Grenex's tribe was a vicious pack of bugbears that prowled the woods and hills close to the civilized lands. She was the daughter of the pack's warlord, which gave her little true status, other than to avoid overt predations by the others. Grenex, though small, willowy, and lacking in the apparent ferocity and strength of her kin, displayed minor magical powers. However, her tribe never learned of her potential because it was waylaid and completely destroyed after an ambush they had planned against a caravan turned out to be an ambush itself. Grenex was the sole survivor of the botched raid since she was strapped to the back of her mother and not an immediate target during the fray. Her persistent mewling after all the bugbear adults were destroyed caught the attention of the caravan's commander, who prepared to kill the runt. Before he could, however, the wizard that accompanied the mercenaries stopped him. The wizard, Simal, saw some potential in Grenex and asked the commander to spare her life. The commander reluctantly agreed after Simal explained that he needed the bugbear for some experimentation.
Simal took Grenex back to his home and kept her as a slave. As he had promised, he used the young bugbear as a test subject for some mild experiments. Little did he know, however, that Grenex watched his magical technique with great interest and began picking up minor spells. After witnessing one of her displays, Simal released Grenex and made her his apprentice. The relationship was very hard on the young bugbear since her master was a stern and cruel man. However, Simal was very thorough in his teachings and was quietly pleased with her progress.
Simal was a devout worshipper of Wee Jas, the Stern Mistress of Magic and Death. His teachings were peppered with the lessons and words of Wee Jas -- the young bugbear absorbed everything that she could and soon became an adherent to the ways of Wee Jas. Simal was studying the necromantic arts and spent most of his time finding ways to summon spirits and create undead more efficiently. Grenex kept her opinions to herself and realized that she had more talent in that regard than her master. She kept a hidden journal and spellbook, cobbled together from her own findings as well as from secrets that she stole from Simal's notes. She was careful to take only what Simal wouldn't notice, and more than a few times, she risked being caught when pilfering an important component for a spell that she wanted to experiment with.
After several years of servitude and learning, Grenex was troubled by disturbing nightmares. While dreaming, she was visited by a tall, beautiful woman who explained that it was time for the next step of her training. After a week, the woman finally said that she must now "surpass" her master. The next morning, Grenex woke early and dripped a poison into her master's sleeping mouth. The last thing he saw was his pupil standing above him, watching his demise with a cold, clinical interest. She grabbed what she could and set fire to the manor. As the glorious building burned up, Grenex watched with dispassion until it was nothing more than smoldering embers. She then set off into the mist, hoping never to return. Fate would have different plans for her, however.
For many years, Grenex wandered about the land, trying to distance herself from her past and learning as much as she could about magic, the dead, and her dark mistress, Wee Jas. On occasion, her goddess would speak to her in her dreams, providing vague guidance and suggestions. Grenex never questioned these directives, even when they brought her back to the burned manor house. Once there, she located the charred corpse of Simal, still buried in the rubble of the manor. Using her new talents, she summoned his spirit repeatedly for many months. She interrogated his tortured soul and learned the remaining magical secrets that he had kept to himself.
As soon as she had finished, however, Grenex caught sight of an approaching force and recognized the banner of her mentor's allies. Grenex fled and was hounded by the band. She never knew how they had found her or why they chose that moment to come for her, until another series of dreams made her realize that she was being tested by Wee Jas. She hid as well as she could and did her best to pick off the attackers one by one. The final battle was concluded after she created undead from the fallen adventurers and had them slay their former compatriots. When the last of the adventurers were slain, Grenex felt deep in her heart that she had passed Wee Jas's test. However, the battles had left her wounded and seriously hardened. What little bit of remorse, compassion, and sanity was wiped away, leaving her a cold, vicious being with no regard for others.
Emboldened by her success, Grenex embarked on several adventures of her own to raise money, gain knowledge, and discover items of power. She returned once more to the burnt-down manor so that she could rebuild it. She raised an army of undead to augment the mercenaries that she hired from outside the realm, including another band of bugbears that had assumed the power vacuum left behind by her former tribe. To gain control, Grenex had to engage in combat with the leader of the tribe, whom she killed and then raised to act as an enforcer of her will. Her second act was to ritually murder the tribe's cleric of Hruggek, seeing him as a threat to her rule. The other bugbears bowed to her leadership and did whatever was asked.
With this combined might, she terrorized the surrounding countryside, bringing it into her newly formed kingdom. She personally hunted down wizards, sorcerers, clerics, and anyone else that possessed magical powers. She tortured and interrogated them, gleaning any insights that she could for her dark mistress. As her might grew, the local populace caused several uprisings, hoping to overthrow the bugbear. She crushed these rebellions with a cold, logical calm, using the bodies to create new undead to bolster her army. Many adventurers, clerics, and paladins came to her land, hoping to defeat such an evil being. In the end, they were murdered, enslaved, or turned into more undead.
To this day, Grenex is still in command of the land, ruling from the newly built manor and protected by a veritable army of undead and bugbears. Few have the power or will to take her on. She has shifted her focus to finding even more powerful necromantic magic and hopes to create an army large enough to move into the neighboring kingdom.
Grenex continues to summon the spirit of Simal from time to time so that she can learn things from beyond the grave, gain spells he may have "neglected" to teach her, and torment him. His spirit is tortured beyond compare and he wishes nothing more than to be freed from her control and to bring about her death.
About the Author
Eric Cagle works at Wizards of the Coast. He has written several articles for Dragon Magazine and the Wizards of the Coast website. He has contributed to the Arms and Equipment Guide, Fiend Folio, several Star Wars products, and the Urban Arcana book for d20 Modern Roleplaying Game.