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.

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