Perhaps all of these parts are familiar to all of you, but understanding Arkat is a key to understanding the Third Age:
Arkat was a man of reason who ventured into the Gods Realm on many occasions from many different starting points. He discovered the Secret Paths and wandered into the irrational unconscious of Glorantha and its archetypes and stories. Arkat participated in the Lightbringer’s Quest but rejected the Light so that he might delve deeper into the Darkness from where all unknown potentiality exists. Some claim he delved deeper than Subere, to the Chaosium itself. Arkat quested so often he even encountered himself on the Hero Plane and received a unhealable wound that caused him pain and weakness to his final day. Arkat’s many quests often had him become the enemy to his former friends and allies. When he finally fought hand to hand against Gbaji, he was no longer even human but a troll, a Dark Man. After the battle, Arkat was no longer a troll, or so said his friends and many trolls. He retired to Ralios with his companions, and brought peace to that long troubled land. Arkat instituted cult procedures, with rigorous entrance requirements and maintained strict rules and “iron” discipline concerning the use of his secrets – especially what Arkat had learned concerning exploratory Heroquesting. In 500, Arkat left his mortal existence and became a god. Arkat’s cult DEMANDED respect for the magics and secrets they had learned, and a tender care in treating with them. They had ways to watch the Secret Paths and they sought unwanted or obtrusive HeroQuesters and expelled them. They made many enemies that way, but maintained stability.
The God Learners allied with the Kingdom of Seshnela and attacked Arkat’s Dark Empire. Arkat’s cult became military and religious figures, assuming more and more power, and Ralios became a true empire. Armies marched on the Dark Empire, whose resistance failed in 740 when the great temple of the Arkat cult was plundered and razed. His empire, and his cult, fell to conquerors who carried off his secrets, prizes, and wonders.The God Learners lacked the morality of the Arkat cult. They stemmed from Malkioni philosophers who insisted on the ultimate impersonality of the universe and feared no taboo or curse. Their courage and power were unquestionable, and they performed magical deeds previously unknown even to the gods.
Arkat participated in part of Harmast’s Lightbringers Quest. But Arkat refused the Light, as he needed to go into the Darkness. This is part of the reason that the Lightbringers made a second quest a generation later.
“Arkat met himself on the Hero Plane, though confusion clouds the story. Some say he did not recognize his future self until it was too late. Others say he refused to make a killing blow, and thereby took his unhealable wound, while yet others claim he did make the killing blow, and thereby received his wound. Regardless, this event is named Arkat’s Fall. The wound plagued Arkat to his final day, though troll healers effected temporary relief years later.”
To me this is one of the most intriguing fragments of the whole Arkat story.
Arkat and the Red Goddess may well be the folk that best understood the dangerous possibilities created by Nysalor’s creation. Both in their way outdid their teacher.
Of course it is interesting that Argrath IS an incarnation – a reincarnation – of Arkat. That’s more than just a mere setting background thread, but a creative truth about the origin of both characters in writing.
There are those that claim that the war against Gbaji was every bit as important as the war against the Devil. There are others that say it was the same war.
And there are even those stories that say the war against the Devil was but a mythic reflection of the deeper war against Gbaji.
Arkat was said to have understood and be sympathetic towards those who accused him of treason – he certainly never hurled that accusation against his former allies.
“They haven’t seen what I have,” he is said to have uttered. “That is what we must fight for.”
In many lands, tales of Arkat are often told. I think the most comparative figure is Alexander the Great, who 1500 years later still was the subject of popular romances from England to Thailand. Would a reasonably educated person in 1200 AD in Merv, Samarkand, Cairo, Acre, Constantinople, or Baghdad know his name?
However, what is known of Arkat is mainly consistent and contradictory romances and adventure stories. In Dragon Pass, we all know the story of how Arkat wielded the Unbreakable Sword, how he met Harmast Barefoot in the Underworld and they became fast friends and allies, how he fought against the broos of Snakepipe Hollow, how he hunted down the Riddlers and their Chaos friends, how he cursed the Telmori, how he caught the ogres and strung them up for their crimes, how he could not love the queen of Esrolia, how he betrayed mortals (and Harmast) to become a troll, and his great fight with Gbaji in Dorastor.
Also we all heard the story of how Arkat and his troll allies defeated the fiery Palangio who rode on an iron vrok.