The Salvation of Geoff
Meeting with Morwenna the Fair
It’s been a disastrous and woe-filled eight years. Sit, sit. If you want to know the story, we must do it proper. I won’t begin this tale with “once upon a time,” because I know exactly when it starts. At the celebration of Brewfest in the 2733rd year since the Stone Pillars were raised (what other people call Flan Tracking) or Common Year 583. The year the giants came down.
Peace faded with the summer season, and the mountains heavy with inhuman evil – CY 583
I have to admit that I was not at the Duke’s celebration at his palace. I was in Preston at the time, but I heard enough to know what happened. In the middle of the festivities, the Green Man appeared, proclaimed that a winter would fall over the land for half a score years, and promptly disappeared. For you outlanders, the Green Man is the personification of the land of Gyruff. He features prominently in many of our legends and myths.
Within days, word came that a large force of giants, ogres, and orcs was preparing to invade from the mountains. I doubt anyone would have believed this was possible, if a group of heroes didn’t bring back the detailed plans of the invasion. Giants raid and pillage, but they don’t organize, and they certainly don’t form armies.
Birthed death upon the land below, bringing flame, death, and ruin – CY 583
By the end of Patchwall, any doubts that Geoff was in dire peril were laid to rest as the hastily assembled army of Geoff met the giants and their allies at the horrific Battle of Pest’s Crossing in the western meadow lands. The army of Geoff fought well and honorably but was forced to retreat in the face of massive force wielded by the frost and fire giants. Knowing that we could not stand against such overwhelming odds alone, Grand Duke Owen sent pleas for aid to the court of the Dwarven Thane of Three Holds in the Crystalmists and to the court of the Wood Elven Prince in the Dim Forest. Called on again to see the message through, the heroes left Gorna and traveled into the mountains and into the forests, as Tikatown was overrun and burned.
Old alliances withered in the fires of war that ravaged our once fair land, – CY 583
But aid was not forthcoming. The dwarven thane had died days before Duke Owen’s message arrived, and the dwarves refused to send help until a new thane was chosen. The elves may have been more willing, but a horrific shadow beast descended into the very heart of the city of Derelion. This creature slew all before it – elf, and human alike. Many of the greatest of Geoff’s heroes died under the branches, as the shadow ate their life.
Panic and confusion set in, as West Town and Pregmere fell to the giants. Like most Gyric settlements, neither town was walled and could not stand against the onslaught. West Town was especially hard hit as the giants cut off the retreat of the residents. The giants ate long and well on the inhabitants at what some are calling the West Town Cookfires. Maybe one in four of West Town’s inhabitants escaped the horrific feast. I hope that the giants pay for their little feast. Oytmeet successfully resisted for a time when they collapsed the bridges across the Oyt River. But the giants filled in the river with large stones until they could walk across it. The Gyri fled south, but many were captured and their fates were all too predictable.
And mighty walls and tall towers could not staunch the tide of darkness – CY 583
The stone walls of Gorna held the horde at bay for most of Ready’reat, as Grand Duke Owen prepared a desperate last stand. But on the night before the attack, an assassin attempted to take the life of the Grand Duke. He was grievously injured, and many people speculated that he was dead. Attentions were distracted from this foul deed when, within an hour, the giants attacked. The army of Geoff and the heroes summoned by the Grand Duke fought a bloody battle through the streets of Geoff against the hordes. But little by little, they were forced to give way and retreat to the South Gate.
The heroes of Geoff stood their ground at the South Gate to give the remaining civilians a chance to flee the falling city. Their courage was holding the giants at bay just nicely, when the Duke’s Cavalry that was holding the outside of the South Gate pulled out of the melee and rode westward. No one knows why or where they went, but they doomed those inside the gate, as the giants closed around the heroes, sealing the South Gate. Cut off in all directions, the heroes fell one by one by one, fighting bravely to the last, as they collapsed under the weight of giant clubs, swords, and axes.
A few were able to survive. Only Pelor in the Heavens knows how. These joined the refugees who were using giant wagons to carry the wounded and infirm to travel east toward Hochoch. A large contingent of Longbowmen of Geoff fled west to the Hornwood. They purposefully drew hundreds of giants after them. There losses were staggering and the Longbowmen were decimated by the time they reached to forest. The Rangers of Geoff guided groups of refugees around giant search parties until they reached the Javan River and crossed to the opposite bank.
Several thousand refugees fleeing south from Midtown were not so lucky. They were caught by several parties of verbeeg giants at Hynwist’s Ford near Preston, where they were massacred from the oldest man to the youngest infant. The Javan River was tinged with red for a week following the catastrophe.
Hochoch fell by year’s end. Traps, ambushes, and lightning strikes by the Griffon Guard, the Longbowmen of Geoff, and the Rangers of Geoff slowed the giant’s advance to a crawl. By the time, they arrived at Hochoch, the city was empty and the citizens evacuated through the swamps into the Gran March. The soft ground of the fens confounded the giants, and their progress stopped.
Homeless and hopeless, we waited through the Winter of Wanting – CY 584.
Never was Needfest more aptly named, that in CY 584. The surviving Gyri counted our dead and our wounded. Our nation was little more than landless vagrants. Some few were able to escape with their belongings, but more had little more than the clothes on their back. With Duke Owen grievously injured, and the army shattered, only the presence of the surviving heroes of Geoff, and the handful of lords – Lady Blackblade and Lord Lea among them, kept our people from despairing.
The Gran March allowed us to spend the winter on their western borders. Commandant Magnus Vrianian and many churches brought food and clothing to us, but there were thousands of Gyri and never enough food. The nights were long and the cold as sharp as the hunger pains.
With the coming of spring came renewed activity. Duke Owen was taken into seclusion in Shilobeth, in the Gran March. Chancellor Galimar Withington acted as regent in the Court of Geoff in Exile for the absent Grand Duke.
A strange change had befallen Lady Blackblade over the winter. She had been a paladin before the invasion, but now she had taken a vow of humility and left the warrior path, refusing to wear even a dagger. She turned her skills to diplomacy and began lobbying Keoland and the Gran March for money, troops, and food to help the landless Gyri.
A few returned to our homeland to help those who were left behind – CY 584
As the snows melted, Lord Lea announced his intentions to go back to Geoff to rescue anyone he could from slavery and the giant’s cookpots. Many denounced it as foolishness, but Lea stated that he was going – alone if he had to. As he began walking back toward Geoff, many heroes joined him, include the entirety of the surviving Rangers of Geoff. I sent one of my younger and eager scops with them. I’d just slow them down, but someone should be there to see this tale.
Spring gave way to summer and Withington’s and Blackblade’s diplomacy paid off. The refugees from Geoff were offered land in the Gran March by Commandant Vrianian. The land was offered free of charge but was scattered throughout the March. Not wanting to face another winter like the last one, some Gyri took up the offer and scattered through the Marcher lands. We would find out later that there were strings attached to this generosity. Most Gyri stayed on the border in the camps, where they had planted small gardens and were hunting game for food. I stayed there with them, waiting for a chance to go home.
In the late summer, Cuthalion Strongbow returned with word that Lea and the other rangers had made contact with the elves in the Dim Forest. The wood elves were hurt and had been driven from their greatest city Derelion, but they still had possession of many of their small villages in the southern and eastern forest. The elves in the Oytwood and the Hornwood were still present to some extent, but were in sore need of help. Strongbow said that the three kins of the elves were bickering over where to concentrate their resources.
The first of the freed captives arrived in the Gran March in the autumn. Several rangers guided them through the marshes. They carried news that the frost giants had returned to their homes in the mountains in the spring of CY 584. Lea and the rangers remained in the Dim Forest continuing their missions.
While fickle fate toyed with us through a year of mixed blessings – CY 585
Due to heavy lobbying from Sterich knights and the lords of Keoland, the Knights of the Watch decided to focus their spring campaign on Sterich. This was devastating news for us, as Geoff would not be liberated this year, or maybe even the next. The Gyri living in the camps were heartbroken.
A sizable group within the Knights of the Watch disagreed strongly with the decision to focus on Geoff first. This group split from the Knight of the Watch to form the Knights from the Dispatch. This Dispatch refused to attend the Knights of the Watch’s annual meeting and instead began laying plans for a campaign into Geoff.
Proceeding without the dissident Knights of the Dispatch, the Knights of the Watch determined strategy at their annual meeting. In the early summer, the knights crossed the Javan River and began the re-conquest of Sterich.
Lea’s men escorted several hundred more freed captives to the camps. Very few were young children though. The former captives reported that the ogres and giants had a sweet tooth for the young. Also, the elves were feuding among themselves and getting messages to the king of the high elves in the Hornwood was very difficult.
That summer, the Gran March informed the Gyri who settled among them that they would be required to join the Marcher army and swear fealty to the Commandant. Withington and the Geoffian nobles were outraged by this demand, but Commandant Vrianian remained firm, stating that all Marchers are required to serve, why should the Gyri be different? The Geoffite settlers were upset by this turn of events, and some left their new lands and moved back to the refugee camps. Other agreed to the conditions.
Lady Blackblade met with another tremendous success when King Kimbertos Skotti of Keoland permitted us to settle in villages along his northern border under our own leadership. I think he did so to ease a guilty conscious for looking to Sterich first. He did not require oaths of fealty from the Gyri. Rather he asked for simple vows to maintain the peace and to come to the assistance of the Keoish to defend the land.
Word arrived with another group of freed captives that the elven kins had sundered. After months of silence, a message arrived in the Dim Forest from the high elven king that he would not be able to assist either the grey elves of the Oytwood or the wood elves of the Dim Forest. “When the palace is burning, you cannot look after a stable,” the high king wrote. The grey elves and wood elves renounced their fealty within days of receiving the note. I must say that I am deeply troubled by this. I have never heard of the elves making such a grave decision so quickly.
After the harvest, the refugees left the camps that had been their home for nearly two years and headed south to the Keoland. More food and supplies arrived thanks to the efforts of Lady Blackblade. Life was not unbearable as it was the first winter, but neither was it particularly pleasant. The year ended with many Gyri dreaming of home.
The ram’s horns heralded battled anew, and we carved a foothold in our homeland – CY 586
In the spring of CY 586, more freed captives arrived at the new villages in northern Keoland. Because of the assistance of several wizards, the rangers were having remarkable success in distracting the giants and their allies long enough to break the captives lose. So successful, that the giants were starting to put leg irons on the captives or maiming them, so that they could not walk. These measures by the giants substantially reduced the number of slaves freed by the Rangers. It’s hard to make an escape when you are dragging 20 pounds of iron.
Disagreements continued between the grey elves and the wood elves on where to place their scant forces now that the high king had forsaken them. The grey elves sought more assistance since the humans in the Dim Forest are helping the wood elves. However, the wood elves were unwilling to reduce their forces to send aid to the Oytwood. Their long years certainly didn’t give them great wisdom, because the elves quarrel as much as we humans do. It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.
The Knights of the Dispatch and the Gran March began a campaign into southeastern Geoff. The rangers of Geoff had been providing scouting and logistical information to the forces. Advancing through the Rushmoors, they encountered orc border patrols and ogres manning crude forts. The Knights carved through the outer defenses and the infantry from the Gran March occupied and solidified human control of the liberated lands.
By Flocktime, the Knights of the Dispatch had arrived at the town of Hochoch and began to lay siege to the town. Many hill giants and ogres, commanded by ogre magi, held the city against the human forces. The knights brought many priests of St. Cuthbert, Pelor, Trithereon, and Mayaheine to counter the spell casting of the ogre magi.
A relief force of giants was ambushed on their way to reinforce Hochoch by a large force of Gyri. With the Rangers of Geoff forming the backbone, survivors from the army of Geoff and the Longbowmen struck the unprepared giant column hard and fast. The Mage Aedan used devastating spells against the giants while the Mage Elspeth animated their corpses and turned them on their foes. The tide of battle quickly turned when the rear guard and vanguard turned on the tattered Gyric forces. The Gyric lines broke, and Aedan was slain as he stood his ground casting spell upon spell to cover the retreat of the Gyri.
When word of the heavily damaged relief force reached the giant’s allies in Hochoch, the ogre magi panicked and fled the city as the human forces began a fierce assault. The giants and ogres fell back from the walls and began to rout. When they monsters fled the city to the west, mounted crossbowmen from the Gran March rode them down and slaughtered them one by one.
Following the Siege of Hochoch, the Knights of the Dispatch began rooting out any remaining strongholds of the giants south of the Dim Forest and east of the Oytwood. The massacre of their fellows at Hochoch made the humanoids and giant-kin desperate and savage fighters as they fought without hope of retreat. The Knights took heavy losses, but by the end of the year, the Knights were successful. The forces of the Gran March continued occupying the surrounding countryside and refortified the town of Hochoch. When word of the successful Siege of Hochoch reached the Gyri in Keoland and the Gran March in Reaping and Goodmonth, some of the refugees began returning to southeastern Geoff, while others remained in Keoland or the Gran March. I chose to return.
Strife took its toll as old friends were lost but old friends were found – CY 586-587
The good news of the victory at Hochoch was dampened, when, in Harvester, the grey elf diplomats suddenly broke off talks with Dim Forest wood elves and returned to the Oytwood. Frustration had been mounting for some time, and the kins were already on edge and stretched to the breaking point. The wood elves refused to discuss what caused the final rupture and the grey elves ignored all messages from the humans.
The festivities of Needfest in CY 587 were punctuated by the appearance of Grand Duke Owen at the court of Commandant Vrianian. The Duke had been absent from the Court of Geoff in Exile, and many have whispered that he had died. His survival encouraged the Gyri to hope that Geoff would soon be liberated.
The trickle of refugees from Gran March and Keoland became a flood in the spring. The small town of Hochoch was filled, and the new arrivals spilled out into shacks and tents that soon surrounded the city. Priests to Trithereon, St. Cuthbert and Mayaheine established temples in the town.
Never quite recovering from the death of Aedan, an aging Lea returned to liberated town of Hochoch in the fall of 587 to a warm welcome by the Gyri. He left day to day command of the Rangers of Geoff to Lily Gellsblood, while he concentrated on recruitment and strategy.
Some saviors lost their zeal and showed a tyrant’s face beneath a guise of friend – CY 587-588
The rangers of Geoff and the surviving Longbowmen of Geoff maintained a fierce border war with the giant-occupied lands. They made no headway, but prevented the giants from raiding deep into the liberated lands.
At Richfest, the Marshal of the Gran March forces in Hochoch, declared the city and its surrounding lands a “protectorate” until Geoff could be restored. His soldiers and the Knights of the Dispatch had governed the town through martial law since the siege anyway, but the nobles of Geoff present in Hochoch were upset about this turn of events, as they had no say in the new government. Angry letters were sent to Withington and the Court of Geoff in Exile.
In the spring of CY 588, the Marshal of the Gran March ordered the construction of wooden forts along the border of the liberated lands. The Gyri were unhappy with this action as it is seen as a sign that the Gran March was just entrenching its position and not working to free Geoff. The Marshal used his forces to suppress a few riots among the residents of Lean-to Town and Hutville, outside of Hochoch.
The humans weren’t the only ones upset. The Marchers began timbering the Dim Forest and the Oytwood for their fortresses and roads. The grey elves of the Oytwood sent a terse message to the Marshal that the grey elves had long memory and remember his ancestors. They ordered the Marshal to stop the timbering or they would stop it for him. Incensed, the Marshal called their bluff, which turned out not to be a bluff at all. The grey elves closed their borders and laid deadly traps for any woodcutters. If the traps didn’t kill the trespassers then the elves hunted and killed anyone they considered “invaders.”
But others pressed on and found that the allies can be found were least expected – CY 588
In the month of Planting, the Knights of the Dispatch entered the Stark Mounds, where they found a strong and organized gnome resistance, which had literally gone underground. Delighted at the Knights’ presence, the gnomes boiled up from the ground and began attacking the giants and their allies with a ferocity seldom seen in the Glitter Folk. The Knights and gnomes made short work of the giants and had pushed them out by the end of summer. The exhausted Knights fell back to Hochoch after the campaign to rest and recuperate.
The druids of Beory, Obad-hai, and Ehlonna re-established their groves and shrines in and around Hochoch. There was much damage from the invasion, but the three orders of druids did not balk at the task before them. The greatest task was to upright the ring of standing stones known as Beory’s Teeth.
Foreign affairs were murky waters for our weakened land – CY 588-589
For the first time since the fall of Gorna, Lady Blackblade attended to the Grand Duke at his Court in Exile in Shilobeth. Though the summer and autumn she was so often in Owen’s presence that tongues began to wag of a romantic link. These same tongues noted that Chancellor Withington’s influence waned as Blackblade’s grew.
Although it faltered several times, the campaign to reclaim Sterich by the Knights of the Watch concluded successfully. Istivin was liberated, and the last giants were pushed back into the mountains.
The continued silence from the dwarves started raise concern among many in the Court of Geoff in Exile. It had been six long years, and we hadn’t even received word if the clans had chosen a new Thane
In the middle of Fireseek CY 589, Commandant Vrianian appointed Karl Neumann as provisional governor to oversee Hochoch and the liberated lands of Geoff. Vrianian assured Owen that the measure was temporary, and the governor’s mission was to rebuild enough for the Grand Duke to reassume control.
The alliance of the Knights of the Watch, the Kingdom of Keoland, and the original lords of the Sterich started to unravel as human control of the earldom is solidified. The three groups began to fight among themselves as mercenaries wanted paid, minor nobles of Keoland and officers of the Watch wanted land, and the original lords of Sterich wished to return everything to the way it was.
The tyrant’s iron-grip tightened on our stricken people – CY 589
Shortly after arriving in Hochoch in Coldeven, Govenor Neumann declared that March law would be official within the protectorate and decreed that Geoff law would be deemed “advisory.” Geoff law is built on customs and traditions, while Marcher law is codified and is long and dense. Furthermore, he began to appoint Marchers to key posts as judges, tax collectors, administrators, as well as awarding them key holdings, like mills, mines, and tracts of fertile land.
The Marcher favoritism caused the Gyri in Hochoch became restless, and a few small riots broke out. The nobles of Geoff were particularly outspoken in their discontent, because the right of the Gyric nobles to dispense justice was time-honored. Together, they wrote a petition to the Commandant asking for a Gyri to be appointed governor, as well as asking Duke Owen to intervene.
Duke Owen made this request and was denied by Commandant Vrianian, who stated that the liberation of Geoff would begin soon, and he needed as efficient a structure as possible to plan the campaign. Having two different command staffs could lead to disaster. Duke Owen seemed to accept this answer. Lady Blackblade did not and spoke out openly against the Commandant. In a fit of temper, she compared the Gran March to a carrion bird who was finishing off what the giants had started. While this was not said to the Commandant’s face, many courtiers over-heard the comment.
The foolishness of enforcing Marcher law became apparent, when Governor Neumann started arresting dissidents in Flocktime for violating various March laws that were completely unknown to the Gyri. Another set of riots ensued, which were put down by the Marcher military. The Knights of the Dispatch protested the governor’s actions, but Neumann did little but reassures them that it was necessary to keep the peace.
Who struggled valiantly against the foreign oppression – CY 589
At Lady Blackblade’s urgings, the Rangers of Geoff began scouting missions into the giant controlled portions of Geoff in Wealsun. Very few forays had been made since the Knights of the Dispatch had freed Hochoch and driven the giants across the Javan River.
Governor Neumann announced that as part of the Gran March, all able-bodied males must enlist in the Marcher military. Military service in the Gran March army carries with it an oath of loyalty to the Commandant and to the Gran March. The Gyric nobles in Hochoch protested this action in person, only to find Neumann accusing them of sedition. He demanded that the nobles swear fealty to the Commandant and the Gran March. Lea and the rest refused. Lea stated he had already sworn one oath to Grand Duke Owen and that a second one would be one too many. Why did Neumann allow Lea and the number to leave that chamber alive? I figure that the governor was a bit afraid to use force against someone who had fought so long against the giants. Or maybe Neumann didn’t want to provoke a general rebellion by imprisoning the Gyric nobles. At about the same time, an unknown assailant attempted to assassinate Lady Blackblade at the Commandant’s court in Shiboleth. She miraculously survived the encounter, even though she refused to fight the killer, who disappeared into the night when the guards arrived. Who hired the assassin was never uncovered.
Alarmed at the growing strength of the Gran March in Hochoch and Neumann’s personal hostility toward him, Lea left the city and began traveling between the small Gyric villages and the elven villages in the Dim Forest. Prevented by age and old wounds from joining the daily fight against the giants, Lea spent his days bringing hope and encouragement to the Gyri.
As the Gran March moved more troops into Hochoch to enforce the draft, swelling their forces to 2,000, the Gyri began leaving the town and moving to isolated villages and rebuilding steadings and crofts, similar to what they lived in before the invasion. Others moved north into the Dim Forest and lived with the elves there. The Gyri who remained in Hochoch noticed that the word “provisional” had been dropped from the governor’s title.
And responded with stubborn defiance and drawn blades – CY 589-590
With minimal warning, Grand Duke Owen thanked Commandant Vrianian for his hospitality and announced that the Court of Geoff in Exile would be moving to Noile Dra in Keoland before the end of the week. Owen stated that six years was too long to impose on a host and that he would now burden King Skotti with his presence for a time. Diplomats read much into this departure, but Vrianian took no action to stop Owen, as he set out for the south.
The spring of CY 590 came to Geoff at the same time a rumor did. Whispered words spread through Hochoch that the Gran March was going to annex the town and make it a barony. An ugly mood in town simmered, as the months slipped away and Governor Neumann and the Gran March forces made no attempt to begin a campaign against the giants.
The tension snapped in Flocktime when word arrived that Vrianian had ordered a road built through the marshes from Buxton’s Crossing to Hochoch. The Gyri rose in revolt in Hochoch, which spread through Hutville and Lean-to Town. Soon the stubborn streak in the Gyri asserted itself and the outlying villages expelled their Marcher overlords and soldiers. The Neumann suppressed revolt inside of Hochoch, but the Knights of the Dispatch prevented punitive expeditions against the remote villages by intervening and blocking the Marcher regiments passage on the roads.
Peacemakers forged a weary truce that resolves naught – CY 590
The Knights of the Dispatch acted as peacemakers when the passion on both sides cooled. A true peace was not made, as Neumann would accept nothing less than a Gyric surrender to his authority, and the Gyri would accept nothing less than the removal of the Marcher government. Both sides pledged to cease fighting and uneasy truce arose in late Wealsun, overseen by the Knights of the Dispatch. Regardless of the truce, Neumann accused Lea of masterminding the rebellion and ordered him arrested on charges of treason. In Reaping, Withington left Owen’s Court in Exile in Niole Dra to be the Brenin’s representative in the Gran March. Withington’s position in court had seriously eroded at the court to the point that some called this appointment more a banishment than an assignment.
As our long-awaited rightful ruler prepares a home-coming – CY 591.
This brings us to CY 591, the current year. At Needfest, Owen declared that he intended to return to Geoff within the year. The Court in Exile was elated. Even Lady Blackblade was seen to be weeping.
I was overjoyed at the news that we would be going home soon, but I am concerned. The Gran March may not be willing to give up its hold on Hochoch and southeast Geoff, the giants are not driven from our land, and the grey elves have closed their forest to all outsiders.
Home will look very different now than it did eight years ago…