Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Warduke Prince of the Damned?! A More Moorcockian Dive & Speculation Into XL1 Quest for the Heartstone By Michael L. Gray For Expert Dungeons & Dragons

We know that the cold, cruel, & calculating Warduke remains one of the most popular of 'The Dungeons & Dragons' cartoon but is there far more going on under the red glowing eyes of the bat winged helm?! Whom does Warduke really serve!? And is there a Moorcock connection?!

A heart of stone, beyond the mist you’ll find,” Loftos said softly. “The heartstone will tell you who should be your king.”

“But where is this stone? How will I find it?” the queen asked.
“The stone was stolen over 50 years ago by Dahnakriss the Master Thief. He Who Watches originally gave the tiny, heartshaped stone to Qasmar, who was the King of Ghyr during the Prism Wars. During these wars, Qasmar used the stone to see into the hearts of men, and was so able to choose his friends and allies. Soon after the war, the magical stone vanished from Castle Ghyr’s supposedly thief-proof vaults. Until now, no one knew what had become of the heartstone. According to He Who Watches, it lies north, in the great Mountains of Ice.
“We must convince a party of adventurers to retrieve the stone and bring it back to us. But we must be very careful. No one must know of the stone’s power, especially not those who would aspire to the throne. Even those we hire to find the stone should not know of its strength!
And just like that two champions of chaos & law were created from the ground up. Pureheart the paladin & Warduke mortal enemies for all times each representing far more then they seem. The two are representatives of powers beyond the pale in 'the Realms'. According to the official back story he was a simple lowly fighter given almost supernatural power by the heartstone.

Now lets dive back into the fray with four characters cut from the opposite sides of the cloth. Warduke himself is a study in contrasts but its his own nature that bares out the curse that comes from the Heartstone ;" Both were exposed to the Heartstone, and Warduke’s cruel nature was brought out while Pureheart’s just nature became stronger…." The heartstone manipulates its victims traits into the best or worst alignments & personality that they can be.  The heartstone literally is advancing its own agenda giving more power to both law & chaos within 'The Realms' & Mystara in the form of champions.
[He] especially hates Pureheart, who he feels wastes his time protecting the weak and helpless. “A true fighter,” Warduke feels, “makes himself rich and powerful by the strength of his sword arm. He takes what he can—if you would keep your possessions, kill those who seek to take them.” He calls his sword “Nightwind.”"
I've said this before I think that the power of Warduke isn't the man himself but his accouterments & sword. I think the helm is an artifact similar to Frazetta's Deathdealer paperbacks & Deathdealer comic books by Glen Danzig. 
Frank Frazetta's Death Dealer Book Series

This also goes a long way to explaining some of the inconsistencies that we see in appearances, levels, etc. going all of the way back to Warduke's official inclusion in Wizards of the Coast's 'official' canon on the character here.  But imagine the tragic circumstances surroundings Strongheart the paladin whose hunted, and tried to defeat his friend so many times only to have the knowledge that he's trapped within his own body & mind!? Very dark stuff indeed. 
But surely there's not an Elric analog of the Pureheart/Warduke relationship in Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion mythologies is there?! Meet " Prince Gaynor Paul St Odhran Badehoff-Krasny von Minct, known as Gaynor the DamnedGunnar the Doomed, and Paul Minct, is a fallen knight of the Cosmic Balance. "
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 A cursed & damned  champion of Chaos. He is an arch enemy of Elric of MelnibonéUlrich Von BekOona Von BekPrince Corum and The Rose, and has crossed swords with Elric of Melniboné. In the guise of Paul Minct, Gaynor antagonizes Jack KaraquazianSam Oakenhurst, The Rose and Colinda Dovero.
Gaynor is responsible for the destruction of a universe dear to The Rose, and this has earned Gaynor her eternal hatred. Gaynor seeks the Holy Grail to be reconciled with the Balance, or else to die and drag all of the Multiverse into Limbo."
Prince Gaynor  too appears in Kuntz & Ward's Deities & Demigods borne on the  whims of Chaos to serve in every single major conflict of Law & Chaos. He would definitely seek out the heartstone from  XL1 Quest For the Hearthstone by Michael L. Gray
Jeff Vogel on Twitter: "Deities & Demigods is infamous for ...
But Gaynor very cursed chaotic nature with Elric makes eerie parallels with the Pureheart & Warduke relationship dynamic & Gaynor is tied into the immortal  existence of the Eternal Champion;" In Corum's universe, Gaynor served Xiombarg and led an army of Chaos against the city of Halwyg-nan-Vake. Corum defeated him and removed his visor, exposing his face and banishing him from Corum's universe to continue his torment elsewhere."
Even  Gaynor gear & weapons look very similar to Warduke?! So is there a prophecy or two tied into the fate of 'The Realms' wrapped around Warduke?! Gaynor2

XL1 Quest For the Hearthstone by Michael L. Gray leads to more adventure opportunities & questions then answers for me. But here are ten of them right off the top of my head. 
  1. Does the heartstone have a Greyhawk analog & if so will there be more conflict & chaos that it inflicts on Oerth. Could some of the wars & conflict be because of it. 
  2. Are 'The Realms' subject to other darker & sinister incursions of chaos & could Tiamat's relationship with 'the Realms' be tied directly into this. 
  3. Do the lords of order have a stake in 'The Realms' & if so how!? 
  4. XL1 Quest For the Hearthstone by Michael L. Gray tie into the greater cosmic chess game of the Eternal Champion in ways that affect Venger & his dark master. 
  5. Could the 'Nameless One' be the source of Warduke's dark power?! Is this why he's so cavilier in his relationship with Venger in the D&D cartoon episode 'In Search of the Dungeon Master'. 
  6. Could Elric or one of the other Eternal Champions pop up in the Realms searching for one of the artifacts that 'young pupils' destroyed?! If so would this put the albino prince in a direct confrontation with the Dungeon Master or Venger for that matter!?
  7. What of the other powerful NPC's mentioned & outlined in AC1 The Shady Inn?! Could they have more then a vested interest in fate of Warduke. 
  8. With his nightmare mount Warduke could theorically travel the planes including making appearances on Greyhawk during his time as a mercenary. Why was he on Greyhawk!? Did he cross swords with Gord Gary Gygax's renegade theif,  cat lord, & champion of balance?! 
  9. Whose personality or mind are in charge of Warduke & what is this person's actual agenda in 'the realms'. 
  10. Could Warduke be planning & building up some hidden agenda far more dangerous then Venger's?! 

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