Monday, November 22, 2021

The Keep on The Borderlands of Realities - Law, Chaos, & the Holy Grail In ACK's Stormbringer

 Let's once again step onto the moonbeam paths of the Holy Grail & Chaos with continuing our discussion of The Fisher Kings & the Michael Moorcock mythos of Law & Chaos right from here. This brings everything home with  Adventurer, Conqueror, King Heroic Fantasy  Handbook. And ACK's makes a perfect alternative rpg to create an alternative Stormbringer rpg campaign. And this dove tails into the legends of the Holy Grail & the Fisher King. 

So what does any of this have to do with Michael Moorcock's Hawkmoon's 'Tragic Millenium' Europe?! The Dark Empire of Granbretan (the name given to what was once Great Britain) is engaged in a campaign to collect any & all items or artifacts of power super science or otherwise. And we know that 'the Dark Empire's super science had  deeply dived into the realm of 'time travel' and alternative dimensions. They have zero reason not to dip into an alternative dimension or two to retrieve items of myth & legend. 
And this includes the Arthurian mythos items. The Molten Sulfur blog includes an interesting but brief overview of such items here. 

One such item which has appeared over & over again is the 'Bleeding Lance' which according the Fisher King's Wiki entry; "The bleeding lance has taken numerous forms throughout the Arthurian literature chronology. In the earlier appearances of the lance, it is not represented as a Christian symbol, but morphs into one over time. In Perceval and Parzival, the lance is described as having "barbaric properties" which are difficult to associate with Christian influence.[6] Chretien describes his lance with "marvelous destructive powers", which holds a closer connection to the malignant weapons of Celtic origin.[7] In Chretien's Perceval, the lance takes on a dark and almost evil persona[7] and also seems to overshadow the Grail, which if this was a Christian story would be rather odd.[8] Wolfram's tale also treated the lance in a similar dark manner. In Parzival, the lance is "poisonous" which contrasts sharply with the general trend of healing Christian themes. This lance is plunged into the Fisher King's wound at different times to continue his pain, for having sought forbidden love.[6] This lance is considered significant because it is most often associated directly with the wound of the Fisher King, which is demonstrated both in Chretien's and Eschenbach's versions of the tale.[9]

The more recent writings have the lance presented in the Fisher King's castle with Christian theology. More specifically, it is supposed to be the lance that pierced Jesus Christ while on the cross. This is seen in Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. In Malory's version the Fisher King is healed with the blood from the lance, signifying it as a good, holy, Christian object. In Corbenic we see the procession at the Fisher King's feast, featuring heavily on the Holy Grail, which is a strong Christian artifact. It can be extrapolated that in the same procession, the accompanying lance is the lance that pierced Jesus Christ." 

If the  Dark Empire of Granbretan gets ahold of the Lance?! Then Arthurian England could be in serious  trouble. But the Sword of the Fisher King is even more dread of an item; "The sword is commonly thought to be a gift from the Fisher King to Perceval. This is then followed by Perceval's cousin's prophecy that the sword will break at a crucial moment. In two cases, the writers tell us that Perceval broke the sword: in Eschenbach, it fails him in his battle against his half-brother at the end of Parzival; and Gerbert de Montreuil describes how he shatters it on the gates of the "Earthly Paradise".[10] The adventure of the broken sword is a theme originally introduced by Chretien, who intended it as a symbol of Perceval's imperfections as a knight.[11] The major example for his imperfection is that Perceval refused to ask about the Grail. This concept of punishment is also seen in Eschenbach's tale where Perceval is told: "your uncle gave you a sword, too, by which you have been granted since your eloquent mouth unfortunately voiced no question there."[12] The sword remains as a plot device to both remind Perceval of how he failed to ask the healing question and as a physical reminder of the existence of "Munsalvaesche" (Eschenbach's name for Corbenic)." 

What does this have to do with D&D?! A bit of everything there was when I was in college a piece of Arthurian artwork that looks exactly like B2  The Keep on the Borderlands By Gary Gygax's famous module Keep.  For many years I've been searching the interwebs for that piece of artwork. 

Map of the Keep, from module B2 "The Keep on the Borderlands" (1980).  Scale: one square equals 10 feet

According to the OSR Grimoire blog there are any number of variant keeps. And this what we recently used as the Fisher King's abode. But who would be villainous enough to leak the location of the 'Broken Lance' & one of the two Fisher King swords?!  Why the queen of Light & Darkness of course who has an instinctive in disrupting the Holy Grail's role in the planes. All of this ties back into Original Dungeons & Dragon's Greyhawk's magic section where there are several minor details that will be worked into our campaign coming up. 

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