Arkat was the most terrifying mortal to walk the world. He built no new empires, ruled nothing but his companions, and built little. Instead, Arkat broke empires, gods, and even ideas.
Think about it – Arkat and his companions fought in Arolanit, Seshnela, Tanisor, Safelster, Vesmonstran, Karia, Maniria, Esrolia, Dragon Pass, the Lunar Provinces, Talastar, and, finally, Dorastor. Born in Brithos, he confronted the Only Old One in his Black Palace, and the Eldest Kin beneath the Castle of Lead. He led immortal Brithini, Hrestoli cavalry and wizards, Orlanthi militia, Humakti swordbrothers, Storm Bull animal riders, and armies of dark trolls. He led anyone who would follow him to fight against Gbaji. Whenever someone said they had enough, Arkat would shrug his shoulders and find new allies that would continue the fight.
And Arkat fought. Against vampires, Sun cultists, werewolves, broo, imperial Dara Happan armies, heroes and gods. When he was defeated, he regrouped and fought again. And again. And again.
For 40 years Arkat knew nothing but War and Death. He sought and found terrible secrets in the Darkness, where Light (including the Light of Nysalor) had never dared touch. He even abandoned his humanity to become a Man of Darkness, an uzuz.
And when Gbaji was finally defeated, torn into pieces, and scattered, Arkat retired to a farm in Ralios. He turned over rule of the Surface World to his friends that had fought with him to the end – the trolls. And in Ralios, he gathered his friends and taught them what he had learned.
After 50 years of teaching, meditation, and peace, Arkat became a god. He placed bright stars in the heavens and prepared the celestial site of his retirements. Three bright stars, including one that blinks regularly, are visible around the primary star; several dim ones nearby are often claimed as the hero’s as well. There his followers could reach him and call upon his powers.
In 740, the God Learners and their Seshnegi allies destroyed Arkat’s Home and the Cult of Arkat. Powerful sorcery blocked off all magical pathways to Arkat and contact ceased. That was almost nine centuries ago.
So if you want to imagine modern Arkat cults, here’s what they might have – access to what Arkat taught them (sorcery spells, knowledge of the Hero Plane, etc.), secret Illumination techniques (but this is known only to a few cults), and some spirits defeated by or allied to Arkat. Any Rune magic would come from some lesser hero – a grandchild or great grandchild of Arkat or the descendant of some other companion or friend. But the real magic of Arkat is lost to all.
Arkat Multi-Reborn will change this, one imagines? And this is almost always the problem anytime Arkat is discussed.
If heroquests can bring back the Bat or Sheng, Arkat should be possible as well. Perhaps with a Lightbringers Quest? And although I have said this many times, that is not how the LBQ works.
How does “Arkat built nothing” square with the existence of the Stygian Empire? Arkat governed nothing. Arkat relied on intermediaries between him and the outside world. People called them “archons”, but they were friends and companions of the superhero. Despite countless petitioners, he never interfered in local affairs, always encouraging them to “rule and know themselves.” But at the same time none dared threaten Arkat’s Peace, as who wanted to draw the attention of the most powerful magician and heroquester in the world? And so Ralios knew peace while Arkat was present.
After Arkat’s apotheosis, the kingdom of Seshnela warred upon Tanisor and Ralios, and people looked to the Archons to defend them. The Archons became leaders and commanders, assuming more and more power. Eventually it became a true empire.
What was it before Arkat’s apotheosis? It was called the Autarchy. Or just Arkat’s Home.
Think about this – the most powerful mortal the world had ever seen decides to retire nearby and brings an army of his troll friends. He tells everyone that this land is under His Peace, but sends no soldiers to enforce it – everyone knows that he means to enforce his peace personally.
There is no imperial system, no tribute, no special taxes. Arkat just wants to enjoy his retirement, surrounded by his friends and companions. Do you want to be the guy to tempt him out of retirement?
So look at this at the remove of nine centuries of occultation. Arkat has been removed and concealed, but his secrets are important enough that people have tried to preserve them and pass them down generation to generation.
However, Arkat’s constellation is still in the sky, and it is one of the brightest and easiest to see. Which means Arkat is still there somewhere.
Why did the God Learners do that to him? There are plenty of long versions of the tale, but the short version is the Arkat cult had the secrets of heroquesting, and the God Learners sought to make that knowledge theirs exclusively.
And after nine centuries, EVERYONE in Genertela has their Arkat stories. We have a variety of Malkioni stories (told in some form in Teshnos and Kralorela as well), with Arkat as mighty hero, betrayed by his own dark flaws. We have the Orlanthi stories with him as the Lord of Battles, who lived only for his feud with Gbaji. We have the troll stories of Kingtroll. And then all sorts of esoteric stories in Safelster, passed on in secret from generation to generation.
In Dara Happa, Arkat’s Orlanthi friends were were expelled by 480. In Dragon Pass, Arkat’s troll friends were overthrown by the Orlanthi in 578 in what is called the Tax Slaughter (which coincidentally is shortly after the first Hunting and Waltzing Bands began teaching draconic consciousness in Dragon Pass).
As an aside, I suspect most modern Arkat cults practice something akin to taqiyya and kitman. Their beliefs are concealed from outsiders, and members are encouraged to be lay members of other cults, even cults hostile to Arkat.
Alternatively in communities ruled by Rokari nobles and wizards, they are encouraged to outwardly present themselves as good Rokari, and offer magic points to the Invisible God.
This doesn’t mean that Arkati are required to lie to others, only that they have a long (and entirely warranted) tradition of concealing their beliefs from hostile outsiders and rulers.
So let’s look at where we have active Arkat cults. Safelster is the stronghold, and one of the few places where Arkat worship is the state cult. But you no doubt have plenty of secret Arkati cells it in Dangim, Rindland, and Tanisor of the Kingdom of Seshnela as well, despite it being confirmed as a heresy by the Seventh Malkioni Council.
We likely have an Arkat cell or more among the Trader Princes. Some are open, some are secret. We know we have them in Esrolia, even a fortress-temple at Arkat’s Hold, which is openly ruled by the sect. I suspect there might be secret cells in Talastar as well.
Among the trolls, the cult is most prevalent in Guhan. There are the occasional Arkati troll-sorcerers in Halikiv, Dagori Inkarth, and the Shadow Plateau.
But outside of Ralios, the numbers are very small.