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    The mortal life of Kostchtchie
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    Joined: Aug 03, 2001
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    Tue Feb 08, 2011 7:10 pm  
    The mortal life of Kostchtchie

    Kostchtchie the Deathless was born to the Rus in the late 8th century AD; deformed and hideous, he was cast out of his tribe in the settlement of Holmgard and wandered south. It is known he spent some time in the Khazar Khaganate, working as a mercenary. It was there that he met some frost giant soldiers, mercenaries like himself, who were the first people he had met who did not seem disgusted by his appearance. One day, deep in the woods, across a river of flame, he came across a curious hut balanced on chicken legs; around it grazed a herd of fine mares, the finest he'd ever seen. In the hut was Baba Yaga.

    "Grandmother," grunted Kostchtchie. "How much would it take for you to sell me one of those mares?"

    "Only watch my herd for three days without losing a single one," said Baba Yaga. "And you may have one of my mares in payment."

    Every day that Kostchtchie set out with the herd, they would immediately bolt and, swifter than thought, scatter in all directions. And yet Kostchtchie, strong and resolute, managed to round up every one of them.

    "Nicely done," said Baba Yaga. She eyed the deformed man intently. "I'll give you something else, too, if you'll give me what I want."

    "And what's that?" asked Kostchtchie, suspicious of everything.

    "I'll show you how to hide your death, and keep it safe," said Baba Yaga. "In return, I'll want your first-born daughter."

    "A daughter?" snorted Kostchtchie. "Useless things. I'd give you any daughter of mine for free."

    "Then we have a deal?" asked Baba Yaga.

    "We have a deal," said Kostchtchie.

    So Baba Yaga showed Kostchtchie how to hide his death inside a quasit's skull, inside the skull of a domovoi, inside the skull of a dwarf, inside the skull of a man, inside the skull of a troll, inside the skull of a frost giant. With his death kept hidden, no one could harm him. Kostchtchie grinned: it was time to go home.

    Back in Holmgard in the year 830 AD, Kostchtchie crushed the skull of the ruling prince with his bare hands and declared himself the Khagan of Holmgard, adopting the title of the ruler of the Khazars. With a mare that could run as swift as thought, invulnerable skin, and a frost giant warlord, none could oppose Kostchtchie, and soon his rule extended over the neighboring settlements of the Rus and the Slavs as well. After a time, the frost giant was running his military campaigns and Khagan Kostchtchie spent most of his time in his castle, living a life of luxury, surrounded by the many beautiful wives and concubines he had abducted. As the years turned into decades Kostchtchie grew ever larger, becoming a literal giant of a man, and yet he never seemed to age. His khaganate became the terror of the north.

    Marya Morevna, princess of the Dregovichi, was a stone-cold badass. Born in Russia in the 9th century AD, she battled against the armies of the infamous Kostchtchie the Deathless and, alone of all his opponents thus far, she defeated him. Her armies, a broad coalition of Slavs, defeated the armies of Kostchtchie on the battlefield. She slew his giant in single combat. When she confronted Kostchtchie himself, though, her weapons couldn't hurt him. No matter how many times she dodged Kostchtchie's blows and landed her own, she made no progress. So she dropped her weapons and fought him with a weighted rope that made him trip; when he hit the ground she tied him up, dragged him into her dungeon, and waited for him to starve to death. He seemed stubborn about that, though, so stubborn that ten years later - in 859 AD - he seemed no closer to death than when he had started, roaring in his chains with all his old vigor and making rather quite the scene. Of course, none could contest Marya Morevna's right to be Khagan of the Rus, and so she had been for all the years Kostchtchie had been imprisoned.

    That year, on a battlefield, Marya Morevna met Rurik the Varangian. A conqueror like herself, but from far-off Denmark, Rurik had been exiled from his lands for his incessant raiding and conquest. With nowhere else to go, he set off for the lands of the Rus to regain his fortune. He understood that the three husbands of his three sisters (his sisters were Marya, Olga, and Anna; their husbands were Sineus, Truvor, and Oleg) had lands in the area, and he hoped they would grant him some lands of his own in exchange for his protection from raiders like himself. Instead he met Marya Morevna, the first woman he had ever met whom he considered his equal. And in Rurik, Marya met the first man she truly respected. It was a perfect match, and they took advantage of it. The two were quickly married, and Rurik moved in with Marya Morevna in the town of Holmgard, which Marya Morevna had renamed Novgorod. Before long, though, Marya Morevna got restless, and decided to trust Rurik to look after her lands while she led her armies in yet another campaign. Only one thing, she said. "Don't look in the dungeon."

    Of course, Rurik the Varangian did look in the dungeon, and before long Kostchtchie the Deathless was free once more, free to conquer and to take his revenge on Marya Morevna. With Marya Morevna caught off guard and Kostchtchie wary of her rope tricks, he bested her in a battle of attrition, Marya Morevna slowly wearing down from dozens of wounds and bruises while Kostchtchie remained as healthy as ever. So Kostchtchie retook the throne of the Rus, and made Marya Morevna his new favorite consort. Because he owed Rurik his freedom, however accidentally, Kostchtchie allowed the Varangian to live, but the man was exiled once again.

    Within ten months, Marya Morevna birthed Kostchtchie a daughter, whom she named Natasha. Natasha was given to Baba Yaga in fulfillment of Kostchtchie's bargain, and this is where our story really begins. The story of Kostchtchie's final defeat - of his overreach at the siege of Constantinople, and how that city's magi summoned a being from the celestial planes to defeat him once and for all - has been told many times before. The story of Rurik of Novgorod, how he finally became reunited with Marya Morevna and founded a dynasty is also familiar to every Russian child. Yet the story of Natasha Morevna Dregovichi, later known as Iggwilv, is a closely kept secret known to few.

    Last edited by rasgon on Wed Feb 09, 2011 11:04 am; edited 1 time in total
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    Tue Feb 08, 2011 9:26 pm  

    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Tue Feb 08, 2011 11:01 pm  


    Absolutely Brilliant!
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Tue Feb 08, 2011 11:14 pm  

    Great tale Rasgon!

    That was inspired.
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    Wed Feb 09, 2011 3:48 am  

    Brilliant... I really like the Denmark part ;-)
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    Wed Feb 09, 2011 6:50 am  


    One thing about Greyhawk that is enjoyable is the occasional connection to other worlds and times. Spacecraft in the Barrier Peaks, Murlynd with his six shooters, etc. This really is a nice elaboration of the Natasha/Baba Yaga story.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Joined: Jul 26, 2010
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    Wed Feb 09, 2011 9:29 am  

    Very nice! That's quite a good interpretation of the story from a Greyhawk point of view. Happy

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    Wed Feb 09, 2011 8:07 pm  

    That's freakin' awesome, rasgon! It's like Nel Stephenson and Andrew Lang had a kid who decided to tell a story about Koschei. Good stuff!

    Joined: Oct 06, 2008
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    Thu Feb 10, 2011 10:49 am  

    Well, its ALL been said here. Great stuff, Rasgon . . . but I expect that of you. Wink

    Thanks for sharing it. Happy Cool
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    Sat Feb 12, 2011 8:22 am  

    Nice work, Rip!
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    Thu Mar 10, 2011 3:06 pm  

    Great job, nice flavor. Smile
    I run a group of players in a Greyhawk game and years ago they went on the adventure Exp to the Demonweb Pits (the 3.5 ed one) and there they travelled to Rime Thuras and stole a sword and escaped the Frost Giants. Later they fought an Aspect of Kostchtchie and destroyed him. So ever so often I put some fear into them by reminding them that Kostchtchie is gonna get them one day.
    Currently I'm running the Shadows of the Abyss (Dragon Mag) adventure and they are trying to track down a Cleric of Kostchtchie. Evil
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