by Greg Stafford
originally published in Heroes Volume 1, #6
This document is Copyright © 1998 Issaries, Inc. It may be freely linked to, and one copy may be printed for personal use, but any other reproduction by photographic, electronic, or other methods of retrieval, is prohibited.
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 End Of The Nomads
The major activities of the Fifth Wane are covered in detail in “Histories of the Dancer,” the biography of Hon-eel the Artess, who is called “The Third Inspiration of Moonson.” The Fifth Wane is often called Hon-eel’s Wane because so much of its history is identical with her activities. Essentially, she restored the empire’s old borders with the subtlety of her Arts, and also worked to expand them. Her influence made a permanent impact upon the history, society, and art of the empire.
The Lunar Empire suffered heavily during the reign of Sheng Seleris. The nomad usurper had parceled the empire out to his subchiefs, who grazed their stock in the rich barley fields and annually culled the villages for slaves to sell. Meantime the southern provinces suffered even more, for the Kingdom of Tarsh regularly raided the region and departed with plunder, from both the hapless villagers and the nomad overlords.
When the Red Emperor defeated Sheng Seleris in 4/51 (1460), the nomad’s loyal household departed, thereby liberating the Heartland. But left behind were many lesser outland lords, some of whom had been rebellious even to Sheng.
During the early wane the Provinces (Vanch, Imther, Holay, Saird) were returned to the lunar fold through the active missionary work of the cult of the Seven Mothers. Conflicts inevitably occured, but the populace generally welcomed the return to lunar ways. Within a generation most peasants, except those stuck in the hills, rejoined the lunar religion in one of its forms.
Doblian, west of the provinces, was liberated from nomadic overlordship without the Seven Mothers. A young woman, named Hon-eel and a dancer by trade, presented herself to various lords who fell to fighting to see who would own her. Half of them were killed. In 4/48, in the name of love, she betrayed two noblemen; then wed a third, who murdered twelve notable kinsmen of his own and was felled by furies called by his mother’s dying curse. When personally accosted by three of the savage leaders, the woman killed them. Finally, sensing their true foe, the last of the nomad warriors hunted the young woman across the countryside. Her friends ambushed the invaders, and killed everyone.
During this period, in 4/52, she encountered the Snake-whiskered Dragon of Losdolos Angsur which had sporadically ravaged Doblian and nearby lands since the Dawn of Time. Hon-eel met it alone, and though no one knows what passed between them, the dragon vanished and was not seen again until Hon-eel’s death many years later.
Finally, in 5/2, the Lunar Army provoked the last of the nomad usurpers into the Battle of Iron Fences, near Gambari (in First Blessed). The nomads, already dispirited, were broken and forced to flee.
Hon-eel The Dancer
The Cyclical Inauguration festivities of the Lunar Empire require a week to complete, and during the first five days, favored leaders from regions about the empire enter the holy places and join in the rituals. The dawn of the Fifth Wane saw the nobles of the Westlands, mostly members of the Jaranthir Household, come on the first day. On the second day, the peoples of Sylila, led by the Daughter Herself (Hwarin Dalthippa, returned to earth for this special occasion), appeared to honor the Emperor. On the third came the Reaching Moon goddess and her priesthood from the Katchari, and on the fourth day came the proud remnants of the Sable nobility. The fifth provided a surprise, for an unknown woman intruded into the princely rituals and threatened to change all luck for the cycle by her secret entry. She offered all the lands of Doblian as her present, avoided all attempts to dispose of her, and remained for the rest of the ritual. The rest of the rites occured without mishap, and the omens all boded well afterwards.
After the ceremonies, the young woman greeted the Red Emperor as Father. She was Hon-eel, later named the Artess, who was the daughter of the Emperor and a common woman of Doblian who sheltered him from Sheng. Though only eighteen-years-old by calendar, Hon-eel had been in full womanhood and power for ten years. Through her magic and skill, she conquered the invaders and freed her land. Dutiful daughter, she gave them to her father in proper fashion.
Hon-eel’s magical prowess was immense. Coupled with her innocent charisma and generosity, she pleasantly promoted her way of life upon the world.
At that time, Vinval-noy envisioned the Dance of Three Reconstructions. Hon-eel learned it, and led many magical rebuildings. She was present at the reconstruction of Raibanth and was especially popular in First Blessed, which had been ruined by so many years of occupation and brutal repression.
Hon-eel was a priestess of the earth cult at age 12. She first went to the Moon at age 19. At age 24, she went off on a Heroquest and engaged an elf-god lover, who left her with a golden-haired son and a bagful of special seed. The son died a tragic, young death, but the seed proved useful in the hills of the Southlands, and Hon-eel was instrumental in spreading the cultivation of maize through those regions.
Hon-eel was intent upon manifesting herself as an incarnation of the earth-goddess. She was successful, and is worshiped today as the Lunar Earth and Mother of Corn. Her activities throughout the empire, especially at its frontiers, worked for this end.
One great act she performed at this time was against the wicked Telmori, or wolf people, who were creating a reign of terror through the countryside of Sylila. Aided by three spirits, Hon-eel turned the creatures into full wolves, incapable of turning ever again into human form. Thus, she lifted their baneful curse.
Hon-eel was a plainly peaceful heroine, intent upon spreading the secrets of her life about the empire. It was probably the Emperor who decided to use her politically. However, Hon-eel certainly did not protest being so used, and she manipulated all such activities to her own ends. It was probably the Emperor who decided to send her against the horse nomads.
The Resettlement Of Oraya
Hon-eel led a large colonizing movement into the unplowed lands of Oraya, expanding the empire upriver along the Arcos and creating a buffer state between First Blessed and the eastern nomads. Her success was a combination of political events and her personal struggle for immortality which culminated in a devastating defeat for the nomads.
After the Battle of Iron Fences, in 5/2, the nomads had agreed to withdraw past the Arcos River into the region called the Redlands. This left the region called Oraya open to colonization for the first time in Lunar history. The Emperor sold licenses for land, trade rights, and other accoutrements of civilization to enterprising companies whose agents enlisted, purchased, and captured the future populace from among the unsettled people of the empire and its frontiers. A significant part of the populace came from the far west, where recent conquests by the White Bear Empire created a considerable refugee population fleeing the Fronelan lunar city-states. To counteract the threat of the horse nomads, who still loomed in nearby eastern lands, the Emperor supported the migration with priests, money, troops, and Hon-eel.
Hon-eel led the first pilgrim and settler bands up the Arcos river to settle the future sultanate of Oraya in 5/17. Though the nomads still nursed wounds and grudges, Hon-eel kept the peace for many years by making them concentrate upon magical contests.
Hon-eel visited the horse-peoples several times, intruding into their temple complex at Palbar. She was challenged to magical battles by local shamans, Pure Horse priests, some hero spirits of the tribes, and by the Mother of Horses. Of these, only the last proved a worthy opponent, and she was Hon-eel’s main challenge in fulfilling her quest for immortality.
The magical challenge between Hon-eel and the Most Reverend Mother of Horses of the northern Redlands tribes was to see who could wed the Sun, or his highest representative, within the next three years. This was a great and difficult act requiring years of preparation and execution. Hon-eel quickly gained fame and popularity in the empire when she began courting the immortal sun god for her husband.
First, Hon-eel had to prove herself worthy to the step-mother of the Sun, a goddess jealous of her hold on the god and reluctant to let his powers and blood descend to mortal races. Hon-eel performed three miraculous acts to impress the goddess.
One such act was to deliver the Mask of Cottel, the secret weapon of Dag the Muncher, Ogre King of the city of Iraval. Honeel succeeded in beguiling the king long enough to steal the sacred mask, and her friends were bold and powerful enough to withstand and kill the king, though most of them died in the success. The jealous goddess took the mask, and it is lost to humanity.
Another act was for Hon-eel to prove her fertility to the goddess. She danced for it, and casually blessed every woman in the city of Torang to bear twins, which happened in the year 5/22.
The final act was to prove herself worthy of wedding the Sun, and she did this by defeating Ernalda, an earth goddess whom the Sun once wooed, in a beauty contest. She did this in the year 5/22.
Hon-eel spent much time in the Tripolis, undertaking intense rituals and learning the ethereal secrets of the Cult of Three Lights which was active there.
In the third year of the contest, Hon-eel set off during Sacred Time, departing Raibanth when it lay in cold and darkness. From there she roamed the shadowy realms of Godtime, losing herself in the Great Darkness until she found the fabled Eastern Gates of the world. This was a great path, but one which she was prepared to take after her study and use of magical powers. In hell she joined a crowd of faceless strangers chanting to the departed Sun. And, at the dawn of time Hon-eel the Artess joined the entourage of gods who were freed from Death. She participated in their Grand Dance of Time. Through those mystical moments she did not forget her task, and in the majestic steps of creation she touched beams of light streaming from the right hand of Yelm — the Secret Light of the Sun. And in that touch bloomed magic, quickened by Hon-eel’s own spirit, and she returned safe and content again to the realm of the world in 523.
In the meantime, the Most Reverend Mother of the horse nomads called upon the Cult of the Golden Bow to answer her summons and to repay her for all the gifts she had bestowed over the forty years of her reign. The Golden Bow cult worshipped a son of the Sun, recognized as a golden wheel or disk by these tribes. That cult’s priests and lords began great rituals and quests to arrange for their own High Priest to manifest the greatest form of their god, the Son of the Sun, and to impregnate the Most Reverend Mother to prove her power.
When Hon-eel returned to Palbar, she met with the Most Reverend Mother. The nomad witch was stout with child, and she was accompanied by her own and the Golden Bow cult chanting songs of power and making her birth easy and light. She bore a son, afterwards called Noonlight, who the Blessing Ladies declared would have a bright future as a hero of the Sun.
Hon-eel’s labor was more difficult, and she was accompanied only by her usual six companions who did not bother with a show of power to make a bright omen before birth. Instead, the area was as dark as the place where Hon-eel had awaited the Sun, and five of Hon-eel’s friends silently sent invisible energy to aid in the birth. The nomads were all frightened, as they should have been, and the pain and passion of Hon-eel’s birth affected all who watched, though not all in the same way.
After sufficient time the birth was complete, and Hon-eel revealed a pair of shining children. One was a boy, blond and pale-eyed, radiant as the yellow sunlight of the day sky. The girl was white-skinned and fragile, with white hair and a radiance like that of starlight in the night sky. The pair have remained important in Orayan worship, and are called Twilight and Nightlight, and are worshipped with Noonlight in one temple.
Defeated, the horse people left Oraya. Bitterness remained, and sporadic raiding began shortly afterwards.
Despite the activity in Oraya, Hon-eel found time to travel triumphantly through the Empire. Her tour included duties as well, including an entry into the enemy kingdom of Tarsh.
In 5/27 Hon-eel attempted to integrate the Lunar doctrine into the native Tarsh Earth Cult. She did this by performing the Whole Dance of Spring for the chthonic goddess during the most secret of the earth rituals. The attempt was only partially successful, and though Hon-eel left an infant son on Tarsh’s throne, the kingdom was torn by civil war as soon as she left. Her son, Prince Phornostes, was well-guarded by Lunar viceroys and eventually ascended to his throne at age 16.
The Nights of Horror
In 5/40 the Oraya and Redlands nomad situation grew catastrophic. The settlements there were intended to act as a client state to protect the ancient province of First Blessed. But in the first pitched battle the Lunar outposts were overrun, the cities besieged, and screaming shamans again called demons upon the hapless farms of First Blessed.
Preliminary encounters with the regular Lunar army were indecisive and both sides hurriedly sent for reinforcements. The Lunar Provincial Army marching through Jarst was destroyed in 5/42 by the nomads. In 5/43 the Imperial Army of the West, convinced at last that Fronela was permanently under its curse of the Syndic’s Ban and was no longer a threat, arrived in First Victory and joined the Heartland Corps in the march up the Arcos valley to relieve the surviving Orayan cities. The nomads slowly gave way before the march, gathering strength.
“Nights of Horror” is the name of the two-day battle which followed. More than 150, 000 warriors and magicians took part. The wily nomads had hired the services of a magician family from distant Orathorn to aid them, and the sorcerers had remained concealed until now. Their surprise entry into the magic battle destroyed most of the Lunar magicians. When the army began to crumble, Hon-eel alone halted the collapse of the right flank by destroying seven spirits in combat, oblivious to the mob of filthy nomads who struck at her from all sides. When the Lunar regular cavalry was enveloped on the left flank the Emperor grew desperate and summoned his powers of Chaos to aid him. The Orathorn magi summoned their own Secret Powers and this combat with the Lunar Chaos suddenly loosed alien worlds upon the battlefield. All mortals turned and fled, fighting wherever they had to against the inhuman foes which dropped from the burning scarlet and yellow skies. Hon-eel herself died there, fighting desperately and successfully to save the Emperor’s favorite children from furry, many-legged things, which scuttled about and waved shrunken heads that bobbed about on scrawny antennae. The Snake-whiskered Dragon of Losdolos Angsur appeared and, though he set the Emperor’s children down in Yuthuppa, Hon-eel was never seen again.
The impact of this military conflagration was understandably immense. Survivors were numbered by the handful in both nomad legends and Lunar records, making it a disaster as great as that of the Dragonkill War of 1120 S.T. The nomads slaughtered their herds where they stood and took only their best stock and the surviving wives and children into the lands of Pent. It is said that each warrior in Pent had a hundred wives that year. They abandoned the Redlands and the fields grew thick again for the first time since the Dawn.
One side effect of this activity was the annual tribute of red-headed infants sent by Oraya each three years. These were reared by the Emperor’s household, and became the caravaneers of the famous Etyries Caravan, called the Red Tribe by the nomads. This pack train departed every other year from Palbar, travelled across Pent to Kralorela, and returned the next year. No nomads dared threaten the route, which brought rich and decadent luxuries into the heart of the empire.
Like the nomads the Empire withdrew, too, though not in geography. Peaceful at last, the Emperor and his subjects pursued the Lunar “inward path.” From this period forward Lunar philosophies change from avid reconstruction to self-indulgent gratification. New art styles, magical fads, and bizarre cults flourish, and an increasing gap appears between the leaders and the mass of lunar peasantry.
The end of the wane found the Empire in its most calm and peaceful state since the Goddess had left the earth. The borders had been secured by the Syndic’s ban in the west and by the nomad withdrawal in the east. The south was troubled with war, which the Emperor carefully nursed to provide a limited theater of action for the ambitious, the adventurous, and other troublemakers. By the wane’s end the Lunar Prince Phornostes of Tarsh, now 26, could handle it.
The rituals of the Changing Wane began with an audible sigh of relief from a weary empire.
The Lunar New Year Ceremony
Throughout all Glorantha the Rebirth ceremony of the Sacred Time is of utmost importance. During the week-long ceremony most god-worshipping peoples act out their sacred myths of death and rebirth. Across the whole world everyone summons their spirits and gods, and the physical plane trembles with their presences. Even the cynicism of the God Learners never tainted these critically important rites.
The Lunar ceremonies are riskier than most. Since the Lunars have equal respect for both life and death their ceremonies can result in the victory of Death for the year, unlike (say) the Orlanth ritual wherein the storm god is (almost) always victorious over his deadly foes. Despite the philosophical equalities, most citizens of the empire favor the forces of life. Thus even skeptics are careful during the holy weeks of Sacred Time, and mere casual laymen usually participate enthusiastically in the public ceremonies within the empire.
When the Emperor is in Glamour, the annual rebirth ceremony is held at the Monument to Time. Amid a great amphitheater, a steep seven-stepped pyramid juts skyward. Atop the pinnacle the Emperor and his closest advisors lead the magical act. Upon the pyramid priests lead secondary rites. From there officials, chosen ones, and the other elect few who obtain such an honor watch. The circular coliseum holds the thronging mass of thousands which gathers each Sacred Time.
During the first six days of the Lunar celebration the Red Emperor, or his local stand-in, receives gifts from a representative of the four directions in the morning. These gifts often include annual tribute, symbolic gestures, friendship presents, and honorary tokens. They also always include a ritual item used by the Emperor during the ceremonies that day.
From the South, for instance, the Emperor receives a necklace of animal hearts, each killed that year and prepared in a certain way to become a magical jewel. During the ceremony of the South the Emperor must forgive someone, often a personal enemy of his, and the magic of the hearts will give him the power to do so, and also protection against that foe in the future.
On the fifth and sixth days, the Emperor receives presents from Above and Below: the invisible worlds around which the others revolve. He also reveals his Annual Staff, a hardwood stick which he must hand-carve each year, placing into it his plans and aspirations and secret methods of success. At the sunset of the sixth day, the Emperor dissolves his body, leaving the Annual Staff suspended in the air until his return.
Surrounding the floating Staff are the most intimate friends, relatives, and trusted staff members. They face the floating staff and maintain magical contact with their beloved leader as he traverses the magical planes. Certain among them, in ritual turn, will rise and address the crowds gathered outside the circle, explaining the routes and rites which the Emperor is experiencing. At the end of the sixth day, if all is successful, everyone loses contact with the Emperor. Usually a stupor passes over all the assembled crowd, most of whom simply collapse in the court.
No one knows what happens to the Emperor for the next day. However, he has always returned, and so the rite is a perfect success. The Empire takes that as a sign of their “correctness.”
During the seven days Secondary rites are held upon the pyramid. Usually, each of the five Gloranthan elemental pantheons is given a day to celebrate their particular rites, and usually in the traditional Order of Creation: darkness, sea, earth, sky, air. Sometimes, the Emperor has arranged special ceremonies, wherein the most powerful of each cult participate as foes in each others’ ceremonies. Such affairs are spectacular and devastating, and some say they smack of God-learning. Sometimes special ceremonies, whose purpose is not understood and whose participants are unknown, are performed.
Every New Year ceremony has special rites on the seventh day, which aid the return of the Emperor and gain good will and luck for the year. During this time a small slip can cause great errors, and if the sum of errors is too large among all participants then the year can, despite all else, be bad.
When the Emperor is not in Glamour, a stand-in takes his place. Across the empire local versions of this rite take place. All have the same purpose: to renew the world and make it safe from destruction for another year.
return to Hon-eel the Dancer
The Syndics Ban
In 1500 (5/37) occurred one of the most incredible events of Gloranthan history, called the Syndics Ban.
The event was a magical catastrophe which stopped all communication between political units within the land of Fronela. Kingdoms, tribes, nations, and city-states were irrevocably cut off from all outside contact. Borders between lands were usually visible as a foggy bank which quickly grew too dense for any perceptions to penetrate, then reacted to the intrusion with some magical effect. The effects varied from place to place and time to time, but travel was always impossible. Some of the more common effects were to walk out of the fog with no perception of having turned around; violent rejection, sometimes by powerful giant hands, bonecrushing fists, or gusts of icy wind; attacks by monsters, often of types unseen before or since; no end to the fog in the outward direction although expeditions marched for lightless days, yet found themselves home when they travelled backward for an hour; a solid, but invisible and unclimbable, wall; or permanent disappearance through mysterious means. Even spirits could not carry messages between lands.
The origins of the Ban are not yet clear, but certain facts are known. First, the local god or spirit of communication, called God of the Silver Feet, was killed by a conspiracy of sorcerers, wizards, and priests led by Prince Snodal of Loskalm. The heirs of Snodal claim to have spoken to the prince’s ghost, sent by the Invisible God (say some) but summoned through darkest necromancy (say others). The prince claimed that the effort was necessary to preserve Fronela from a tremendous curse sent by Zzabur, the malicious sorcerer of Brithos whose motivations have always been secret. Scholars at the University of Sog, seeking to duplicate the summoning of the prince, got instead some of his companions in the heroic venture, who corroborated the prince’s tale. Those summoning scholars also speculate that the disappearance of Brithos was not an intentional act by Zzabur to move his land to another plane (as claimed by the Brithini of Arolanit), but a disaster caused by the backlash of the failed spell against Fronela.
The effect upon Fronela was complete, and each land lived for a century or more in complete isolation from its neighbors. Reactionary religious zeal was understandably conservative. Many local cults claimed the end of the world had come: another Great Darkness had destroyed all the evil of the outside world, and would destroy the survivors too if they did not resort to the most stringent religious observations.
The cause for the Syndices Ban’s lifting is also a mystery. The scholars of the University of Sog speculate that the same force which broke the Closing of the seas began the deterioration of the Ban, possibly as a side effect. Many others claim to be the source, with the most persistent claim being by the High Archpriest of Loskalm (whose long sorcerous ritual is on record), the loudest claim being from the Kingdom of War (who claim to have burst all bonds and broken magical walls), and the most piercing voice coming from the lunar city-states (whose moon boats, they claim, have been operating in secret for years).
The ban lifted in a general west to east movement, but never moved in a regular or predictable fashion. Some lands were left as isolated islands surrounded by freed regions. In the Gloranthan present (c. 1620) the Syndics Ban has still not been completely lifted from the eastern parts of Fronela. An impenetrable wall runs down the center of the Esel River, Sweet Sea, and Greystone Mountains and separates the western Lunar Empire from Fronela. Only the magical lunar airship fleet, skirting along the Rockwoods, has established contact in the region.
return to The Nights of Horror