Dragon Pass in the Third Age, part 1


After the genocide of the Dragonkill War, people were understandably reluctant to move back into Dragon Pass. The tribes closest to it were fanatical in their fear of the Pass, and formed an impassable barrier around it. This effectively sealed the continent into three sections which even now are dominated by the Lunar Empire, the nomads of Prax, and the Holy Country.

For a while there was peace again in Dragon Pass due to the influence of the dragonewts. During this time of peace, there was a rapid influx of other non-humans. The Dragon Pass area became a battleground for trolls fighting against other Elder Races as well against other trolls. Troll dominance was broken in 1222, when a troll army was destroyed by beastmen and dragonewts at what is now the Smoking Ruins.

The first humans entered Dragon Pass around 1250. These were Pure Horse People fleeing from their enemies in Prax. They entered the hills with their deaths upon their lips, but instead of armies of vengeful dragonewts or grey lands haunted by ancient ghosts, they found a pleasant and nearly abandoned territory. The demigod Ironhoof was pleased to greet worshipers of his uncle, the Great Horse. He granted them all the flat lands north of Beast Valley. There they settled and grew quietly to strength, hiding amid the nonhumans and growing in the wisdom of the quiet earth of the Pass.

Larger groups of settlers came from the Holy Country and Peloria. The first were the group of settlers that followed Colymar Black Spear and his Esrolian wife. They established a village called Clearwine around 1300. Warfare in the Holy Country sent a flood of refugees and settlers into Dragon Pass. They worshipped Orlanth and lived in towns, herded and hunted, and fought. When they settled they often took long‑abandoned hill forts, as had been their custom in the south. The Colymar Clan followed suit after newcomers razed their village around 1320.

From the north came waves of exiles and refugees fleeing from the campaigns of the Conquering Daughter. Among those was the Orlanth priest Arim the Pauper. Arim entered Dragon Pass around 1330, after Holay was conquered by the Conquering Daughter. At that time, Dragon Pass was still forbidden to all humans of Peloria—when Arim reached the Death Line, twenty of his own ancestors appeared and tried to keep him from entering. Arim was not only bold, he was desperate as well, and he strode past his ancestors to become greater than any of them.

Arim befriended centaurs, Pure Horse People, and even dragonewts, before he met the goddess Sorana Tor at the foot of Ker Fin. The courtship of Sorana Tor by Arim the Pauper was an arduous, but apparently pleasant, experience. Their love story has been preserved in ballads which were combined by the poet Eight-String into the Founder’s Cycle. In the ballads, Arim fulfills heroic tasks, as Orlanth once did for Ernalda, the Earth Goddess. During the courtship, Arim liberated many slaves and prisoners, sought and gained many followers, and made friends with the local Pure Horse People tribes, who he called the Grazelanders.

Arim and Sorana Tor founded the Twins Dynasty of Tarsh, wherein the spiritual and religious powers were commanded by the sister/queen and the temporal affairs were tended by the brother/king. These twins had miraculous childhoods and, even before maturity, led a victorious army in 1362 at the Battle of Falling Hills, where the Red Emperor was slain and Lunar progress halted for a hundred years. Yarandros the Charge-crazy was the first King to expand the borders of Tarsh, and he even managed to conquer Lunar territory. It was Oriois the Fool who learned that the Mad Sultanates are held within their territory by magical means, but that those safeguards are broken whenever any invader crosses their border. The fanatical Mad Sultans burst upon the Provinces like a crazed deity in its death-throes, burning and killing and pillaging as they went, seeming to get extra delight from plundering Lunar cities. The Tarsh army was crushed without trouble while trying to escape the Mad Sultanates borders. The rampaging army was eventually annihilated by the Imperial Army, although another Emperor was slain in the fighting.

This was a general period of turmoil for all the world as the gods realigned themselves to make room for the expanding Lunar pantheon. The early friendship between the Tarsh Twins dynasty and the Grazelanders was severed and the Pure Horse People dynasty and removed their pony herds from the lowlands and into the hills. The river valleys were quickly filled with farms and villages, and the Tarshites crossed the Pass into Prax to hire mercenaries.

With the extinction of the Twins Dynasty, Tarsh entered a period of civil war that only ended around 1460 when the Illaro Household became the adopted brother-kings of Tarsh.

The Pure Horse People, huddled in the hills of their summer grazelands, grew gloomy and desperate. Raiding parties searched far and wide for salvation or vengeance, but were pursued by angry armies that captured their herds and killed their warriors. The clans turned upon each other, seeking a victor or a victim. One clan broke away and sought passage from the God-King, then moved westward through Esrolia and out of the Grazelanders’ history.

The problems of the Grazelanders were solved by the ascension of the Feathered Horse Queen and triumph of the Earth powers. The worship of the Earth powers was an ancient part of the Grazer religion. The goddess of the broad land was one form of La-ungariant, the granddaughter of Gata and Genert and First Wife of Yu‑Kargzant, the Immortal Sun. She is the goddess of women, mistress of ceremonies, and source of wealth and blessings. She is called Ernalda by the Orlanthi and Dendara by the Pelorians.

During the turmoil from 1450–1470, a leader rose from this cult. With a handful of loyal women, she went deep into the womb of the Earth. When she returned, she was called the Feathered Horse Queen because she wore the ancient signs of regal office which had been stripped from her goddess in the Gods Age. She claimed the inherent sovereignty of the land, given to her by the goddess within it. The Sun King of the Pure Horse People rejected this idea, of course, but the peasant farmers (who were Orlanthi and not Pure Horse People) recognized the truth of her claims, and flocked to support the efforts of the cult to bring peace.

Confrontation grew, and in a doom-ridden duel of thaumaturgy the Feathered Horse Queen crushed the king of the Grazers. She revived the cult of Hiia Swordsman, the Humakti Hero. The swordsmen pledged loyalty to the Feathered Queen, in life and death, and became her personal bodyguard.

The next Sun King of the Pure Horse People brought peace. He recognized that the Queen had the right to speak for those who worked the earth, and for those who tended horses, but she must not abuse that power and should speak only on matters of magical interest.

When it was known that the Feathered Horse Queen was not married, many came to seek her hand. Of those who came, some went away because they didn’t like the terms of her marriage. Others could not match her wager, and others dared not take the risk. In the end only one contestant for her hand succeeded: Sartar of Boldhome.