The following is part one of a series of Questions and Answers about Safelster and Ralios.
The Enerali Peoples at the Dawn
At the Dawn the four tribes of the Enerali (Korioni, Uton, Fornaoli, and Vustri) live from hunting, horse-herding, and the bounty of Mata and Flamal (mixed hunter-gatherer and neolithic farming). They use digging sticks to till the rich soil around Lakes Ehilmka and Felster. They lack all but the crudest metal-working (except for gold which they hammered into ornate jewelry), but make their tools from stone and bone (they later traded with the Seshnegi for metal goods and finally learned bronze-working from the Theyalans).
The Enerali use stone axes and bows in war and their chiefs fight from chariots pulled by their sacred Galanini ponies. Horses are especially sacred animals to the Enerali, who eat their meat as part of their religious festivals. The Enerali ride horses when they hunt the abundant wild horses along Lake Felster’s shores; they did not initially fight other peoples from horseback (but from the stable platform of a horse pulled chariot). Fighting from horseback became increasingly common once the Enerali were forced to defend themselves against Seshnegi heavy cavalry.
The priests of the Dangan Confederacy serve as judges for all disputes between the clans, although the clans themselves are govern by their chiefs. The Dangan priests perform an annual horse sacrifice at Hrelar Amali, with horse races, a chosen scapegoat who is driven out of their lands, dancing and singing, and an elaborate feast joined by all the gods and goddesses.
The Utoni peoples between the Sodal Marsh and Tarinwood are descended from Uton the Hunter, one of the four sons of Eneral the First Man. The Utoni lived in peace and harmony in the Great Forest until Ehilm was killed by Humakt and dragged into the Underworld by the Death Hounds. At the same time, Nakala and her children, the Krjalk, climbed out of the Underworld and conquered the world. Finally, Nakala’s cruel Zaval cut down Flamal bringing the Great Darkness. Chaos entered the world and an army of filth scourged the world and destroyed the Great Forest. The Enerali scattered through the dead lands, following Galanin. However, Eurmal then killed Galanin because he was hungry, but had no fire to cook the meat.
The world would have died had Eurmal not brought the last fragments of Ehilm’s fire back from the Underworld so that he might cook his meat. Eurmal came to Hrelar Amali to use the body of Flamal to feed the flame. To Eurmal’s surprise, the flame lit up high and produced the resurrected Ehilm, who rose from Hrelar Amali (“Sacred Rebirth”) with the other gods and spirits in his wake. Light and life returned to the world. The gods drove Eurmal off and revived the world.
Dangkal son of Mirol was one of the Utoni who distinguished between the dead and the living and witnessed the Rebirth at Hrelar Amali. Dangkal was told by the gods that they must repeat Eurmal’s deed each year, lest the gods fail to return. Dangkal told his kin amongst the Utoni and later amongst the other Enerali people and became the first priest of Hrelar Amali. Those he taught agreed to live with each other in peace and serve the gods, forming the religious Dangan Confederacy.
Dangktal founded the city that bears his name on the rich banks of Lake Ehilmka (named after the sun god – now the Sodal Marshes). This was the assembly place of the Dangan priest-judges. Hrelar Amali is the most sacred place, and home to all the gods. When the Dangans discover a new god, that god is brought to Hrelar Amali to participate in the Rebirth.
When the Theyalans came to Hrelar Amali in 132, the Dangkae priests opposed them and resisted their teachings. The conflict was ended in 180 when Harmast (*NOT THAT HARMAST!*) entered into the Hrelar Amali rites and proved that it was the Theyalan god Orlanth that was Eurmal’s master and that Orlanth had resurrected Ehilm in the Underworld. The gods and goddesses at Hrelar Amali hailed Orlanth as the King of the Gods and the Dangkae priests agreed to join the Second Council. Harmast later left Ralios and became king of his people. Enerali horsemen often served in the armies of the Council.
Circa 200 S.T., the Silver Empire attacked the Dangan Confederacy, taking much land from the Fornaioli and even some from the Utoni.
In 285 S.T. jealous Seshnegi atheists attacked Hrelar Amali and destroyed the sacred place. However, the ruins still glow with Ehilm’s light.
Aldrya: the Forest Goddess, mother of the aldryami.
Ehilm: the Sun who returns from the Underworld bringing Light and Life.
Eladra: the Self-Resurrecting Snake Goddess.
Eneral the Old: the First Man and Founder.
Eurmal: Firebringer and Trickster.
Flamal: God of Vegetation.
Galanin: The Horse God and Noble Ancestor. The Enerali survived the Darkness by following Galanin and his herds around.
Humakt: God of Death.
Hykim and Mikyh: the God and Goddesses of Beasts.
Matara: the Earth Mother.
Nakala: the Underworld Goddess, mother of the Krjalki.
Seras the Enchanter: the God of Sorcery and maker of the dwarves.
Tana: the River Goddess.
Tarin: the Earth Defender, the son of Ehilm and Aldrya.
Torif Vamale: War God.
Uele Oline: the Healing Goddess of the Well and Spring.
Zaval: the Darkness Killer.
The Vustri people of the lower Doskior River are descended from Vustr son of Eneral and his wife Doska.
In the Gods War, two powerful gods contended for the love of the Green Lady: Light-Giving Ehilm the Sun God and the Storm God Erulat whose storm clouds brought Darkness. These two gods fought a terrible war in the heavens. On earth, the sons of Eneral feuded as well: the middle sons Uton and Fornao fought for Ehilm, but Korion, the oldest son, and Vustr, the youngest son, fought for Erulat.
At the Battle of Battles, Ehilm and Erulat contended, accompanied by all their companions and armies. Erulat unleashed his greatest weapon, Death, which killed Ehilm, but not before the Sun God shot him with a poisoned arrow. Ehilm was dragged to the Underworld by his own hounds and Erulat was forced to retire to the Precious Snow Mountain. All the sons of Eneral died in the Battle of Battles.
The Vustri scattered, led by Queen Nusa following her great-grandmother Galana into the wilds of the Great Forest. Since then, the leader of the Vustri has always been a woman descended from Nusa.
Because Ehilm and Erulat were gone, the evil forces they kept at bay escaped their prison and conquered the world. Darkness monsters called the Valsi founded a kingdom in Halikiv and together with an army of Slithering Chaos, they ravaged the world. The Trickster Korat killed Flamal and all vegetation died.
All would have died and all nearly did, but for the Green Lady. She called Erulat to her and had him make peace with Ehilm. Together the world was resurrected at Hrelar Amali.
However, the descendents of Vustr’s traitorous brother Uton seized Hrelar Amali and made himself chief priest, continuing the feud between the Enerali peoples. The Vustri refused to join the Dangan Confederacy and allied instead with the various Serpent-Beast peoples and their shamans.
When the Theyalan missionaries came in 132 ST, the Vustri recognized Orlanth as long-lost Erulat and Ernalda as the Green Lady. The Vustri eagerly learned from the Theyalans, and used their new gods and arts to fight the Dangans.
After the Dangans joined the Theyalan Council, the Vustri fought the Theyalans who had settled the upper Doskior River as fiercely as they had fought the Dangans.
From 204 to 320 S.T., the Vustri and their Serpent-Beast allies battled with the Council until the Vustri were finally defeated at the decisive Battle of Zebrawood.
Aldrya: the Forest Goddess, mother of the aldryami.
Doska: the River Goddess and mother of Vustr.
Ehilm: the Sun. Source of Light. Fought with Ehilm over the Green Lady and killed by Erulat at the Battle of Battles.
Eneral the Old: the First Man and Founder.
Erulat: the Storm. Source of Darkness. Fought with Ehilm over the Green Lady and unleashed Death at the Battle of Battles.
Flamal: God of Vegetation.
Fralar: God of Carnivores, son of Hykim and Mikyh.
Galana: The Horse Goddess and Noble Ancestor. The Enerali survived the Darkness by following Galana and her herds around. Galana is the daughter of Ehilm and Mata.
Humakt: God of Death. Unleashed by Erulat at the Battle of Battles.
Hykim and Mikyh: the Dragon Ancestors of Serpents and Beasts. Worshipped by the Serpent-Beast clans. Children include Basmol, Nagi-Mer, Pendal, Pralor, Telmor, and the other Serpent-Beasts.
Korat: Trickster and Murderer. War lord of the Valsi.
Mata the Green Lady: the Earth Mother.
Nagi-Mer: shaman guide and psychopomp(ess). Snake shaped daughter of Hykim and Mikyh.
Nakala: the Underworld Goddess, mother of the Valsi.
Nusa: the heroic Queen who led the Vustri in the Darkness.
Safa: Sister of Erulat, goddess of lakes and rain.
Tarin: the Earth Defender, the son of Ehilm and Aldrya.
Uleria: Goddess of Beauty. Mother of Hykim and Mata.
Circa 132 ST, Theyalan missionaries contacted the Dangan Confederacy. Although the Dangan kings opposed the Unity Council, they embraced the teachings of the Theyalans who showed the Enerali peoples that many of the Enerali gods and goddesses were known by the Theyalans by another name. More importantly, the Theyalans showed the Enerali secrets about their own gods that the Enerali did not previously know.
The Enerali embraced the Theyalan gods and offered sacrifice to them; sometimes in tandem with the older cult, sometimes even replacing the older. Orlanth, Ernalda, and the Lifebringers were worshipped by all four Enerali peoples. Barntar the Plough God proved a very important import: the ox-driven plough enabled the population around Lake Felster and the river valleys to increase dramatically.
The cult of Lhankor Mhy transmitted literacy; that of Issaries facilitated trade. The cult of Orlanth was the most important for the Korioni and Vustri peoples with their comparative proximity to Orlanth’s holy mountain Visku (Top of the World). For the Fornaoli and Utoni west and south of Lake Felster, Orlanth was a distant god and largely unconcerned with their affairs, although his several of his sons had important cults. Ehilm the Good Light continued to be a more significant cult. Ernalda was embraced by all four tribes, and often worshipped in conjunction (even replacing) Mata the Green Lady.
The Enerali knew the Brithini of Arolanit and allied with them against the Serpent Kings of Seshnela and their successors, the Silver Empire. Brithini sorcerers were occasionally found in the service of an Enerali ruler.
Circa 200, the Silver Empire conquered much of the lands once belonging to the Fornaoli (Rindland in the Third Age). The Seshnela lords given those lands were Hrestoli Malkioni. Although the majority of the Fornaoli continued their traditional practice, some practiced the religion of their new overlords. Over the next generation, the Silver Empire took more lands belonging to the Fornaoli and Uton tribes.
Three generations later (circa 290 ST), the Dari Alliance counter-attacked and retook the previously conquered lands and more as well. Dari was more than willing to use the weapons of his enemies against them; from this time, the first school of Western sorcery (a henotheist heresy that perpetuated the traditions of the Serpent Kings) was established in Dangk.
Between circa 291 ST and 326 ST, several small sects had been declared heretical by the rulers of Seshnela founded émigré communities in Ralios. Ralios gained a reputation as a place of safety for heretical Malkioni. The Seekers of Wisdom traveled from market to market under the protection of the Dari kings, debating all (including each other) and seeking the Ultimate Truth.
Nysalor the Perfect Light
In 375 ST the Sun stopped above Hrelar Amali during the rites of Ehilm. It then moved backwards and turned black before returning to its normal motion. This was the Sunstop and it heralded the birth of Nysalor the Perfect Light. Holy Estorex, who had helped birth and tutor Nysalor, brought Nysalor’s wisdom and magic to Hrelar Amali from distant Dorastor. The aldryami of Tarimwood enthusiastically greeted Nysalor and worshiped him. The god was welcomed into Hrelar Amali and called Nieby by the locals.
Nysalor’s proselytizers were accepted at Hrelar Amali but not by the monotheists and humanists of the Seshnegi and Brithini. But when a plague of unknown source broke out in Tanisor and spread into Seshnela and Arolanit, the Riddlers of Nysalor were able to heal the plague and accepted among those people as healers. Soon shrines to Nieby could be found throughout the Dari lands, Seshnela and Arolanit, spreading the Illumination of Nysalor.
In Ralios and beyond, the prophets of Nieby taught the tribes that stability was necessary; that obedience is necessary; and that violence is not the only option. The prophets taught the sorcerers that thought and logic are not the only reality; that their Laws were not Eternal Truths; and that instinct is neither good not evil. These doctrines were both unsettling and liberating.
During the New Brightness Era, many new cults were discovered or introduced such as:
The New Light – Nysalorean healers and riddlers from Dorastor and Peloria introduced this cult at Hrelar Amali (which becomes the Bright Empire’s headquarters in Ralios). The New Light taught Nysalorean Illumination and philosophy, and was supported by the Bright Empire (and backed up by aldryami, Mostali, dragonewt, and Hsunchen mercenaries).
Yelorna – when Arkat and his army of Brithini threatened Tanisor and the prophets of Nysalor, the elves revealed “The Light in Darkness,” whose worshippers were all women. A cult of unicorn riding virgins served the goddess and defended Hrelar Amali against Arkat and his army of sorcerers.
Five Fingered Hand of the Creator – this Nysalorean materialist sect understood the Creation through mastering the Elemental Runes.
The prophets of Nysalor (who secretly introduced the plague in the first place) were tempted by their new power and fell prey to the vanity of such strength. More and more of them chose the deceptive side of the cult, which said that the Illumined need care only for themselves. Some areas widely supported such prophets, and the people took up the secrets of this new faith. Some even turned to secretly worshipping Chaos gods for power or protection, including:
Vivamort – Grachamagacan the Iron Vampire, King of Tanisor. The ruler of Tanisor and his household willingly offered their souls (which as Illuminates they realized had no value) to Vivamort for power against Seshnela. Although the Vampire Legion was crushed by Arkat, the cult survived and continues to plague Tanisor and Safelster.
Than – Illuminated scholars used a demonic headhunter cult to steal magical secrets from the Brithini and and Seshnegi. A cult complex dedicated to Than was secretly constructed underneath the swamps around Lake Ehilmka and was the site of horrific rituals and evil ceremonies.
Mallia – the goddess of disease was secretly summoned by the Nysalorean illuminates and then sent against Seshnela and Aralonit.
Arkat and Autarchy
Arkat came from the western land of Brithos. Many Ralians say his father was Humakt, the god of war, but the Brithini claim the hero’s father was a barbarian warrior. Whatever the truth, Arkat possessed a powerful weapon before he left the island: the weapon called God-Cleaver, reputed to be the Unbreakable Sword.
As one of the leading Brithini horali, Arkat accompanied a Brithini expedition attempting to liberate their settlements in Arolanit (called Srotolin at the time) from the Nieby cult. The cult had gained wide acceptance by curing previously unknown diseases for free. The Brithini zzaburi discovered, though, that the cult had actually summoned the diseases in the first place. Such treachery earned Nysalor the new name of Gbaji, and so all his enemies called him thereafter.
Once freed in 400 ST, the Aralonit city-states volunteered forces to follow the Brithos army against foreign centers of power, especially in the kingdom of Tanisor. They set off with hope and cheer, but a vampire attack slew many leaders, and the Brithini effort collapsed when routed in one sharp battle. Arkat, who had vowed to destroy the cult, realized that the Brithini caste structure made impossible efficient use of the forces available. He found new allies in Seshnela.
The Gbaji cult plagued the powerful kingdom of Seshnela at the time. Arkat raised and organized strong local forces to resist and drive off the cult. In 408 ST, Arkat aided King Blastring to invade the Temple of Nieby in Froawal. Although the king died, so were the priests and most of the worshippers.
In Seshnela, Arkat began to train to become a full Hrestoli Man of All. Circa 410 S.T. Arkat led a Seshnelan army into Tanisor and defeated King Grachamagacan the Iron Vampire. 7 years later, Arkat was named the Master of the Armies (strategos autokrator) for the Holy War of Law Against Chaos.
Moving deeper into Ralios, Arkat and his army found that many tribes and non-humans had embraced the cult. Since non-humans were uncommon in Seshnela and Brithos, the invaders called the forces arrayed against them the League of Monsters, using the word krjalki to describe their non-human enemies as a single group. In their ignorance, the Brithini and Seshngei thought that the krjalk were mutated monsters who had long sold themselves into Chaos, In 418 S.T. Arkat led his army deep into Ralios, only to be killed by Palangio the Iron Vrok. Arkat and his companions were dismembered, their essence captured and imprisoned in a place normal human souls could not go.
In 422 S.T. the Orlanthi hero Harmast Lightbringer emerged from the most sacred place in Hrelar Amali with Arkat. The Orlanthi cult in Ralios spearheaded the Lightning Revolt and the Ralios tribes liberate themselves from the cult of Gbaji. Arkat departed but Harmast remained and taught the Orlanthi what he had learned as he passed through the realms of the gods. The Bright Empire soon counterattacked.
In 424 S.T. the Orlanthi, led by King Alongor and Harmast, held off the Gbaji army at Vanganth Hill until Arkat returned with an army of Seshnegi cavalry “to fight Krjalki.” The Battle of Vanganth Hill was a decisive victory for King Alongor, followed by a very effective pursuit. Afterwards most of the Seshnegi departed, but Arkat remained behind to learn from Harmast.
After the Battle of Vanganth Hill, Arkat decided to break with the Hrestoli way and initiate into the Orlanthi religion. In 426 S.T. Arkat joined the cult of Humakt, the god who people said was his father. These acts endeared him to the people of Ralios.
One by one, the strongholds of Gbaji in Ralios fell until in 428 S.T. Arkat led his army of Orlanthi and remaining Seshnegi to Kartolin Pass. In a terrible battle at Kartolin, Arkat was sorely wounded and forced to retreat only to charge again and again trying to force his way through the Pass. After many thousands of lives and souls wasted, Arkat left an army before Kartolin and sought a new approach to the strongholds of Gbaji.
The Telmori nation, which worshipped wolves, ruled the City of Wolves. In taking a taint of Chaos to strengthen themselves, they became a race of werewolves. They commanded the High Llama Pass between Ralios and Fronela. Though his efforts against Kartolin had failed, Arkat stormed the City of Wolves and put everything to the sword. Though pockets of survivors still hide, the Telmori as a people were driven from that land into the wastes of Telmoria.
In 430 S.T., Arkat and his army of Orlanthi and Seshnegi left Ralios and moved downriver to the sea. They did not return for twenty years until after Arkat’s final battle with Nysalor atop the Tower of Dreams in Dorastor. After the battle Arkat retired to quiet lands in Ralios. There he cleared a simple farmstead and kept the area around it under his watchful eye until his apotheosis circa 500 S.T. Arkat was accompanied by army of trolls who settled in Guhan. When he arrived at Hrelar Amali, the false lights fled from his grim shadow. He ordered one of his troll companions to destroy all that grew dim with his dark presence but to keep sacrosanct all that remained unflinching before him.
The Autarchy (450 to 740) is widely seen as the “Golden Age” of Ralios. The city-states and tribes of Ralios are united by the Arkati archons – magical intercessors between Arkat and the mundane world. The cities of Safelster teem with diverse cults and philosophical schools that explore Arkat’s insights into the cosmos.