The fall of Molag

The conquest of the Horned Society by Iuz is one of the seminal events of the Greyhawk campaign. It is a It is described in both Gary Gygax’s novel Artifact of Evil, as well as the history of the Greyhawk Wars written after Gygax’s departure from TSR, after which the setting took a somewhat different turn.

In the book, this happens after a siege of Molag, the capital of the Hierarchs’ realm. Devils and the spawn of Tarterus came to their aid, but the hordes of Iuz prevailed:

First the wild kin of these humanoids made up the bulk of the attackers, but soon enough things far worse than troll and ogre, bugbear and gnoll, were there. The masters of the Hierarchs summoned monstrous creatures from the lower planes to fortify the defense of Molag. … In answer to this, the besieging force was sent demons when they called for aid. … Then the Dukes of Hell took an interest in what was happening. They sent legions of their servants to assist the masters of the Hierarchs because their cause was one with Nerull and the rest. … The terrible battle waged day and night for a week. When it finally ended, all of the things summoned were dead or returned to their own planes. … Molag fell to the mundane armies of Iuz. … Of the Hierarchs, not even Iuz knew for certain. … the Ten had surely managed to flee somewhere. Rumor said that they had been carried far to the south, but nothing was known beyond this tale. As the month of Sunsebb brought the chill of winter to the land, the ones who opposed Evil wondered what would follow. (Artifact of Evil, pp. 341-343)

The takeover of the Horned Society by Iuz is somewhat different as depicted in the Greyhawk Wars Adventurer’s Book:

Nor did the Lord of Evil stop at rebuilding his own lands, but reached also into the Horned Society to replace leaders there. The Dread and Awful Presences, the Hierarchs, made the task easy for him. The Hierarchs reigned in veiled seclusion, hiding their human identities from their humanoid minions. Rumors that the Hierarchs were fiendish overlords arose among the humanoids of the Horned Society — rumors the Hierarchs fostered to cement their power. Iuz decided merely to make the rumors reality. In the month of Coldeven, at the height of the Blood-Moon Festival, the citadels of Molag ran red with blood as Iuz staged his coup. In less than a fortnight, the Hierarchs became creatures of mere legend and Iuz held absolute control over the Horned Society. (Adventurer’s Book, p. 9)

To be sure, the details of the two accounts seem irreconcilable. The novel places the fall of the Horned Society in winter, while the guide specifically mentions late spring. The novel presents us with a full-on invasion crowned by a siege, while the guide frames the events more as a bloody coup, with Iuz’s troops coming in afterwards. In the book the fate of the Hierarchs is uncertain, while the guide strongly implies (but interestingly never explicitly states) that they were slain.

But what if these two accounts are merely two phases of the same event?

In the winter, Iuz invades, laying siege to the city, involving many hundreds or thousands of demons, demodands, devils, and daemons. The city is taken, but the Hierarchs are able to hide or escape. However, the fact that their fate remained unknown would naturally lead their loyal supporters to resist the occupation by Iuz. By the spring, however, their hidey-holes in the citadels of Molag were discovered, the Hierarchs finally destroyed, and Iuz’s “absolute control over the Horned Society” became a reality.

So, basically, the massacre of the Hierarchs during the Blood-Moon Festival happened months after the siege of Molag. It essentially cemented Iuz’s control over the Society by eliminating their leaders, the only possible source of resistance.

I make no claims that this was the intention of either Gygax or Cook. I’m just trying to reconcile the two accounts so they make some sort of narrative sense.

In my construction, the narrative lays out thus:

Nor did the Lord of Evil stop at rebuilding his own lands, but reached also into the Horned Society to replace leaders there. … First the wild kin of these humanoids made up the bulk of the attackers, but soon enough things far worse than troll and ogre, bugbear and gnoll, were there. The masters of the Hierarchs summoned monstrous creatures from the lower planes to fortify the defense of Molag. … In answer to this, the besieging force was sent demons when they called for aid. … Then the Dukes of Hell took an interest in what was happening. They sent legions of their servants to assist the masters of the Hierarchs because their cause was one with Nerull and the rest. … The terrible battle waged day and night for a week. When it finally ended, all of the things summoned were dead or returned to their own planes. … Molag fell to the mundane armies of Iuz. … Of the Hierarchs, not even Iuz knew for certain. … the Ten had surely managed to flee somewhere. Rumor said that they had been carried far to the south, but nothing was known beyond this tale. As the month of Sunsebb brought the chill of winter to the land, the ones who opposed Evil wondered what would follow. … [Three months pass.] The Dread and Awful Presences, the Hierarchs, made the task easy for [Iuz]. The Hierarchs reigned in veiled seclusion, hiding their human identities from their humanoid minions. Rumors that the Hierarchs were fiendish overlords arose among the humanoids of the Horned Society — rumors the Hierarchs fostered to cement their power. Iuz decided merely to make the rumors reality. In the month of Coldeven, at the height of the Blood-Moon Festival, the citadels of Molag ran red with blood as Iuz staged his coup. In less than a fortnight, the Hierarchs became creatures of mere legend and Iuz held absolute control over the Horned Society. 

I think it works. In fact, it makes things even more dramatic, as it implies a few months between the conquest of Molag described in the novel, and the final destruction of the Hierarchs by Iuz described in the adventurer’s guide, were marked by some sort of guerrilla campaign of resistance by the Hierarchs and their minions, until their final defeat. I like that!

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

2 thoughts on “The fall of Molag

  1. What about Iuz the Evil?

    "The week of the Blood Moon festival in the lands of their most Dread and August Presences, the Hierarchs of the Horned Society, took on an unusual aspect in 582 CY. Never before had the very streets of Molag run awash with blood. With the aid of fiends and his orcish army sweeping across the plains of the Society's lands, Iuz vanquished his old enemies in days rather than weeks. The blow was so decisive that the Hierarchs had no time to call on extraplanar aid before they were massacred. Absorbing the hobgoblin soldiery of the land into his own armies, Iuz swept onwards across the Ritensa to the Shield Lands."

    And from the LGG:
    "The Hierarchs and the rest of the leadership of the
    Horned Society were presumed destroyed in Coldeven
    583 CY, during the night of the Blood-Moon Festival.
    Demonic forces sent by Iuz slew the Hierarchs
    there and allowed Iuz to quietly take command of
    their nation. It is possible that one or more Hierarchs
    survived the incident and is attempting to rebuild
    the organization, but most assume that the group is
    no longer a threat."

    I find it odd or sloppy that the year of the Blood Moon massacre is 583CY in LGG but 582CY in Iuz the Evil. I wonder which of the LGG authors was responsible for that entry. Good question for Gary Holian on a greychat night.

    aurdraco

  2. Sometimes I wonder whether trying to reconcile all canon, especially in Greyhawk, can be more trouble than it's worth.

    Which deity is Eclavdra serving this week? Is the Elder Elemental God the same entity as Dread Tharizdun? Are the Tenha badasses you don't want to mess with, as implied in a Gord novel, or a bunch of gutless cowards, as implied by Sargent? Was it the Temple of Elemental Evil that kidnapped Prince Thrommel, or did the Scarlet Brotherhood do it on Nyrond's behalf?

    I can only imagine how irritating it can be for a DM to have prepared his own map of Woodwych, along with his own NPCs, local authorities, and military, only to have one of his players point out everything that he missed from the writeup of Woodwych in Dragon #128, which came out a good decade before he got into D&D and he had no idea even existed.

    That's why it's important for DMs and fanfic authors to remember that they are the gatekeepers of what they let into their version of Oerth. Canon is for them to use or discard as they see fit, not for them to subordinate their individual visions to.

    As I imagine it, Iuz suffered a series of reversals prior to the Greyhawk Wars. The Temple of Elemental Evil's defeat left his efforts in the south disorganized. His attempt to charm Sevvord Redbeard was defeated before it could take place, ruining his efforts to organize the eastern barbarians into a puppet army. His own humanoid armies were heavily subverted by the priests of their traditional racial gods, helped and encouraged by the Hierarchs.

    As a result, Iuz's realm started to fall apart beneath him, as the Hierarchs and their Bandit allies attacked westward. In the end, it was the Hierarchs who emerged as the dominant power in the north, as the Horned Society was become the Horned Empire, with most of Iuz's former territory under their banners. Only Halga and Null still hold out in Dorakaa, per Iuz's instructions.

    However, per the instructions Iuz gave the rest of his Boneheart minions, they have spread out in the rest of the Flanaess, carving out their own territories, the Cells of Iuz, in a perverted contest to create a new realm for their master. When the Old One returned from the Abyss, he would choose one of these Cells as the basis for his new empire. The Cells also serve as a useful means of diverting his servants from inquiring into the other agenda he is pursuing in the Abyss, one that has him seeking the help of Grazz't and Iggwilv…

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