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Rogues to Richesby LoZompatore.
Here is a synopsis of the novel (spoilers ahead, warning!!), I added also some small fragments from the book itself. The novel adds a lot of details to some area of Norwold, so I think it's useful to have them included in canonical Mystara.
In my opinion Zendrolion's timeline makes a really good job in trying to merge the info about the Witch Queens with the rest of the Norwold's known historical events.
Basic plot of "Rogues to Riches" novel:
The novel is entirely set in Norwold, and it depicts the travel of two beleaguered thieves (Tooles and Rengie) from Landfall to an area in the plains north of the Great Bay. It is set in the summer of AC1010, after the conquest of Landfall but before the removal of King Lernal the Swill. The events of the novel roughly cover a couple of months.
The two escape from the Landfall's dungeon (guarded by half-orcs) and seek shelter in a tavern (the Green Door Inn) owned by a friend of them (Wade). Here, the two rob a scroll from a couple of very idealistic Heldannic Knights (Noren and Vald, the latter being the senior knight of the couple). The scroll explains that King Lernal will offer a "treasure" to any knight who will accept a difficult quest in Northern Norwold (without specifying the details of the task).
The thieves, attracted by the treasure, manage to stun the knights with a poisoned drink (two glasses of "Milk Mickeyes" added with some sleeping powder) and rob their armours. After an escape from the knights themselves (who woke up to early) and from a group of "Madkap" women (see below) they hurry to Castle Landfall and introduces themselves as the two Heldannic Knights, hoping to receive at least part of the treasure in advance and hoping to sell it in the city.
King Lernal explains that they have to free his young and beautiful daughter Erise - also called the "Hearth of Norwold" for her kindness - that is kept in the Ice Tomb, the castle of the evil witch Frota. The princess was kidnapped five years ago, and recently a group of adventurers managed to enter the Ice Tomb and slay the evil witch. They saw the body of Erise encapsulated in a block of unbreakable ice (as most of the monsters and minions of Akra in the castle). Some divinations showed that it was not possible to free the body in the ice by using physical strength or magic. The only way to break the block is to touch it with a still alive rose from the garden of Erise (the princess is an exceptional gardener and she loved so much her garden in castle Landfall that the garden itself was named "The heart of the Heart of Norwold").
The king make the two knights swear that they will bring a rose to the Ice Tomb and that they will bring back Erise. Lernal's mage, a man called Faldron, brings them a rose in a glass recipient: the rose is still alive and the glass case is prolonging its life force, even if the flower is still slowly dying. Moreover, the rose is cursed. Together with the swearing, it obliges the two thieves to complete their quest: if they try to turn back or to distract themselves from their task, some events - a road block, a ship sinking, a landslide, etc. - will happen forcing them to proceed to the Ice Cave. Luckily, the curse also helps the thieves to pass through some obstacles, if they are en route to the Ice Cave.
So, the two thieves (pursued by the two Heldannic Knights who explained the truth to King Lernal and now wants revenge) are obliged to accomplish the mission, and they travel to Oceansend, Alpha and to the Ice Tomb. In Oceansend they are reached by Noren and Vald: they lose the armours and the rose and they are imprisoned. Soon the thieves realise that the curse is still in action due to their swearing, and so they have to reach again the rose and finish their task, otherwise they will be struck by bad fortune and possibly they will die. They evade from the dungeon and continue their travel.
They are joined by Mara, the daughter of King Olaf Yarvikkson (and also a skilful ranger) and by Fruz, a young frost giant who was very impressed by Rengie and Tooles when they stumbled into the lair of his clan. Just before entering the Ice Cave, they reach the two Heldannic Knights, who agree to forgive the thieves and join the group.
In the castle the group manage to bring the rose to Erise and free her, but they soon discover that the body locked in the ice was that of the witch Akra, who self-entrapped herself and most of her minions when the spell used to kidnap the princess (and to build for herself a staff of immense power made from "the heart of Norwold") ran amuck. The princess, however, is still entrapped somewhere else in the castle. The minions of Akra are freed as well and the witch is able to complete the staff by using the rose from Erise's garden.
The group barely manage to escape from the Ice Tomb: the two knights bravely stand behind to cover the escape and they are lost in the castle. The rest of the group ran to Alpha to alert King Ericall that an army of humanoids and frost giants is assembling in the castle and will crush the city within days.
Akra's huge army arrives before Ericall manages to organise a strong defence: moreover, the witch tells him that - thanks to her new staff - she controls the minds of the people of Landfall and now an army of Landfall's peasants is marching to siege Oceansend.
Everything seems to be lost, but Rengie manages to trick Akra and her personal white dragon Niveous, pushing one against each other. During the fight he manages to get the staff and to break it, causing the sudden icing of the witch, the dragons and her minions. The people of Landfall are freed as well.
Moreover, the two Heldannic knights reach Alpha with the princess Erise (they hided in the castle and freed her in the ice Cave after the departure of Akra and her minions). Noren and Erise are in love and they plan to marry as soon as they will reach Landfall.
Rengis and Tooles are forgiven by King Ericall and they get a great treasure in reward. Rengis plans to use his part of the treasure to become a merchant, for which he feels to be skilled enough.
This is, in short, the plot of the novel.
Here you are some excerpts form the book with interesting info:
they rounded the last curve of the winding approach to Castle Landfall. This was a very literal name: the fortress of King Lernal the Swill stood on a rocky pinnacle, surrounded on three sides by sheer cliffs that fell to the sea.
The only access to the castle came by way of a sneaking elevated approach, requiring anyone who neared the fortification to weave back and forth in crossbow range for some fifteen minutes before reaching the gates. And some gates they were. Rengie could not remember ever feeling so small. The black, wooden doors, studded with iron bolts, stood behind two wicked-looking gates, currently raised and threatening to crash down on any unwelcome guests.
The battlements above bristled with a hundred guards, their crossbow loaded and aimed at the paladin pretenders.
"Enter now, noble warriors, and await the king's audience in the royal rose garden" ... The garden beyond those doors was as magnificent as it was famous. In all the squalid lands of King Lernal the Swill, there was but one spot known for its beauty, it ceaseless splendour - the garden of Princess Erise. It was gorgeous. The beds of tulips, the trellised roses, the walls of lilacs, the ivy-covered fountains, the lily-bordered walks - all of it proclaimed a grace and beauty and innocence utterly lost to the castle in five years since the princess's abduction.
Yes, she was gone. The garden's flowers still bloomed under the diligent hand of a dozen master gardeners, the waters still splashed merrily in the fountains, but somehow the splendour of it all was diminished. Without Erise's lovely and solitary hand, the life had gone out of the place.
Not that the princess's fingers held some pristine magic; they were callused and soiled from her ceaseless labours among the poor of Landfall. No. It was said the flowers responded more to Erise's kind heart than her hardened hands, for she had the same effect on people as on flowers. Throughout Norwold, even as far north as Alpha, where King Lernal's depravity was (deservedly) legend, the folk loved Erise.
I heard that King Lernal might be on his last legs, politically, that is... Word is the Heldannic Knights will be deposing him and setting up a regional governor.
Fair Erise? Princess of Landfall and Heart of Norwold?
One year later... word reached me that some intrepid explorers in Frosthaven, land of giants and dragons, had happened into an ice cave. It turned out to be the subterranean palace of Frota, the Ice Witch. She was in the midst of long preparations for a powerful spell and, recognising her evil, the adventurers slew her. Only then did they discover my darling Erise magically imprisoned in ice. She was to be the final ingredient in concocting the Ice Witch's horrible spell, and had been kept there since her abduction for that very purpose.
Madkap was among the most powerful and fearful charities in Landfall. It's purpose was simple: to sweep through the alleys once a week and beat the snot out of any drunken knight or paladin they might find. Such warriors provided terrible role models, the mums argued, and being so near to the heart of the Heldannic Territories, Landfall had alleys brimming with them.
The Temple of Thor in Landfall was no great shakes, but neither was the temple of any other Immortal. It had once been a reading room for Odin until his one-eyed priest was caught doing more than reading in the back room. Since then, the building had become the abode of cleric Sven Yakva, a scrawny little fellow (a gnome) whose body did no justice to that of his muscle-bound patron, Thor. Sven had lately migrated north from Soderfjord and was, by all accounts, a bit whacked when he arrived.
they show up at the gates of Oceansend with the intention of presenting themselves as the greatest knights in Norwold. It wasn't after a month, however, but ten gruelling days, and the wilds of Norwold hadn't turned out to be a paradise, but a kind of purgatory.
(Oceansend) was a large and grey city, unhappily buried in snow some ten month of the year. Luckily, this was one of the good months. The thickly thatched roofs and half-timbered walls had been decorated with spring garlands in celebration of the short season of warmth. The folk who circulated amidst these buildings seemed pleasant enough, perhaps a bit shorter and fatter than average - a useful compactness in a cold, stay-indoors land such as this. The streets brimmed with merchants and craftsmen, with a few poor and a few scamps - nothing like the thieving city of Landfall hosted.
They silently entered the castle gates and afterward the throne room of King Olaf Yarrvikson. He was a middle aged monarch built like a miner. Unlike drunken Lernal, Olaf was obviously a man in the prime life - muscular physique, blond hair neatly trimmed, a fastidious, grey-tinged moustache and beard, and sparkling blue eyes.
Apparently these jousts had been plagued in the past with spies and intrigues galore, for the guard was doubled that night and the castle locked tight as a drum.
Mara (the daughter of King Olaf Yarvikkson) was the best hunter, warrior, trapper and tracker in all Oceansend
In ten days (from Oceansend, guided by Mara) they reached the gates of Alpha, northernmost city of Norwold and the gateway to the frozen tundra of Frosthaven.
Though Alpha was a very liberated city with a very liberated king, its dungeon was just like any other.
The king (Ericall) was a statuesque figure with bronze skin, piercing brown eyes, and dark hair that covered his head like a large bowl.
King Ericall keeps at least an ocean galley manned by prisoners from its dungeons. The ship is called the Valesares; a man called Bristle Beard is its captain.
King Ericall's court mage is an elf called Ori, who acts also as the royal writer (what happened to Madiera the Counsellor of CM1? She died during WotI?)
The King's librarian is Friar Ran, a Thor's follower (no hairs, with bold glasses, and "he seemed part halfling, part hedgehog": a new subrace of Norwold?)
QUESA AND AKRA:
They are mentioned just once in a tale that Rengie tells to Oceansend's people. The people seem to know very well both characters, possibly as epic evil beings of Norwold's legends.
I marched to find Quesa, the great white dragon left behind (in the Ice Cave) when the Witch Queen Akra was slain. Mention of the Witch Queen brought a number of hisses from the audience.
THE ICE TOMB:
Farther north (from the northern shore of the sea strait of Alpha), the terrain slowly sloped up toward rounded, wintry mountains that huddled on the horizon. The rogues marched doggedly for these mountains, remembering that the Ice Tomb was said to be nestled amidst high crags.
(The Ice Tomb is found after 3 full days of travelling NE among the plains and the mountains from the coastline, so the tomb should be located somewhere in the mountains just north of the mouth of the Great Bay)
Tooles traversed the wide plain that lay below the camp and achieved the summit of a ridge on the other side. There... Tooles saw it.
Rising clear and glassy, a hundred great towers of ice jutted from the frozen moorlands below. The towers, thrice the height of towers in Landfall or Oceansend or Alpha, shimmered with cold beauty. They were tapered like inverted icicles, and their rippling walls reflected the fierce sun. The moors, frozen though they were, sent great columns of mist that draped the fortress like white veils.
The Ice Tomb turned out to be more a palace than a tomb. To be completely honest, it was more a mountain than a palace.
Only as Tooles and Fruz (a young frost giant) approached did they begin to see the true size of the thing. Portals that, from a distance, looked like dungeon windows became full sized doorways, then grand entries one could march an elephant through.
Spires that Tooles had thought wide enough for a single stair were in fact wide enough to hold a huge throne room. The curtain wall of ice was no mere 50 feet high, but a sheer 150.
Man, it was big.
As they neared the icy drawbridge, which lay across a steep-sided, frozen moat, Tooles got the sense that the Ice Tomb had once been a normal size castle that, after centuries of icy build up, had grown three times too large. Clearly, this was not the case; the walls themselves were translucent.
Its halls stretched on in a vague, formless way more like a cave than a building, and countless sets of stairs appeared seemingly at random across the walls.
Tooles and Fruz saw the princess. She was, indeed, beautiful. Not the way Mara was, with strong features, large lips and boyish cut, but the way a flower is, delicate, gentle, hopeful. As with all things in this castle she was encased in ice, though the sphere that surrounded her seemed more like crystal. The sphere hovered some 20 feet above the floor in the direct centre of the chamber, obviously suspended by some awesome magic.
Black hair haloed the princess's pale features.
Tooles quoted the immortal bard Don Ovan, saying: "That can't be good"
THE ICE WITCH:
Princess Erise (the girl in the ice sphere) was not a princess, but the Ice Witch. Her eyes glowed red and her voice roared with evil, and she said she was the Ice Queen Frota, now freed to descend on your city. She will besiege it with armies of bugbears and ogres and frost giants and trolls and orcs and dragons.
(the true Princess Erise was kept somewhere else in the Ice Tomb)
The soldiers who (at the beginning of the novel) slew the Ice Witch said she was an old hag... the soldiers did not kill the Ice Witch, but one of her hag minions. It was not Erise trapped in the ice, but the Ice Witch.
Ogres and goblins and yeti and orcs and trolls and gnolls... don't like water. Even the white dragons that floated in angry clouds above the armada looked unnerved to be over so much liquid.
She's treading Ericall underfoot. Next, it will be Yarrvikson, and then Lernal himself. And she'll be queen of all Norwold, as she was to be, as she is to be.
You are outnumbered two to one, for I have emptied my Ice Palace for this conquest. And I know this: an army of equal size marches this day from Landfall, to the south, to take Oceansend and crush any final resistance here. For, by this wand, made from the heart of the heart of Landfall, I command absolute sway from the folk of that region - living and dead.