Thursday, March 15, 2018

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!