Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Some Quick Notes on Best of the Dragon Vol. I From the Strategic Review and The Dragon Vol. I & II

There comes a time when you have to go back to the source material once again. For many people this means going back to Cons & onto forums of original Dungeons & Dragons. But for me its crack open a dog eared copy of the Best Of The Dragon Volume I & II. This tome has within it a whole array of articles from the hey days of the Strategic Review & Dragon's earliest issues.

So why is this particular piece of Dragon magazine history important? Well for my own perspective as a dungeon master its not just the articles by James Ward on Metamorphis Alpha first edition or the sage advice of Gary Gygax himself. These are essential to the history of the grand game but also the articles by
These are great articles for designing towns & hex locations in OD&D & went way towards helping me as a young dungeon master to design interesting & unique encounters not just in OD&D but also Gamma World as well.  There's another article called Hints for D&D Judges byJoe Fischer which was an article that had a huge influence at the table top level. Robert J Kuntz's Tolkien in D&D gave me a lot of thought about Middle Earth in OD&D or my lack there of. 
This volume doesn't get mentioned to much except perhaps in passing on some forums as a curious piece of the history of OD&D. Not so for me because for me this volume was a living & breathing artifact from the roots of the game. I don't mean this in this high praise of the altar of gaming although I'm in awe of the creativity & experimental DYI nature of the early halcyon days of the hobby.

What I find amazing is the usefulness of this material in the OSR after all of this time since these articles were published. Everything from the original bard class to the illusionist still gets referenced depending upon what edition of Dungeons & Dragons or its retroclones are being used. Maybe its the late night echoes of nostalgia  talking here but this book still even after all these years gets the creative juices flowing.
For me
Best of the Dragon Vol. I
From the Strategic Review and The Dragon Vol. I & II is one the most useful books for original Dungeons & Dragons & Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition. The articles are easily applicable to the current crop of OSR retroclone games & adventures. This is one volume of killer & no filler material. Grab a copy if you can find this volume at a reasonable price.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

"Gaze Into The Eyes of The Dragon!" The Master Manipulator of Magick For Your Old School Campaigns

"I have walked my way since the beginning of time. Sometimes I give, sometimes I take, it is mine to know which and when!"
Merlin Excalibur 1981

Is there a lynch pin that holds Arthurian literature & legends together? Well that spoke around which all of the events happen is Merlin. Up till now I've resisted taking about him. But I think its safe to assume that we can do a bit of a spin about the wizard,mystic,druid, illusionist, etc. For me there is only one Merlin and its Nicol Williamson as Merlin in the film “Excalibur” by director John Boorman from Nineteen Eighty One.

The modern invention of the wizard's depiction of largely the result of pop culture's transition into classic literature. But Merlin something much older & much more dangerous then he appears.
"The standard depiction of the character first appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, written c. 1136, and is based on an amalgamation of previous historical and legendary figures. Geoffrey combined existing stories of Myrddin Wyllt (Merlinus Caledonensis), a North Brythonic prophet and madman with no connection to King Arthur, with tales of the Romano-British war leader Ambrosius Aurelianus to form the composite figure he called Merlin Ambrosius (Welsh: Myrddin Emrys). He is allegedly buried in the Broceliande forest, near Paimpont in Brittany. Geoffrey's rendering of the character was immediately popular, especially in Wales.[1] Later writers expanded the account to produce a fuller image of the wizard. Merlin's traditional biography casts him as a cambion: born of a mortal woman, sired by an incubus, the non-human from whom he inherits his supernatural powers and abilities.[2] Merlin matures to an ascendant sagehood and engineers the birth of Arthur through magic and intrigue.[3] Later authors have Merlin serve as the king's advisor and mentor to the knights until he is bewitched and imprisoned by the Lady of the Lake" All of Merlian or Merlin (Welsh: Myrddin) centers around the Welish region & there's a very good reason for this.
"Geoffrey's account of Merlin Ambrosius' early life in the Historia Regum Britanniae is based on the story of Ambrosius in the Historia Brittonum. He adds his own embellishments to the tale, which he sets in Carmarthen, Wales (Welsh: Caerfyrddin). While Nennius' Ambrosius eventually reveals himself to be the son of a Roman consul, Geoffrey's Merlin is begotten on a king's daughter by an incubus demon. (The name of Merlin's mother is not usually stated, but is given as Adhan in the oldest version of the Prose Brut.[10]) The story of Vortigern's tower is essentially the same; the underground dragons, one white and one red, represent the Saxons and the British, and their final battle is a portent of things to come.
At this point Geoffrey inserts a long section of Merlin's prophecies, taken from his earlier Prophetiae Merlini. He tells only two further tales of the character. In the first, Merlin creates Stonehenge as a burial place for Aurelius Ambrosius. In the second, Merlin's magic enables the British king Uther Pendragon to enter into Tintagel in disguise and father his son Arthur with his enemy's wife, Igraine. These episodes appear in many later adaptations of Geoffrey's account. As Lewis Thorpe notes, Merlin disappears from the narrative after this; he does not tutor and advise Arthur as in later versions"

The later portraits by  Robert de Boron   of the wizard give him his demonic heritage & his abilities as a shape shifter of incredible aspect as well as the all important attachment to The Holy Grail.
"Several decades later, the poet Robert de Boron retold this material in his poem Merlin. Only a few lines of the poem have survived, but a prose retelling became popular and was later incorporated into two other romances. In Robert's account, as in Geoffrey's Historia, Merlin is begotten by a demon on a virgin as an intended Antichrist. This plot is thwarted when the expectant mother informs her confessor Blase (or Blaise) of her predicament; they immediately baptize the boy at birth, thus freeing him from the power of Satan and his intended destiny. The demonic legacy invests Merlin with a preternatural knowledge of the past and present, which is supplemented by God, who gives the boy a prophetic knowledge of the future.
Robert de Boron lays great emphasis on Merlin's power to shapeshift, on his joking personality, and on his connection to the Holy Grail. Robert was inspired by Wace's Roman de Brut, an Anglo-Norman adaptation of Geoffrey's Historia. Robert's poem was rewritten in prose in the 13th century as the Estoire de Merlin, also called the Vulgate or Prose Merlin. It was originally attached to a cycle of prose versions of Robert's poems, which tells the story of the Holy Grail: brought from the Middle East to Britain by followers of Joseph of Arimathea, the Grail is eventually recovered by Arthur's knight Percival.
The Prose Merlin contains many instances of Merlin's shapeshifting. He appears as a woodcutter with an axe about his neck, big shoes, a torn coat, bristly hair, and a large beard. He is later found in the forest of Northumberland by a follower of Uther's disguised as an ugly man and tending a great herd of beasts. He then appears first as a handsome man and then as a beautiful boy. Years later, he approaches Arthur disguised as a peasant wearing leather boots, a wool coat, a hood, and a belt of knotted sheepskin. He is described as tall, black and bristly, and as seeming cruel and fierce. Finally, he appears as an old man with a long beard, short and hunchbacked, in an old torn woolen coat, who carries a club and drives a multitude of beasts before him."

This portrait of Merlin reveals several very interesting details about the Welsh family of Myrddin. The inclusion of a strain of the demonic, the deep connections to the Holy Grail, and the shape shifting nature of the character. Once again I believe that we're seeing several characters rolled into one folk lore creation as to almost but not quire Arthurian gospel.
One of the most interesting details about the enchanter is his connection between God,The Holy Grail & his relationship of his magick to time. The swan is often seen as a symbol in Arthurian lore & artwork, its also highly connected with time. Merlin is the architect of the events of Uther Pendragon & Camelot's foundation as well  its equation in Europe's post Roman England. Because of the inclusion of Chaos in the form of Fairyland's meddling in the history of the country.
Merlin's family is strongly connected with the ancient Pagan semi demonic gods of the lands of England. In John Boorman's Excalibur its the Red Dragon that we see the clearest if subtle use of a patron god to the workings of a wizard. The sword of power cutting into the land & wounding not only Lancelot & Guinevere but also Merlin.

The Enchanter Merlin, by Howard Pyle
from The Story of King Arthur and His Knights (1903)

"I once stood exposed to the Dragon's Breath so that a man could lie one night with a woman. It took me nine moons to recover. And all for this lunacy called, "love", this mad distemper that strikes down both beggar and king. Never again. Never."
Merlin's perceptions of time and prophecy are as much a curse as its a blessings because of his connections to the power block factions of  Elves of England who were once the gods. These beings of chaos are his downfall forever or are they?!
"In the Lancelot-Grail and later accounts, Merlin's eventual downfall came from his lusting after Niviane (or Nymue, Nimue, Niniane, Nyneue, Viviane or Vivien in some versions of the legend). She is portrayed as Merlin's apprentice; his other female student (and an actual lover[12]) is often Arthur's half-sister, Morgan le Fay.
In the Suite du Merlin,[13] for example, Niviane, who was the daughter of the king of Northumberland, is about to depart from Arthur's court, but, with some encouragement from Merlin, Arthur asks her to stay in his castle with the queen. During her stay, Merlin falls in love with her and desires her. Niviane, frightened that Merlin might take advantage of her with his spells, swears that she will never love him unless he swears to teach her all of his magic. Merlin consents, unaware that throughout the course of her lessons, Niviane will use Merlin's own powers against him, forcing him to do her bidding. When Niviane finally goes back to her country, Merlin escorts her. However, along the way, Merlin receives a vision that Arthur is in need of assistance against the schemes of Morgan. Niviane and Merlin rush back to Arthur's castle, but have to stop for the night in a stone chamber, once inhabited by two lovers. Merlin relates that when the lovers died, they were placed in a magic tomb within a room in the chamber. That night, while Merlin is asleep, Niviane, still disgusted with Merlin's desire for her, as well as his demonic heritage, casts a spell over him and places him in the magic tomb so that he can never escape, thus causing his death.[13]
Merlin's demise or imprisonment is recounted differently in other versions of the narrative; the enchanted prison is variously described as a cave (in the Lancelot-Grail), a large rock (in Le Morte d'Arthur), an invisible tower, or a tree. In one version, Niviane confines him in the forest of Brocéliande with walls of air, visible as mist to others but as a beautiful tower to him"

As I've said in the past that with Arthurian lore the role of & interference by party's of adventurers might free Merlin or one of the family's wizard's from one of their eternal prisons. Given the occult & alchemy laced background of the warlord patrons & power movers of the Thirty Years its not hard to see one of them playing a long game to locate the tomb prison of Merlin.

The Beguiling of Merlin by E Burne Jones MDCCCLXXIV
For old school games there are a number of not so obvious sources including original Dungeons & Dragons Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes By Robert Kuntz  & James Ward because it contains a good overview of the Cetic & Roman Greco gods which make good wizardly patrons for the family . The second sources of information and NPC portraits is Deities & Demigods for the original first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game. Here both the Celtic & Arthurian gods & mythos are presented along with a full array of stats. Merlin is presented as druid, wizard, & illusionist to complement the other nights. This is a Merlin used to the fray of Camelot and backing up Arthur various wars.

This Merlin is a wizard in the vein of Clark Ashton Smith's all powerful sorcerer Maal Dweb  who tries to stem his boredom by playing with lesser beings. The dangers of chaos come from the likes of the god like Elves of Fairyland & the wizards who use the sorceries of chaos to dip into the whirling maelstrom of time. Merlin's perceptions of time have been & continue to be warped by his association with the Holy Grail an instrument beyond & outside of time & space. In some incarnations Merlin's perceptions of time run backwards closely mirroring the time distortions of Fairyland itself.

How are the powers of the Elves affecting the world of The Thirty Years War? Through their witches covens & cults of chaos. Both Dark Albion & Dark Albion's Cults of Chaos goes deeply into exactly how they operate & have  been for centuries in the Lion & Dragon Retroclone system.

Because Merlin is a demonic hybrid his nature is closely associated with the Celtic Otherworld & the chaotic energies of Fairyland. He is a wizard whose family has walked with the gods of old & may do so again. He is almost but not quite a demigod in a way whose powers and familial influence should never be underestimated.

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Wild Weirdness of D3 City of the Gods by Dave L. Arneson and David J. Ritchie For Old School Campaign Construction

The PCs journey 4,000 years into the past to the land of Blackmoor! The party of adventurers are sent to the City of the Gods by the leaders of Blackmoor to acquire divine magic, either by bargaining or by stealing it!

So over the weekend I looking over D3 City of the Gods by Dave L. Arneson and David J. Ritchie & thinking about the Egg of Coot (again).
 D3 has always been a bit of mixed bag for me as a dungeon master. More of a source book then an adventure after having played through the adventure as a player & having multiple PC's dying rather than making it through the adventure back in '88. If the Egg was powerful enough to bring down a star ship as powerful as the Beagle. Then it comes as no surprise that it could easily be operating in different eras & even alternative prime material planes or dimensions!
City of the Gods is more interesting by what's not stated in the adventure then what is. The fact that time travel or is it simply gating into an alternative world ala Rick & Morty. Well for me its actually the PC's gating into an alternative world time line. St.Steven of the Froggies has been doing something similar for centuries at the behest of his own lord & master the Great Old One's Tsathoggua whose aggressive worshipers spread his horror across time & space.
I've written about the continuing horrors of the influence of St.Stephen himself on the blog not more then a week ago.

The Froggies & the Egg of Coot have had an on again off again war of chess across space & time. Blackmoor & Greyhawk are merely part of the fronts of this war.

What does all of this have to do with the Thirty Year War or Dark Albion? Well the fact is that the Great Toad God seems to love to collect worlds & has a very viciously ironic sense of alien humor. He's been using the various forces of humanity notably the Catholics & Prodostants to destabilize Europe from within.
The Great Old One & his Froggies cults  have been doing this through human toad hybrids for centuries ala Clark Ashton Smith's Mother of Toads.
"PIERRE AWOKE in the ashy dawn, when the tall black tapers had dwindled down and had melted limply in their sockets. Sick and confused, he sought vainly to remember where he was or what he had done. Then, turning a little, he saw beside him on the couch a thing that was like some impossible monster of ill dreams; a toadlike form, large as a fat woman. Its limbs were somehow like a woman's arms and legs. Its pale, warty body pressed and bulged against him, and he felt the rounded softness of something that resembled a breast.
Nausea rose within him as memory of that delirious night returned; Most foully he had been beguiled by the witch, and had succumbed to her evil enchantments.
It seemed that an incubus smothered him, weighing upon all his limbs and body. He shut his eyes, that he might no longer behold the loathsome thing that was Mere Antoinette in her true semblance. Slowly, with prodigious effort, he drew himself away from the crushing nightmare shape. It did not stir or appear to waken; and he slid quickly from the couch.
Again, compelled by a noisome fascination, he peered at the thing on the couch — and saw only the gross form of Mere Antoinette. Perhaps his impression of a great toad beside him had been but an illusion, a half-dream that lingered after slumber. He lost something of his nightmarish horror; but his gorge still rose in a sick disgust, remembering the lewdness to which he had yielded.
Fearing that the witch might awaken at any moment and seek to detain him, he stole noiselessly from the hut. It was broad daylight, but a cold, hueless mist lay everywhere, shrouding the reedy marshes, and hanging like a ghostly curtain on the path he must follow to Les Hiboux. Moving and seething always, the mist seemed to reach toward him with intercepting fingers as he started homeward. He shivered at its touch, he bowed his head and drew his cloak closer around him."

The Arthurian deserts of Zothique are end result of the slow & abiding corruption of the toad god's influence this can be seen in Dark Albion's swamps of Paris & in the slow slide of many of the Arthurian wastelands.
The moral degeneration that we seen in the more decadent parts of Albion is similar to the same sort of decay that we see in the dungeons of Blackmoor indicating the presence of the Froggies.

 Ultimately this sort of chaos & slow from within corruption is seen during the Thirty Year War has to be stopped in its tracks as the monstrous forces of Fairyland & the weird outside influences of the gods have to be stopped!
Man in essence is the ultimate monster & as we've seen in the Lion & Dragon rpg retroclone, only the few heroic families can stand up to this sort of chaos & corruption with the help of adventurers.
"Lancelot or Lancelin may instead have been the hero of an independent folk-tale which had contact with and was ultimately absorbed into the Arthurian tradition." These royal families are also active during the terrible events of the Thirty Years War. The

Lancelin line is related directly through blood to King Ban, Elaine of Benoic, Lady of the Lake, & Hector de Maris.

Ultimately it would be Galahad who leads Europe out of turmoil & from the hands of chaos itself. This is a similar path to King Uther and his line.
"Sir Galahad, described as "the most noblest [sic] knight in the world".[3] Moreover, King Pelles claims that Galahad will lead a "foreign country...out of danger" and "achieve...the Holy Grail".[4] The source of King Pelles' knowledge is undisclosed."
The knowledge comes directly from the visions of the Holy Grail itself an artifact beyond time & space.
This is exactly the same sort of power seen in the gating of the PC's back four thousand years in D3 City of the Gods.

"How at the Castle of Corbin a maiden bare
in the Sangreal and foretold the achievements of Galahad" by Arthur Rackham (1917)

Across time & space the struggle against chaos & its depravities continues! More to come!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Into Bowels Of The Caverns Of Tsathoggua - The Volcano Lands Olathoë' Session Report Twelve

The caves of Needleham partially give up some of their forbidden secrets but the lost & the damned are being harrowed within a monstrous cave with far weirder goings on! Savage monsters & lost travelers from other dimensions, weird worlds, & even other multiverses are being dragged to this distant corner of  Earth but for what sinister purpose?!
Strange & savage horrors awaited our heroes in today's game! Miners have uncovered a horrid secret & activated a sinister system while they line their pockets with gold! But is this at the cost of men's lives & souls?!
What went down in the Wanton Wench foreshadowed the weirdness of the caves surrounding Needleham.

An adventurer from Needleham realizing how much trouble he's in!
 In today's game the party's bard performed to a packed tavern full of miners between shifts. The mine owners & bosses had a meeting at the back private rooms of the tavern. The party's bard & his bodyguard made their way towards the back of the tavern to observe the goings on. Miners tossed the bard a few coppers but the poor fool's heart wasn't in his song.
The miners went over to the leader of the village of Needleham's house and bard observed a very dangerous bunch of mercenaries guarding a gold wagon outside of the village guild hall. The mine bosses and shift managers were on their way over the village leader's home. What had they uncovered in the mine in Needleham & how was it connected with events in Gingum?

Our bard busted into the meeting at the villager leader's house where he learned that gold production in the mines was up over 80% ( this was a result of neutron star engines powering the dimensional gate machinery within the mine).
This resulted in the bard offering the party's services if the miners would shut down the mine for two weeks. The mine owners offered to pay the party of outlaws & adventurers 1500 gold pieces to find out what had been eating the miners & disrupting both towns. Actually the never shut down production & wanted to get rid of the interfering bard and his bodyguard.The party of adventurers entered the mine only to come face to face with a three headed demonic toad thing that had eaten a royal mining inspector from Gingum. The giant aberration coughed up a set of expensive boots, a belt & buckle, an enchanted dagger of the +2 variety and an expensive jacket.

Simon and friend NPC's who have been turned upside down within my home game.

The demon thing wasn't aggressive only having fed mere days before and made no move on the party much to the adventurers dismay. They kept expecting to run into a mold, slime or flesh eating ooze. Instead they ran into a mad wizard who kept making fun of them to the point of getting a cross bow bolt to the shoulder. The former wizard was mad out of his head and finally passed out from blood loss. That's when the party met Simon a Lovecraftian other dimensional traveler and scientist from another universe that informed them of the mysterious and deadly mechanism that that transported unsuspecting travelers from other dimensions. The miners had accidentally activated the thing burrowing into the junk tunnel of the cave complex. The caves however were growing as weird purple and rainbow crystal shafts were pushing their way into the caverns.
Each time the other dimensional mechanism activates all of the crystals glow, shake the caves, & the caverns seem to expand making the players more then a little nervous. That's when weird rainbow effects sometimes filled the air. One of the players mentioned,'What's next flying monkeys?'. Which of course a troupe of demonic flying monkeys  happened to appear!?

The troupe of monkeys were armed with large bronze swords & have been terrorizing many of the caverns inhabitants which included a new other worldly wizard!? This gaudily dressed wizard with his two war dogs proceeded to attack the monkeys which flew off and screamed at the party from the rafters of the cave works. Simon told the party that these monkey monsters worked from some other dimensional insect headed horrors who seemed to be behind all of the goings on(BTW they're not).
Finally the party decided to investigate the other caverns?! But by then it was about one A.M. in the morning and we decided to call it a night.
I've dropped in a heavily  modified version of  Venger Satanis's Slaves of Tsathoggua adventure from his Trinity of Awesome +1 adventure anthology. 

This book is an anthology collection of adventures that can be dropped into any existing campaigns.  Slaves of Tsathoggua is ideally suited for exactly the sort of other dimensional weirdness that I'm going for. The book itself contains contains the following adventures: Slaves of Tsathoggua, A Green Jewel They Must Possess, Slippery When Wet, and Death Race: Fury Road.


What the party doesn't know is that the caverns contain not only the secrets of the Green & Silver death but a very deadly NPC whose more then happy to kill off the entire party if the opportunity presents itself. There's also the renegade necromancer hired by Gingum's mine owners to get rid of the monster in the mines there. Both Needleham & Gingum's mine works have in fact tunneled into several rare & highly unstable other dimensional crystal caches  created by the Serpent men millions of eons ago which power the other dimensional mechanisms currently snatching other worldly travelers from their home universes.
Next time the party will be meeting some of the other worldly NPC's & there are several very dangerous Lovecraftian monster NPC's who would love to eat erm meet the PC's!!?!

Trinity of Awesome +1
Adventure Anthology Is Able Here

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Bloody & Painful Legacy of 'The Sword In The Stone' - An OSR Commentary For Old School Campaigns

So last night I was prepping out for my OSR hybrid game of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition while simultaneously working on my Arthurian/Thirty Years War campaign. This campaign setting draws very heavily upon classic original Dungeons & Dragon game sources while plunging the knife of campaign setting game play squarely into Dark Albion & especially the Lion & Dragon retroclone system.
Today I want to address three ton monster in the room of Arthurian legend, 'The Sword in The Stone'. The 'sword in the stone' is the lynch pin of the Arthurian legend that gets overlooked by nearly every DM. The sword in the stone supposedly sets up Arthur as the rightful king of Britain & as a true seeker of the Holy Grail. Make no mistake that it is but its more then that. It marks a legacy going back thousands of years into European history.

"In Arthurian romance, a number of explanations are given for Arthur's possession of Excalibur. In Robert de Boron's Merlin, the first tale to mention the "sword in the stone" motif, Arthur obtained the British throne by pulling a sword from an anvil sitting atop a stone that appeared in a churchyard on Christmas Eve.[12][note 1] In this account, the act could not be performed except by "the true king," meaning the divinely appointed king or true heir of Uther Pendragon. As Malory's writes: "Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil, is rightwise king born."[13][note 2] This sword is thought by many to be the famous Excalibur, and its identity is made explicit in the later Prose Merlin, part of the Lancelot-Grail cycle.[14] The challenge of drawing a sword from a stone also appears in the Arthurian legends of Galahad, whose achievement of the task indicates that he is destined to find the Holy Grail"

I highly doubt that the sword in the stone is Excalibur but instead the sword of the Pendragons. This is sword of ruler ship that served Uther Pendragon legendary king of sub-Roman Britain who fought the forces of Chaos to a stand still.  If we look deeply into into the legacy of Uther Pendragon then it becomes readily apparent that there are once again two three different characters from European history. What we know  from standard Arthurian legend is as follows:
"Uther Pendragon (/ˈjθər pɛnˈdræɡən, ˈθər/;[1] Welsh: Uthyr Pendragon, Uthyr Bendragon) also known as King Uther, is a legendary king of sub-Roman Britain and the father of King Arthur. A few minor references to Uther appear in Old Welsh poems, but his biography was first written down by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain), and Geoffrey's account of the character was used in most later versions. He is a fairly ambiguous individual throughout the literature, but is described as a strong king and a defender of the people.

According to Arthurian Legend, Merlin magically disguises Uther to look like his enemy Gorlois, enabling Uther to rape Gorlois' wife Lady Igraine. Thus Arthur, "the once and future king," is an illegitimate child (though later legend, as found in Malory, emphasizes that the conception occurred after Gorlois's death and that he was legitimated by Uther's subsequent marriage to Igraine[2]). This act of conception occurs the very night that Uther's troops dispatch Gorlois. The theme of illegitimate conception is repeated in Arthur's siring of Mordred by his own half-sister Morgause in the later prose romances; it is Mordred who mortally wounds King Arthur in the Battle of Camlann."

Where did this mystic +3 sword come from? We have more then a clue in the Welsh legends; " Uther appears in these fragments, where he is associated with Arthur and, in some cases, even appears as his father.

He is mentioned in the circa-10th-century Arthurian poem "Pa gur yv y porthaur?" ("What man is the gatekeeper?"), where it is only said of him that Mabon son of Modron is his servant. He is also memorialized with "The Death-song of Uther Pen" from the Book of Taliesin.[6] The latter includes a reference to Arthur, so the marginal addition of "dragon" to Uther's name is probably justified. "The Colloquy of Arthur and the Eagle," a poem contemporary with but independent of Geoffrey, mentions another son of Uther named Madoc, the father of Arthur's nephew Eliwlod.[4]
In Triad 28, Uthyr is named the creator of one of the Three Great Enchantments of the Island of Britain, which he taught to the wizard Menw.[7] Since Menw is a shapeshifter according to Culhwch and Olwen, it might be that Uther was one as well. If this is so, it opens up the possibility that Geoffrey of Monmouth's narrative about Uther impregnating Igerna with Merlin's help (see below) was taken from a Welsh legend where Uthyr changed his own shape, Merlin possibly being added to the story by Geoffrey.[8]"

This basically places the sorcerer's order of Merlin & 'Uther' center stage following in the wake of the Roman Flight from England. This details draws to the Eight One film Excalibur's character  of Merlin & the Chant of  Making.
"Anál nathrach, orth’ bháis’s bethad, do chél dénmha."
" The Charm of Making, an incantation repeatedly uttered by both Merlin and Morgana, is in an Old Gaelic dialect that translates to "Serpent's breath, charm of death and life, thy omen of making."
When the Roman Empire left England it created a vacuum of power that the forces of  the Pagan gods & Chaos were quick to take full advantage of. The results of this can easily be seen in Dark Albion. This same succession events of power & rulership can also be seen during the events of the the political chaos of the Thirty Year War.

The symbolism of the 'Sword in the Anvil' is also key to understanding the whole of the legacy of  Camelot & the occult overtones. The sword is the legacy of Uther and anvil is the whole of England as well as the bloodline of the Red Dragon of the Pendragon family.
Uther is best known from Geoffrey's Historia Regum Britanniae (1136) where he is the youngest son of King of Britannia, Constantine III. His eldest brother Constans succeeds to the throne on their father's death, but is murdered at the instigation of his adviser Vortigern, who seizes the throne. Uther and his other brother, Aurelius Ambrosius, still children, flee to Brittany. Vortigern makes an alliance with the Saxons under Hengist, but it goes disastrously wrong. Aurelius and Uther return, now adults. Aurelius burns Vortigern in his castle and becomes king.

With Aurelius on the throne, Uther leads his brother in arms to Ireland to help Merlin bring the stones of Stonehenge from there to Britain. Later, while Aurelius is ill, Uther leads his army against Vortigern's son Paschent and his Saxon allies. On the way to the battle, he sees a comet in the shape of a dragon, which Merlin interprets as presaging Aurelius's death and Uther's glorious future. Uther wins the battle and takes the epithet "Pendragon", and returns to find that Aurelius has been poisoned by an assassin. He becomes king and orders the construction of two gold dragons, one of which he uses as his standard.
He secures Britain's frontiers and quells Saxon uprisings with the aids of his retainers, one of whom is Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall. At a banquet celebrating their victories, Uther becomes obsessively enamoured of Gorlois' wife Igerna (Igraine), and a war ensues between Uther and his vassal. Gorlois sends Igerna to the impregnable castle of Tintagel for protection while he himself is besieged by Uther in another town. Uther consults with Merlin who uses his magic to transform the king into the likeness of Gorlois and thus gain access to Igerna at Tintagel. He spends the night with her and they conceive Arthur, but the next morning it is discovered that Gorlois had been killed. Uther marries Igerna and they have a daughter called Anna (in later romances she is called Morgause and is usually Igerna's daughter by her previous marriage). Morgause later marries King Lot and becomes the mother of Gawain and Mordred.
Uther later falls ill and the wars begin to go badly against the Saxons. He insists on leading his army himself, propped up on his horse. He defeats Hengist's son Octa at Verulamium (St Albans), despite the Saxons calling him the "Half-Dead King". However, the Saxons soon contrive his death by poisoning a spring which he drinks from near Verulamium.[10]
Uther's family is based on some historical figures; Constantine on the historical usurper Constantine III, a claimant to the Roman throne from 407–411, and Constans on his son. Aurelius Ambrosius is Ambrosius Aurelianus, mentioned by Gildas, though his connection to Constantine and Constans is unrecorded."

The bloodline connection between the Pendragon family its line of wizards, the fight with chaos going back to the beginnings of England all make the events of Avalon the lost country all that more dark & murky as Fairyland takes Arthur.
"The days of our kind are numberèd. The one God comes to drive out the many gods. The spirits of wood and stream grow silent. It's the way of things. Yes... it's a time for men, and their ways."
Merlin Excalibur 1981

The Sword in the Stone' is also a potent symbol of the Celtic Otherworld as draws forth on the  symbolism of the Roman god Hades keys to the Underworld. A remnant of the inner workings of the Roman mystery cults which is also deeply tied into the classic alchemy symbolism. Alchemy being a key part of the Lion & Dragon retroclone wizard's arsenal against the forces of chaos. The sword in the stone might be one of the twelve treasures of  Clark Ashton Smith's
The Averoigne stories. Because of the of the deep connection of Lancelot family with  Averoigne. The sword could be a potent weapon against the forces of the toad god & his frog forces within Europe.  The sword in the stone has disappeared into the mists of history & would make a fine quest for a group of adventurers especially in Castle Amber. The Amber family's blood connections to the Pendragons might mean that the sword is in some long lost familial crypt in X2 Castle Amber.
We'll get into the deeper parts of the Chaotic fight with Fairyland next time

Friday, March 16, 2018

Forbidden Underworld Themes In Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Second Edition Campaigns

Today I've spent a good deal of time delving in & out of Robert Howard's Conan story "The Man-Eaters of Zamboula" (or, as it was renamed, "Shadows in Zamboula") as well as Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition.
This is mostly due to the upcoming Kickstarter launch for Corey Walden's AS&SH adventure "The Anthropophagi of Xambaala" this is an adventure with lots of extended campaign adventure play. Corey is well known among the OSR crowd & has done a number of OSR projects over the years. "Shadows in Zamboula" is pure Appendix N Weird Tales material & most likely this adventure will follow closely in the stories foot steps with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea's own twist.

The cover artwork for  "The Anthropophagi of Xambaala" reminds me of an adventure  events continuation of B4 The Lost City classic adventure  by Tom Moldvay. If you haven't seen the 48-page "B4 campaign source book", a collection of mostly new material celebrating Tom Moldvay's "The Lost City" by Demos Sachlas.

The sourcebook contains some of the free amazing  following material : 
Retrospective: The Lost City
Memories of Tom Moldvay
About the Artist, from “The Art of Jim Holloway”
Printing History, with notes from the Acaeum
Origins of the Lost City
Worship of the Ancient Gods
The Cynidicean Mosaics
Holmes and the Lost City
Notes on the Underground City
Expanding the Adventure
New Monsters
The Emirates of Ylaruam
The DM’s Guide to Cynidicea
Review: “Mystara: Return to the Lost City”
Review: “Masque of Dreams” (including some previously unpublished artwork by Michael Kaluta!)
Review: “Elder Evils”
2013 Gen Con Championship

B4 The Lost City is a B/X Sword & Sorcery classic adventure and this source book only adds a bit more old school shine to it.

"Shadows in Zamboula"has its own merits with story events seemingly happening around Conan as well as too him. Much of this also happens to take place with adventuring parties within campaigns. Baal-pteor, the Strangler of Yajur is just the sort of an NPC character that a party of adventurers might run into if they're not careful in the seedy side of this incredibly dangerous  desert city. But something about Zamboula itself reminds me of the far future tales of Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique.

 Maybe its the emptiness of the Empire of the Necromancers, The (1932) story or the deadly weirdness of Charnel God, The (1934). But something about AS&SH's adventures have always held a bit of the old school Weird Tales darkness about them.

Cover of Weird Tales (November 1935): The feature story is Robert E. Howard's "Shadows in Zamboula".

These desert regions in pulps often guarded entrances to the Underworld of mythology. Often the rivers of the dead were featured in many pulp stories certainly there are echoes of this in CAS's Zothique & echoes of it in Jeffrey Talanian AS&SH' s Underborea. Is there such a region in this underworld location? I think so. Especially given some of the hints we've seen in the campaign world &  monster section of the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition game.
"In Greek and Indic mythology the waters of this river were thought to wash away sins or memories whereas Celtic and Germanic myths feature wisdom-imparting waters, suggesting that while the memories of the deceased are washed away a drinker of the waters would gain inspiration.[3] The wayfarer will commonly encounter a dog either in the capacity of a guardian of the Otherworld or as the wanderer's guide.[3] Examples of this are the Greek Cerberus, the three-headed hound of Hades, and the Indic सर्वरा "sarvarā, one of the hounds of Yama, whose names may derive from an Indo-European *ḱerberos meaning "spotted".[3] In Indo-European mythologies the Otherworld is depicted in many ways, including peaceful meadows, islands and buildings making it hard to determine how the original Proto-Indo-European Otherworld was viewed.[3] However the ruler of the dead was possibly Yemo, the divine twin of Manu the first man."

There may be darker hints to the fate of 'Old Earth' in AS&SH's underworld then first thought. Many of the most alien aspects of the game echo distant eons of the past as well as the future of Earth. Time is a very fluid concept to the gods & horrors of Hyperborea especially seen in CAS's Ubbo-Sathla (1933) &
Weird of Avoosl Wuthoqquan, The (1932).  Most likely "The Anthropophagi of Xambaala" is going to double down on these concepts and keep up the tradition of AS&SH modules. I look forward to the results of today's kickstarter.
You Can Back The Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Second Edition Beasts & Cannibals Kickstarter Right Here

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Weapons of War & Fortune Within The Arthurian Mythology For Your Old School Campaigns

There drew he forth the brand Excalibur,
And o’er him, drawing it, the winter moon,
Brightening the skirts of a long cloud, ran forth
And sparkled keen with frost against the hilt:
For all the haft twinkled with diamond sparks,
Myriads of topaz-lights, and jacinth-work
Of subtlest jewellery.
"The Passing of Arthur", one of the Idylls of the King

Excalibur is the sword that seemingly defines the Arthurian legend but there are actually several weapons that Arthur wields throughout his career as king of Britain. Excalibur or Caliburn have many names throughout the series of Arthurian literature stories. I'm not going to concentrate too much on the 'Sword In The Stone' because that is a separate blog entry given its history, linage, and importance in ancient Arthurian literature & mythological tradition.
"Sometimes Excalibur and the Sword in the Stone (the proof of Arthur's lineage) are said to be the same weapon, but in most versions they are considered separate. Excalibur was associated with the Arthurian legend very early. In Welsh, it is called Caledfwlch; in Cornish, Calesvol; in Breton, Kaledvoulc'h; and in Latin, Caliburnus."

Excalibur itself has had many incarnations across the countries that the Arthurian literature appeared and its sigificanance in Athurian literature including Gawain's sword Escalibor ;
" The name Excalibur ultimately derives from the Welsh Caledfwlch (and Breton Kaledvoulc'h, Middle Cornish Calesvol) which is a compound of caled "hard" and bwlch "breach, cleft".[1] Caledfwlch appears in several early Welsh works, including the poem Preiddeu Annwfn (though it is not directly named - but only alluded to - here) and the prose tale Culhwch and Olwen, a work associated with the Mabinogion and written perhaps around 1100. The name was later used in Welsh adaptations of foreign material such as the Bruts (chronicles), which were based on Geoffrey of Monmouth.
It is often considered to be related to the phonetically similar Caladbolg, a sword borne by several figures from Irish mythology, although a borrowing of Caledfwlch from Irish Caladbolg has been considered unlikely by Rachel Bromwich and D. Simon Evans. They suggest instead that both names "may have similarly arisen at a very early date as generic names for a sword"; this sword then became exclusively the property of Arthur in the British tradition.[1][2]
Geoffrey of Monmouth, in his Historia Regum Britanniae (The History of the Kings of Britain, c. 1136), Latinised the name of Arthur's sword as Caliburnus (potentially influenced by the Medieval Latin spelling calibs of Classical Latin chalybs, from Greek chályps [χάλυψ] "steel"). Most Celticists consider Geoffrey's Caliburnus to be derivative of a lost Old Welsh text in which bwlch had not yet been lenited to fwlch.[3][4][1]
In Old French sources this then became Escalibor, Excalibor, and finally the familiar Excalibur. Geoffrey Gaimar, in his Old French L'Estoire des Engles (1134-1140), mentions Arthur and his sword: "this Constantine was the nephew of Arthur, who had the sword Caliburc" ("Cil Costentin, li niès Artur, Ki out l'espée Caliburc").[5][6] In Wace's Roman de Brut (c. 1150-1155), an Old French translation and versification of Geoffrey's Historia, the sword is called Calabrum, Callibourc, Chalabrun, and Calabrun (with alternate spellings such as Chalabrum, Calibore, Callibor, Caliborne, Calliborc, and Escaliborc, found in various manuscripts of the Brut).[7]
In Chrétien de Troyes' late 12th-century Old French Perceval, Arthur's knight Gawain carries the sword Escalibor and it is stated, "for at his belt hung Escalibor, the finest sword that there was, which sliced through iron as through wood"[8] ("Qu'il avoit cainte Escalibor, la meillor espee qui fust, qu'ele trenche fer come fust"[9]). This statement was probably picked up by the author of the Estoire Merlin, or Vulgate Merlin, where the author (who was fond of fanciful folk etymologies) asserts that Escalibor "is a Hebrew name which means in French 'cuts iron, steel, and wood'"[10] ("c'est non Ebrieu qui dist en franchois trenche fer & achier et fust"; note that the word for "steel" here, achier, also means "blade" or "sword" and comes from medieval Latin aciarium, a derivative of acies "sharp", so there is no direct connection with Latin chalybs in this etymology). It is from this fanciful etymological musing that Thomas Malory got the notion that Excalibur meant "cut steel"[11] ("'the name of it,' said the lady, 'is Excalibur, that is as moche to say, as Cut stele'").

The quest for the sword is partially the quest of Arthur through the unknown wilderness of adventure hearkening the same sort of an adventure that PC's would get into in original Dungeons & Dragon's Vol 3: The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures, written by Gygax and Arneson, TSR, 1974. The quest into the unknown wilderness & dungeon for the artifact of ruler ship or the treasures of the ancients. Down into the underworld of the dungeon to delve into the unknown. Vol 3: The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures puts the PC's into the cross hairs of the mystical & the unknown of the wilderness.

These swords & other weapons are ancient beyond the ken of humanity. They represent an older & more dangerous order of humanity & they are weapons of the gods taken to Fairyland eons ago. Excalibur is one of the most important but Arthur carried other weapons that are more then capable of cutting down the forces of chaos.

The Lady of the Lake offering Arthur Excalibur, by Alfred Kappes (1880)

The Lady of the Lake's origin & power are closely tied with Arthur's weapons of war;
"Lady of the Lake is the title held by a sorceress character in the Matter of Britain. She plays a pivotal role in many stories, including giving King Arthur his sword Excalibur, enchanting Merlin, and raising Lancelot after the death of his father. Different writers and copyists give the Arthurian character the name Nimue, Nymue, Nimueh, Viviane, Vivien, Vivienne, Ninianne, Nivian, Nyneve, or Evienne, among other variations.[2] In some versions and adaptations, at least two separate characters bearing the title "the Lady of the Lake" appear since the Post-Vulgate Cycle and Le Morte d'Arthur."
The powers of the sword Excalibur are closely tied to the Lady's own;
"In many versions, Excalibur's blade was engraved with phrases on opposite sides: "Take me up" and "Cast me away" (or similar). In addition, when Excalibur was first drawn, in the first battle testing Arthur's sovereignty, its blade blinded his enemies. Thomas Malory[23] writes: "thenne he drewe his swerd Excalibur, but it was so breyght in his enemyes eyen that it gaf light lyke thirty torchys."
Excalibur's scabbard was said to have powers of its own. Loss of blood from injuries, for example, would not kill the bearer. In some tellings, wounds received by one wearing the scabbard did not bleed at all. In the later romance tradition, including Le Morte d'Arthur, the scabbard is stolen from Arthur by his half-sister Morgan le Fay in revenge for the death of her beloved Accolon and thrown into a lake, never to be found again. This act later enables the death of Arthur at the Battle of Camlann."

Make no mistake The Lady of the Lake is of the goddesses of Fairyland & perhaps even the Elves of Dark Albion & the Lion & Dragon retroclone system;
"The Lady of the Lake began appearing in the French chivalric romances by the early 13th century, becoming Lancelot's fairy godmother-like foster mother. The Lancelot-Grail cycle provides a backstory for the Lady of the Lake, Viviane, in the "prose Merlin" section, which takes place before the Lancelot Proper, though it was written later. She refuses to give him her love until he has taught her all his secrets, after which she uses her power to trap him either in the trunk of a tree or beneath a stone, depending on the story and author.[citation needed] Though Merlin, through his power of foresight knows beforehand that this will happen, he is unable to counteract Viviane because of the "truth" this ability of foresight holds. He decides to do nothing for his situation other than to continue to teach her his secrets until she takes the opportunity to entrap and entomb him in a tree, a stone or a cave.
The Post-Vulgate Cycle's second Lady of the Lake is called Ninianne, and her story is nearly identical to the one in the Lancelot-Grail, though it adds her bestowal of the magic sword Excalibur to Arthur. Sir Thomas Malory also uses both Ladies of the Lake in his Le Morte d'Arthur; he leaves the first one unnamed and calls the second one Nimue (Nymue). Malory's original Lady is presented as an early benefactor of King Arthur who grants him Excalibur when his original sword is damaged. She is later beheaded by Sir Balin as a result of a kin feud between them (she blames him for the death of her brother and he blames her for the death of his mother) and a dispute over an enchanted sword.
According to the Vulgate Merlin, it was the goddess Diana's enchantment, given to Dyonas, that caused Viviane to be so alluring to Merlin.[6] The Vulgate Lancelot tells us that she was the Queen of Sicily, but considered a goddess by her subjects. The continuation Post Vulgate Merlin describes how she killed her lover to be with another man, but then she was beheaded by this man as a murderess. This story was later transferred to a lake in France, and was later called the Lake of Diana.
The Middle English romance Arthour and Merlin, casts Morgan herself in the role of the Lady of the Lake and residing near a town named Ninniane. The Italian manuscript Tavola ritonda (The Round Table) makes Morgan both a daughter of Uther Pendragon and a sister of the Lady of the Lake."
Once again we see the goddess Diana associated with the cult of the Elves from Fairyland & the origin for the Lady of the Lake;
"Chrétien de Troyes's Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart, the first story featuring Lancelot as a prominent character, was also the first to mention his upbringing by a fairy in a lake. If to accept that the German Lanzelet by Ulrich von Zatzikhoven contains elements of a more primitive version of this tale than Chrétien's, the infant Lancelot was spirited away to a lake by a water fairy (merfeine in Old High German) and raised in her country of Meidelant ("Land of Maidens", an island in the sea inhabited by ten thousand maidens who live in perpetual happiness); the fairy queen and her paradise island are reminiscent of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Morgen of the Island of Avallon in his Vita Merlini."

It would be these same Fairyland forces that would come to act through their cults during the Thirty Year War at "The Battle of White Mountain" when king Arthur's spear Rhongomyniad ("spear" + "striker, slayer") is also first mentioned in Culhwch was supposedly recovered from an ancient crypt!

"Excalibur is by no means the only weapon associated with Arthur, nor the only sword. Welsh tradition also knew of a dagger named Carnwennan and a spear named Rhongomyniad that belonged to him. Carnwennan ("little white-hilt") first appears in Culhwch and Olwen, where Arthur uses it to slice the witch Orddu in half.[1][24] Rhongomyniad ("spear" + "striker, slayer") is also first mentioned in Culhwch, although only in passing; it appears as simply Ron ("spear") in Geoffrey's Historia.[1][3]
The Alliterative Morte Arthure, a Middle English poem, mentions Clarent, a sword of peace meant for knighting and ceremonies as opposed to battle, which Mordred stole and then used to kill Arthur.[25] The Prose Lancelot of the Vulgate Cycle mentions a sword called Seure, which belonged to the king but was used by Lancelot in one battle"
"In Welsh mythology, the Dyrnwyn ("White-Hilt"), one of the Thirteen Treasures of the Island of Britain, is said to be a powerful sword belonging to Rhydderch Hael,[27] one of the Three Generous Men of Britain mentioned in the Welsh Triads. When drawn by a worthy or well-born man, the entire blade would blaze with fire. Rhydderch was never reluctant to hand the weapon to anyone, hence his nickname Hael "the Generous", but the recipients, as soon as they had learned of its peculiar properties, always rejected the sword.
There are other similar weapons described in other mythologies. In particular, Claíomh Solais, which is an Irish term meaning "Sword of Light", or "Shining Sword", which appears in a number of orally transmitted Irish folk-tales."

So why would any of these potent weapons so effective against the forces of Chaos be given to a champion of good such as King Arthur or the PC's for that matter? Because each of the Fairyland forces of Chaos must act through proxies. The gods & the Elves all have their little rules to make victory all that much sweeter. Wizards in the Lion & Dragon retroclone know that the symbolism to the people of Europe is just as potent as the mystic powers of these swords & weapons of Arthur. These cycles of hope & tragedy are eternally being acted out in both Arthurian literature & within the confines of old school adventures. This is something we see time & again in the writings of Clark Ashton Smith including his award winning poetry.
Scene: a cemetery, by moonlight. The Ghoul emerges from the shade of a cypress, and sings.
The Song
The Pestilence is on the wing!
Behold! the sweet and crimson foam
Upon the lips of churl and king!
No worm but hath a feastful home:
The Pestilence is on the wing!

Even now his kiss incarnadines
The brows of maiden, queen and whore;
The nun to him her cheek resigns;
Wan lips were never kissed before,
His ancient kiss incarnadines.

Good cheer to thee, white worm of death !
The priest within the brothel dies,
The baud hath sickened from his breath !
In grave half-dug the digger lies:
Good cheer to thee, white worm of death!

The Seraph appears from among the trees, half walking, half flying, with wings whose iris the moonlight has rendered faint, and pauses at sight of the Ghoul.
The Seraph
What gardener in crudded fields of hell,
Or scullion of the Devil's house, art thou—
To whom the filth of Malebolge clings,
And reek of horrid refuse? Thou art gnurled
And black as any Kobold from the mines
Where demons delve for orichalch and steel
To forge the infernal racks! Upon thy face,
Detestable and evil as might haunt
The last delirium of a dying hag,
Or necromancer's madness, fall thy locks
Like sodden reeds that trail in Acheron
From shores of night and horror; and thy hands,
Like roots of cypresses uptorn in storm
That still retain their grisly provender,
Make the glad wine and manna of the skies
Turn to a qualmish sickness in my veins.

The Ghoul
And who art thou ?— some white-faced fool of God,
With wings that emulate the giddy bird,
And bloodless mouth for ever filled with psalms
In lieu of honest victuals ! . . . Askest thou
My name ? I am the ghoul NecromaIor:
In new-made graves I delve for sustenance,
As man within his turnip-fields; I take
For table the uprooted slab, that bears
The words, "In Pace;" black and curdled blood
Of cadávers is all my cupless wine —
Slow-drunken, as the dainty, vampire drinks
From pulses oped in never-ending sleep.

The Seraph
O, foulness Born as of the ninefold curse
Of dragon-mouthed Apollyon, plumed with darts
And armed with horns of incandescent bronze !
O, dark as Satan's nightmare, or the fruit
Of Belial's rape on hell's bIack hippogriff !
What knowest thou of Paradise, where grow
The gardens of the manna-laden myrrh,
And lotos never known to Ulysses,
Whose fruit provides our long and sateless banquet ?
Where boundless fields, unfurrowed and unsown,
Supply for God's own appanage their foison
Of amber-hearted grain, and sesame
Sweeter than nard the Persian air compounds
With frankincense from isles of India !
Where flame-leaved forests infinitely teem
With palms of tremulous opal, from whose tops
Ambrosial honies fall forevermore
In rains of nacred light ! Where rise and rise,
Terrace on hyacinthine terrace, hills
Hung with the grapes that drip cerulean wine,
One draught whereof dissolves eternity
In bliss oblivious and supernal dream !

The Ghoul
To all the meat their bellies most commend,
To all the according wine. For me, I wot,
The cates whereof thou braggest were as wind
In halls where men had feasted yesterday,
Or furbished bones the full hyena leaves.
Tiger and pig have their apportioned glutt,
Nor lacks the shark his provender; the bird
Is nourished with the worm of charnels; man,
Or the grey wolf, will slay and eat the bird,
Till wolf and man be carrion for the worm.
What wouldst thou ? As the elfin lily does,
Or as the Paphian myrtle, pale with love,
I draw me from the unreluctant dead
The rightful meat my belly's law demands.
Eaters of death are all: life shall not live,
Save that its food be death: no atomy
In any star, nor heaven's remotest moon
But hath a billion billion times been made
The food of insatiable life, and food
Of death insatiate: for all is change—
Change, that hath wrought the chancre and the rose,
And wrought the star, and wrought the sapphire-stone,
And lit great altars, and the eyes of lions—
Change, that hath made the very gods from slime
Drawn from the pits of Python, and willing
Gods and their builded heavens back again
To slime. The fruits of archangelic light
Thou braggest of, and grapes of azure wine,
Have been the dung of dragons and the blood
Of toads in Phlegethon: each particle
That is their splendor, clomb in separate ways
Through suns and worlds and cycles infinite—
Through burning brume of systems unbegun,
And manes of long-haired comets, that have lashed
The night of space to Fury and to fire;
And in the core of cold and lightless stars,
And in immalleable metats deep,
Each atomy hath slept, or known the slime
Of cyclopean oceans turned to air
Before the suns of Ophiuchus rose;
And they have known the interstellar night,
And they have lain at root of sightless flowers
In worlds without a sun, or at the heart
Of monstrous-eyed and panting flowers of flesh,
Or eon-blooming amaranths of stone;
And they have ministered within the brains
Of sages and magicians, and have served
To swell the pulse of kings and conquerors,
And have been privy to the hearts of queens.

The Ghoul turns his back on the Seraph, and moves away, singing.
The Song
O condor, keep thy mountain-ways
Above the long Andean lands;
Gier-eagle, guard the eastern sands
Where the Forsaken camel strays:
Beetle and worm and I will ward
The Iardered graves of lout and lord.

Oh, warm and bright the blood that Iies
Upon the wounded lion's trail !
Hyena, laugh, and jackal, wail,
And ring him round, who turns and dies !
Beetle and worm and I will ward
The lardered graves of lout and lord.

Arms of a wanton girl are good,
Or hands of harp-player and knight:
Breasts of the nun be sweet and white,
Sweet is the festive friar's blood.
Beetle and worm and I will ward
The lardered graves of lout and lord.

The Ghoul and the Seraph  (1922)  by Clark Ashton Smith
This poem pits the very forces of decay & the forces of Heaven within an allegorical struggle amid the very circumstances of myth & legend something that seems to get all too lost in the adventures of the OSR. Players should be aware of the level of forces that are sometimes at work in old school games. Smith evokes the early echoes of the Arthurian wilderness adventures without falling into the traps of the wilderness. The potent symbol of the ancient artifact or weapon within the dungeon echoes the wilderness & ruins so often associated with the Arthurian mythology & legends