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History of Cavernhold (1 of 2)

Updated on May 2, 2021

Thuunk of Cavernhold

These are fantasy historical notes as recorded by the medieval fantasy character Thuunk of the real massive multi-player role-playing game “GemStone IV”. The history is divided into two parts to reflect the latest two major evolutions of the area known as Cavernhold. This section describes the history as known between the Days of Ice and the month of Koaratos, year 5100.

I‘d like to thank the folks who helped me learn about Cavernhold. My brother Clunk first explored Cavernhold years ago, and learned much that he passed on to me before his disappearance. His adventures with Galadriel, Leianna, Nighthawk, Trayot, Lairaerrykthrok, and many forgotten others first sparked my interest in Cavernhold, and caused me to take up residence there when I was able to get to this part of Elanthia. My own personal encounters with Elfstan and Trayot (again) have also helped me to learn much about the ways of the gnolls. I wish I could say who contributed to which stories, and which part is my own, and which part may have been read somewhere, but they have truly gotten all mixed together as we all sought at different times to understand this out-of-the-way part of Elanthia.

Old History (The Rise of the Gnolls)

Long ago, before the ways to Danjirland were known, perhaps even before the days called the Ice Ages, the gnolls lived in a small cave, somewhere in Danjirland. The gnolls were a civilized sort who kept to themselves, rarely venturing outside their caves, and never seeking harm of anyone. Their main contact with the outside was through trade of shopai cloth with folks in the outside world. The gnolls were able to survive even though they were much smaller than the other tool users near them.

The gnolls did not have a peaceful existence for long. Their warm cave, their herds of shopai, and the hand-crafted products of their labor became the envy of the other inhabitants in the area. The trolls and ogres that lived nearby decided that they no longer had to trade for the items the gnolls had, and chose to invade the gnolls small caves to take their things from them. Of course, trolls being trolls, and ogres being ogres, they did not foresee that their victory would deprive them forever of getting the things the gnolls made.

The gnolls fought as well as they could, but quickly realized they could not survive against the power of the trolls and ogres. Fortunately for them, there was one young gnoll who had explored the area well. This gnoll had found a secret pathway to larger caverns, far from the interference of the other races. Just when things looked the worst they could, the gnolls left, using this portal, and found a way to close the passage behind them.

The gnolls arrived in Cavernhold and built a thriving underground town, far more civilized than the Whenimer's of that time. The young gnoll quickly rose to power and became the leader of the town, and was bestowed the political title of "Great Gnoll". His memory lives on even today.

The Gnoll Society (The Gnolls Golden Age)

Historically, all civilizations go through a time of rise, a time of power, and a time of fall. The gnoll civilization did this too. The gnolls time of power was not a time of domination over other races. Instead it was a period of time in which they learned to survive with little interference from the outside world. During this time the gnolls mined copper, tanned hides, raised shopai, weaved and dyed shopai cloth, forged both armor and jewelry, developed what may be the first bolt type weapons, farmed, fished, and developed some of the most sophisticated traps known today. They also developed simple but highly effective locks and alarms, and were masters at mixing their skills sufficiently to prevent most uninvited outsiders from entering the caverns.

These were the times when outsiders could visit with the gnoll folk that wandered about the caverns. Outsiders could perhaps catch sight of a stray miner, or woodworker, or weaver, or fishermen, or even on occasion, wandering children. Their innocence and lack of knowledge of the outside world turned out to be their downfall. I will never forget the child that once came up to me innocently asking "Have you seen my grotti?" They had no fear and no concept that anyone from the outside world would mean them harm. Occasionally even visitors could be seen returning from a peaceful fishing expedition on the large underground lake, or from a visit to their underground island. I personally never caught any fish there, but the serenity of the lake made it well worth the time to visit.

Not all gnolls were entirely peaceful though. It was also during these times that the gnolls built their famed guard posts. These posts can be found both inside and outside the caverns, and will likely shoot unavoidable cross bolts at unexpected visitors. Also, the visitor to Cavernhold quickly learned to tell the town gnolls from the potentially harmful gnolls. The town gnolls had no problem at all raising the alarm at the least provocation, and a visitor could expect to be swarmed by angry gnolls.

Recent History (The Fall of the Gnolls)

The gnolls have undergone a lot of changes in these more modern times. Somewhere around the time of the four wars the gnolls disappeared from Cavernhold. This war was also known to some as the War for the Gryphon sword, or the war to save the Arkati named Lorminstra.

The disappearance of the gnolls was a major loss to many of the visitors of the caverns. The gnolls had been peaceful and rarely ventured beyond their caverns. It is not known for sure what happened to the gnolls, but I can share some of the things that folks thought ‘might’ have happened.

The first theory offered was that the gnolls had succumbed to a plague. The complete isolation of the caverns and the fact that the caverns had few visitors left the gnolls vulnerable to new sicknesses that others of the realm would have already adapted to. This idea was abandoned after the gnolls reappeared for a short time, coincident with the visits of the merchant Selandriel.

The second theory offered was that the gnolls had been captured by the Baron of the human empire. It is said that this Baron enslaves all folks of other races. Cavernholds location far to the south of Wehnimers Landing may have put it in the path of this baron’s advance on the town. This theory also seems weak, since it is now felt that Baron is seeking ways to come by sea.

The third theory is that the gnolls left the Caverns due to the rage of a mad wizard who had been captured by the gnolls. This wizard returned time after time to the caverns to take his vengeance since he had lost one of his toys to the gnoll jailer. Now it is well advertised that Cavernhold is extremely dangerous to those who do not know its ways, so you would think that of all professions a wizard would have the sense to safeguard possessions he holds dear, but, apparently this was not the case. In any case, I can say that I did see the charred bodies of several of the peaceful gnoll town folk on occasion.

The gnolls have been away from the caverns for a long time now. Their last siting was coincident with a visit from Selandrial here in Wehnimer’s Landing. It has been said that shortly after that visit, Selandrial was willing to perform his work on Teras for smooth stones, so it is possible that he took the gnolls under his protection. If that is the case, then perhaps the gnoll civilization will be found again someday.

The Historical Significance of Smooth Stones

For those of you who seek the truth about smooth stones ... this is what I can tell you:

  • Smooth stones were once traded to the Great Gnoll of Cavernhold for whatever items he will trade.
  • I used to buy smooth stones from anyone, with the standard offer of 100 coins per smooth stone.
  • I trade items received from the Great Gnoll to whoever happens to ask for an item I hold. This will only happen if the original owner has had sufficient time to claim the item. I will continue to do this as situations warrant.
  • I have returned items donated to the Great Gnoll, at his request, only asking for a donation of one smooth stone. There is no guarantee that the item you left in Cavernhold will be returned, so think carefully before carrying an item into the caverns. I used to auction items that have been traded from the Great Gnoll. Those auctions were not for coins. Instead, they were for smooth stones. Stones received at an auction were collected and held until they could be traded to the Great Gnoll, or offered to the gnolls favored Arkati, the mountain father and his son.

There are many places that smooth stones can be left for the Great Gnoll. These include the famed Gnoll vault, the altars to the mountain father, many of the gnoll workplaces, and many of the various storage places scattered about the caverns.

The Oldest Picker in the Lands

Many folks have seen the jail in Cavernhold. This jail is by far the most feared spot in the lands, so feared that most folks would never dare go near Cavernhold for fear that they will get caught by the gnoll guards, have their possessions taken, get tossed in jail, and be left there to rot. Despite the warnings, this has happened many times. It has been said that some folks have chosen to end their times in the land of Elanthia due to the hopelessness they feel after being tossed in the Cavernhold jail.

Despite that, the jail has one permanent resident who always has a smile on his face. This resident is an old Halfling who is believed to be the oldest picker in the lands. It took many years visiting Cavernhold and some considerable thought before I understood why he always smiles. As most folks who have visited Cavernhold know, there is a secluded valley under Hetoth (now called Zeltoph) mountain, where folks will give offerings to the Arkati named Kai, in service to the society of Voln. What most folks do not know is that this same pool was for many years a place to go to get boxes opened. Sad to say, it no longer works. To open a box, folks would put their box in the pool, offer a prayer to the Kai, and then wait. The items in the box would shortly be returned to the hands of the owner, or scattered about on the ground. What would really happen was this: The Halfling would get the box, open it, and take his choice from the box. That would make me smile too.

Sadly though, I did this one day, since I had a box far too hard for me to open. An Arkati came screaming after the Halfling, calling him a mere bug, since Halflings are sort of small, and Arkati are large. Ever since then, the Halfling has not been able to open boxes for anyone. He still smiles though, but I no longer understand why.


The gnolls did not neglect religion. Most of the gnolls honor an Arkati they call the mountain father. There is some debate as to whether this is the gnoll version of Eonak, Koar, or some other Arkati who is devoted to hand working stone. There are three spots in the Caverns that look to have been used as altars. Two of these appear to be to the mountain father. It is not yet clear who the third altar is for.

The gnolls show their appreciation for the mountain father by the hard work they have put into the many rooms of the caverns. Near anywhere you go, you can see that the work has been done with pride. Even rooms no longer used show signs that some gnoll has taken the time to turn the natural ores occurring in the rock walls into small works of art.

Gnoll Trade

The gnolls have traded with the outside world for many years. You will find signs of this here and there, scattered about Elanthia.

Shopai fleece. The gnolls raise small herds of shopai, and work their fleece into a coarse cloth using looms. This cloth gets dyed, and traded outside the caverns. In recent years, much better material for cloth has been developed. It seems that only enslaved kobolds do worse work.

Smooth stones. As far as I know, I’m the only one who has learned how to trade smooth stones to the great gnoll. I’ll gladly buy smooth stones for 100 coin each, and will occasionally have unclaimed items available for an agreeable number of smooth stones. I will not tell you exactly how I trade them; this is a secret that will be much better appreciated if you learn it on your own.

Mushrooms. The gnolls have a shopai fertilized underground mushroom farm. Mushrooms get traded to one of the stores in Whenimer’s town. The gnoll mushrooms are well known for their pungent aroma.

Copper. The gnoll copper mines are likely responsible for most of the copper available in Elanthia. Copper is normally found as part of ornamental items, and will occasionally show signs of the careful gnoll craftsmanship. The use of copper for weapons or armor is rare since there are more abundant and better metals available.

To Come in Part 2

The second part of this history will talk about modern history - after the month Koaratos of year 5100; the town of Phannus; the mad mage; the Great Gnoll seeking acorns (rather than smooth stones); the return of the gnolls to Cavernhold; the emergence of the gnoll miners; and the appearance of the shadow dragon.


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