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    Postfest V: Witches of Greyhawk - The Coven
    Posted on Tue, July 12, 2005 by Dongul
    Cebrion writes "Since before the dawn of civilization there have been those gifted few who have had the special ability to commune with supernatural forces. These unique individuals have been known by many names, though they are most often called witches by common folk. Among the many witches of the Flanaess, there are some who have formed alliances bbased on common goals or through serving the same patron. Presented here is one of the oldest of these groups- The Coven.

    Witches of Greyhawk - The Coven
    By: Cebrion
    Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

    Since the earliest of times there have been those who have sought power through making pacts with entities not of the material realm. These gifted people have been known by many different names throughout the ages. Common folk know them as soothsayers, oracles, and seers, though by far the most commonly known appellation is “witch”. Witches flourish in the wilder parts of the Flanaess, where they are feared and respected by the locals for the power that they wield. The strange demeanor of the average witch does little to help common folk relate to them on what could be termed a normal social level. Consequently, witches are often persecuted by those ignorant of their supernatural gifts. Witches are often misunderstood, as normal folk assume that witches only have dealings with evil spirits and the like. Some witches in fact serve altogether more familiar masters, as witches trace their origins to the dawn of every human civilization, and often to demi-human civilizations as well, for in these early times there were those who had an inborn ability to sense the supernatural forces in the world. Not only were these gifted individuals able to sense these supernatural forces, they were able to communicate with them and, by exerting a tremendous amount of willpower, shape them to their will.

    Over time religions veiled in superstition grew up around these gifted individuals and these gradually developed into organized religions that trained their disciples in the ways of the faith, and did away with the “superstitious traditions” of the past. Witches were relegated to the fringes of society, though they never truly went away. Witches became keepers of the old ways and, while there are still some witches that serve actual deities, they are very rare. Consequently, witches do not get on very well with clerics and other clergy. Witches view clerics as the usurpers of their rightful place in society, while clerics view witches as propagators of ancient and blasphemous ways. There are very few exceptions to these general views.

    Like-minded witches serving the same or allied patrons often band together to form “covens”, with the purpose of pooling their power and knowledge in pursuit of secret lore as well as for protection. The longest existing and most notable grouping of such witches within the Flanaess is simply known as “The Coven”; usually called “THE Coven” by its members. The Coven was founded in the distant past, before the empires of the west rose and fell. The Coven was originally formed by a small group of witches serving the elemental forces of nature. The Coven has since expanded to become a haven, or more accurately a neutral ground for witches of all affiliations. The Coven has also gathered over the centuries a vast store of knowledge concerning forces outside the Prime Material Plane, and the libraries of many highly regarded wizards’ guilds pale in comparison to the library of the High Secret Order with regard to such knowledge. This has led to repeated attempts by outside wizard guilds and organizations to penetrate the security of The Coven in search of such knowledge. All who have tried have died.

    The Coven is overseen by a ruling council known as the High Secret Order. Entrance to the High Secret Order is by invitation only. An invitation to join the High Secret Order is usually given to witches of promising ability. Those witches also doing a great service to The Coven, and who are granted a boon, may also petition to join the High Secret Order. The High Secret Order looks after the day-to-day affairs of The Coven, functions as the arbiter in any disputes, and metes out punishment to those who break the laws of The Coven. Members of the High Secret Order are also privy to The Coven’s exclusive and rare collection of mystical lore as well. The membership of The Coven (just over 250 prior to the Greyhawk Wars) is mostly female, with only about three percent of its members being male. Many witches suspect that this is because females are commonly more receptive to channeling supernatural forces than males are. Though this is a common belief, and it is one that male witches cannot repudiate, the few male members of The Coven are very knowledgeable and powerful.

    The Coven grounds are made up a small group of fortified buildings located within the rugged fastness of the Hellfurnaces and has always been a place of refuge and learning for witches of all allegiances. Around the outskirts of the small, secluded valley where The Coven is located are various outbuildings where members live. Members are assigned quarters based on their supernatural affiliations, and those who live in such quarters are required to be respectful of those they reside with. In addition to the living quarters there is one building dedicated to the pursuit of the magical arts; a place where witches may gather to share information or aid each other in magical experimentation. Other than living quarters, there are a number of other buildings that offer more mundane services. At the center of the community stands the tower of the High Secret Order. The ground floor of the tower is made up of an amphitheater of multi-level seating, with an open floor. On the second level is The Coven’s fabled library. The third level consists of the living quarters of the members of the High Secret order themselves, and on the fourth level is the library of the High Secret Order, where the most obscure and valuable knowledge of The Coven is housed. Beyond the valley of The Coven are many sites dedicated to the various powers that be. These sites are maintained by those witches who commune there with their patrons or servants of their patrons.

    The Coven is a reclusive yet powerful organization, influencing the goings on in the Flanaess throughout its existence; mostly by subtle means. The Coven is known to be at odds with both the Silent Ones of Keoland and The Seekers, both of whom covet and fear the ancient and powerful forbidden knowledge that they believe The Coven is in possession of.

    With the coming of the Greyhawk Wars, The Coven began to experience greater and greater tension among its membership as the wars tore apart the nations of the Flanaess. Wards of immense power had always been in place upon the grounds of The Coven, disallowing any from attacking it with magic from without or its members from within. All of this was to change, as somehow these Wards were sundered by an unknown witch or witches. On the 25th day of Reaping, 584 CY, the longstanding peace within The Coven was broken as internecine warfare of near cataclysmic proportions broke loose among the organization’s membership at one of The Coven’s yearly gatherings. The great sanctuary and ancient buildings of The Coven, many having been around since before the Suel Imperium came to exist, were all but turned to slag by the titanic magical energies and extra-planar minions turned loose on that night of destruction. Of the two hundred or so witches present that night at The Coven, over three quarters of them were obliterated in an obscene orgy of destruction. All but five witches of the High Secret Order succumbed in the fighting. Three of these survivors were able to establish some semblance of order in the aftermath of the night’s events, while the other two have gone out into the world seeking for answers. It is not known what sparked this darkest event in the history of The Coven, but servants of the Abyss had more than a passing presence among the fighting that night. The Coven is slowly rebuilding itself, but many witches are wary of returning to its membership as paranoia continues to permeate the surviving community of witches in the Flanaess. The Seekers and the Silent Ones currently have agents lurking near the blasted ruins of The Coven grounds in hopes of finding some scraps of ancient lore or magical items of forgotten power that are not as well guarded as they once might have been.

    Other than The Coven, there are many minor organizations of witches throughout the Flanaess. Among these are Ice Witches of the Corrusk Mountains, the Marsh Witches of the Cold Marshes, and the Black Harridans of the Dry Steppes to name but a few. Hags of various types are also known to form covens, and are reckoned to be among the most powerful of witches. Individual witches of repute include Aulinroz of the Lone Heath, Ymreth Keln- High Matriarch of The Coven, and the warlock Sedric Zafier among others. Beyond these powerful witches, there is she who is called the “Mother of All Witches”- Iggwilv, one of only two witches who have seemingly transcended their need for a patron while still maintaining all of their powers; the other being the dreaded Baba-Yaga, whose powers can only be guessed at.

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    Re: Witches of Greyhawk - The Coven (Score: 1)
    by mortellan on Sat, July 16, 2005
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    Awesome article Cebrion. Witches do seem to be in abundance in GH lore. I especially like the very very end where you allude to BabaYaga, who as we've discussed on these forums before may be closer to Iggwilv than we know.

    Also I can think of a witch to add, Thingizzard (sp?) from WPM. Would she fit into the Marsh Witches of the Cold Marshes perhaps?

    Re: Witches of Greyhawk - The Coven (Score: 1)
    by Cebrion on Sat, July 16, 2005
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    Thingizzard is a good one too. She is a solo, not part of a coven, though she might have a few "sisters" she meets with every so often. Most witches are solo practitioners.

    I see some covens culturally bound. Sort of like a group of clan wise-women or wise-men, not all witches need be female in this instance. In these instances, these witches function as caretakers of old ways among the people they are a part of. In Greyhawk, I see this as fitting well into the Olman, Touv, Rovers of the Barrens, the Tiger and Wolf Nomads possibly, and even among the Fists and the northern barbarian tribes.

    It is all a matter of personal taste how one implements them.


    Re: Witches of Greyhawk - The Coven (Score: 1)
    by mortellan on Sun, July 17, 2005
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    "the Black Harridans of the Dry Steppes"

    I smell a cross-over article ;)


    Re: Witches of Greyhawk - The Coven (Score: 1)
    by Duicarthan on Sat, July 16, 2005
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    Awesome man, a new foil! I really like how you got down into the grit with this one. Great work!

    Re: Witches of Greyhawk - The Coven (Score: 1)
    by Argon on Mon, July 18, 2005
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    I really liked this article a great telling of not only this group but witches in general. I could see this one winning this postfest.

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