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Against the Undying

Blackmoor

Map by Anna B. Meyer

Blackmoor

Blackmoor is boxed-in by the mountainous Land of Black Ice to the north; Blackmoor Bay leading into the Icy Sea to the east; the dangerous Cold Marshes to the south; and the pine and fir tree Burneal Forest to the west. In years past Blackmoor was a cold land with bitter winters but brief, three-month summers. However, recently the seasons have stopped, now it is an arctic storm always with far-below freezing temperatures, and moderate to strong breezes pushing the wind chill down even further. Because of the volcanic heat below the ground, calmer days result in thick fog covering the land. Gale-force blizzards with no visibility, or extremely frigid, foggy gloom with no visibility is commonplace.

This little-known land somehow escapes the eyes of both the Wolf Nomads and even Iuz. Its original capital, from which the land takes its name, is said to have been sacked and ruined many years ago, but below the ruins, extensive labyrinths still exist where men may find great treasures, magics, or madness and death. Neither the exact location of this city nor that of a reputed "City of the Gods," which is said to exist in Blackmoor, is known. The sparse population of the land is known to be fierce in combat and sometimes aided by monsters, which are plentiful in Blackmoor (some say that hot springs and volcanos make this land habitable and create fecundity in the monsters which maraud the land).

The expedition of Archmage Marinian of Willip was lost here without a trace in 577 CY. While the dangers of Blackmoor, both magical and mundane, maybe great in superstition and travelers' tales, the fact that not even Iuz seeks dominion here is telling indeed.

Far to the North, under the looming threat of the Black Ice, abides a country of legend. Between the stark expanse of the Icy Sea and the silent, towering evergreens of the Burneal Forest, this land overlooks and finally joins the Cold Marshes in a confluence of clinging mist and superstition. Here, on the very edge of the world, lies Blackmoor.

Once the furthest province of the Great Kingdom, this distant Archbarony somehow endured the centuries that saw Aerdy’s rise and fall. Now the Archbarony of Blackmoor stands alone.

Though the Wars that recently ravaged the rest of the civilized world never reached Blackmoor, it has felt after effects from those conflicts. Its modest trade with the lands to the south has been nearly abolished; a few straggling refugees from those same lands have been reluctantly accommodated by the suspicious natives; and a power that had avoided the Archbarony has finally found its malicious attention drawn to the north.

Iuz the Old has remembered the moors and their weird magic that rebukes his power. He keeps watch upon the borders of Blackmoor, but does not move against it, nor will he allow his priests to enter the land. For now the Archbarony is secure in its isolation, but the time may soon come when Blackmoor must confront the world beyond its borders.

History of the Land

At the time of the Great Migrations the moors north of the Cold Marshes were inhabited by the Tuocts, a Flannish people who dwelt in stockaded villages and built hill-forts on the rocky outcroppings protruding from the marshland. Here they led a simple existence: raiding, trading, feasting, and feuding amongst themselves under the watchful eye of their druids and bards. At established intervals, they would band together to make war with their primeval enemy, the Egg of Coot, or to campaign for a season against their distant kin from the Quagheath.

The steady cycle of their lives was first disturbed when Suel raiders swept across the Icy Sea to pillage along the coasts before returning home to Rhizia in late summer. Within a few years these Sea Barbarians, calling themselves Zeai, had made permanent settlements north of Blackmoor on the Brink Islands and along the Tusking Strand. Even with the addition of these immigrants, little changed in the north until the first Oeridian explorers and adventurers arrived in the Northlands a generation later. For the most part, these newcomers were ethnic Aerdi — individualists, rebels, or outcasts, who sought to escape the increasingly rigid society that would emerge in only a few years as the Kingdom of Aerdy.

These Aerdi pioneers began the tradition of castle building in the lands of Blackmoor. The first, called Castle Blackmoor, was built on a low hill overlooking Blackmoor Bay. The location had been used since time immemorial by the northern clans as their hill of testing, the site of their High-seat of Judgement. Duels, whether musical, magical, or martial, were conducted here under the authority of the Shalmist druids and bards. Contests were most often held within the ancient ring of standing-stones, but at times they might extend to the caverns beneath the hill where legend said the Ur-Flan sorcerers had enslaved fiends and powerful elementals. The first Castle Blackmoor was built over these ruins, and Oeridian lords ruled here even as the Kingdom of Aerdy saw foundation in the south. A village quickly grew up around this first castle, and soon other fortifications and settlements were built in the region.

Thus began an era of prosperity unlike any previously known in the North. New immigrants, dwarves, halflings, and a few high-elves among them, bolstered the existing populace, adding their influence to the emerging culture of Blackmoor. Though they arrived on the trail of the Oerid settlers, the immigrants soon established their own communities. At some point, an enclave of Wastrian cultists also appeared, taking up residence in the Cold Marshes, where they observed with disgust the racial cooperation fostered by the leaders of the new settlements and labored secretly to frustrate it. Nonetheless, the many different peoples of Blackmoor managed to work together over the next century to form a rugged but vital society.

This continued until, in the decades immediately preceding the institution of the Overking, a powerful new figure rose to prominence in Blackmoor: Ranial the Gaunt, Lord of Dantredun, Scion of Tenh and enemy of Great Kingdom. He unified the Blackmoor territory in opposition to the Aerdi aggressors from the south and through magic, he created the Crown of Blackmoor, and claimed sovereignty over the land and its people. He defied the might of Aerdy for several years, until his eventual defeat at the Battle of Toadwash. As his withered form sank into the marsh, the Great Kingdom’s army advanced on Castle Blackmoor, where they received the submission of the ruling baron. The march of Aerdy conquest had at last reached even this distant land. Blackmoor was first made a province of the Great Kingdom, and at the crowning of the first Overking saw its establishment as an Archbarony in the writ of Imperial Aerdy. Most of the Oeridian barons swiftly pledged loyalty to the Great Kingdom, but a majority of the Tuocts rejected Aerdy rule and withdrew into the Gloomfens and the Cold Marshes. Their lands were divided by the Archbaron, and they were left to rot in the bogs. Wastri gained many new followers in this manner, and his evil took deep root in the hearts of these impoverished natives.

For the next two centuries, Blackmoor was ruled as a hereditary Archbarony within the Great Kingdom. When the Viceroyalty of Ferrond formed in the early years of the second century CY, however, Blackmoor was excluded due to cartographical error. Though the mistake was discovered prior to the investment of the Viceroy, it was concealed to avoid any delay in the elaborate ceremonies already prepared. Blackmoor’s first shift toward independence was thus a matter of bureaucratic incompetence. The second step was taken at the end of the third century CY, after Perrenland, Furyondy, and Tenh had seceded from the Great Kingdom. Though no formal declaration was made, the Archbarony ceased to provide its symbolic tribute to the Overking. The matter was scarcely acknowledged in Rauxes. The final element completing separation from the Great Kingdom arrived on horseback in the early fourth century CY, when Nomad bands from central Oerik invaded the Flanaess and established themselves in the steppe-lands south of the Burneal Forest. For the next generation the trade routes to the Northern Reaches of Furyondy were effectively cut off by the unsettled hordes.

During this tumultuous period, the Crown of Blackmoor was reclaimed by the evil sorcerer Engren Erris, who became known as the Lich of Glendour. The humanoid inhabitants of Blackmoor flourished during his reign, and the human population turned markedly evil. He soon made war against the legitimate sovereign and while his forces besieged Castle Blackmoor, Wastrian cultists emerged from the marshes, driving their Quaggoth slaves to a killing frenzy against the demi-humans of Blackmoor. These bands massacred dwarves, elves, and halflings in the villages and hunted them through the countryside.

Yet a few brave souls resisted and fought against the multitude of evils that assailed Blackmoor from within. Among these rebels was found a leader who unified the resistance. She was Rua Morgaiste, the last living heir to the Archbaron of Blackmoor. She collected allies from the neighboring territories to aid in her fight; she made a truce with the Wolf Nomads, and even added some of their warrior bands to her army; she gathered free companies from throughout the North; and led them all to victory over the wizard-usurper.

Morgaiste thus became the first ruling Archbaroness and led Blackmoor for another six and a half decades. During her long reign, the Archbarony became one of the greatest countries in the North, with much influence in the surrounding lands. Toward the end of her regime, she even helped the peoples of the Quagheath and the Yatils form the nation of Perrenland.

Though she had ruled long and wisely, she left no heir upon her death, and the succession was again open to challenge. According to her wishes, her council was to decide the matter and rule the land in the interim. Many claimants presented themselves to the Baronial Council as candidates for the high office, including one sponsored by the Egg of Coot, but the Council chose Fadden of Dantrefaer.

He was confirmed as Archbaron after first being named Lord Conciliator of Blackmoor Castle, for the governing authority was retained by the Baronial Council. The Archbaron was to serve as a figurehead, though in return he received a generous stipend and a voice in the Council.

The reigns of four Archbarons passed in this way before the fifth and last Lord Conciliator of Blackmoor Castle, Pernold, lost his life in battle defending Blackmoor Town from the Egg of Coot’s invading army. The Egg’s forces sacked the town and razed the castle, but most of the Baronial Council retreated to the famous magical tavern of Blackmoor, the Comeback Inn, and sealed themselves inside. Though the magical defenses of the Inn could not be breached by the Egg, neither could the Council escape their confinement. It is possible that they still wait for rescue from without.

The Archbaron’s wife was more fortunate. She and a few of her staff and servants fled the town before it was captured, and passed through the dangerous fens with the assistance of the uncanny Tuoctish sorcerer, Tintyvo. This company arrived in Dantredun late the following spring, in time for the Archbaroness to give birth to Pernold’s only child, named Bestmo. Though Bestmo’s prospects would at first have seemed slight with the loss of his father’s castle, he was fortunate enough to be adopted as heir by the lord of Dantredun — though the baron of Dantredun passed away soon thereafter

The Archbarony Today

For the past 20 years, Bestmo has ruled Blackmoor from Dantredun, and without the assistance of the Baronial Council established by Morgaiste. Though the Egg of Coot remains his sworn enemy, the Archbaron has not yet made any definitive effort to recapture the town of Blackmoor. Yet he is ever diligent in his preparations; taxes are high and laws are harsh, so the Bastard of Blackmoor will have the might to defeat his foe when the time is right.

The Archbarony of Blackmoor is one of the few lands in the central Flanaess largely unharmed by the Greyhawk Wars. Its peoples have little contact with the outside world, for the outside world sees the Archbarony as having little to offer in return for the dangerous journey required to reach it. A few refugees from the Bandit Kingdoms and from Tenh have brought a slight increase to Blackmoor’s population in recent years. Most of these dwell in Dantredun or Glendour, though some have made their own settlements and holds within the Archbarony. Ironically then, the Wars that decimated so much of Greyhawk’s world have provided a minor boon for Blackmoor, which had not seen castle building for centuries before the turmoil of recent years.

Timeline of Blackmoor

  • 1,400 years ago … Flannish Tuocts peoples dwell north of Cold Marshes, fight the Egg of Coot.
  • 1,200 years ago … Suel barbarians raiders, the Zeai people, settle along Blackmoor Bay.
  • 800 years ago … Aerdi pioneers settle in Blackmoor, build Castle Blackmoor.
  • 788 years ago … Order of the Chroniclers formed, based out of Broomsage Abbey.
  • 400 years ago … The lich-lord Ranial the Gaunt of Dantredun seizes power, defies The Great Kingdom, creates True Trolls.
  • 390 years ago … Forces from The Great Kingdom destroy Ranial, Blackmoor joins Aerdy Empire.
  • 322 years ago … The Archbarony of Blackmoor becomes independent of The Great Kingdom.
  • 255 years ago … The Relentless Horde invades the far north of the Flanaess.
  • 201 years ago … The Lich of Glendour conquers Blackmoor.
  • 196 years ago … Wastrian cultists wage genocide on non-humans in Blackmoor.
  • 180 years ago … Rua Morgaiste overthrows the Lich of Glendour, becomes the first Archbaroness of Blackmoor.
  • 125 years ago … Rua Morgaiste dies, leaving no heir. Baronial Council to choose the next leader.
  • 100 years ago … Reign of Fadden of Dantrefaer as archbaron.

Over The Next 80 Years: Fadden and three others would lead as archbarons, always in a constant struggle against the Egg of Coot.

  • 60 years ago … Last actual sighting of the obsidian dragon Ignisvitrumsable in Blackmoor.
  • 43 years ago … Forces from the Egg of Coot take Blackmoor Castle; Baronial Council retreats into The Comeback Inn.
  • 25 years ago … Archbaron Bestmo begins rule from Dantredun, forms the Council of Speakers.

Over The Next 20 Years: Ongoing skirmishes with mutant creatures sent by the Egg of Coot as well as clashes with cultists worshipping Wastri, the god of amphibians, bigotry, and self-deception.

  • 3 years ago … Brost Bulem, "King of the Northern Orcs," leads his warband out of the Dragon Hills into Blackmoor, eventually seizing control of the city around Castle Blackmoor and driving out the chaos creatures summoning by the Egg of Coot.
  • 2 years ago … The Frostmaiden appears in The Frost Palace and slays the resident clergy of the winter god Telchur. The "Endless Winter" begins.

Statistics of Blackmoor

  • Ruler: His Luminous Preponderancy, Archbaron Besmo of Blackmoor.
  • Government:
  • Capital: Dantredun.
  • Major Towns: Dantredun.
  • Provinces:
  • Resources: Ivory, copper, gems (II).
  • Coinage: Same as the Great Kindom.
  • Population: 20,000 to 30,000.
  • Languages: Common, Orc, Cold Tongue.
  • Religions: Druidic traditions and Oeridian nature deities. Worship of other gods has waned in favor of mad calls for mercy and sacrifice to The Frostmaiden. Such prayers go unanswered.
  • Allies:
  • Enemies: Egg of Coot.

Major Settlements

Neighboring settlements were each founded a day's ride or two apart, and anywhere in Blackmoor could be reached by horseback in under a week. Now such rides are almost useless and isolated settlements require dogsleds or axebeak bird mounts to cross the icy terrain. On Blackmoor Bay, the port of Mosshold is frozen solid, but distant Tonnsborg remains open and oddly untouched by the great winter storms. On land, it takes a day to travel 25 miles with harsh overnight camping stays, and travel by flight is impossible over great distances.

Dantredun. The "new" capital of Blackmoor, the seat of Archbaron Bestmo's reign, and the largest settlement in the land. It survives by trade with the Weigwuir "wolf nomads" from the south and orc tribes in the Burneal Forest to the west. Its influence and command over other settlements are tenuous at best.

Castle Blackmoor. The "old" capital of Blackmoor, once a thriving port city but sacked by weird forces under command from the Egg of Coot more than 40 years ago. Long abandoned except for lingering summoned creatures, it was claimed by a tribe of orcs from the Dragon Hills just before the arrival of The Frostmaiden. The orcs allowed passage of merchant caravans through their claimed territory in exchange for high fees the invaders considered "taxes," but such trade has now stopped.

Glendoor. Blackmoor's second-largest city, it is home to the Rhymer's Asylum, a rare "Old Lore" college of bards. The settlement also has a dubious historical legacy for being the former home of a lich who seized control of the nation nearly 200 years ago. Despite his oppressive rule, natives of Glendoor still speak with pride about his egalitarian nature and his victory in repelling an invading cult of genocidal "humans first, humans only" racial supremacists.

Minor Settlements

Bittergreen March Camp. A fortified military outpost used by archducal patrols for watching against frost giants and activity from the Egg of Coot. Also used by trappers and tiger hunters who travel into the Burneal Forest.

Broomsage Abby. A monastery surrounded by a supporting village of laypeople. The "Order of the Chroniclers" monks there revere Cyndor, the Oeridian god of Time, Infinity, and Continuity, they refer to all locals as "The Numbered."

Dearthkettle Keep. Not a settlement per se, now more of a landmark as the last standing tower of an old fortress. The tribal Tuoctish fen-folk scattered around the surrounding Gloom Fens are said to have a centuries-old working relationship with its current inhabitants, a covey of hags. See below for a map of Dearthkettle Keep.

Fenrok-Tor. Druidic religious site of prehistoric standing stones. Like other sites of its kind found around Blackmoor, legends say Ur-Flan sorcerers used them to enslave fiends and elementals.
The Frost Palace. Formerly a temple to Telchur, an Oeridian winter god, it is believed to have been either taken over or destroyed by The Frostmaiden when she first appeared there two years ago. The perpetual winter storms are much more severe and deadly around this location, and the road through its location is completely impassible.

Mosshold. A fishing port that was in decline even before the arrival of The Frostmaiden two years ago.

Ramshorn Castle. Old fortress ruins now claimed by a group of immigrant exiles who brought their families north from The Bandit Kingdoms. Their leader is said to be a powerful wizard who has ambitions to lay claim as a baron if the archduke ever recognizes new titles of nobility.

Sablewood. A small lakeside village that focuses on cutting trees and shipping much-needed timber to the capital city.

Tonnsburg. A small coastal village of Zeai ethnic humans, decedents of ancient Suel barbarians. They are now hunters and traders specializing in ivory, amber, sealskins, and whale oil.

Beyond Blackmoor

Egg of the Coot. Stronghold of the mysterious being that has harassed and endangered the realm since before recorded history.

Frog Temple. Also known as "The Temple of the Toad," it is headquarters to the north's faction of Wastri cultists.

The Hunger. Marshlands to the southeast beyond "The Lost Army" hills, known to be the hunting grounds for the ancient dragon Ignisvitrumsable (aka "Ebonfrost"). The dragon has been seen in Blackmoor for six decades.

Map of Dearthkettle Keep [Click to Enlarge]

Dearthkettle Keep