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Information from The Black Vessel

by Giampaolo Agosta

I've just finished reading the Black Vessel novel, so this post reports the information from it that could be of interest as setting background, as well as some opinions on the novel itself.
It is set in the Savage Coast, probably some times after the SCCS present (don Luis de Manzanas seems to have replaced don Bartolomeo de Montejo y Aranjuez, though the latter is also mentioned in the book in a reference to past events).
I'm posting it here rather than in the SC subsetting because there is some information that is relevant to Karameikos.

As a novel, it is ok -- it's nothing huge, but it's worth reading for Mystara (and especially SC) fans. The writing is rather plain, without the "creative writing school" style that seems to be common in genre literature today. The story itself is built within the "fairy tale" structure and reads easily -- it took me about five hours to finish it. It uses a lot of game terms, especially Legacies and kits -- e.g. a character states he has the Webcasting Legacy, while another is described as a local hero. The Inheritor, Honorbound, Beast Rider and Local Hero kits are explicitly mentioned, and the Spy, Shaman, and Noble seem to appear as well.
The novel is also remarkably accurate w.r.t. setting material -- there are a couple of spelling mistakes (e.g., "Gargona" is consistently written "Gorgona" -- with the ~, of which there is a superabundance at times; "Aranea" is written "aranean"), but nothing truly disappointing --- I'll discuss later a couple of oddities.

The main revelation of the book is the Hutaakan presence in the Gulf of Hule, which is understood, by the end of the book, to be due to the Nithians -- apparently the Hutaakans here are servants of some (probably Nithian) mage-prince. Note that the Nithians are never mentioned by name (their artifacts are referred to as "Late Oltec" initially, though it later seems clear that they are Nithian), which seems to imply that the book was supposed to be the first of a series -- the book ends with the protagonist leaving the Honorbound kit and invited to join the Inheritors.
According to Black Vessel, there are pure Hutaakans living in the "Yavdlom Outer Reaches" (the region between Kladanavich and Slagovich). They appear to be pacifists and followers of Pflarr, who is (uncharacteristically) portrayed as a human figure (though this is explained later as a result of the original Hutaakans being servants of the Nithians). The "Hutaaka" name is known to (at least) some humans in the area.
The Yazi Gnolls of the Long Legs tribe are revealed to be actually a group of five clans, two of which are Hutaakan (or at least closely related to Hutaakans), while the remaining three are true Gnolls. The former include the "Watak" clan, who are worshippers of Tabak (Ixion) and Pflarr.

Main characters of the book are:

Minor characters include many humans (especially Almarronan, obviously), two dwarves, and at least one halflings. Lupin and Rakasta are mentioned, and Vupilor passes herself off as a Guadalantan Lupin while in Almarron.

The characters seem to be very aware of the geography of the Known World, including details such as the Black Peaks and the Cruth Mountains. They know Karameikos with that name. The Hutaakans tell a very different version of the events of the "Song of Halav", claiming that they defeated the "Gnolls of the Cruth Mountains", but were, in turn, defeated by King Halav and the Traldars. Vanya is stated as having shown them how to fight the humans (though it might refer to later fighting with the Traladarans at Buenos Vientes).
It is an interesting story, and might merge quite well with my current treatment of the Cruth Lowlands (with Chardastes as a Hutaakan).

Several immortals are mentioned, mostly in curses or swearing, including: Vanya, Halav, Thor/The General, The Ambassador, The Great One, Ixion/Tabak, Odin.

A small part of the novel takes place in Slagovich. Stavro and his Knights of Halav are mentioned as the real power behind Miosz II's throne, and compared with Tristan Medina and his Honorbound company. It is said that Stavro modeled the Knights on Tristan's company, but he and his Knights are more interested in power and money than in ideals.