Legends and Folklore of the Flanaess: Naerid and Zelren On the Bridge
Date: Wed, August 23, 2006
Topic: Myths & Legends
A tale from the golden age of the Great Kingdom of the heroes Naerid Jestik the Knight and Zelren the War Priest.
Legends and Folklore of the Flanaess: Naerid and Zelren On the Bridge
Of all the heroes the Great Kingdom produced in its golden age one of the greatest is the faithful Knight Protector, Naerid Jestik (1). Before and during the Regent’s War (75-77 CY) (2) he was a loyal servant of the Overqueen Yalranda , defending her and the heir, Manshen. It was he who led the Overqueen’s household in their desperate flight southwest from Rauxes when the forces of the her brother-in-law, Prince Winvri of Nyrond, claiming the regency for himself, invaded that city.
Of almost equal stature to Naerid in the tales told of him is his companion, Zelren, a war priest and Fist of Hextor. Zelren was a giant of a man from the north of the Kingdom, said to be descended of ogre blood. He was known at the time for his excessive drinking and brawling, and his curious lack of respect for the hierarchy of the cult of Hextor. Whether they really met when Zelren challenged Naerid to a duel is a matter of dispute among historians. But as the legends tell it, Zelren was bested by Naerid and was so impressed by the knight’s skill at arms that he immediately swore eternal servitude and friendship to him. Their friendship was enhanced further by the fact that Naerid was an ardent follower of Hieroneous. Just as in some legends the War Brothers put aside their feuding and fight alongside each other against dire foes, so did Naerid and Zelren (3).
Most famous of the tales told about the pair is that of their rear-guard defense of the fleeing royal family at the stone bridge over the Little Flanmi (4) to the northeast of Jalpa. Years later the event was immortalized in verse by Astordi the Wit, court poet of Overking Manshen, using the popular poetic style of the time. As Astordi relates, the two heroes and the Overqueen’s household guard held the bridge against the overwhelming forces of Prince Winvri. Eventually all of their companions were slain leaving just the two of them. At this point Naerid single-handedly held back the rebels with his sword while Zelren, summoning all his inhuman strength and channeling the divine power at his call repeatedly smashed the surface of the bridge with his huge mace, causing it to collapse.
Wild and mad with strength
Like an ox of the western plains
Zelren did strike seven times
The stones of the bridge
While Naerid swiftly wove about
A fence of steel against their foes.
With the surface of the bridge tumbling down into the waters of the Little Flanmi both of the heroes lept across the widening gap to safety. The river at that point is sluggish, shallow and easily crossed with barges, but the army of Winvri were slowed enough in their crossing that Yalranda was able to marshal her forces and bring aid from Rel Deven and Kalstrand to defeat the rebel Prince south of Jalpa and send him fleeing back northward.
In the war that followed Naerid led Yalranda’s forces to victory in the name of the Crown Prince Manshen. During this time Zelren was always by the knight’s side and performed many heroic feats. When the traitorous Prince Winvri was finally brought to heel in Rel Mord it was Naerid who claimed his head.
As happens with so many heroic figures the life of Naerid ended in tragedy, primarily due to his faithfulness. When Manshen gained his majority and was ready to claim the throne his mother stood in his way, along with her lover Granz of the House of Cranden (5). Though the conflict between the forces of the regent and her son never reached the level of open warfare some skirmishing did take place in Rauxes between the supporters of Yalranda and Manshen, and always at the forefront of Manshen’s supporters was Naerid with Zelren by his side. His end was met alone however. Zelren, as the legends say had passed out in a tavern from overindulging in drink. So it was that Naerid, walking alone was ambushed and shot full of arrows then stabbed through with long spears, after killing many foemen. Finally his head was chopped off and placed on a spike over the south gate of Rauxes.
When Zelren sobered up and discovered the fate of his friend he flew into a rage and hunted down all the assassins one by one. Finally he killed Granz Cranden in his own bedchamber and orders were issued for his arrest. In a few weeks, despite his mothers numerous talents, Manshen had won the support of the majority of the noble houses and it was Yalranda who was arrested and imprisoned in the Black Tower of Rauxes where she died years later at the young age of 40.
As one of his first acts as Overking, Manshen pardoned Zelren. The war priest was never the same in days after. Though remaining a faithful follower of Hextor he gave up drinking and retired to the most remote parts of the Gull Cliffs where he spent the rest of his days in seclusion and prayer.
1. The names for the non-canon characters Naerid Jestik, Zelren, Winvri, Astordi and Granz were generated using Chris Pound’s language confluxer perl script (Check it out at http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~pound/) and a datafile consisting of names I culled from various Greyhawk sources and had identified as probably being Aerdian in origin.
2. The Regent’s War is purely my own invention. I constructed it based on the fact that Yalranda is the only Overqueen in the history of the Great Kingdom and succeeded her husband, Overking Tenmeris (Carl Sargent, Ivid the Undying. p. 2). Ivid the Undying states that she was accepted as Overqueen “because of her prowess in establishing dynastic marriages between the royal houses of Aerdy and her uncanny gift for forging alliances (and because of her strange, magical allure and ability to calm angry or confused nobles).” While these are all good reasons I still believe it would take more than those in a system which relies on male-preference primogeniture. My supposition is that she acted as regent for her eldest son, Manshen before he had reached his majority and she was much later, posthumously titled as Overqueen. Not only was Yalranda a woman but not being of the blood of the royal line I would imagine some male relatives of the former Overking would not have approved of her taking power as regent for Manshen. Who better than the Overking’s brother to oppose her? The canon says that there was a need to forge alliances with and calm angry and confused nobles. In so doing it hints at some conflict within the kingdom. Since the line of succession was clear it makes sense that the conflict was over who would serve as regent for Manshen. I do inflate the conflict to an armed one, but while nothing says it did happen, nothing says it didn’t.
3. If you think that Zelren is inspired by the Japanese hero, Benkei then you are right on the money.
4. “Jalpa is set back several miles from the very shallow and sluggish headwaters of the 'Little Flanmi,' as the riverlet east is known.” Carl Sargent, Ivid the Undying. p. 114
5. Yalranda is spoken of glowingly in Ivid the Undying. While this does not fit exactly with the image I give of her it can be supposed that her reputation was rehabilitated in later years by one of her descendants. Alternately you could say that her reputation was merely sullied by Astordi for some political reason. My reason for having her resist Manshen’s succession relates to a somewhat cryptic passage on page 7 of Ivid the Undying, “Yalranda's prophecies to the House of Cranden foresaw their fate, and her writings still succor and protect the few remaining princes of that royal house today.” Why would the writings of Yalranda while prophesying the end of the Cranden line give “succor and support” to members of that house? I speculate that she predicted a return to power of Cranden, something that Manshen might have seen as a threat and turned him against her. Once she was in fear of her life or freedom she would have no choice but to oppose her own son.