Tales of the City of the Gods, the Egg of Coot, and the Black Ice
Date: Fri, December 07, 2007
Topic: Greyhawk Gazetteer

“That’s life for you,” Weimar slurred, as his shaking hands set down the wineskin. “There’s sacrifice, devotion, atonement, control, insanity, hate and love all combined when you consider this land…”

Tales of the City of the Gods, the Egg of Coot, and the Black Ice
By: CruelSummerLord

“Fascinating, is it not?” Amyalla pondered, looking up from her knitting.

“What would that be?” Luna asked, sipping at the tea she had made to keep the bitter cold at bay.

“These strange, misty moors we now cross,” the halfling said, gazing at the ruined stone stockade near the stand of pine trees where they had camped, marked with symbols and runes of the old Flan cultures that once dwelled in this region. Amyalla and her companions had been tasked with delivering an important message from the Duke of Crystalreach to the Archbaron of Blackmoor, and they had just now crossed into that haunted region, so little known to so many in the Flanaess.

“What do the runes say?” Airk asked Revafour. The powerfully built Flan gazed in the dusk light, at the few visible runes remaining. He had refused to allow the group to camp in the ruins themselves, although he had accepted their staying near in the stand of pine trees, knowing the foolishness of camping on the open, windy plains without any cover at all, especially in the chill fens of Blackmoor.

“Runes of welcome, mostly,” he answered after a moment’s thought. “All those not feuding with the clan would be welcome within its walls. There were also runes of warning, perhaps put by the old warrior leaders, and runes of warding, no doubt a word of warding placed by the shamans and druids.”

“Warding against what?” Weimar asked with a mixture of curiosity and irony. “Not the orcs, the qullans or the quaggoths, I take it?”

“None of those,” Revafour answered, shaking his head. “I suspect they’re wards against the evil spirits and demons that once plagued this part of the Oerth, now imprisoned beneath the Black Ice,” he finished, his hands fidgeting with the huge broadsword that lay at his side.

Evil spirits? Ma’non’go signed, the mute Olman looking at the runes for himself. What kind?

“Something to be wary of,” Revafour said uncertainly. “It’s a story that most people…have forgotten today,” he finally forced himself to finish. “It ties into the legends of the City of the Gods, the Egg of Coot, and the Black Ice…”

“I’m intrigued,” Seline smiled, wrapping her fur blanket tighter about herself and taking a sip of her waterskin. “Would you be willing to tell it to us? Nothing much else to do around the fire in this weather, anyway.”

Revafour smiled, the grim look vanishing from his face as the fire seemed to become warmer.

“How, then, can I refuse?” he asked. “The tale is long in telling, but the longer a story is told, the longer it is lived, so have we always believed.”

“It begins,” the Tenha warrior began, “at the time of the Age of Night. When the Dark Lord - "

“Dark Lord?” Weimar interrupted. “Which one?”

The Dark Lord, you idiot,” Amyalla spat back at him. “Dread Tharizdun. Now quit-“

“Yes, that Dark Lord,” Revafour frowned. “When the Dark Lord was banished, many of his minions remained to plague the Oerth Mother, Beory. They could not be banished, along with their foul master, and they remained to ravage this corner of Beory for many a year, until the Oerth Mother fought back. Rallying to her side not only many of the spirits of the land, but also Rillifane Rallathil, elven god of the woods, Ehlonna of my own people, and the martial skills even of Gruumsh, the orcish god, and Maglubiyet the goblin god, many of the Dark Lord’s most powerful minions were thus defeated. Beory further sought the aid of Vatun, one of the gods of cold, to imprison the minions beneath a prison of Black Ice. Even as we speak, the monsters lay imprisoned beneath that icy hell, tormented and screaming for release from the bitter cold.”

“Bad legends of the Black Ice,” Airk muttered with an oath. “I suspect Gruumsh and Maglubiyet exacted a high price for their help in fighting the monsters?”

“Not as high as you might expect,” Revafour answered. “In return for their aid, Beory allowed the peoples that worshipped the gods who had helped her to live and flourish in this bleak and hostile northland. It is thought that Rillifane and Ehlonna were permitted to create the Burneal Forest, and people it with elves and men, although they would clash with the humanoids. Such is the way of the world.”

And what of the City of the Gods? Ma’non’go signed. It sounds similar to the myths of my own people, that the gods dwell in a city beneath the Oerth, where they went to rest after their labors in crafting the world and giving it life…

“The gods created the city,” Revafour answered, “but they do not dwell there. It is a dwelling place of heroes and villains, of those who made the greatest sacrifice, and received the greatest of punishments.”

“How can it be both at once?” Seline asked in confusion.

“Try as Vatun might, even he could not keep the minions of the Dark Lord imprisoned beneath the Black Ice forever, especially when not evil humanoids and monsters moved there and became corrupted themselves, debased by the evil beneath their feet and made even more depraved and wicked than before. There was a reason the Tuoct Flan took care not to settle upon the Black Ice, rallying the Oerthmagic left to them by Beory to strengthen the guards and wards keeping the monsters imprisoned.”

“So what does the City-“ Amyalla began.

“Long have the minions of the Dark Lord attempted to escape through the ethereal plane,” Revafour resumed his tale. “And so the Oerth Mother has needed champions to fight there upon her behalf. Those that come to dwell in the City of the Gods-fallen champions, spirits of good, martyred saints, and more-use their connection to the City to manifest on the ethereal plane and battle the monsters to keep them imprisoned. Those of the City of the Gods are devotion and duty writ large, eternal champions given eternal life, in exchange for a lonely task and a lonely vigil.”

“Wow,” Weimar said in amazement, as he opened a wineskin. “I can see what you mean by its being a punishment to be sent there.”

“Those who are sacrificed voluntarily and go there of their own free will are rewarded,” Revafour corrected him, an ugly scowl crossing his face as he looked the yellow-haired Oeridian in the face. “Those who are punished by being sent there are the traitors, the cowards, those who betrayed their gods and their beliefs, made to atone for centuries to come by joining in the battle to keep the Dark Lord’s allies at bay. Forced to fight beside those they hate, and those whose courage far outshines their own, they atone for their sins and learn from the examples of the greater warriors they fight beside.”

“Does the City of the Gods exist only on the ethereal plane, then, or does it also exist in our world?” Seline asked, fascinated by the tale.

“The City certainly exists, though those who travel there in search of treasure had best be wary,” Revafour continued. “The material goods of many of the spirits there can be taken at those times when the City manifests, which can amount to a vast hoard of treasure. It must be said, however, that those who seek to steal their treasure will be confronted by the spirits themselves, who will manifest bearing the powers and abilities they did in life. Holy warriors, chimeras, fire giants, hollyphants, anything and everything one might expect to battle can be found in the City of the Gods, and the spirits will prepare all manner of traps for the unwary who seek to invade them. Those who come in peace, to speak with the spirit of a deceased her, legendary dragon, famous ancestor, or like being may find themselves confronted or welcomed by the spirits as their natures dictate.”

How can so many creatures of good and evil fight side by side? Ma’non’go wondered.

“The Dark Lord is chaos, evil and destruction personified, or so the Flan elders say,” Revafour answered grimly. “Thus-“

“Many of the evil gods, and the demons, devils and other creatures the Dark Lord vomited up, seek conquest, misery and power, but they do not seek to destroy and put an end to all things; the forces of darkness and evil can be just as dedicated to life in their own ways, however twisted and perverted they might be. All things depend on one another to a certain extent-all things need a sun to shine upon them, all things have an Oerth to live on. Good and evil alike would fall before the greatest perversion and depravity of all; if evil is concerned with itself, it will unite with the good when absolutely necessary,” Seline finished.

“Have you been saving that for a special occasion?” Amyalla asked sarcastically.

“Sounds truth enough,” Weimar replied, his voice slurring as he prepared another wineskin.

“You’d accept truth of any kind, if it came from a vintner,” Airk spat at the flaxen-haired man.

“You’d know better, I suppose?” Weimar shot back, spitting at the gnome’s feet.

“Better than you would, when you stink of-“ Airk snapped, his hands twitching towards his military pick.

Ma’non’go stood up, his imposing frame towering over man and gnome. Scowling at one another, they relented, as Weimar threw one of his empty wineskins at the gnome, who caught it and tossed it off into the shadows.

Shaking his head, the massive southerner glared at them both reproachfully, focusing his gaze on Weimar, before withdrawing.

Airk shook his head, trying to banish the images of crushing Weimar’s skull with his morning star.

“You said something about the Egg of Coot,” Amyalla asked, as she finished laughing. “Does that have to do with the City of the Gods as well?”

Revafour only shrugged and shook his head.

“I was never told any tales of the Egg,” he said regretfully.

“I know something of it, or at least a legend about it,” Seline offered.

Luna only looked at her askance.

“What?” Seline asked. “Reading through the books of myth and fable offer an interesting diversion from endless study, after all…”

Luna merely rolled her eyes in response.

“The Egg of Coot is, according to legend, a part of the Dark Lord’s fractured consciousness that escaped being bound with the major part of its master. It became its own entity, a twisted, hateful thing that is in many ways a living example of chaos and despair, traits that it manifests in the creatures it places under its command, such as the quaggoths and the qullans. Their madness is a reflection of the broken soul of their master-“

“And their blood is a nightmare to clean off a sword blade,” Weimar grumbled, his hands shaking as he took another sip of wine.

“So why does the Egg strike at Blackmoor?” Revafour asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Because it hates anything it cannot control,” Seline replied. “Anything that obeys rules and laws, whether it be the laws of a king or baron, or simply its own personal moral code, in short anything outside the Egg’s personal control. The chaotic behavior of the quaggoths and qullans, it is said, is a reflection of their being made to obey only the fractured, insane desires of the Egg-they are conditioned to hate and kill anything outside the Egg’s control.”

“So that’s what the Egg believes in?” Amyalla asked, taking up her knitting and returning to work on the indigo neckerchief she had been crafting. “That explains the travelers’ tales of its lair; an egg-shaped citadel-for what rational being would craft such a thing?-whose insides are all jagged corners, sharp edges, twisting spiral passageways, and ice-cold stone that only a diseased mind could hope to navigate, infested with the chaotic, twisted minions of a broken and hateful mind, made that way for no better reason than to allow the Egg to show its powers of control. The fools who have tried to either slay the Egg or loot its treasures often come back frightened out of their wits, if they come back at all.”

“That’s life for you,” Weimar slurred, as his shaking hands set down the wineskin. “There’s sacrifice, devotion, atonement, control, insanity, hate and love all combined when you consider this land…”

The others merely looked at him.

“So too is it in Sterich, Tenh or Aerdy,” he reflected, gazing into the fire and then at the starry sky and the northern lights. Opening his fourth wineskin of the night, he lay back against a tree, hearing half-forgotten music in his ears as he began to drift away, his eyes closing and a light mist settled in his mind’s eye.

“So too is it for the whole of the Oerth, it seems,” Seline reflected, as she and Ma’non’go prepared to set up the first watch.

The stars continued to shine in the night sky, even as the wind passed over the trees.

This article comes from Canonfire!

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