Thursday, 1 February 2018

Star Witches Tradition

Praxian depiction of Star Witches on a Pavisite pot.

Mythos and History
During the long night when the Sun had been killed but before Waha had been born, the Star Khans descended from the sky to try and teach people how to live as they did.
Few listened for without the Sun they were as dull as Herdmen, and lived by scratching at the dust and weeds. The Star Khans despaired, for they could not help people as dull as this. But as they walked, weeping and mourning, some of the women turned to watch.
The women followed in the wake of the stars, and listened as they went, learning the secrets that the stars tried to teach.
The women became witches and when the Star Khans went to leave, to return to the sky, the women approached them and showed them what they had learned.
The stars rejoiced, knowing that they had succeeded. They taught more secrets to the witches, filling them with their knowledge. And then, when they went home, begged the witches to teach others.
The Star Witches did so, becoming the earliest of Prax's magical traditions. They shared their star secrets with many, teaching them to follow the heavens -- although keeping many secrets to themselves.
When Waha emerged from the Paps and created his Covenant, the Star Witches dispersed and became members of the tribes he had created. In this way, the star lore would be preserved in all tribes, without distinction.
After the return of the Sun the Star Witches' fortunes began to rise. The powers of the sky were strengthened, and many new stars were born, and old ones became reachable.
Unfortunately, this was not to last. Many stars have now been lost or changed allegiances. The Lucky Star vanished uncountable summers ago; while Bright Treasure and the Twinstars were enchanted by the Moon, and many of their followers have left to join the Red School of Masks -- taking with them some of the Star Witches' secrets.

Nature of the Cult
The Star Witches are counted as one of the Magical Secret Societies of Prax, providing the nomads with a way to deal with spirits which are outside the way of Waha.
The nomadic lifestyle of the Praxians has given them great respect for the night sky, for its many stars and spirits can be used as guides for both physical and spiritual journeys.
The tradition has members in many of the great tribes, with the Impalas favouring it greatly. The Sables once had so many members that they were said to be lead by the Witches, but with the coming of the Lunars their influence has waned.

Cult Organization and Holy Places
The tradition has little in the way of hierarchy, with the only ranks acknowledged being members and the Star Witches themselves. The Star Witches as the tradition's shamans, lead rituals with their followers and assistants, but otherwise keep to themselves. In fact their position as a shaman is often a well kept secret, with only those who have gone to meet with them in the night ever truly knowing their identity.
The holy places of the tradition are found where the sky and earth have met. The most accessible is the oasis of Moonbroth, where the waters of the earth jump and leap to meet the night sky. The most famous is the Star Crystal Mountain, in the Tunnelled Hills. Here was the Celestial Pillar, where Pole Star first leapt down to protect the world against the devil's hordes. His blood litters this great peak, shining in the night.

Holy Days
A ritual is held at night on Fireday of Death Week each season, communing with whatever stars a member feels most connected to. This may be a private ceremony, or all members of a particular clan may head off into the dark to perform the rites together.
During Dark Season, the holy day is a lot more important, for it marks when the shamans of the tradition are said to meet together in the sky world, sharing their secrets even if they are miles apart in the mortal world.


The Star Witches Tradition
Any praxian with the Sky Rune has the potential to join the Sky Witches Tradition; despite the name, many members of the tradition are men in both spirit and body.
A prospective member must seek out a Star Witch (a shaman of the tradition) and persuade her to initiate them into the Star Witches Tradition.
In game terms, the hero can join the tradition at the same rating as their Fire or Spirit Rune. Simply add Star Witches Tradition () keyword after the appropriate Rune.
When you join the tradition, you receive several charms, as described in HeroQuest Glorantha (page 136), following all the restrictions there. Typical charms of the Star Witches Tradition include Starlight, See In Darkness, Stay Safe At Night, and Follow Star.


Spirit Societies
A hero with at least 1W in their Sky or Spirit Rune, or in a charm, may join a spirit society as described in HeroQuest Glorantha (page 136)
The Star Witch Tradition has numerous spirit societies, each associated with a particular star. Each tribe has its own favoured star, whose spirit society counts as the core spirit society for them. The Bison Tribe favours Bronze Treasure (and stubbornly keeps to that name), the Impala favour Pole Star, the High Llamas favoured Lucky Star, the Sables favour the Twinstars, the Morokanth favour the Evening Star, and the Unicorn Tribe favour Sun Daughter. The Morning Star is the patron of no tribe, preferring not to play favourites.


Bronze Treasure
This large brazen star moves across the southern reaches of the sky, patrolling the Bleak Shore against enemies. He is proud, not allowing himself to be cowed even by the blazing Sun. He is said to have gifted men with the gift of bronze, tearing off his own leg to turn into a sword, giving him his strange gait across the sky. Certainly, his braves love metal, and many will demand their charms be made of it. Bronze Treasure's braves include:
Jealous Brave. This spirit is one of Bronze Treasure's braves who's been coaxed into a spear, sword, or other weapon. Its presence allows the wielder to make Deadly Strikes with the weapon. The taboo of Jealous Brave is Use No Other Metal Weapon.
Friendly Shield. This spirit acts as a shield bearer for others, just as he has for Bronze Treasure. He can help by making a shield Protect Against Projectiles. The taboo of Friendly Shield is Never Kill with Projectiles.
Breaker of Bones. This spirit wields a heavy bone weapon, which he swings with reckless abandon. He helps others Make Thunderous Strikes, which maim and cripple their foes. The taboo of Breaker of Bones is Never Spare The Same Foe Twice.


Evening Star
Once the lover of the Sun, Evening Star followed him to the far west when he was slain, even trying to follow him into death. When she was refused, she instead stood watch over the gates of death, forbidding any to enter or leave. When the Seven Seekers came, she relented, seeing their resolve. She then returned to Prax, leading her handmaidens to guard others as she once guarded the gates of death. Her handmaidens include:
Gate Mourner. This spirit is eternally weeping, mourning all who try to pass through the gates of death. Her tears and pleas can Postpone Death. The taboo associated with Gate Mourner is Always Mourn Death.
Last Midwife. This spirit knows rites that Calm Restless Ghosts, allowing them to find their way to the gates of death. The taboo associated with Last Midwife is Never Aid a Birth.
Torch Bearer. This spirit holds the guiding light of the Evening Star, and gifts this Red Light to others. The taboo associated with Torch Bearer is Never Let Red Light and Gold Light Meet.


Lucky Star
The vanquisher of the Star Serpent is gone. Vanished from the sky for uncountable summers, many have forgotten it was even there. Despite this, the braves of the Lucky Star still tread their khan's former route. The braves of the Lucky Star include:
Oasis Seeker. This spirit can Smell Out Oases, and grants this power to its allies. The taboo of Oasis Seeker is Never Offend Oasis People.
Serpent's Curse. This spirit summons the watery serpents to follow it, dragging them along the dry land to Drown Enemies. The taboo associated with Serpent's Curse is Never Drink From a Serpent.
Fortune's Bannerman. This spirit travels the sky to hidden places, carrying a bright blue banner trailing behind it. When befriended by a hero he grants the ability to Find Hidden Green. The taboo associated with Fortune's Bannerman is Never Sleep In The Same Place Twice.

Morning Star
Like her sister, Morning Star was once the lover of the Sun. Unlike her, she never believed he was truly dead. Instead she went eastwards, following a light only she could see. There, at the end of everything, she saw her lover. When the Seven Seekers brought the Sun back, Morning Star was ready with her handmaidens to spread the word of her lover's freedom. Her handmaidens include:

Gate Herald. This spirit is always laughing and dancing, eager to tell all about the return of the Sun. Her eternal cheer can Restore Hope. The taboo associated with Gate Herald is Never Lose Hope.
First Witness. This spirit can reveal the invisible light of the slumbering sun, letting others See in Darkness. The taboo associated with First Witness is Never Abandon Others.
Torch Bearer. This spirit holds the shining light of the Morning Star, and gifts this Gold Light to others. The taboo associated with Torch Bearer is Never Let Gold Light and Red Light Meet.



Pole Star
The Stars' Khan of Khans, Pole Star was the first spirit to descend from the sky to aid mortals, leading his khans and braves into battle against the forces of Chaos. When the long night was darkest, he lept back to his home, shining in the center of the sky, so that the tribes could navigate in the gloom. His braves include:
Little Khan. This spirit serves the star khans by directing others. He provides the ability to Command Others. The taboo of Little Khan is Always Respect Your Followers.
Banner Boy. This spirit carries Pole Star's banner, trailing around him to direct others. He provides the ability to Send And Receive Silent Messages. The taboo of Banner Boy is Always Accept Parleys.
Spear Carrier. This spirit holds Pole Star's flaming spears. He grants their fire to others, giving them Burning Weapons to throw. The taboo of Spear Carrier is Never Throw First.

Sun Daughter flanked by two unicorns.
Sun Daughter
This child of the Sun was originally just a nameless handmaiden, hiding behind her mother's skirt. But when her father was slain, and everyone fled, she picked up his fallen weapons, and started to fight in his place. When the Sun returned, she gave him back his spear, bow, and shield; and in turn he gifted her with weapons of her own. She now rides where the Sun cannot, keeping watch where he cannot see. Her braves include:
Falling Star. This spirit was one of the arrows of Sun Daughter, flashing through the heavens to strike at her enemies. Now they provide the same ability of Flaming Arrows to others. The taboo associated with the Falling Stars is Never Befriend Darkness.
Shining Hooves. One of the heavenly steeds of Sun Daughter's braves, this spirit blesses' a hero's mount, granting them Hooves Of Starlight. The taboo associated with Shining Hooves is Never Ride Another Mount.
Ever Virtuous. This spirit was once a handmaiden at Genert's court. When it fell in battle, she joined with Sun Daughter as a brave, but never lost her purity. She can share her purity with others, letting them Be Pure. The taboo associated with Ever Virtuous is Never Have Sex.

Twinstars
Erelia and Verelia, two stars who move as one. These spirits had long been patrons to the Sable Tribe, although others have followed their weaving, dancing light when it's suited them. Always strange and wondrous, it was not too surprising when they and the Sables later allied with the Lunars. Many of their followers left to join the new School of Red Masks, but for those who keep the old ways, they still have some braves and handmaidens:
Dancing Woman. This spirit is constantly in motion, ever dancing to a silent beat. She teaches her strange and mesmerising dance to others, letting them Seduce Watchers. The taboo associated with Dancing Woman is Remain Pure.
Fighting Man. This spirit patrols eternally, keeping watch for some unseen danger. He teaches his focus to others, letting them Ignore Distractions. The taboo associated with Fighting Man is Never Fear Blood.
Weaver. This spirit is constantly weaving, creating new fabric out of nothingness. She can show others how to Create Illusions from nothing. The taboo associated with Weaver is Never Create The Same Illusion Thrice.

Star Witches - Star Witch Shamans
After many years of service and training, a woman with a Star Witch Tradition rating of 11W or higher can become a true Star Witch, a shaman of the tradition. The prospective witch must perform an elaborate, seductive, and highly secret dance to tempt down a Star Khan. If successful (overcoming a major plot obstacle), she returns with her awakened fetch. The woman is now a Star Witch, a shaman.

The Fetch
A Star Witch's fetch is a Star Khan, a mighty spirit of the night sky. The witch has seduced and entranced the khan, causing them to watch over the Witch when she is in the Inner World. When the Witch travels to the sky world, the Star Khan descends to guard her body. The Star Khan performs all the functions of a fetch (cf. HeroQuest Glorantha pg. 138)


Friday, 19 May 2017

Reassessing the Ovosto Dynasty

Part 2 of the Realist Papers
Reassessing the Ovosto Dynasty
As I discussed previously, the murder of Muharzarm was an actual period of warfare, involving the assassination of Emperor Murharzarm. I described it as involving a siege, which some of my fellows took umbrage at, claiming there would be evidence of such a thing.
To this I reply to merely look at the evidence again. In this case we must look to his immediate successor, Emperor Khorventos.
During his reign it is mentioned that the land of Dara Happa was besieged by the followers of the Rebel Gods, invading the cities and plundering what they could. Given my earlier discussion on the role of these Rebel Gods as representations of their peoples, we can conclude that this is a continuation of the same invasion which led to the death of Murharzarm.
Khorventos' reign would have thus been over a empire of one city, barricaded within Yuthubars while the great Empire started to fragment.
It is during this time that the Ovostans rise.
Khorventos and his successor Dendeneus are both recorded in legends as trading away the Imperial Treasures for food, specifically with Ovosto. Because of the foreign armies, this would have had to have taken place in Yuthubars.

The purported Death Mask of Ovosto
Ovosto is described as a child of Gerendetho, and as coming from the Jord Mountains. His government of the mythical city of Senthoros was described as misrule and he himself a Lodrilite, and thus not of noble birth. As such, his original occupation was likely that of dry farmer.
Here we have a peasant, given some measure of political power (his description of having governed Senthoros is likely a myth, given no trace of that city has ever been found) found within Yuthubars when there was no food. He was able to get some, and even provided for the Emperor in exchange for Imperial Treasures.
His seizure of power occurs after Khorventos' death, when his heir seeks the Imperial Treasures. Instead Ovosto uses them to become Emperor.
When Emperor he performs several actions described by Plentonius: he opens up the cities, letting his friends loot the nobles goods; he forced the nobility to mingle with the commoners; he made deals with those who came to invade Dara Happa and shared dinner with them.

I hold that Ovosto was a smuggler, bringing food into the city despite the besieging armies. He profited from this, and provided food to both the rich and poor. When the Emperor died, he seizes power, likely through a popular uprising by the hungry masses. (Their hue and cry are the origin of the howling found in the Ovosto Rites)
After this, he creates peace with the invaders, breaking the siege but giving up much of the riches of the nobility.
Without their riches, the nobility are reduced to living as commoners, working for a living. In this way, he created a new peace for Dara Happa, although one which was undesirable for the nobility.

Ovosto's death has been blamed on choking by a fish from Karasal. This was also where he had banished his rival, Dendeneus, making this an early form of assassination, like the dart wars which are conducted amongst our great Empire to this day.
Karasa and Orogoros, in the Navarian style of the Storm Age

Ovosto's successor, Orogoros was said to have been the son of Ovosto and the goddess of Karasal. He is also said to have come from near Mount Jernotius which lies relatively nearby. This origin points to the infamous lands of Darsen and Naveria, ancient lands of Karasal. He is commonly associated with a snake, also said to have been his father's spirit. This points to a connection with the hills' chthonic serpent cults, such as BernEel Arashagern or Ursturburn. These are ecstatic cults of life, in the form of a serpent (which also bears a connection to the progenitive organ of males. Something despaired at by more prudish Dara Happans)

Orogoros is famed for his iniquity. The Glorious Reascent of Yelm includes a tale of how he makes the people of Dara Happa bare their head and feet -- an obvious Dara Happan euphemism for the progenitive parts. He is similarly recorded as banning incest, prohibiting the Dara Happan tradition of ensuring that divine blood is not diluted by inter-family marriages.
The claim that Orogoros is the child of Ovosto is a spurious one. He has little in common with his supposed father, and dwelled in a separate realm. The claim of kinship is a way of covering up the truth.

During the reign of Orogoros, Dara Happa was ruled by foreign powers, the realms of Karasal, Naveria, and Darsen were the heartland of this kingdom, ruled by the serpent-worshipping King Orogoros. The iniquities and sins appointed to Orogoros are in fact the Lodrilli rites and traditions, vilified by later Dara Happans who seek to ignore this foreignness.

Orogoros' death is given in several different ways. His reign is said to end in the great Deluge of Anaxial, and sometimes he is said to have drowned in the flood itself. But the most important account of his death is in the Glorious Reascent of Yelm. Here he is described as being slain by Avivorus using the Sunspear.
The Sunspear is the divine weapon used later to slay another evil Emperor. And is almost certainly a justification for an uprising, for if Antirius blesses the action, how can it be wrong?

After Orogoros, came the reign of Oravinos.
This Emperor is only found in the Unity and Yelmgatha's Lists. He is described as an orchard god, and as the enemy of the bear. This bear is likely a reference to Arakang, the bear god of western Peloria. His feud with Oravinos is likely the same story as that which is told on the Gods Wall, the fight over the Yarm Tree. This figure is commonly said to be Orypsus, god of pleasure.
Because of this, Oravinos is likely the original figure behind the mythology of Orypsus. A former Emperor who is remembered only as a god of wine and plenty.

But this speaks of an even greater revelation. Arakang is likely a stand in for Western Peloria, the Kingdom of Orogoros. Oravinos, far from being his successor, is his usurper. This is the point where Dara Happa reclaims its independence from its occupiers, and becomes its own nation once again.

This Dynasty ends with the Deluge of Anaxial, the legendary flood which is said to have wiped away all that was unclean, and the return to righteous Emperors. But its legacy remains in several ways:
  • First, there are the Ovosto Rites, used over the centuries to become Emperor through popular approval, rather than by imperial descent.
  • Second, we see the great truism of the Dara Happans, that they would prefer to remember an unjust Emperor, than a foreign tyrant.
  • Finally, that even commoners can become Emperor. And that if necessary, Imperial Descent can be found.

But make no mistake, I do not write this to condemn the Ovostans, but instead to show what they can teach us about the truth behind the myths. That when we ignore the mortal origins, we miss out on the great history of our Empire.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The Rise and Fall of the Vingkotlings

Part 1 of the Realist Papers

The Realist Papers are a blasphemous text kept in the Mirin's Cross knowledge temple. Other copies are said to lurk across the Lunar Empire.
The texts are the work of an Occluded sorcerer named Ormaliol the Denier, a former Sylilan scholar who became part of the perverse Dara Happan sect known as the Mundanists. These sorcerers claim that the gods were nothing more than humans, and that their miracles have a simple, and usually mundane origin. As such, they are not welcome in any land, and must hide their existence.
The Realist Papers would ordinarily be destroyed, but by the grace of the Red Goddess, the works of Illuminates are granted dispensation, and even heretical and blasphemous works are worthy of record -- even if simply to learn from their errors.


The Rise and Fall of the Vingkotlings - A reassessment on the Antediluvian Era

Conventional lore holds the opinion that Orlanth was a divine being, born from the winds and mountains themselves, and that Vingkot was his half-mortal son, who led Orlanth's people during the later Storm Age period of myth.
It is this scholar's assessment that they are in fact the same being, with Orlanth being a deification of Vingkot.

Many of my readers will ask how this can be so, when Vingkot only ruled after the flood? I would argue this fact, for maps from Second Age Heroquesters of the Early Storm Age show the Vingkotlings as a rising power when the sky was orange, before the rise of the waters. As well as this; Plentonius' great work, the Glorious Reascent of Yelm, describes Vinakotal the Barbarian as one of the rebel gods who united to bring down the sun. Other myths speak of Vingkot leading his people during the great Downward Migration from the Spike.

Vingkot was likely already an established ruler during this period.

Using this assumption, we can then take the established details of Vingkot's history, and determine the likely events of his reign.
Sylilan Bear vessel, showing Pelandan influence

Vingkot's first great deed as king was to defeat the Sky Bear, who interrupted his kingship rites. The Sky Bear is the title of Odayla, the Orlanthi god of bears and hunting, making this an obvious reference to the god; or more likely his people, the Sylilans.

Of note, in northern Aggar there is a peak known as Bear Mountain as part of the Autumn Mountain chain. This is sacred to the Sylilan bear god, and the Heortlings know of it as part of the gods' wall.

This is presumably the story of an invasion by the Odaylans to the north, who try to claim Vingkot's lands for their own. They are pushed back, and the invasion halted, proving the Vingkotling's right to existence. The Autumn Mountains become the border between the Sylilans to the north, and the Vingkotlings to the south.


After his northern border was secure, we then come to the matter of the south.

The Vingkotlings are said to have been one of three great tribes, one of the others being the Durevings. These were a peaceful agrarian people who worshipped a great earth goddess. They dwelled to the south of the Vingkotlings in a land named Envorela.

They would make useful allies for Vingkot.

Sources imported from Esrolia have described Orlanth's conquest of their mythic ancestors, who would be the Durevings (Although they call them Oraneo. The mythologies I have acquired also refer to Durev and Orane as husband and wife.)

These texts describe Kodig, who is elsewhere recorded as a son of Vingkot, attempting to invade Envorela's great city of Nochet, and when turned back calling upon his god Orlanth to do it. After destroying the defenders, Orlanth marries Ernalda, and a house is built to the god within Nochet. In comparison, the Heortling texts instead describe this as far more peaceable, but with them ruling Nochet.

While I have never visited that city, I have talked to traders who have. Their descriptions of Orlanth's house (called Storm Hill) fit with those Vingkotling hill forts I have seen. It is not too great a leap to imagine that Storm Hill is in fact a citadel, likely built there after the Durevings and Vingkotlings were united.

The Marriage of Vingkot and the Queen of Envorela (or his Summer Wife, or Ernalda) is a marriage of political convenience. It provides the right for Vingkot to take control of the Durevings, bringing them into his empire, and to build his hill fort as a citadel. It provides the Durevings with safety and protectors.


Astute readers may recall I mentioned three great tribes, but have only described two.

The third were known as the Helerings, and their history is one of great interest, even to the Pelorians.

At first, this tribe seems to have been an enemy of the Vingkotlings and Durevings, raiding their southern shores. They were a littoral people, ranging up and down the coasts on their great boats, and worshipping all number of sea entities. These include a great sea dragon known as Heler or Aroka.

Jrusteli depiction of Orlanth slaying Aroka and freeing Heler
The Helerings fought many battles against the Vingkotlings, but eventually peace was created. The circumstances of this varies by story. Some tell of a great battle known as Trembling Shore, where Vingkot slew their god. Others tell of the same battle, but instead Orlanth and Heler sat down to talk and negotiate peace. The most common tell of Orlanth slaying the great dragon Aroka and freeing Heler.

In either case, peace came between the two peoples, and the Helerings became part of Vingkot's empire.

But the stories do not end there. It is mentioned that after slaying Aroka, Orlanth sent part of it north to attack his enemies. We know of this serpent as Oslira.

What does this mean? It is this scholar's opinion that in the creation of peace, many the Helerings were assigned land which was not Vingkot's to give. He gave them the lands of his enemies and sent them north.

This matches up with Oslira' invasion of Dara Happa. She was tamed by the Emperor and  made to serve the Empire. In other words, the Helerings invade the Dara Happans, but are defeated.

The Helerings are therefore the ancestors of the Weeders and Feathered Boat people, who have long been slaves or servants to the Dara Happans.


This brings us back to the Dara Happan myth of the rebel gods, and what was one of the most influential periods of Vingkotling and Dara Happan histories.
Dara Happan Depiction of a Vingkotling

At this point, the Dara Happan and Vingkotling Empires (actually the latter was more of an amphictyony, see my forthcoming manuscript on the subject) were the predominant states of the age. With the Helering invasion having taken place, the two states were uneasy and needed little other reason for war.

What is seen as a conspiracy of various deities is in fact a series of wars. The inclusion of Sedenya the Changer indicates that Mernita rebelled against the rule of the Emperor, and likewise Kargzant's presence suggests that Nivorah had also broken away. Combined with the Naverian myth of the First Bad King (a concealed reference to Yelm) we can see the peaceful myth of the Golden Age as the fiction that it is.

With Dara Happa torn apart from within, it would be relatively easy for a barbarian army to invade, and further fragment the Empire.

Vingkot and his forces would lay siege to the Emperor's great city (recorded as Yuthubars) and eventually an attack would slay the Emperor, setting in motion the rise of the Ovosto Dynasty.

Glutted with the treasures of the Empire, Vingkot returned home. But this victory had given rise to his personal fall. His realm had become too great.

After Vingkot's death at the hands of the Devil, the Vingkotling Empire started to crumble into several smaller kingdoms. One in the south, and one in the north.

The sothern kingdom, the Kodigvarings, consisted of a Vingkotling nobility ruling over an increasingly turbulent Dureving subclass. As their kings became increasingly tyrannical, many smaller realms broke off. In Esrolia, for example, Kodig Vingkotson is remembered as the paragon of unjust rulers.

In the northern kingdom absorbed many of its former enemies; most notably the Nivorahns, fleeing from the collapsing Dara Happans. The Sylilans also joined this kingdom, which is most often called the Berenethteli, after the most important tribe within it. The Berenethteli became a stronghold of foreign gods, such as Elmalus, Odayla, and Oria.

In the end, neither kingdom lasted long, being brought down by their own hubris. They fractured still further, with new kingdoms and tribes forming. Thus did Vingkot's empire rise on his greatness, and fall by it too.

Monday, 6 March 2017

The House of Black Arkat



Mythos and History
When Arkat Liberated the Shadowlands, he revealed many previously unknown secrets.
Most could not grasp them, and viewed them as simply another facet of Arkat's greatness, but a few could understand what Arkat spoke of, and wanted to learn more.
Arkat brought these worthies together, both Uz and Man, and taught them the true nature of the cosmos.
All existence was born from the great darkness, Xentha, who is the mother of all. Here, everything was bliss: the Earth was nurturing, soft and warm; there was no hunger, pain, or strife.
And then came the Deceiver, Gbaji.
Arkat depicted as a Half-Troll
Arkat declared that Gbaji was known by many masks: Evil Emperor, Teller of Lies, Most Bad Man, and now Nysalor.
Gbaji was all that Xentha was not, he was still, barren, bright, hard and hollow. And he envied Xentha. He declared all that Xentha was as wrong, and that he was the only right. He led many of Xentha's children away, into a world of pain, sorrow, and harshness.
Arkat's followers were shocked to discover this was the world they now lived in.
Those who did not flee in horror, were taught by Arkat how they could manipulate this world of Gbaji, to break his deceptions and reveal the truth. He showed how everything was made from the raw darkness, allowing them to turn earth to air, and air to water, for all was originally darkness.
When Arkat went north, to take the fight to Gbaji, many of his followers remained, to teach the truth to those who would listen.
They wrote down his teachings, and kept them in a great temple they named Arkat's Hold after their teacher, and so in turn they became known as the House of Black Arkat.
Here they have remained.
Even when the God Learners invaded, they were never able to breach the walls of Arkat's Hold, and when they fell, the House of Black Arkat was opened once again.

Nature of the House
Arkat was the greatest hero ever to walk Glorantha. He was many things in his lifetime. Man, troll, knight, berserker, liberator, deceiver, king and devil. He betrayed his closest friends and allies in order to save the world.
His followers are sorcerers, mystics, and scholars.

Particular Likes and Dislikes
The House's oldest and greatest allies are the cults of darkness, especially the cults of Argan Argar -- who came before Arkat and was Xentha's son, and Zorak Zoran -- who is one of the greatest enemies of Chaos. The House is also friendly to most Esrolian cults, if for no other reason than to ensure the sanctity of Arkat's Hold.
The House is usually reviled by cults of light and sky, who view Arkat's message as blasphemy. Likewise, the House treats them with disdain, viewing them as those most wrapped up in Gbaji's Deceptions. Only against the cults of Chaos will the Arkati willingly ally with those who follow the sun.

House Organization
The House has no single authority. Each Mage has effective independence from the others, students are free to listen to whichever Mage they wish. The wizards of the House in truth have only one master, Arkat himself.
Unknown to most Gloranthans, a single chapter of the House has been established deep within the Troll Woods in Heortland. Here the near-human Kitori learn the Arkati arts, at the feet of a displaced Arkati Mage.

Holy Days
The House has no specific holy days or nights, but the cult acknowledges Freezeday as a naturally potent time to perform many of their rituals.

Sample Grimoires
The House of Black Arkat holds within its libraries many different ancient texts written by a multitude of sources, including the followers of Arkat, and even the Great Hero himself. Few Arkati will know even half of the hidden lore kept within their walls, but this pair of grimoires are those most commonly used by sorcerers of the House of Black Arkat:

The Lead Grimoire
This grimoire describes the metal of darkness, the bones of Xentha, the material form of the Darkness Rune, which was used to make the foundation of the world. By studying this grimoire, sorcerers can learn how to manipulate this substance, as well as the raw darkness itself. Sample spells include:
  • Enchant Lead: This spell summons the Darkness Rune to fill a leaden object, cleansing it of impurities, and turning it into enchanted form of the Rune Metal.
  • Project Senses: This spell combines the Darkness Rune with the Truth Rune, allowing the sorcerer to send their senses into a patch of shadow, allowing them to see and hear everything as if they were inside the shadows.
  • Sense Lead: This spell commands the Darkness Rune within all nearby sources of lead to make themselves known. The sorcerer can then find the lead through the supernatural inky patches created.
  • Shape Lead: This spell combines the Darkness Rune within lead with the Movement Rune, allowing the sorcerer to mould and form the metal is if it were clay, and then to set it into a new shape.
  • Solidify Darkness: This spell combines the Darkness Rune within a patch of shadow with the Stasis Rune, allowing the sorcerer to touch and manipulate the shadows as if they were a solid object.
  • Summon Shade: This spell summons the Darkness Rune into a shadow, animating it to perform the sorcerer's will.

The Hepherones Texts
This series of first age Rinliddi scrolls predates Arkat, and is said to have been war booty gained during his invasion of Peloria. The texts were cleansed, purified, and examined for Truth. The resulting documents and exegesis form a grimoire that the Arkati use to manipulate the connection between the Middle World and the Other Side. Spells derived from the text include:
  • Dominate Spirit: This spell commands the Magic Rune within a spirit, allowing the sorcerer to give it irresistible commands.
  • Enhance Spirit: This spell summons the Magic Rune into a spirit, strengthening and reinforcing them, granting them temporary extra power.
  • Mystic Vision: This spell combines the sorcerer's Magic Rune with the Truth Rune, connecting the sorcerer's own connection with the Other Side, allowing them to sense the magical abilities of living creatures and objects.
  • Neutralize Magic: This spell dismisses the Magic Rune within an existing spell or other magical effect, cutting off its connection with the Other Side, and causing it to fail.
  • Protective Circle: This spell combines the Magic Rune with the Stasis Rune, creating an invisible, intangible wall around the sorcerer. This wall resists all magic passing one way or another, creating a sanctuary for the sorcerer.
  • Summon Spirit: This spell summons the Magic Rune, creating a connection with a known and named spirit, allowing the sorcerer to call them into the world.


Illumination
Although they would never use the term themselves, the House of Black Arkat is also a source of Illumination. Arkat's teachings of the original cosmos, before Gbaji's separation, provides the mystical awakening similar to Nysalorian Illumination. The House of Black Arkat prefers the terms gnosis, or wisdom, to refer to this state.
This allows members of the House to do many things others would regard as impossible, including uniting opposing powers and elements (as all things are merely a part of the original darkness; and joining cults normally opposed to each other, such as Argan Argar and Veskarthan (for the Illuminate knows that their feud is nothing before the cosmic truths.)
Most members who become Illuminated do so through their Darkness Rune, but other paths have occasionally occurred.

Esrolian Arkati, meditating on the Gods' War through the wisdom of Arkat.


Mage
A member of the House of Black Arkat with a rating of 11W or more in one of his grimoires, who has also become Illuminated may seek to become a Mage of the House.
Mages of the House of Black Arkat otherwise function as per the rules in HeroQuest: Glorantha, page 174.
Few Mages ever leave the walls of Arkat's Hold via its gates. Most spend their time in meditation and education, teaching the less learned of Arkat's secrets.
When they do leave Arkat's Hold, it is usually only to venture to the Other Side, to thwart Gbaji's deception and to seek the original world.
With the coming of the Hero Wars, this state of affairs will not be able to last, and the Mages of Arkat will be forced to refute Gbaji's deceptions directly.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

The Underworld

This text comes from a God Learner treatise on the Underworld, found in a Lhankor Mhy knowledge temple.
It represents one school of thought during the time, and is a useful illustration of the God Learner's attempts to apply logic to the illogical.
Scholia from an unknown third age commentator has been reproduced as footnotes.


The Underworld, as it has been labelled by others, is one of the least understood fragments of the Invisible Measure 1. Common depiction of it has been a network of caverns deep beneath Glorantha's surface, or as a hemisphere to complete the Sky Dome above, but deeper Jrusteli research 2 has proven that the Underworld is in fact an inverted pyramid or cone, descending from the Mortal World, into the depths 3.

The top-most layer of the Underworld is that part just under the surface of the Material World, the natural caverns of stone 4. These caverns were created by all manner of creatures including dwarves, trolls, and worse monstrosities. There is no god of this layer, but instead many petty tyrants war for dominance.

Beneath this lies Gamataler, the portion of the Underworld which lies on the Magic Plane 5. This is the earthly Underworld, deep within the Cube of Gata which floats in the endless ocean. Here many demigods and heroes dwell, living lives of plenty within cavernous realms. It is ruled by Asrelia 6.

On the borders of Gamataler lie the Lands of the Dead. Here is where the souls of the dead end up, all travelling towards a great necropolis in the centre. They pass by many horrors, as demons attempt to stop their passage towards the city of the dead. Within the city lies the Court of Silence, where Grandfather Mortal and Ty Kora Tek sit to judge each soul that passes through their realm, before leading them to their eventual destiny 7.

Under the Lands of the Dead lies the Deep Underworld, untouched by Light. It is located on the Symbolic Plane 8, for here is a world not of matter, but of pure energy. The Deep Underworld is the largest part, descending from the Lands of the Dead, until it reaches the final point of Darkness. The trolls are said to have come from this realm of perpetual gloom, and it is their goddess Kyger Litor 9 who rules it 10.

The Deep Underworld is surrounded by the Black Ocean, where the waters of Glorantha meet the depths beneath. She has many names but is most commonly just called Styx. Sometimes pictured as a lake, river, or pool; the Styx can take many forms, and is sometimes made of liquids unknown on the surface.

Beneath the Deep Underworld lies the singular point of Darkness. This is the pure Runic form of the element, without substance, form, or will. It is also known as Nakala 11.

Beyond Nakala, and the rest of the Underworld put together, lies the Entropy Pit, also called Hell. This is a place of pain and suffering, where the demons of Chaos dwell. They know of no mercy, no kindness; living only to torment others. No God Learner has ever journeyed here and returned 12.



1 This is an old God Learner name for the Other Side.


2 The infamous Runic Vision? An early expedition by the Outer Atomic Explorers? Or simple conjecture passed off as irrefutable fact?


3 The fact this would resemble the Rune of Logic, and the importance of that rune to the God Learners leads me to believe this is simply wishful thinking.


4 Known by the Dara Happans as Dubgrulub, this is in truth not a part of the Underworld, for it does not leave the Inner World, just as flight does not mean you are a part of the sky world.


5 Better known as the Hero Planes or Spirit World.


6 The Dara Happans call this layer Veskerelgat


7 Known as Voshgatyuth to the Dara Happans, they claim the judges here are either Lodril and Ernalda, or the dead Yelm. We know they are in fact Darhudan and Darhudana, the father and mother of all men.


8 The God World.


9 Also known as Deloradella, she is a fierce enemy and rare ally to Orlanth.


10 The Dara Happans do not distinguish the Deep Underworld from the other, lower regions; calling it all Erskintu. This is easily explained by their enmity to the gods of Darkness, and the resultant lack of interest in their home.


11 Despite the God Learner's claims, this is Dame Darkness of the Celestial Court and her realm beneath the deepest darkness. She is the goddess of all the Underworld, and is often depicted as a great shadowy queen.


12 An obvious lie, since this is the Pit of Valkata and the Plateau of Ikadz above it. While hostile, many of our great heroes have recorded being there, often to rescue some poor damned soul.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Homeland: Vormain

Typical Vormaino Warrior garb
Vormaino Cultural Keyword
The Eternal Islands of Vormain are predominantly inhabited by pastoral farmers, ruled by feuding martial clans. Few peasants ever leave their ancestral lands, but the lower rank warriors will often become wandering mercenaries and adventurers; crossing Vormain to do great deeds and gain glory to increase their standing. Those warrior houses who descend from Emperors are known as the Imperial Aristocracy, and afforded with much respect, although they feud and fight as much as any other clan. Peasant farmers are not allowed to fight, but all other Vormaino are trained in the art of sword and spear; to serve their clans as fierce guardians.
Vormaino are short, with dark olive skin -- often with a ruddy complexion. Their hair ranges from brown, black, to red. Haircare is highly regarded, with each clan and mystic school having their own specialized techniques to clean and style their hair.  Foreigners commonly mistake the hair of Warriors and Peasants as being wild and untamed, not being aware of the many hours spent bristling and treating the hair to achieve such a look. In comparison, the Magician caste will often shave themselves entirely. Vormaino tattoo themselves with the runes and markings of their gods, clans, and mystic sects.
The Joserui are the gods and spirits of Vormain, the celestial ancestors who safeguarded Vormain against Nak and the other Anti-gods. Each of the great Joserui founded clans, whose ancestors still worship as their primary god, but all of Vormain worships the Joserui as a great imperial collective. Special priests known as Zenshin are trained from the Imperial Aristocracy, Warrior clans, and the Peasantry; ignoring their previous rank, they are seen as part of a Joserui's household, and are all equal in the eyes of the spirits.
The Vormaino speak a language called Imperial, which is related to both Kralorelan and the Tanyen trade dialect of the East Isles. Few Vormaino can read, with literacy being restricted to the Imperial Aristocracy and Zenshin.

Vormaino names reflect the importance of their clan of origin. All Vormano not of the Zenshin use their clan name, and then their personal name. For example: Jang Enrono.

Sample Clan Names: Bazhi, Githyo, Hairun, Hairunin, Hessa, Ho, Jan, Jang, Jayangar, Kanenaga, Kolmala, Kumanti, Loranaga, Mur, Sunda Kalapa, Surabaya

Sample Personal Names: Adara, Amam, Bogo, Brang, Daru, Enrono, Fen, Hensarava, Hin, Itagaki Jan, Jotomo, Kanamaru, Kuang, Kuyaku, Lun, Mado, Manusuko, Mevalu, Motoujo, Nombo Too, Vando, Vandero, Watha, Yimanu, Xersech, Xu





Sample Cult: Tskanth

Jayangar Nombo, Tskanth's favoured
Child of the wild waters and cold death, Tskanth is every bit as fierce as his parents. Tskanth was raised among the Barracuda servants of his mother, and did not even emerge from the ocean until his treacherous kinsmen flooded Vormain. Tskanth forswore his Anti-god heritage, and stood with his father to defend the islands. He took many brides and lovers, and fathered many clans of fierce warriors. He is now seen by outsiders as the god of piracy, for his clans are all sailors like their father; and see all who approach Vormain as enemies to be pillaged.
Death Rune: God of Rapacity and defender of Vormain's waters, Tskanth was trained by his father to be a warrior without mercy, giving him a connection to the Death Rune. His initiates can use the Death Rune to: aid victory in battle, fight with lightning speed, keep swords and spears sharp, and make leather and wooden armour as hard as bronze. Initiates strong in the Death Rune are vengeful and cruel.

Water Rune: Tskanth was raised by his mother the Sea Dragon, and from her he gains his connection to the Water Rune. Initiates of Tskanth can use the Water Rune to: becalm enemy ships, breath water, call and command barracudas, summon good sailing winds, and walk on water. Initiates strong in the Water Rune are energetic and proud.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Iron Dwarves

Iron Dwarf armed for exploring the surface.
Mythos and History
The Ancient Mostali were meant to create. They were designed to shape, to work and to help, all to keep the World Machine functioning. When the trolls, elves, and others invaded the Spike and destroyed Mostal the World Machine, the Mostali were at a loss. The concepts of death and destruction was alien to them. So how could they defend against them?
This was the riddle of Iron. How making can lead to destruction. They turned living metal into an instrument of death, which then allowed them to turn simple tools into weapons, and protective garments into armour plating. It also allowed them to create the Iron caste.
Without Mostal, they could not make more Ancient Mostali, but they needed protectors. Each caste sent those who were most most flexible, most eager to learn the ways of war, and most disposable. They clad themselves in Iron, and armed themselves with the new weapons, and went out from the Spike to drive away the enemies of Mostal.
It was not enough. The enemy had great numbers, and the Mostali had few. Every hand which went to holding an axe or war pick was one which was not repairing the World Machine. Every death meant knowledge and skill which would no longer be around.
And so, in a moment of desperation, the Ancient Mostali created the Clay Mostali, known to men as dwarves. They were crude imitations of their predecessors, but they were well suited for their tasks. They had compact bodies, to work in cramped conditions, enlarged sensory organs, to see, hear, and smell better, and they were soft and able to be reshaped. While some were taught by the Ancient Mostali of the Spike, others were sent out, in armour of iron and bronze, to reinforce the Iron Mostali.
Then the disaster occurred, and the Spike was destroyed. Many dwarves, and almost all the Ancient Mostali were destroyed. The remaining Mostali and dwarves forged their own settlements in what redoubts and fortresses still remained, and eventually developed into the dwarven nations such as Nida and Greatway.


Nature of the Iron Dwarves
Iron Dwarves, like their Ancient Mostali predecessors, are not born to their caste. Instead, each is recruited from the ranks of the other dwarves; selected by virtue of their capacity for warlike behaviour, loyalty to the Mostali purpose, and (most dangerous of all) the capability for improvisation and the prediction of enemy actions.
While to outsiders Iron Dwarves seem as staid and inflexible as their kin, the Mostali learned the need for independent thought to oppose the other races during the Gods' War. Indeed, many Mostali stories are about how the Iron Mostali learned to adapt when the trolls or elves acted in unpredictable ways. (Such as tunnelling through the floor of a chamber, rather than walking straight into the waiting crossbows and axes of the Iron Mostali as had been expected.)


Organization
Each dwarven city will have a great barracks housing all the Iron Dwarves, attached to it are forges and armouries filled with weapons and armour. The dwarves treat these complexes as if they were temples to war, and any Iron Dwarf travelling from one settlement to another will be treated much like a wandering initiate to the same god, and given food and shelter within the barracks.
The Iron Dwarves of each settlement will typically organize themselves into units of eight dwarves, led by a ninth Iron Dwarf of higher rank, who acts as priest and military commander to the unit. Each unit will name themselves after their purpose within the dwarven hierarchy; such as the Nidan Expeditionary Forces, or the Rubble Trackers of Pavis.



Iron Dwarf Cultural Keyword
Dwarves are an advanced civilized culture based around the arts of Alchemy and Sorcery. They live in redoubts within mountains and deep underground, with only the Iron Dwarf caste being likely to see the light of Yelm. Their society is not organized along kin lines, which the dwarves see as horrific, but instead around occupations, with all kettle-makers being part of a particular close knit union, which are themselves part of the great caste of copper workers.
Dwarves are around four feet tall, but are typically so stooped and hunchbacked that they appear closer to a yard in height. Their skin runs the gamut of shades, from so pallid and clammy they could be mistaken for corpses, to dark and ruddy from working near flame and furnace. Many dwarves wear beards, but this is not universal; and the crude and ugly facial features of Iron Dwarves are concealed within helmets of iron and brass.
The Dwarves worship no gods, and placate no spirits. Instead their philosophy, called the Way of Mostal, is devoted to manipulating the elemental substances that make up the world, through Alchemy and Sorcery. The Way of Mostal guarantees immortality for those who follow it, as long as they perform their assigned tasks to keep the World Machine functioning.
Iron Dwarves speak the Mostali tongue, a completely alien language to other races and cultures, helping ensure they won't be overheard by outsiders. They will also know the language of the local humans, although they will often profess ignorance if they don't want to talk. All dwarves are literate, knowing the ancient ideograms of their language.

Dwarven names are based upon their occupation, and often seem more like titles. Deepseam, Goldeye, and Ironvoice are examples of such names given to miners, scouts, and diplomats. Many are also left in the ancient Mostali tongue, such as Belkstan, Arapan, or Iravain. Others use both their name and its tradetalk translation when dealing with humans, such as the legendary Chark the Liberator who brought Illumination to the dwarves.



Common Occupations of the Iron Dwarves
  • Alchemist: After warriors, alchemists are the most common Iron Dwarves. As their duty requires them to leave the safety of dwarven life, they are most in need of the ingenious devices of alchemy. Those who know how to make and use these devices are often given command over Iron Dwarf units, and are always given great respect.
  • Crafter: While all dwarves know the arts of creation, those who specialise in making common and useful goods are rarely turned into Iron Dwarves. Those who are are usually from the Brass Dwarves, and are trained in making weapons from Brass, and eventually the Death Metal Iron.
  • Healer: These will be former Tin and Quicksilver Dwarves, and will act as battlefield medics. They do have a reputation for eagerness, seeing amputation and replacement with a weapon or alchemical wonder as preferable to the risk of infection.
  • Merchant: These former Gold and Copper dwarves have the most unpleasant duty of all, talking and deal-making with the primitive humans nearby dwarven enclaves. 
  • Scribe: Repairing the World Machine requires many careful observations and lengthy note-taking to make sure all is following the schedule. Gold dwarves are often assigned as observers, recording copious information on the outside world.
  • Sorcerer: Almost always former Silver Dwarves, the war-mages of the Iron Dwarves usually focus on commanding elemental beings, and will often be able to change an entire battlefield in dramatic ways, such as turning solid rock into soft and treacherous sand.
  • Warrior: The prototypical Iron Dwarf. Dwarven warriors are almost entirely heavy infantry, although the few light infantry act as scouts and trackers for their allies. Dwarves do not use cavalry.



Panoply of Iron
Iron Dwarves count Flares, Smoke Bombs, and Compasses amongst their Panoply, finding them essential for their work. They also use Tanien's Water, although they still call it Dwarven Fire. (Well, technically they call it Liquefied Fire, but will use the name Dwarven Fire when dealing with humans)
  •      Disorder Keg. This small container is usually made of wood, although both stone and metal variant exist. Inside them is the dangerous Black Powder, which the dwarves claim is crystallized disruption. Certainly, those who have seen it in action would agree, for when the kegs are ignited or treated too roughly, they release a tumult of heat, flame, noise, smoke and wind.
  •  Thunderstick. One of the most infamous Creations of the Dwarves, the Thunderstick is a long iron and brass tube, given a trigger and a stock, and moulded into the likeness of an animal. The most common animal design is that of a sparrowhawk. When the trigger is pulled, a piece of Thunderstone is immersed into a small reservoir of Black Powder. The anger of the Thunderstone sets off the powder with a crack of thunder, while the powder's tumult launches a sling-bullet with deadly force and accuracy at whatever the Thunderstick is aimed at.
  • Igniter. A small Thunderstone is bound within an iron cage. When  the cage is squeezed it enrages the Thunderstone. The Thunderstone sends out a small lightning bolt, which is usually directed towards Black Powder, or other flammable objects.
  • Repeater. This Creation takes the form of a box which sits atop a dwarven crossbow. Inside it is a miracle of clockwork which loads quarrels and pulls back the bowstring, allowing a crossbow to be fired repeatedly without stopping, at magical speeds.
  • Opener. This small ze-metal raven's talon is marked with designs recalling the Movement Rune, including miniature cogs. Through their arcane movement, when the Opener is plunged into a sealed object, such as a locked door, the Opener forces it to move, allowing entry. For some reason, the Iron Dwarves mostly use this to open their sealed rations.
  • Farseer. This Creation is a cone of interlocking gold tubes. The interlocking nature allows the Creation to be shrunk for ease of storage. In each end of the Farseer is a disk of polished crystal called an Energy Canteen by the dwarves. When extended, these crystals activate the Truth runes marked along the tubes, and allow someone looking in the small end the vision of a hawk, thereby letting them see great distances away in great quality.
  • Pure Air Mask. This Creation is a leather mask, fitted with a prominent beak or nose like extremity. This beak is often also leather, but elaborate ones made of aluminium have been discovered. The beak contains a mass of Earthbone, riddled with small tunnels which attract miniature sylphs to dwell within. The sylph wards off the forces of Mallia, rendering the wearer immune to miasma and other toxic gases.
Dwarven sling bullet, marked with Thunderbolt on one side, and Law and Mastery Runes on the other.