandfather was dead and Greyrawk's father was a prisoner. Months went by without a word, and then one day his mother held him tight and cried herself to sleep. He never heard her speak of his father again.
Greyrawk and his mother stayed in the south with her relatives. Greyrawk grew up among cousins but was aloof and eager with his fists. He joined a group of mercenaries and fought throughout the southern lands of Cresida and the northern part of Anavar accumulating enough wealth to buy land. His mother died. After many years, the yearning to see Castle Greyrawk returned. He tried to stay at home but the pull of Castle Greyrawk was too strong. He sailed the narrow strait between Anavar and Amloth, riding northward into Cresida.
He looked down on the terrain surrounding the castle. Lush farmlands and rolling hills led to the forests of the north. To the west, a forest broke the wind off the sea. To the East many small castles dotted the horizon and to the southwest a larger one sprawled amongst the town of Gornst. That was Belderag Castle; a hideous octopus of a castle reaching throughout the center of the town. It was also an appropriate description for the man dwelling within: Lord Dacu Belderag. Greyrawk's thoughts on the man that murdered his grandfather were central to his return. Belderag led the battle to oust Lord Greyrawk from his seat of power. Rumor held that Belderag, who was barely out of his teens, killed Lord Aryar Greyrawk sword to sword. Then Belderag claimed all Greyrawk possessions.
As he got older, Greyrawk's thoughts turned more to the circumstances that separated him from his father and grandfather. He needed to put the past behind him, but it floated loose and elusive before him. Aryar Greyrawk was peerless with the sword and even at his advancing age, there were few men who dared cross swords. However, all Greyrawk had were stories handed down by servants and cousins and none of them witnessed the events. His mother gave him no information about his grandfather and very little about his father. Perhaps he began a quest to find out who he really was. All Greyrawk knew was he felt compelled to return to Castle Greyrawk. His wife Jaele had noticed his restlessness and suggested he travel to Cresida and see the castle. Perhaps that would stop the whispers in his mind.
The day was passing and the air was noticeably cooler. He decided it was time to find lodging. He did not know anyone in the area. He remembered some names, but many had died over the years. Friends of his grandfather and father may not be so eager to welcome him with the iron fist of Belderag hanging over them. His would have to find an inn, perhaps even ride into Gornst to find one.
He descended the steep path and saw movement at the valley floor. A rider stopped on the path below him and shouted to him. Greyrawk moved closer. The man rode up to him noting Greyrawk's wide shoulders and the war sword. Greyrawk's dark hair settled on his shoulders and he wore his beard short and neat to minimize the white streaks of hair. The man halted several paces away.
"This land belongs to Lord Belderag. What business do you have here?"
"Just visiting my childhood home."
"Who are you, stranger?" asked the older man. "No one has lived there for years." His clothes were neat but cheap, a serving man. He wore only a short sword and carried no shield. He was a generation older than Greyrawk but his tunic still bulged with muscle. Something about the man calmed Greyrawk and he spoke freely.
"I am Ian Greyrawk, returned from the south. Who are you, stranger?"
"Ian Greyrawk! This is news. My, what an imposing figure you are now. Time has got up to me and passed me right by. I remember a toddler named Ian clear as I'm standing here. You were always following me around, disrupting my metal craft. I am Colin Festin; I once served your grandfather."
"I remember you Master Festin. Blacksmith weren't you?"
"Still am. For Lord Belderag now. I'm afraid I am bound to tell him of your presence."
"Do so. I am merely visiting ghosts. I have no intention of staying."
"Well, Lord Belderag will be glad of that, but I can tell you there are others including myself who would be disappointed if you left again. It is not right, not having a Greyrawk watching over us. If you have a mind to stay a bit, visit Lord Nunderburg just north of here about fifteen miles. Tell him I sent you."
"I appreciate your words, Master Festin. For now, I shall linger here. Tell your Lord I shall be gone by the morrow."
"I shall. Did you know you look like him? In the eyes and mouth mostly."
"Aryar, your grandfather. Lord Belderag would have a start, seeing you with your pale skin and grey eyes. He would think Aryar had come for revenge."
"If you have a moment, tell me about the fall of this castle. I was so young and heard very little."
Festin shifted in his saddle and stared at the hill, his eyes seeking the past.
"It was a sad end to this place. Your grandfather fought valiantly but too many allies switched sides. Some switched for money, some for fear. Many of them later regretted their decisions. Some took their regret to their graves and their sons now reject the choices of their fathers. Lord Nunderburg is such a man. Still, the numbers against your Grandfather were overwhelming. He sent back many a defeated war leader to Lord Belderag but there were just too many allied against him. Your grandfather had to ride out against his enemies - the stores in the castle were running out. He could no longer feed those trapped with him in the castle.
"Your father rode against Lord Belderag too, but an arrow took him down and he was dragged away. When I went into service with Lord Belderag I looked for your father, but never did I find any trace. He was not in the dungeons. His name was not spoken. I heard rumor of a lower level of dungeons but could not learn anymore about it."
"Thank you for your loyalty, Master Festin. If my father were alive, he would be seventy years old. I cannot imagine him surviving over thirty years in such a place. How did my grandfather die?"
"Lord Belderag came at the end and killed your grandfather sword to sword in a tremendous fight. The battle should not have been equal, but Lord Greyrawk was tired and his leg ailing. He would not have been a match for many men then, but Lord Belderag's heralds proclaimed the victory as if Belderag killed a Lord Greyrawk who was still in his prime. All summer his heralds crossed the land building up his prowess as a swordsman."
"He is not skilled?"
"He wasn't then. He was young and hotheaded. Now he is no longer young, but his sword skill is better. I daresay you appear to be handy with a sword."
"I have some skill. What happened to Grandfather's sword?"
"It hangs in the Great Hall at Castle Belderag. Belderag still enjoys pointing it out to his guests."
"I see. Why did you say it didn't seem right not having a Greyrawk watching over the land?"