Council of Rendelshod – Greymen

The Council of Rendelshod was composed of the characters from my original campaign, with my co-DM (my brother Kevin). While that campaign ended in 1986 (or so) the characters live on in my campaign world.

Some of the characters – including Thorin, Meselda, Baldor, Susafras, Paprazzi, Edine, and Fay – are characters from the original campaign. Others, such as Kortag, were added to my own purposes long after our beloved characters graduated to NPC-hood.

When I wrote this pastiche I debated on how to frame it for Marissa, Trajan, and Etjar, but wasn’t coming up with ideas. Then I thought of Meselda presenting to a bunch of scholars … and this one was born.



Sitting in the third row in the largest lecture room of the University of Sathea, Ray was thrilled he had scavenged a token to attend the lecture. The five-tiered lecture room had seating for sixty, although easily twice that many managed to horn their way in, crowding the back of the room and the steps running up both sides of the tiers. The chattering and jostling of the many who had not wangled an invite made it hard to think, but at least he had a seat and a clear view of the lecture podium and the three shrouded tables next to it.

The Professor’s Door behind the podium opened and in walked a diminutive woman, definitely under five feet tall. At first glance she was a dwarf with the characteristic stocky build, but only at first glance. Her features were different from typical dwarves, a bit softer and less rough-hewn. Some might even describe her as attractive, although dwarven women didn’t normally appeal to human tastes. From the surprised muttering Ray wasn’t the only one who wondered at her race.

The woman stopped, momentarily nonplussed by the size of the crowd. She obviously expected a much smaller group, but after that short hesitation she stood her iron shod walking stick, its length nearly equal her own height, in a corner and stepped in front of the tables. After a moment of silence, the nattering voices increased to an even louder level, but tapered off as she waited patiently for the group to settle.

Master Professor Taloquan chose that time to move from his prime seat in the middle of the first tier, covering the short distance to the woman in two long strides. Turning to face the audience the Master Professor motioned for quiet to a group that already nearly silent. “Settle down!” he barked in his usual gruff voice, his volume and tone even more pointless than his hand signals. “Today we have a visitor, Lady Meselda of the College at Rendelshod, who will tell us what she thinks she knows about the greymen.”

Surprised muttering arose anew as the audience marveled at how much condescension the Master Professor packed into those few words. The entire room knew that Taloquan had argued ferociously against a foreign lecturer at HIS University. The Master Professor considered himself the foremost authority on demonic creatures and was quite put out that the department had seen fit to host an outsider lecture on his subject. His “discussion” with Dean Warmen had been heard a mile away, and during the two hour lecture that preceded this session he had made it clear that little, if anything, could be added to what he knew of the greymen.

Completely unfazed by the professor’s dismissive tone, the woman politely thanked him and spoke to the assembly in a strong, clear voice. “Thank you for coming to hear me speak. Recent discoveries have significantly changed what we thought we knew of the so-called greymen.” With a twinkle in her eye, she turned again to the towering Master Professor and thanked him for inviting her.

Murmuring rose again as the Master Professor’s hostile scowl softened to confusion as the diminutive woman calmly and politely faced down the bear of the University of Sathea. Rumbling something unintelligible he stalked back to his seat and flumphed down.

Smiling at the audience, Meselda waited until the side talk ended.

“What do we know of the greymen?” Holding up her right hand with fingers extended, she ticked off her points by closing fingers. “One, they are named aptly as their skin has a greyish complexion, a sign of poor health in mortal creatures. Two, they are immune to magic spells. Three, they cannot be hurt by non-magical weapons. Four, they have strong magic powers.” Closing her thumb to form a fist, Meselda intoned, “And five, greymen are a form of devil or demon, common in the Outer Planes from the Hells to the Abyss.”

Returning her attention to the Master Professor, “Does that summarize what is known about the greymen?”

Startled gasps of muted laughter showed Ray that others were astounded that Taloquan had met his match in a battle of wits. Having his entire two hour lecture trivialized to five short points left the massively overbearing human speechless. Glancing around Ray realized he wasn’t the only one enjoying the Master Professor’s discomfort.

After ten full seconds of silence, she turned her attention back to the entire audience and continued, “As you are aware last week a group of greymen attacked a caravan only a mile outside the northeast gate of the City. Fortunately for the survivors of the caravan a group of Council members was nearby and assisted in fighting off the attackers.”

The more knowledgeable audience members all snorted together. It was commonly known that the caravan guards were nearly wiped out and that a mere half dozen members of the Council of Rendelshod destroyed over twenty greymen and less than a dozen wounded greymen survivors managed to escape.

“We,” obviously meaning the Council, “examined the bodies and discovered some interesting facts.”

A first-year student dashed to the table closest to the podium, pulled the sheet off to reveal a very dead humanoid body, and franticly turned a crank that tilted the table top upwards to display the body to the audience. Just as quickly the student retreated with the sheet.

The body was over six feet tall, skeletally lean but muscular, the skin a sallow grey uniformly across the extensively scarred body. The face, topped with short grey hair, appeared human of a racial stock not dissimilar from Sathean, a characteristically broad nose and chin. Other than being six inches too tall and grey skinned instead of bronze, the being might be mistaken for a Sathean. The cause of death was obviously the dished-in left temple, although the upper lip was torn and bruised.

“While the skin coloration would indicate serious dis-health in a human, this specimen was very fit. Although the extensive scarring all over the body does lead one to believe that it led a more dangerous life than that of the typical scholar …”

Smiling warmly she paused to let the audience titter, then continued, “Thin to the point of gauntness, he was very strong. Just prior to being killed he struck down three soldiers, two of which died from his blows. The third was fortunate that only his arm was broken.”

“All of the bodies had the same general skin coloration, so we know the greymen are in fact grey.” Ray glanced at the Master Professor whose own coloration shifted to red as he digested her off-hand comment.

At her nod the student helper displayed the second body. Perhaps a bit shorter than the first, this one had different facial features – the nose was broad but the chin was oddly narrow and the corners of the eyes were tilted down just a bit, giving it a decidedly odd appearance. This was like no human stock Ray had ever seen in the cosmopolitan Sathean Empire. The lanky grey hair was burned off above the eyes and the chin was similarly scorched, as was the left hand. An even half dozen black-charred holes were scattered across the chest.

“These two greymen were in the area of a Fireball. This one”, indicating the first body, “shrugged off the magical fire without harm while this one”, pointing to the second body, “obviously didn’t. It also failed to shrug off the Force Bolts that ended its life.”

Scanning the audience before speaking, Meselda stated, “Greymen are NOT immune to magical spells although it appears that some have resistance as do most demons and devils.”

Master Professor Taloquan started to sputter a rebuttal but sputtered out as the small woman met his outraged gaze with her steely one. “The facts are clear. This one died from magic.”

Looking around the audience Ray marveled at the utter silence, all side discussions completely shut off. Taloquan was the bear of the department, known for shouting down anyone he couldn’t beat with facts. This small woman, barely half his size, shut him up with a stare.

Drawing in an angry breath the Master Professor intoned, “I suppose you have a reliable witness who can verify the cause of death?”

A high-pitched barked laugh startled the room, drawing all eyes from the confrontation to the Professor’s Door. Unnoticed during the lecture, three figures had entered and stood by the wall.

These three figures were a study in contrasts. The first was tremendous, a towering figure well over seven feet tall with broad shoulders and a blocky chest. His face wasn’t fully human, he was clearly a goblinoid half-breed of some sort.

The second was also a half-breed, this one human and elf. He would have towered over most in the room, but seemed small in comparison to his larger companion. Over six feet tall, broad of shoulder and narrow of waist, he had long silver hair, elvish ears and nose … on a decidedly human face. Ray thought, “so much for half-elves all being beautiful“.

The figure that had laughed continued this study in contrasts – a halfling barely four feet tall. Next to the others he looked positively tiny and defenseless. Stepping between the two tables he placed a familiar hand on the corpses’ respective arms. Looking Taloquan directly in the eyes and speaking in a reedy voice the halfling piped, “Meselda killed both of these pieces of … offal. Unless you’d like to join them I don’t suggest you insult her integrity again.”

No longer did the halfling look small or helpless. If anything, he towered over the much taller human. The Master Professor recoiled from the gaze and words, fear etched on his face. Even the bravest in the room wouldn’t hold the halfling’s disturbing gaze.

“Fay!” Meselda barked. “There’s no need for that.”

Fay smirked at the professor, bowed gracefully to Meselda, and stepped back alongside his companions. Ray noted he did not turn his back on the audience. Shivering, Ray turned his attention back to the dwarven woman.

The room was silent except for the alien sound of fabric rustling as people shifted. Stares directed at the halfling shifted to the dwarven woman, and a palpable sense of respect for her filtered through the room.

Looking at the Master Professor the woman continued in the silence, “Yes, I think I am a very reliable witness.” A third time she nodded at the student, who this time hesitated before rushing to display the third body. His turning of this table’s crank was yet more frantic, and his grip slipped twice. Meselda waited patiently while the student’s face grew redder.

This corpse was nearly a foot shorter than the others and had oddly bulging eyes. Although that might not be a racial feature, but a result of the dozen stab wounds in the chest and the gapingly slashed throat. “This one made the mistake of grabbing Lord Fay.” Gesturing at the halfling, who merrily waved to the audience, Meselda continued, “A very mundane knife inflicted these wounds.”

“This one did not require a magical weapon to kill.” Oddly cowed the Master Professor did not reply to her contradiction of his lecture. Letting the thought digest, she added, “However, one of the leaders did prove immune to the mundane blades of the caravan guardsman, so some greymen are immune to mundane weapons.”

“The leaders demonstrated some spell-like powers, but most of the greymen soldiers did not. Those that did exhibit powers didn’t have anything all that powerful, simple things like magical Darkness and a Lesser Poison Cloud.”

Ray laughed to himself. Meselda Gilderlo of the Council of Rendelshod might consider those magics trivial, but few others in the lecture hall did!

Pouring herself a glass of water from a pitcher in the podium, the dwarven woman surveyed the audience, apparently steeling herself for some final revelation. Her dry throat quenched, she continued.

“The most interesting findings occurred after the battle. As you should all realize, regardless of external differences we are all pretty much alike inside”. Pointing to the Master Professor, an elf, then her three companions and finally herself, she said, “we all have hearts, lungs, stomachs, and guts – all performing the same function and in the same general places.”

“Creatures of the Outer Planes are different. Even amongst demons the organs are often markedly different – in function, appearance, and location. Such creatures may have organs whose function we can’t easily identify. One of the most dangerous things about fighting an unknown demon is that vital spots are usually different. What kills one may simply make another angry.”

“We dissected a dozen greymen after the battle. The results are conclusive. They are … human.”

Bedlam filled the lecture hall and even the chastised Master Professor Taloquan lurched to his feet, shouting. The noise continued for a minute without showing any signs of abating, and if anything got worse as over one hundred strident voices got louder and louder, each trying to shout down the others.


An impossibly loud clap of thunder shattered the pandemonium, knocking some attendees off their feet and leaving an equally impossible silence. “Thank you, Lord Kortag,” Meselda said to the half-elf, who was apparently a spell caster of some nature. Smiling at the half-elf’s grave nod, Meselda turned back to her audience.

“These creatures, regardless of appearance, origination, and powers – are VERY human. There are some differences that don’t quite match up, but the evidence is conclusive. These bodies are yours for examination. Draw your own conclusions. We will reconvene here at this same time tomorrow to discuss your results.”

The staff standing in the corner flew of its own volition into her waiting hand, and the three companions swept out the Professor’s door behind her.

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