Harv Gretborn is considered by all sober scholars to be one of history's darkest figures. His early childhood, including his toilet training, is entirely mysterious, and the once-exciting speculations of the so-called "depth charge school" of historians have been shown to be entirely post hoc and without foundation.
Gretborn first appears in authentic history as a young man, already established in his famous "invention laboratory" on the outskirts of Iganefta, supposedly funded by the Council for Quezlarian Research, and working on the inventions that were to make him first famous and then infamous. The earliest inventions were relatively straightforward, like the Fountain Spray and the Blue Ice, though the military-mindedness that was so prominent a feature of his later career was already apparent in the first of them, the disgusting but effective Snotgun. This period came to an end with his publication of Sublimating the Divine, the first openly published systematic guide to the practical applications of theoalchemy.
Alleging a personal breakdown, he then ceased working on inventions for a period of some six years. He spent the first half of this period composing canoralist music -- the very greatest of the second rank ever written -- and the second half writing a paper on Xhasone Margolhu's Theorem that is said by mathematicians to be the last word on the subject. He then returned to the invention laboratory, working night and day with redoubled vigor, until he announced to all Ghyll his discovery of the dreaded Gravion Process, whose very name is still used to frighten ill-behaved children.
The technical details of the Process are fully documented in the article of that name in this encyclopaedia. Here I confine myself to an account of its social and political consequences. Like so many other weapons from the crossbow to the Brilliant Pebbles, the Gravion Process did not of course (contrary to early horrified reactions) make war obsolete as a result of the sheer terror of the would-be combatants. No mere physical, or even metaphysical, weapon can possibly achieve that end.
Gretborn's penultimate invention did ensure, however, that whichever entity was the first to avail itself of Gretborn's methods and technical base would achieve a temporary supremacy over its antagonists that could easily put it in a permanent position of strength. As is known to every schoolchild, Royal Dulalia won the bidding war, destroyed some 60%-75% of the arable land on the Fundzherit Peninsula by way of demonstration, and used the threat of further applications to consolidate his hegemony over his former commercial rivals, transforming his petty kingdom into the Dulalian Empire of today.
As for Gretborn's Last (or Two-Part) Invention, with which he supposedly intended to redeem his shredded reputation among both scholars and ordinary folk, little has been said about it publicly that can be considered authoritative. We have only the marginal note in Gretborn's own hand in his personal copy of the Arithmetica, claiming that he had worked out the plans in extenso, but that the margin was too small to contain them. For the rest, only the Brothers of the Lantern know the truth; as usual, they are not talking.
--John Cowan 16:48, 3 Nov 2004 (EST)