The Clan of Bolt's Massacre

I, Cadolo, scribe of the Court at Donjonwold,
Do hereby transcribe from the expedition log of Haearnblaidd's Brigade
Into the ducal archives events that occurred in the spring of the year of the Weasel,
Month of the Beetle, on the south-western frontier of the realm.

Long reign to the House of Heryrod on World's Henge.

Quadrus, warrior commander, led Haearnblaidd's Brigade
Across the river Farby, risen under rain.
He was met by dervishes who follow the Six Winds,
Fighting monks, ferocity inspired by faith in the directions of their Hexad.

The matriarch expected gifts according to custom.
Quadrus gave none, cocky and practical.
For naught but all would have satisfied the chieftess,
Mounted at the head of a host of four figures, bowmen and lancers.

With strategist's eye the matriarch considered the breadth and depth of the Brigade,
Then withdrew, and her mounted men with her.
The sticks of the forest turned to serpents, fangs dripping bile.
Quadrus survived attempted poisoning.

In the Walking Woods, Quadrus discovered ruins.
Crumbling walls around empty places, age-old notions
Of forts and magazines, of homes and prisons.
Haearnblaidd's Brigade passed unmolested.

According to lore, peril haunts such places.
Any order of monster creeps behind toppled pillars.
Collapsing stone and guileful denizens trap trespassers.
In the empty places, unguarded treasure awaits beyond loneliness and insanity.

Sudden growls and claws flashing from behind,
Turning about, the right column morphed into a skirmish front.
A tiger-man stood down the line, felling men and horses to a figure's count.
Quadrus advanced and the lycanthrope retreated, a female and a dozen cubs fled with carcasses.

Out of the forest on high ground, Quadrus looked east
Upon the Griffon Plains and the Tuile Gorm, the Blue Flood.
Joined downstream by the White to make the Great River,
River of legend, river of myth, bridged by the Greater Race.

Across a grassy knoll, a wave on the Griffon Plains,
Tufts of trees about, leafy and bright green,
Rode Haearnblaidd's Brigade, proud men in the service of Heryrod,
Attacked by troglodytes – Men in animal hides, flailing cudgels,
Threw themselves against brutal mounts, falling to strikes by sword and iron hoof.
Only women and whelps and old men remained
In their caves, a conquered people now subject to the Duke
By letter of marque, the clan of Bolt's Massacre.

Choose your own path...

The Wizard's Take

From Odenode's Private Diary

Spider Beetle Weasel, LIZARD DONJON – I have entertained as guest an envoy from the self-proclaimed Duke of World's Henge, a warrior, now commander of Haearnblaidd's brigade. He is called Bolt, named Quadrus, within whose veins is supposed to flow the Bird-serpent's blood.

This morn, the warrior commander led the brigade down the terrace stair and away south along the Farby. Seventeen figures of light horse carried supplies for men and mounts, plus a potion phial and a thousand pieces of gold.

I have heard before a legend of Protexer, his progenitor. Before he named himself Bloodsire in the west, he was called by his southerly kin Phinehas the Bastard, as well as liar and traitor. I hear tell that members of the House of the Quetzalcoatl and its adherents yet refer to their western cousins, whom they disclaim, as the House of Phinehas or the Bastard tribe.

Immediately upon our meeting I suspected deception by the warrior's demeanor. First claiming the chimera's treasure to consist only of scrolls and gold, upon further interrogation, he produced a potion with which he intended to pay himself for the ordeal of another. I, thereafter, put a charm on his person and invited him to the Lizard donjon for further interview.

I enhanced the spell's work with wine and familiar talk of local knowledge and personal history. In a moment of confidence, the warrior gave details of the death of Haearnblaidd. According to fuller account, it was a flask of poison, sampled from the geas-sought treasure, that brought the super-hero to his untimely end. Being confused by this information, I pressed further.

"Are you certain it was poison?" I asked.

"I presume as much,” smirked the warrior. “Hardly a drop touched his lips. He had not time to swallow before life escaped the scaffold.”

“Did you keep the vessel?”

“No, its content was all spilt.”

"Unfortunate," I muttered, pondering.

Then, following a different line, I presented the following argument.

"Why would he sample the potion,” I queried, “knowing that, as part of the chimera's treasure, it belonged to me?”

The fighting-man now appeared uncomfortable. I posed my proof. “The magic of the geas would have killed him if he had kept even a single coin of the spoils,” I stated. “And the spell-magic makes the victim well aware of this fact.”

I let Quadrus hold his breath a beat longer before I concluded with a paraphrase of my opening question, this time more slowly. “Why should he affront certain death to taste a potion that was mine to identify and to use?”

He let out breath. "Either your magic brought his extinction, or he took your own taste of doom," he reasoned.

I waited, but the crossbow commander did not make further attempt to explain the foolish risk apparently taken by the spell-bound super-hero. Then I gave my own answer.

“Only wish magic can break a geas,” I said.

The warrior remained silent. A wizard's wish is not the fanciful or desperate wish made by mundane creatures. According to lore, a wish is made through one of only two means. By a long-forgotten spell created by the Greater Race or through one of a small number of magic rings presumably empowered by such a spell, which must be worn to effect the spoken desire.

Further, I possess particular knowledge of one such ring, purportedly lost in a battle on the Griffon Plains after the Moonfell and the incursion of demons and extra-worldly monsters that the event precipitated.

I said finally, "Show me the ring, please, Quadrus."

I phrased politely the command and the warrior obeyed. I held out my hand and he put the object into my palm. I examined the ring, a band of shell set with diamonds.

Guirgardson's epic tells of the making of a ring from the shell of an oyster, collected by the storm titan Eydis at the mouth of the Great River, and of 24 tiny diamonds, one for each of the greater signs and each a different color, all cut in the gnomish workshops beneath the mountain peaks of the cloud giants.

I slipped the ring on a finger and feigned to admire it. "I would accept such a gift from Fealan Heryrod, Duke of World's Henge," I said, "were he to offer it."

The blood of the Bird-serpent drained from the face of the Quetzalcoatl's alleged square-headed descendent.

Top level magic-users are perhaps the most powerful characters in the game....” (Men & Magic, p. 6, Gygax & Arneson, Tactical Studies Rules 1974)

We may assume that Odenode is one of these. Having the rank of wizard, he is of at least 11th level. He may or may not be the most powerful wizard in DONJON LANDS, but he must certainly circulate in the loose society of top level magic-users of the world.

Like most acquaintances of that learned society, the wizard Odenode denotes the calendar date in an abbreviated form. The calendar, originally described by the signnamer Plaifark, is based on Turns of the Greater Signs. The abbreviation in current use consists of three signs or words to indicate the precise day, month and year.

The sign date of Odenode's writing, for instance, is the day of the Spider, month of the Beetle, in the year of the Weasel.

Choose your own path...

Quadrus' Legacy

The evening and the day are pleasantly passed. My wariness of the wizard is much subdued since our first meeting. My officers are bunked in rooms similar to my own at the other end of a long corridor. Beneath the cornice that lines the walls of the corridor is a frieze sculpted with lizards in innumerable poses. Light gives through an oculus, these apartments being situated on the upper floor of the castle-donjon.

We have been permitted to come and go as we please through arrangement with the sergeant-of-the-guard for escort down to the entry level. This by prudence so as not to be surprised or overwhelmed by wandering monsters that occasionally make their way up from dungeons further down. We've encountered none, but contemptuous signs of their passage we've seen.

Though entry to the circular keep atop is strictly regulated, we might stroll unescorted along the parapet on the platform level of the donjon. From parapet height, one appreciates a wide view of the surrounding woods, save to the north-west, the direction of Hengor Hecs Mawr y Byd, where the view is blocked by the taller donjon. A guardsman told me that, on clear days, he has seen west to the Griffon Plains and south to the violet mist that rises from the upper tributaries of the Tuile Gorm.

This day was not a clear one, though the rain let up for much of it. The men passed their time at maintenance tasks and recreation. They oiled their weapons, tended to the needs of their mounts and to their personal hygiene, and they played at dice and made a tourney of rects-and-rounds.

To the wizard, I rendered the two parchments and two large sacks of gold coins, keeping the potion and secreting half the gold.

"You may inform Duke Fealan Heryrod that I much appreciate his gifts to me," said the wizard. “The Duke and I are to be friendly neighbors. I am confident.”

In the evening, the officers and I dined at the wizard's table. Our host treated us to delicate sweetbread and red wines. Talk was of diverse topics. The magic-user predicts more rain in coming days. He boasts of Gwerthsefyll's unerring aim with crossbow, and according to him, the grove of the menhir where is laid Haearnblaidd is called Grafgwernen by the plains nomads. He himself calls the south-flowing river Farby. He says it feeds the Tuile Gorm.

Earlier in the day, the officers had made a crude estimate of the number of the wizard's men-at-arms. Based on their observations of the changing of the guard, the capacity of the stables, and the size of the active kitchens and its staff, there should be at least one hundred men and horses. At table, Odenode deflected my inquiries for a more accurate figure.

After the meal, the wizard and I took ourselves outside. On the platform, the air was fresh but not chill. A vernal evening breeze pushed clouds north across the darkness overhead. We walked the parapets and we spoke of our ancestry.

“Gwaed Neidradar,” the wizard cited the name of my father's house as we paced. “The house is of World's Henge in the west. Its name's significance, however, suggests southern origin."

"Blood of the Bird-serpent," I translated from the Duke's language to the common tongue. "My paternal line spawns out of the southern city, from the House of the Quetzalcoatl."

Odenode put his nose into the wind, facing oncoming clouds. "Which means feathered serpent in a language rarely spoken anymore in Meridian Dormer," he said, at once naming the southern city and gesturing in its direction.

I explained the connection. “My ancestor quit the city of his birth where a rivalry between himself and a younger brother threatened the dissolution of the Quetzalcoatl. He settled in Hecs Mawr, named himself Protexer Cruor, the Bloodsire, and founded the lineage.”

The wizard turned an eye on me, saying nothing. I took the pause as an opportunity to divert the conversation to his subject.

“Odenode...?” I prompted.

“A daydream of the north gods,” he said.

I nodded comprehension. “And your folks?”

“I come from troglodyte stock.”

The statement was collaborated by the broad, square cut of his jaw beneath close-cropped beard yet dark.

“The Hawk is my tribe,” said the caveman wizard, “and the Peregrine, my clan. My people dwelt in caves while the people of your houses roamed still the plains, in the Epic age, back in the time when titans ruled the world from its mountain tops.”

At a breech in the clouds, stars streamed into view. The air stilled, and we admired for a long moment the silent procession of signs, points of light flowing through black aether.

As the constellations played out above us, Odenode pointed to particular signs and quoted from the work of one Plaifark, who I understand to have been a sage in some epoch passed. Though I find the words esoteric, I record them here in their entirety.

These are the words of Plaifark as cited by the wizard Odenode and as transcribed by the present Quadrus:

The Coot, reluctant, lays the egg and broods it, yolk of insanity.
The Weasel, covetous, steals the egg and hides it in its repair, beneath dark step.
The Snake, insatiate, thrice eats the egg, mutual greatness increasing.
The Lizard, prolific, its own makes the egg and multiplies the born fruit, perverse generation.

Then picked up a northerly wind, gusty, uncomfortable, and we retired for the evening.

Departure on the morrow. I will follow the Farby to the Tuile Gorm then turn north along the great river to visit the bridges or their remnants.

The brigade is at full strength, 340 men and horses, with a full compliment of arms and rations.

Rects-and-rounds is a board game very similar in parts and play to the modern game of Gounki (Malavasi 1997), which uses square and round pieces of two colors on a standard chessboard. The game is easy to learn, like checkers, though difficult to master, like chess.

Choose your own path...

The Castle of Odenode

The invitation was kindly given. Though I was wary still of this magic-user, to refuse his hospitality would have been an offense. Upon receiving acceptance of his invitation, the wizard tapped smartly his staff on grassy ground and disappeared from amid the stones and the chimera took wing, leaving a view of our week's-end lodgings.

There are two donjons yet upright. One reaches into the sky like a spear, one side of the tower having collapsed to a pile of rubble at its butt. From that side is revealed a cross-section of empty floors. It appears uninhabited.

The other donjon is much less tall though still formidable in its presentation. It grows in a square shape from a broad base to a sturdy middle before it re-broadens to serve as pedestal to the circular keep, perched atop.

I led the brigade across the river and approached from the north. We were soon met by an escort of 40 heavy horsemen led by a champion and flying the banner of the wizard Odenode – a hawk perched upon the back of a lizard, the figures in yellow on a field of green.

The champion approached and we exchanged the military greeting. She called herself Gwerthsefyll. She wore a coat of mail and a green cape lined with blue silk. A long sword hung from her hip. Her horsemen wheeled about and headed back south along the river. Gwerthsefyll took up position on my right according to her station and, together, we followed the banner.

Thus convoyed, we came through a grand arch clothed in a thick thallus of lichen and we climbed broad, root-bound stairs through the first and second of three wide terraces siding the river.

Copses of oak and elder straddle the stairway. Mounds of peat in regular patterns hide fallen walls. Otherwise, little vestige of ancient works is evident in the yards surrounding the donjons. These uneven spires rise behind, on the upper terrace where similar mounds and copses enclose a court. Here, the men installed themselves, and horses were corralled on the lower terraces.

The champion showed me into the castle-donjon. We rode up a well-maintained stair along the base wall. We entered the building through a portal four horses in breadth and went down a passage of equal span to an inner chamber, high, groin-vaulted and lit from above through windows unseen from the exterior. There we dismounted and a pair of lackeys led our horses out by a different hall.

Gwerthsefyll said to me, "The footmen will convey you to guest chambers," and a squad of heavy foot filed into the chamber.

"You are a guest in the castle of Odenode, who is responsible for your safety during your stay," she said. "These men will protect you from any monsters that may be wandering the donjon."

The champion then departed and the footmen led me through winding corridors to an antechamber that raises and lowers by command of a lever. Myself and a dozen mailed men were in the room. When the squad leader engaged the lever, I experienced the sensation of rising through the air as the floor stones pushed my boots upward. After some moments, movement halted, the door was opened, and I was deposited in a suite of comfortably furnished rooms.  

Choose your own path...

Rendering of Account


Bolt is a warrior. He was the commander of the mounted crossbow company in the service of Haearnblaidd until the recent death of the later. Now Bolt takes command of Haearnblaidd's brigade.

Excerpt from the Expedition Log

End of the Third Week of the Campaigning Season, CASTLE OF ODENODE – Haearnblaidd, super-hero of his liege lord the Duke, is dead by poisoning. In my presence, he sampled the contents of an unknown potion and planked himself face-down upon the table. Haearnblaidd is buried against a berm, north of the menhir of an alder grove.

The Death of HaearnblaiddAs next in the chain of command in the service of Heryrod, Duke of World's Henge, I, Quadrus of House Gwaed Neidradar – called Bolt, take the generalship of Haearnblaidd's brigade and the duty of the Duke's commission.

I note here that I have also inherited claim to the discoveries and responsibility for the treasure thus far acquired by the expedition. The discoveries include the localization of a source in the second week and that of a lair-donjon in the third. The treasure, to be precise, consists of two scrolls of magic spells, one potion of giant strength, 19 gems worth 500 gold pieces each, and two thousand gold coins. A second potion from the chimera's horde was the fatal flask.

On to the business at hand. As the wizard had already been given the words of the Duke, I had only to discover the location of the castle. This was accomplished the following day.

A scouting party spotted Odenode's castle situated on a bluff overlooking the river. Notified by messenger that the place had been found, I had myself escorted to the point of lookout. By the time I arrived, the wizard was already in place, standing atop a bald hill amid a trio of knob stones. Apparently, the magic-user had flown in by chimera, for the second specimen of that order of monster that I had seen in as many days haunched beside. The lion's head purred a steady growl. Odenode's InvitationThe dragon's head snorted acrid fumes and sparks of flame. The goat's head peered left and right at mounted men and their crossbows.

I was prepared for the worst but my apprehension turned out to be unwarranted. I rode up and the wizard addressed me.

“Who are you and where is Haearnblaidd, super-hero of his liege lord the Duke?”

“Haearnblaidd is dead, choked on the treasure of the dragon he slew,” I explained.

At this, the lion's head barked a growl and the dragon's head took breath. According to lore, chimerae fall into the dragon class of monster. I tried to be discreet in my speech but the intelligent beast caught my meaning.

I continued, “I am Bolt, warrior commander of Haearnblaidd's brigade.”

The wizard canted his head toward his monstrous companion, looking at me askance. “Then you have retrieved for me the treasure as promised by your comrade?”

Haearnblaidd made no promise but was coerced. I would, however, not argue the point less that I should suffer a similar destiny. Besides, another approach was open to me, as I had little use of magic spells and the gold mostly meant encumbrance. I reached inside my jacket and drew forth the two rolls of parchment. “There are these scrolls and much gold,” I declared.

I purposefully refrained from mention of the gems, for together they hold ten times the value of the gold coins while filling but a purse.

“Is there nothing else?” he probed.

“That is quite enough,” I insisted.

“And what will you and your men have for the trouble of the finding?”

I drew from my breast pocket the ceramic bottle and showed it. “I will keep a potion phial that found itself among the gold.”

“With my appreciation for your efforts,” added the wizard Odenode, seemingly satisfied.

Then flourishing his staff he invited me to his home. “I would pay you in hospitality if you would accept an offer to pass the night safely within the walls of yon stronghold,” showing me the castle-donjon in the background across the river.

“I must advise that we are approaching the eighth day of the week,” I said in reply. “The men are due for a day of rest.”

“Then they are welcome to pitch their tents on the courtyard terrace and pass the morrow out of reach of the region's monsters.”

The chimera padded the turf before it with massive paws.

We'll see when eventually the brigade returns to Hecs Mawr that explorers are rewarded with gold and glory for publishing discoveries (as per Source of the Nile). It is the bearer of the map and expedition journal who may publish discoveries recorded therein.

Haearnblaidd has not survived, and Bolt, as bearer of map and journal, rightfully lays claim to the discoveries made thus far. However, it is customary for an explorer to give posthumous credit for historical purposes as a matter of professional courtesy.

Bolt omits mention of the ring in his log entry. We may learn later that two previous pages of the journal have been removed as well.


Choose your own path...

Scrolls and Potions

6th Evening of the Third Week, Bivouac at ALDER GROVE – This even we are encamped in a sparse grove of alder surrounded by a natural berm and not far distant from the south-flowing river. A stone stands alone at the middle place. Dark stains on lying stones around indicate use at the turning of the season, no doubt, by the nomads we encountered last week. The Griffons use the standing stone as a focal point for their curious rites. Upon the lying stones, they make sacrifice.

The men are in good spirits despite the soggy ground and the incessant drizzle. Nigh on three weeks into the season, they have yet to encounter significant hardship, and our expedition has met already with a certain success. I caution them against filling their eyes with gold coins lest they walk as dead men with fare for the Ferryman.

After the day's toil, my final task is to identify the pertinent characteristics of the parchments and phials of the chimera's treasure. According to lore, a scroll may be inscribed with wards versus enchantments and enchanted creatures, or the inscription may be of esoteric symbols decipherable only by magic-users which invest the apt practitioner with particular powers. It may also contain simple words that afflict the reader with all manner of conditions equally vile and ridiculous.

Haearnblaidd and BoltWhile a phial may contain a magic potion that when drunk confers upon the imbiber an exceptional faculty, it may as well contain a virulent poison of which a single drop on the tongue causes sudden death.

Therefore, the task of discovery is best undertaken with well placed contingencies. I will take the evening meal with my lieutenants in the command tent. Following our repast, we will discuss plans for the next day's exploration in search of the castle of Odenode. When I have dismissed them, I will retain Bolt, commander of the company of crossbowmen and the most trustworthy of the three men. I will inform him of the ring's power and command him, in the event of my incapacitation, to don the ring and make the wish that the unfortunate event had not happened.

Choose your own path...

The Ring

The horded treasure of the slain chimera filled a narrow fissure in the flagstone paving of the chamber floor. Among gold coins and colored gems were two ceramic phials stoppered with wax and an equal number of rolled parchments, one around whittled wood, the other, bone. The most brilliant, though, was a ring of mother-of-pearl and diamonds. Cast like stars across the shell, the diamonds dazzled in torch light. Into the nacre, carved in fine detail were connected runes.

At the thought of possessing this magnificent prize, I felt numb. I reached toward the sparkling light, suddenly trembling. I pinched ring between fingers and thumb. A rush of weakness, a wave void of force, pulled me to my knees.

The wizard's geas.... The thought floated in my mind, swirling as in a pool. I chased it in another world, grabbing at my own thought, weak arms flailing.

Struggling, I put on the ring. A sense of hopeful anticipation swept over me. I became filled with it. A profound glee so overwhelmed my spirit, I felt that anything I desired could be mine. Then a second wave of the empty force swept through me, and I slumped forward, hard into piled coins.

Suddenly I knew what I must do. I knew that I must do it quickly, and I knew that I must be careful about how it's done.

I spoke as if in rapid prayer, “I wish to be free of Odenode's geas immediately and without suffering further harm.”

I thought of a million phrases I could have added but didn't by prudence. A wish is a delicate thing, easily broken by too many words.

Treasure. According to lore, DONJON LANDS is full of it.

The original D&D rules (1974) consist of a boxed set of three booklets, called volumes: Men & Magic, Monsters & Treasure and The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures. The ring of many wishes is described on page 33 of the second volume. It is arguably the most powerful object in the game.

Treasure Tables

Choose your own path...


Forgotten eras and past ages have delivered to us only myths and legends that must make-do for history. Most of the treasure to be found in DONJON LANDS can be traced to a mythic race of potent beings called the Greater Race. Long before the Moonfell and even before the titans and the giants fought, when the Helix and the Cog yet machinated with savage animals for control of the world, the Greater Race walked upon it, and they made up a civilization that spread to the stars. These beings invented the powerful devices called magic. They built the towering structures called donjons. They made the intelligent creatures called human and all manner of other monsters, benign and malignant. And they amassed the great amounts of wealth that now lay scattered about the lands over which they once reigned sovereign.

Not even wise men know of the fate of the Greater Race. Of these beings only their creations remain. The creatures inhabit the donjons. They seek out the magic and they hoard the treasure. Creatures, donjons, magic, treasure – all are dispersed across the world, left behind in time.


Choose your own path...

The Chimera

Third Week of the Campaigning Season, Vicinity of the CASTLE OF ODENODE – Light rain continues, slowing our movement.

Lair bound, we rode south, the river on our right, three columns of mounted men. Two companies in two columns, center and right, armored in hard leather and bearing swords. A similar company of mounted crossbowmen made up the left column.

One noon, there was a brief respite from the rain. Sunlight dappled the forest floor. Birds twitted through low branches. Rodents scurried away from our mounted columns. Then a shadow swept across the formation. All eyes leapt to the sky, searching. Horses neighed. A sudden screech pierced the blind space before the sun. Then a diving body, wide wings, tips folded back, streaked overhead.

The men held steady. Startled mounts were calmed. The winged creature wheeled and flew higher above the tops of trees, turning away west along a bend in the river, out of sight.

We followed.

The wizard Odenode had indicated the location of the lair to be within the confines of the remnants of a stone fortress that was stood and fell in the epic era. We discovered the ruins the next day, perched on a hillock inside a bow in the river on its other side. We made a wide arc around the east and south. Then we circled back, crossing the river well downstream.

The day after, we approached the site from the west. I put one company of men on perimeter security, centered on the land approach to the ruins. These men were flanked by four sections of crossbowmen. I led the other company and the remaining crossbowmen around the hillock inside the river bow. I stationed this cohort on the far side of the ruin, taking three sections of men, including one of crossbowmen, up a rough slope into the interior.

Legends speak of great high donjon towers that break through the sky and dominate the terrain around. The old city of Hecs Mawr, itself, is spiked with no fewer than two dozen standing structures of impressive height. But this edifice, if ever it stood higher than a horse's withers, was long ago laid to ground. Barely a stone shone through rich-smelling moss in that field of ruin. A worn path through knee-high grass, thick and green, showed the way to a monster's den. A wide stair, part earth and thorny shrub, part ancient blocks of pitted granite, led down into a low, dark opening between a dyad of crumbled columns.

Order of March

I took four men from each section, among them Bolt a trusted lieutenant, and left the rest to guard the entrance. I gave the tinder order and three torches were lit. Drawing my sword, I entered the hole and the twelve men followed, two crossbowmen each in front and rear.

I found the made-beast in a high vaulted chamber. The keystone of the middle arch held the icon of the Handwing in tailored granite. A gray-blue light filtered in through an aperture in damp, broken blocks, cobalt in color. It lit a lion's mane in golden hues. The creature turned and I saw its goat's head and a pair of narrow glints in shadow I guessed to be the dragon's eyes of the chimera's third head.

I charged in, aiming for the lion's head. It whipped a long goat's tail at my waist, but I turned out of it. I took a swing at the neck of the dragon's head and I had time to believe that I would soon lack the capacity to commit further errors. More lithe than I had imagined, the reptilian neck flexed away from me. My blade struck, but the scale-wise angle of the attack was ruined, deflecting steel. I caught the hilt of the sword before my eyes. Leveling the weapon, I saw the dragon's head rearing away from me, taking breath. I dove to the right and rolled to cover behind a steep pile of blocks, once the corner of two walls, before flame whirled all round.

The smoke cleared. I rose up to behold the chimera, loping to the left to open my flank. I charged again. My move was not anticipated and caught the goat's head before it could lower its horns.

Treasure Found: 2000 gold coins, 19 gems (value 500 gold coins a piece), two of each potions and scrolls, and a ring.

In DONJON LANDS, the Handwing is a mythical bat-like animal to which is attributed the seeding of life in the world.

For Haearnblaidd's fight with the chimera, I used the Fantasy Combat Table from Chainmail (3rd Edition, Gygax & Perren, TSR Rules 1975).

Choose your own path...

The Wizard Odenode

We met a wizard. He called himself Odenode, and I gave him the words of my liege lord the Duke.

“In the third season of the year of the Eagle, in the citadel at Donjonwold, Fealan Heryrod, of the House of Heryrod, proclaimed himself Duke of World's Henge, sovereign lord of all the lands from the woodland shire in the north to the henge wolds in the south, from the herd lands of the Griffon nomads in the west to the gray-green rock fields where the sun rises in the east.

“Fealan Heryrod, Duke of World's Henge, declares peace throughout the realm and with all its neighbors.

“I am Haearnblaidd, in the service of my liege lord the Duke. Declare yourself, friend or foe.”

Odenode (left) puts a geas on HaearnblaiddThen with an uttered word the wizard Odenode put a geas on me and sent me to a nearby lair to retrieve the treasure of the chimera who bode there.

Compelled by the wizard's geas, I turned my mount down the river in the direction the spell-caster had indicated, and the brigade followed. A wizard's geas puts it in one's head that he must follow the command of the wizard or suffer consequences. According to lore, the consequences include weakness and slow death.

This detour is apt to hinder my quest. The meeting with the wizard Odenode has hardly fulfilled my primary mission. Certain, I have delivered the words of my liege lord the Duke to the castle's inhabitant. But while the inhabitant seems neither hostile nor friendly, he hasn't declared his alignment to either stance. More, I have still to discover the location of the wizard's castle so to mark it on my map.

The object of the wizard's geas is the treasure to be found in the lair of a chimera. While the treasure guarded by such a puissant monster may be a great boon, the wizard will not let go the larger part of it.

Not forgetting the monster itself, a chimera is a made-beast. It has a lion's forepaws, a goat's hind quarters, a dragon's wings, and the heads of all three. It bites with great fangs, butts with massive horns, and breathes fire. Its treasure may be hard won.

I could neglect this first duty for the nonce and go on to the great river Tuile Gorm and the second half of my mission – to determine the state of repair of any bridges over that waterway. The course of action would oblige me, however, to return to this point of departure to recover the first mission, for indeed therein lies my duty.

After a league's consideration, I determined to continue exploration. The wizard's castle would be near to the banks of the south-flowing river, much as the monster's lair, but I preferred to sight the emplacement from the vantage of one of the surrounding hills. We would approach from high ground, locate the wizard's residence, then move on to the Gorm.

I reined my mount toward an easterly vale with a slight southward slope. The mere turning of the horse and the rider spun the mind inside my head. My breast became heavy, and my breath became scarce. I slumped forward to the mane to prevent a fall under shod hooves. I clasped myself to the muscled neck, but my strength drained out through my wrists. With an effort, I squeezed the horse's flank with my right knee to steer it back toward the river and the direction of the lair. After long moments I heard the trill of flowing water and I felt a weight lifted from my body as strength returned to it slowly.

This day destiny would not be denied. Tomorrow we continue south down the river toward the lair. A chimera's half-treasure must compensate for the delay.

 DUNGEONS & DRAGONS was created by war-gamers Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. For Haearnblaidd's campaign, I'm using the original edition of the first role-playing game, published by Tactical Studies Rules in 1974.

Choose your own path...