Notes on the Grazelands


Let’s keep in mind quick how the Grazeland functions in the present age (rather than how the Yelm cult likes to tell stories about the good old days).

There are about 40,000 people living in the Grazelands, divided into three groups: agriculturalists, horse herders, and townsfolk. All land is “owned” by the Feathered Horse Queen who resolves all disputes between the groups, interacts with outsiders, and unites the nation. The groups are in a symbiotic relationships – the agriculturalists provide grain, fruits, vegetables, and “lesser meats”, the townsfolk provide crafted goods, and the horse herders provide military protection and animal products from their herds. The horses benefit from this – the horse herders raise them and tend them, the farmers provide them with additional fodder, and the townsfolk trade part of the herds to outsiders in exchange for goods and coin which benefits everyone.

These groups are actually pretty small – there are about 18,000 farmers, 18,000 horse herders, and about 4,000 townsfolk. The area is geographically not all that big, only about a 1000 square kilometres, which actually means that the Grazelands are about as populated as the settled parts of Sartar.

Ernalda, not Dendara, is the Earth Goddess. She is the spouse of Yelm AND Orlanth, and unites horse herder and farmers together. Her cult is the largest in the Grazelands – as large as Orlanth and Yelm’s combined! The Ernalda cult is led by the Feathered Horse Queen. When the Pure Horse People and the Orlanthi farmers seemed destined to destroy the Grazelands, a priestesses descended into the womb of the Earth and returned with the secrets and power of Ernalda the Earth Mother, whose favors both Yelm and Orlanth must contest for.

The other Lightbringers are also important – more than half of all townsfolk follow one of the Lightbringers. And Humakt is also important as the primary War God.

The Feathered Horse Queen by Anna Orlova.

The Feathered Horse Queen enables all three elements to co-exist. Sure there is competition between Sun and Air, but that competition can be harnessed for the benefit of all.

The farmers are the FHQ’s people. I think it is easy to look at the Grazelanders and say she makes it possible for the pony herders to survive by finding a way that they can coexist with the farmers and towns, and the trade posts still have deep ties to the Sartar Dynasty.

A lot of the wrong assumptions about the Grazelands is a result of looking at Dragon Pass from stories that largely predate the Feathered Horse Queen or Sartar.In the 1450s, the Pure Horse People were staring at extinction. Tarsh had built up its own cavalry force and no longer needed the Pure Horse People – even worse, they were importing Praxian mercenaries! The local Orlanthi farmers who had been forced to raise grain for the Pure Horse People needed only ally with Tarsh and could be rid of the Pure Horse People. Worse yet, the Sun Lords of the Yelm cult couldn’t see this and insisted that the Earth priestesses remained subservient in the traditional “Dendara role”. One of the Earth priestesses descended into the womb of the Earth in search of secrets.The Feathered Horse Queen is who emerged. She placed the farmers under her personal protection and defeated the Sun Lords in magical contests, forcing the Stallion King to submit and pledge obedience. She issued the Marriage Contest to find allies and it was Sartar the Prince who proved his worth. Sartar built trade posts with temples to the Lightbringers, issued coins, and facilitated trade through the Grazelands. The trade posts became towns where crafters congregated.In short, the Grazelands were radically transformed by the Feathered Horse Queen AND by Sartar into something new. Horse breeder and farmer found a way to coexist through the person of the Feathered Horse Queen. The trading posts brought wealth – but also scribes, merchants, crafters, healers, mercenaries, and the rest of the accoutrements of civilization. The Pure Horse People certainly tell stories about how they are Yelm’s chosen and the spiritually elect and all that jazz. But it was the Feathered Horse Queen that allowed them to survive. And everyone knows that.

And thus just like the Orlanthi tribes of the Quivin Mountains were transformed by Sartar, the people of the Grazelands were transformed by the Feathered Horse Queen. Add more than a century to build upon that transformation and you have the Grazeland Pony Breeders we first saw in White Bear and Red Moon.

Does this mean that the Vendref follow Orlanth the adventurous and Orlanth Rex? Thunderous and Barntar mainly. There’s a bit of Adventurous, tied to the Feathered Horse Queen.