The Redline History
A History of the Lunar Empire: The Fourth Wane
by Greg Stafford
originally published in Wyrms Footprints 14 (19xx)
Table of Contents
- The Redline History: Zero Wane
- The Redline History: First Wane
- The Redline History: Second Wane
- The Redline History: Third Wane
- The Redline History: Fourth Wane
- The Redline History: Fifth Wane
The Strong-Making Peace
The Lunar name for this period, The Strong-Making Peace, is a euphemism for their overall weakness. They claimed to be preserving their strength during the relative peace, though they actually had a tough time maintaining themselves at all. Strong points did remain, for Glamour and the region of the Crater spread their influence to the shores of the Oslir River (including Good Shore and the remains of Raibanth) and the cult of the Reaching Moon Goddess kept those regions well protected. To the south the lands of Sylila were severely restricted by incursions from Tarsh, but the region about the city of Jillaro preserved themselves from any raids throughout the entire barbarian occupation with the aid of the Conquering Daughter. East of Glamour the Sable People remained strong within their fastness of the Hungry Plateau and their royal house often led raids against the barbarian hordes. Farther west from Glamour the hills of the Western Reaches preserved Lunar civilization under the leadership of the Jaranthir cult.
Other major cities maintained their existence by paying tribute to the barbarians instead of taxes to the Emperor. The provincial regions often kept their Lunar religion but that did not keep them from raiding Lunar lands. The lowlands of Peloria became a wide grazing ground for the Horse Peoples as they had been in the Dawn Ages.
The situation, though, was far from hopeless. The Temples of the Reaching Moon continued to spread from Glamour, and each one built was another trap for the barbarian chieftain Sheng Seleris. Sylila increased its strength on the river and in 4/14 (1423 ST.) sent a secret army into Alkoth which surprised the barbarians there and drove them out. The mighty gates of the city were rebuilt: barred across with iron and magic. The city temple was purified and again consecrated to the Moon, and the city of Alkoth formed another nucleus for the Lunar refugees to concentrate, linking Glamour with southern Sylila.
These small successes were not ignored by the invaders. They were quick to destroy any Lunar stronghold when troops from Glamour poured forth to plunder their herds or camps. The witches and shamans among the nomads spread their beliefs among the terrified peasants of Peloria so that many foreign spirits inhabited the land. Cities not still controlled by the Empire either supplied troops to the barbarians or they fell entirely to invader control and rule. By mid-Wane the situation had grown dangerous. Each side waited, gathering strength while the demons of the enemy camps growled songs of misery long into the dark nights.
The Emperor’s Duel
Trouble fell first amid the very heart of Peloria in the year 4/34 (1443 ST.) when Sheng Seleris revealed the power which he had stolen from the Emperor in their wrestling match of 3/34 (1389), 54 years earlier. He had hidden it in the heart of a ruby-throated hummingbird which lived in the Gardens of Carresh. Sheng Seleris had stolen a portion of the Emperor’s worship and sovereignty. Kostaddi abandoned all Lunar ways and fell into the worship of the barbarian overlord. Yara Aranis, the bane of Seleris, crossed from Good Shore and challenged the barbarian to battle. Seleris easily tossed her to earth, severely wounding her back and liver. Hours later the Red Emperor was bedridden with an unknown disease.
A year later the Red Moon visibly dimmed when Sheng Seleris was apotheosized as a Hero by the gods of Peloria. His might and power lit a new star in the sky. He sent his haughty overlords to exact tribute and worship from all of conquered Peloria, and prepared his troops for a great war against the remnants of the Empire. The Emperor, seeking a cure for his illness fled into exile. He left no traces of his path on the mortal world to be later be followed.
In 4/35 (1444 ST.) Sheng Seleris began a merry hunt for the Emperor, but agents of the Son of the Moon blocked his way at every turn. Each attempt to slow the Hero, however, cost the Empire more and more strength. In 4/37 (1446) the Sable People opposed Seleris to gain time for their beloved Emperor and their entire royal house was slain by the savage raiders. The High Priestess of the Blue Moon was attacked for defending her nephew which began a wave of troll-killing through all barbarian lands. The Emperor seized the opportunity to escape when he was killed by the rampaging Mad Sultanate in 4/40 (1499) and his sacrifice tempted the crazed horde to invade the land of Seleris in Kostaddi, but the hero used his powers and people cleverly, and turned the invading horde from his lands with minimal losses. He sent them scurrying south, up the Erinflarth River where the Mad Sultanate eventually made their way into dark Dorastor. They either settled in that land, passed their way over the Kartolin Pass into Ralios, or met their deaths at the hand of the twisted elves and strange chaos of the region.
Sheng Seleris did not let the Emperor’s mortal death stop his search, and he led the greatest invasion of the center of Lunar power ever attempted. With his loyal band he scaled the edges of the Crater and from there leapt onto the surface of the Red Moon itself. He ransacked the Emperor’s Moon Palace during his hunt and won against the multitude of denizens and guardians of the Moon that tried to stop him. The Hero never found his prey, the Emperor, and he was eventually forced to flee back to the earth or lose all his followers to senseless war on the Moon. For eleven years the Emperor was forced to live a life of disguise in the land of Doblian, married to a weaving woman. From there he patiently awaited the fruition of his plans.
Sheng Seleris searched in vain. He made deadly enemies of all dwarfish folk when he sacked their city of Jords Eye in 4/47 (1456) mistakenly believing the Emperor to be hiding there. The final showdown between the heroes came in the year 4/51 (1460). The Emperor’s spells came to maturity and spread their omens far across the Pelorian Plain. The leaders of the barbarians sent their armies home and went to meet their Hero and King. The elite of the Empire crept from hiding and, disguised, gathered in the city of Kitor in the Brass Mountains. The citizens of the city were sent away and the Emperor began a game of ravenkaaz with the bastard child of the Blue Moon, patiently awaiting the arrival of the barbarians. The Blue Moon Daughter found that she was losing in her game with the Emperor and enlisted the aid of Aronius Jaranthir to finish it for her. The Emperor could have easily completed his win over his old friend, but instead he conceded the game and granted this prince of the Citizen Foreigners special rights and privileges for his victory.
During the battle the next day, magic and fire rained continually down on the city for hours. Entire blocks were melted from the power of the magic. The mountain which formed the foundation of the city bled. An ancient oak became a twisted tree that seized the souls of the warriors and trapped them in its tortured body. The ranks of the barbarian war band were petrified by Lunar magic. Called the Legion of Stone, their bodies decorated the walls of the city decades later.
The soul of Sheng Seleris was tossed into a deep, deep pit where it lay, broken and suffering, forever in the clutches of the mother of Yara Aranis (the Goddess of the Reaching Moon) and other demons of hell.
After the utter defeat and destruction of their Hero and their best leaders the barbarians began a withdrawal from Peloria, drifting eastward. The Empire had also lost a severe number of their leaders in the war but the Lunar troops were better trained and were eager to do battle with the despoilers of their land. In 4/52 (1461) they goaded the nomads to fight again near the city of Carantes. Lunar magic again destroyed the morale of the barbarians and they were forced to accept insulting and degrading peace terms. Predictably, the treaty did not last long, and war quickly raged again. The Emperor and the cult of Aronius Jaranthir gave chase and drove them to rout in 4/53 (1462). Then, a year later, Imperial troops slaughtered them at Yuthuppa when the barbarians attempted a mass withdrawal of their herds and families from central Peloria. The carnage was terrible and made even the mighty Thunder River run red with Lunar vengeance. The pitiful remains of the barbarians fled eastward, finding some refuge with allies in distant Pent. The menace from the east was finally quiet.
The Southern Situation
While Sheng Seleris was pursuing the Emperor through mortal and magical planes the lands of the south were eager to reap their share of Lunar booty. The Kingdom of Tarsh was the leading power. Its nobles and kings were brave leaders in raiding and plundering. Sylila suffered heavily in the regions not controlled by Jillaro, and southern columns penetrated Darjiin and Kostaddi. King Orios Longarms had the unfortunate fate to cross the cursed borders of the Mad Sultanate of Tork. The boundaries of this place fluctuated at times, and during the illness of the Emperor they expanded, quickly overwhelming the normal countryside before the inhabitants could flee the population of madmen with strange powers. The Tarsh king obviously felt secure in his recent victories, and he could not know of the latest change of the border, for he blundered right across it, setting the madmen free. He should have seen the border, for it appeared as a shimmering in the air and as a thin purple line across the ground. It is possible that the Emperor, who was in the region at the time, could have disguised it.
Whatever the cause, the results were quickly seen. The army of Orios was encircled and destroyed, and the crazed victors then turned and marched across the broken barrier of their imprisonment. The Mad Sultan caught the Red Emperor unawares, killed him and his followers, and continued into barbarian-held Kostaddi. They were eventually turned southward by Sheng Seleris.
The results of this were beneficial for the Empire in the long run, for the disruption that the Mad Sultanate caused among the barbarians was far greater than all the victories of the Empire against Sheng Seleris.
The end of the Fourth Wane left the South (under Jillaro) and the West the most powerful regions still under Lunar control. From these areas, led by Glamour, the Lunar way found a swift resurgence of belief in the Goddess and in control of the lowlands of Peloria during the next Wane.