The archmage Mordenkainen, one of the most powerful wizards ever to walk the world of Oerth, came to Greyhawk following tales of Zagig‘s legendary magical prowess. Thirty-six years ago he founded an adventuring group called the Citadel of Eight—inspired by Zagig’s own Company of Seven—to explore central Flanaess and discover the treasures and knowledge of lost civilizations. In the course of his arcane studies and world travels, he developed a rigid philosophy based on cosmological balance, fighting on the side of good as often as he nudged events in the direction of evil. In this way he hoped to preserve a status quo within society, ensuring that no single faction gained the upper hand.
His darker actions brought him into conflict with certain members of the Citadel, notably the good wizard Tenser, who advocated direct intervention on the side of weal and who couldn’t grasp why Mordenkainen would not dedicate himself and his band to the eradication of evil. Such rifts eventually tore the group apart, but Mordenkainen remained great friends with the organization’s most potent physical combatant, Lord Robilar, and together the pair traveled the length and breadth of the Flanaess, from the City of the Gods in the northern wastelands to the vine-choked crumbling pyramids of the southern jungles.
After decades of viewing himself as a chessmaster, Mordenkainen naturally began to view his friends and companions as pawns. When the opportunity to destroy Iuz once and for all presented itself to the wizard, he manipulated Lord Robilar and Riggby into releasing the imprisoned demon-god, freeing himself from the disastrous consequences and the scorn of his more altruistic associates should the plan fail. Despite an attempt to remain aloof from the consequences of his actions, Mordenkainen feels greatly responsible, and he resurrected the Citadel, after a fashion, in the form of the Circle of Eight, an association of master wizards with himself as shadow leader.
In the years approaching the Greyhawk Wars, the Circle thwarted several of Iuz’s schemes, explored treasure- laden tombs in the Cairn Hills, and made itself known in courts throughout the Flanaess, achieving a measure of political influence. Then, at the very end of the wars, on the eve of the Day of Great Signing in the City of Greyhawk, treachery nearly destroyed the Circle of Eight. When the wizards Bigby, Tenser, and Otiluke inspected the building that would house the treaty event, they discovered an elaborate magical trap meant to destroy the assembled ambassadors and dignitaries. The archmage Rary, the only member of the Circle whose magical prowess matched that of Mordenkainen, then emerged from the shadows to congratulate his allies on their foresight. His schemes thwarted, Rary lashed out at his friends, slaying Tenser and Otiluke and gravely wounding Bigby. Worse, Mordenkainen soon received word that his greatest friend, the fighter Lord Robilar, had sacked the slain wizards’ strongholds and destroyed their clones and soul objects, preventing their return to life. Mordenkainen could understand Rary’s actions, grudgingly, but Robilar’s betrayal has always seemed incongruous to him.