So what underlies the conflict between the Red Goddess and Orlanth? It is a weird one, as the Red Goddess’ only real fight with Orlanth during her lifetime was at Castle Blue. Some Lunar scholars claim it is because of Orlanth’s refusal to acknowledge the Red Goddess after her victory. Some others point to Jannisor’s Orlanthi followers (although that does not seem too convincing) or that Orlanth resists the Red Goddess’s “civilizing influences” – which is just recycled Dara Happa nonesense from the First Age.
The conflict is a Gods War conflict made manifest in Time. The Red Goddess claims Orlanth’s realm of the Middle Air for herself. This is a typical Gods War conflict, which gets resolved with the Great Compromise in that there is both Moon and Air in the Middle Air. EXCEPT, this conflict happens in Time. Thus the Red Goddess must constantly fight Orlanth to assert her presence, otherwise the cosmos might snap back into place like it did at the end of the Second Age. To do otherwise would be contrary to the Cosmic Compromise of which he is a chief guardian. Another way of looking at it is that she is trying to force Orlanth to break the Compromise.
It seems that at some point in the Seventh Wane, the Red Emperor concluded that one way of achieving this would be simply destroy Orlanth and his cult within Time. No Orlanth, no problem with the Red Goddess taking over the Middle Air. Again, this is not because the Orlanthi are “savages” or whatever pseudo-Dara Happan jingoism is popular this moment, but because Orlanth resists the Red Goddess taking her position in the Middle Air.
Ah but what about other greater gods such as Yelm, Ernalda, or Pamalt? Yelm’s cult is associated with the Red Goddess, and Ernalda and Pamalt are neutral. First, acknowledging the Red Goddess does not require these deities to change what they are. The Earth does not change regardless of the Middle Air. The Sun’s course across the Sky does not change because of the Air or Moon. Acknowledging the Red Goddess does not require that they change their part in the Cosmic Compromise.
As for Yelm, he might be a special case. Yelm is an upholder of the Cosmic Compromise, but he’s also Illuminated (since the First Age) and he claims the Red Goddess as a daughter. Yelm might know something about the cosmos that escapes the rest of us.
So let’s flip this around. Why does Orlanth fight with the Red Goddess? That’s a lot easier. One she is fighting him for his place – which he must fight against because to do otherwise violates the Compromise. Two, she is Chaotic.
Both deities are thus locked into conflict. They must fight, as they cannot do otherwise. If the Red Goddess was to cease fighting Orlanth, the cosmos would reassert itself and the Red Moon would crash out of the sky. If Orlanth was to cease fighting the Red Goddess, he would violate the Compromise and the cosmos would unravel. Conflict is baked into their very nature. There is no political solution as Sting once sang. The Red Emperor fully understands this, even if many Lunar priests and officials do not.
The great tragedy of it is that the Red Goddess’s apotheosis as the Red Moon locked Glorantha into a new Gods War which can only end in a Hero Wars. Like Orlanth using Death to cut down Yelm – we can come up with plenty of reasons why that was the right thing to do but it still started the Darkness.
A new Cosmic Compromise is needed to get out of this trap, but the path to get there is not pretty.
Did the Seven Mothers know what greater conflicts they were unleashing? The Seven Mothers performed a desperate and dangerous magical ritual to have a goddess not alive and not dead in the God Time reborn in mortal Time. That was mad to do, but they did it to defeat the Carmanian Empire. She did that. The greater conflicts were the price of doing what she was needed for.
One theory is that the Red Emperor’s short cut is an attempt to sidestep the Hero Wars. If we kill off Orlanth, then we don’t have a Hero Wars, and WE (that is managers and beneficiaries of the material interests of the Red Goddess) get to win. Given how destructive the Hero Wars will be to everyone involved, this plan was worth a shot.
So rather that view House Assay as moustache-twirling villains, maybe they are the guys who tried to prevent the Hero Wars entirely. The Red Emperor certainly thought so.
Of course that kind of makes Tatius or the Red Emperor Ozymandias from the Watchmen.
Note that the Lunars and the Orlanth are neither the good guys, and neither the bad guys. They are both groups of humans that are performing the deeds of their gods in the mundane world. Those gods all have good and solid reasons why humans would worship them and choose to do this.
Doesn’t the published narrative tends to be pro-Orlanth? The published narrative tends to be pro-whatever its subject is. But the Redline Histories, for example, is clearly from a Lunar source. The core rules d book is pretty neutral. The stuff set in Sartar is pretty strongly Sartarite, and so on.
All of the Hero Wars materials read like cheerleading pamphlets. But Trollpak and Cults of Prax were very sympathetic to their subjects.
Cults of Terror was not, but those deities are evil. Their justifications are the justifications of serial killers, sociopaths, sadists, psychopaths, and other villains.
The Mostali consider the rise of the Red Moon a sign that progress is being made on the World Machine repairs. BUT that doesn’t necessarily mean what the humans that worship the Red Moon think it means.
Is the conflict between the Red Goddess and Orlanth so entrenched that other threats like Thed or Mallia for Orlanth, and Valind, Gagarth and Eurmal for the Red Goddess are considered to be smaller on the priority list? Orlanth always fights Thed and Mallia because that is what he did in the Gods War. But they exist because of the Compromise, so there is no point in aiming for “final victory”.
For the Red Goddess, she NEEDS to fight Orlanth for the Red Moon to remain in the Middle AIr. She doesn’t NEED to fight Valind, but the fight with Orlanth brings in most of the other storm gods.
However, for the Lunar Empire as an empire, this conflict is an expensive sideshow. The Pentans pose the existential threat to the empire, not the Orlanthi. Time is on our side, as Nick Brooke says. Dragon Pass is important because it is rich, not because of some millennialist eschatology. Heck even the Seven Mothers are only hostile towards Orlanth, not enemies. Sure the Red Goddess is locked into conflict with Orlanth, but no reason to go rushing headlong towards the Hero Wars.
Which is why imperial policy in the Provinces often has a schizophrenic feel to it. Some, like Sor-eel or Fazzur, just follow the empire’s rational material interests. Others, like Tatius, are focused on the mythological conflict – the religious dimension. These are sometimes hard to reconcile.
Fazzur Wideread shows that the Lunars don’t necessarily mutually support each other. The Orlanthi and Praxians can be defeated and occupied at a relatively low cost as long as you don’t needlessly antagonise them over religious matters. Sure close those temples that are centres of resistance, but ignore those that are not. Respect their holy places unless they become material problems.
And the Red Emperor thoroughly rejected that approach in favor of maximum religious confrontation.
Until 1582, we can interpret Lunar Tarsh as nothing more than an imperial stronghold in Dragon Pass. We have Furthest which is the edge of empire and that is it. Phargentes runs around keeping the barbarians busy, but these are raids and pillaging expeditions, not attempts at conquest.
But then the Red Emperor personally comes to Dragon Pass. The Sartarites are crushed at Grizzly Peak and the goal shifts to expansion. Dragon Pass is conquered at great cost. And then the goal shifts to “defeating Orlanth”. Fazzur proves unreliable, and Tatius is put in charge. The New Reaching Moon Temple is placed on an unclaimed power source and despite battlefield defeats is nearly ready to be “turned on”.
But it turns out the power source was a dormant True Dragon. That sucks!
Greg and Sandy used to suggest there were obscure and probably Blue Moon related reasons for their march to the tidal Ocean. Greg was wildly inconsistent on that. The best I can say is that there is no doubt a faction within the Red Goddess cult that wants to tie into the tidal Ocean.
Isn’t the Red Moon vs Orlanth a similar cycle to the Celestial Emperor vs Rebellus Terminus, Nysalor vs Arkat, and Light/Empire vs Storm/Rebel? There are parts of the Celestial Emperor and Nysalor in the Red Goddess, but she is not the same.
Orlanth is subject to the Cosmic Compromise. For better or for worse, he must eternally do what he did in the Gods Time.
The Red Goddess – at least during the Zero Wane – was free to act otherwise. She did what she needed to and changed the world. But Orlanth cannot accept those changes – not because he does not want to, but because he is not free to accept those changes. None of the Old Gods were free to change. But the Red Goddess – alone among all the greater deities – was free to make her own path in Time.
And that’s really all you need to say.
Another thought – it is clear that Orlanth is bound by the Compromise and cannot do other than what he did in the God Time and thus must fight the Red Goddess.
During her lifetime the Red Goddess was not and she could do things that had not happened in the God Time. But now she too cannot do other than what she is and must fight Orlanth.
Both deities are locked into place. No wonder their cults are enemies.
Can’t the compromise be amended? That’s not how it works. The only way I could imagine it is to force every deity to agree – even Zorak Zoran, Kyger Litor, and Storm Bull. Every single one. And do it on the God Plane. Last time that worked was because the only alternative was the annihilation of everything.
What decides the attitude of one cult towards another? Is it the deity or worshippers? It is to some extent both. But much more than you think is driven from the architecture of the Gods World. Enemy deities and Associated deities are defined by the Gods World itself – if there deities are associated it is because their mythology makes it possible. Similarly, enemy deities show up as such in rituals regardless of whether you invited them!
There is more human say over whether Friendly versus Neutral. But even there, mythology will push one way or another.