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The Third Age of Glorantha!

Welcome to the fantasy world of Glorantha at Glorantha.com, the place on the web to experience the richness and wonder of Greg Stafford’s Glorantha. This is nexus of Gloranthan activities regardless of whatever rules system you use.

Carvak Zirian

ZzaburiCarvak Zirian, the mind of the Talar, presents himself to the immortal Belintar the Recurring, the Master of Luck and Death. Known to be more than three hundred years old (his actual age is a mystery), he has served Belintar since the Stranger first arrived in Kethaela. Carvak Zirian is a materialist sorcerer who views the gods as magical entities to be studied and controlled, rather than worshiped.
Carvak Zirian is friendly with many Lhankor Mhy sages. Two generations ago, his correspondence with Master Bondaru concerning the physical body and its ethereal attributes greatly enhanced the Knowledge Temple’s understanding of Second Age Jrusteli texts.

Sednadimos, Daughter of the Deep

MerfolkA daughter of the mysterious mer-chief of the Choralinthor ludoch, Sednadimos provides Belintar with the counsel of the Deep. She, and her people, are strongly allied to the immortal God-King and make sure that none travel on the Rozgali or Choralinthor Seas without Belintar’s knowledge.
Sednadimos is a powerful magician and priestess of Magasta. She can speak all of the languages of the surface dwellers of Kethaela and can even write! Sednadimos is revered and worshiped by the humans of the Right Arm Islands.

Queen Hendira

Esrolian

The queen of Esrolia is a 35 year old noblewoman from House Norinel. She has been queen for the last 6 years and has two husbands (Jarstarkos of Delaeo and Hendrestos of Delainaeo). She broadly enjoys the support of the Grandmothers’ Council (the matriarchs who rule most of the clans in Esrolia). Hendira is shrewd, manipulative, voracious, and is willing to do almost anything to get what she wants. She  maintains a close alliance with the Eldest Kin of the Shadow Plateau, who have provided her with a bodyguard of troll mercenaries.

 

Xoroho

TrollXoroho Hellspeaker, envoy from the Eldest Kin of the Shadow Plateau, presents herself to the immortal Belintar, God and King, the Master of Luck and Death! She is an old and powerful dark troll, daughter of a line of mothers reaching back to the eldest daughter of Xiola Umbar. A powerful priestess of both Argan Argar and Kyger Litor, Xoroho is the mistress of the dark powers that fought against Belintar, and yet has advised many incarnations of Belintar. She is friendly with many humans and her diplomacy has ensured that the trolls enjoys the support of the Master of Luck and Death.

King Orngerin the Sophisticate

HeortlanderOrngerin the Sophisticate, King and Governor of Heortland, presents himself to the immortal Belintar, God and King, the Master of Luck and Death! He is a wise and just ruler of the Orlanthi, who keeps the peace in Heortland despite the provocations of the Volsaxi rebels at Whitewall. He was appointed governor in 1603 with much promise and hope, a patron of the arts and scholarship and all things good and decent.

 

 

Verakanos Bluesmoke

CaladralanderVerakanos Bluesmoke, High King and Governor of the Sixth of Caladraland, presents himself to the immortal Belintar, God and King, the Master of Luck and Death! He is a long-time ally of the current incarnation of Belintar, and aided him in the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death. This is his second (non-consecutive) term as High King. Verakanos has fought many campaigns against the Western Barbarians in Thomble and he is considered the best warleader of the Six.

Notes on Illumination in the Second Age

Ralios and Seshnela

In 450 “Arkat” emerged triumphant from Dorastor, and returned to Ralios (actually Fornoar). There he lived a simple, ascetic life, farming and teaching, until his apotheosis in 500. His students dominated Ralios afterwards, seeking to prevent others from misusing Arkat’s (and Nysalor’s) secrets and teaching new generations of students to carry on Arkat’s legacy. Local cults, new sects, and cults from Dragon Pass and demonic Darkness deities, flourished.

This period lasted until the Return to Righteousness Movement united Seshnela and Jrustela and their combined forces destroyed the last Archon of Arkat’s Dark Empire in 740. Within the areas conquered, caste regulation were introduced and expanded, rulers no longer made sacrifices to the gods, and the cults of the concrete and personified gods were disfavored for abstract Rune entities.

But within a century, cults both old and new promoted by the God Learners had the patronage of the rulers, and even groups of Riddlers might be found under God Learner protection. Popular worship of the gods was encouraged by the God Learners (although they themselves maintained their philosophical independence and superiority). After the defeat of the Middle Sea Empire’s attempted invasion of Brithos in 823, these trends only accelerated.

Dragon Pass and Peloria

Ralios was not the only place where Arkat’s teachings could be found. For a generation or so after the defeat of Gbaji, fortified Arkati monasteries could be found along Arkat’s route from Ralios to South Peloria, usually founded by one of his companions or their bodyguards, and protected by the dark trolls. For two generations, they dominated Dragon Pass, until Dara Happa rebelled against their Orlanthi overlords, and King Harasaran and his allies broke the power of the Arkati in Dragon Pass in the 490s.

But of course, that was not the end. Mystic minstrels called the Mad Winds roamed from Dragon Pass to Slontos in the Second Age, seeking Liberation through devotional music with frenzied and often disturbing lyrics. In the Shadowlands, dark initiates performed their rites in the fortress-temple of Arkat’s Hold, offering sacrifices to a black-skinned and demonic Arkat with three eyes who triumphed over bright Nysalor.

Some scholars even claim that Vistikos Left-Eye had trained with the Mad Winds prior to learning to speak with the Dragons and forming the first Waltzing and Hunting Bands in 575. Perhaps draconic consciousness began as an attempt to wander paths that even Arkat had not traveled?

The Imperial Age

The height of the Imperial Age witnessed as explosion of new cults, as well as old cults worshiped in new ways, as a result of God Learner and EWF philosophical insights. Cults were also imported from elsewhere, such as the spread of the cult of Issaries across the Middle Sea Empire to Fonrit, Kralorela, and Teshnos, the adoption of Tolat and Wachaza as war gods of the Middle Sea Empire, or the establishment of temples to Yelmalio on the frontiers of the EWF such as in Fronela, Ralios, and near Pent. New cults gained broad popularity such as the Path of Immanent Mastery in Kralorela, Jogrampur in Enkloso, and the Golden Dragon in Peloria and Prax. Even more notably, this was the time of the Goddess Switch in Slontos and the great Trickster School at Thanor.

In short, the late Second Age was a period of magical-mythological experimentation. And many of these experiments shared the characteristics of Illumination. For example, draconic consciousness required an extraordinary state of mind to participate, and introduced a different state of ethics and morality, as did Umbarism and Irensavalism.

Self-proclaimed Nysalorean movements flourished as well. The Teruvians, White Sun Lords, and the Margins resisted the Golden Dragon with the Eye of Nysalor. Around 950, the Dara Happan Emperor adopted 8 Schools of Illumination as an official imperial cult. In Ralios and Seshnela, schools of Illumination such as the Riddlers, Lords of True Destiny, Chaos Monks, New Liberation, Bright Beginnings, and the True Arkat Revival had broad popularity – and sometimes even the support of the God Learners or of their enemies. In their wake came such cults as Thanatar, Krarsht, and Vivamort.

Downfall

The abuses and transgressions of these experimental movements triggered a ferocious, and ultimately victorious, traditionalist reaction. Old Way Traditionalists, such as Alakoring Dragonbreaker and Karvanyar, rejected draconic consciousness as being compatible with traditional cult worship.The sorcerers Halwal and Yomili, although the bitterest of rivals, both opposed God Learner degeneracy. The God Learners were revealed to have concealed the spread of Chaos, and temples to the Lords of Terror were discovered in many God Learner strongholds.

In Peloria, the Nysalorean schools opposed the draconic movements and greatly aided the stability of the Three Generations of Peace but were later condemned by their Dara Happan patrons as a resurgence of Umbarism when Dara Happa warred with Carmania, The Carmanians protected some Nysalorean schools, who had a resurgence in the Third Age, albeit with new names, during the trouble periods of Carmanian occupation preceding the Lunar rise.
In 1026, the might of Seshnela was broken when the armies of Ralios and Seshnela destroyed themselves utterly with devastating magic. A generation later, in 1049, Seshnela itself was shattered by Luathelan magic.
In Dragon Pass and Kethaela, draconic consciousness ended in 1042, when dragonewts and trolls killed every human who could speak with the dragons. Overnight millions of others lost all memory and understanding of Auld Wyrmish, of many magic skills and spells, and of channels to wisdom and inhuman power. The Trickster College of Slontos remained, only to be sunk under seas in 1050 with the sundering of Slontos. Only the Black Arkat survived, as any other cults were destroyed along with the Dragonkill of 1120.
In Ralios, various schools and cults claiming to be the heirs of Arkat’s secrets fought against those they accused of being Nysalorean in origin.Those that admitted Nysalorean origins were destroyed, as were those revealed to be fronts for cults such as Krarsht, Thanatar, and Vivamort. The Arkati groups eventually turned on each other, each claiming to possess the true secrets of the demigod, producing the kaleidoscope of cults and secret societies that plagued Ralios throughout the Third Age.

Gloranthan Readings: Poems of Heaven and Hell from Ancient Mesopotamia

There stands a house under the mountain of the world,
a road runs down, the mountain covers it
and no man knows the way. It is a house
that binds bad men with ropes
and clamps them into a narrow space.
It is a house that separates the wicked
and the good; this is a house from out of which
no one escapes, but just men need not fear before its judge,
for in this river of spent souls the good
shall never die although the wicked perish.

– The Sumerian Underworld, from Poems of Heaven and Hell.

This week on Gloranthan Readings is the Poems of Heaven and Hell from Ancient Mesopotamia, translated by N. K. Sandars. This is one of the essential collections of Mesopotamian mythology, containing the Babylonian Creation (the Enūma élish), The Sumerian Underworld, Inanna’s Journey to Hell, Adapa: the Man, and A Prayer to the Gods of Night.

Of these, the Enūma élish is probably the best known. It tells of the creation of the world out of chaos, a two-staged cosmogony with the first being the fecund powers of chaos that gave birth to generations of gods and monsters, and the second being the creation of the ordered world through the defeat of Tiamat by her distant descendant Marduk, who becomes king of the gods. This is Orlanth’s defeat of Sh’harkazeel or Yelm’s defeat of Nestenos or Umath’s defeat of Predark. The Enūma élish was likely connected to the Babylonian New Year festival, and like Glorantha’s Sacred Time, held at the advent of spring. Actually, “like Glorantha’s Sacred Time” understates the matter – this is Sacred Time, and the description of the Babylonian New Year festivals in this book is the basis for Glorantha’s Sacred Time.

As cool as the Enūma élish is, Inanna’s Journey to Hell is even more interesting for the Glorantha-phile. Inanna, Goddess of Fertility and War, goes to the Underworld to challenge her sister Erishkigal, Queen of the Underworld. She goes through the Seven Gates, each time being required to give up part of her divine regalia. Each time she protests, “Why do you do this?” And each time, she is told “Quiet, Inanna, this is the law of the underworld, which must be fulfilled. Do not question the rites of hell.” After she passes through the seventh gate, she is naked and on her knees before grim Erishkigal and her Seven Judges. They sentence the goddess of Life to death and her body was a corpse that hung on a spike.

Inanna had already prepared a plan, and after some effort she is revived. But the Judges said:

“Who has ever returned out of hell unharmed?
To escape the pit alive she must leave 
another who shall wait in her place.”

And so Inanna leaves the pit to find her replacement – her lover Dumuzi, who is seized by demons who drag him down to the Dark City. The poem ends with Dumuzi being mourned by his sister, his mother, and by Inanna.

This is raw heroquesting material for any Glorantha GM. The hero goes to the Underworld, dies, finds a way to be revived, but must pay the price. Superb stuff.  Other poems give us some of the geography of the Underworld, a paean to the gods of Night, and more.

Go over to Gloranthan Readings and check out what else we’ve got up? As of today, we have 20 books, with more coming.