ISS1301 Thunder Rebels – Player’s Book for Orlanthi Barbarians – The Thunder Rebels

Latest revision: 15 Dec 2000

We are Orlanthi. This is our Way.

Talkative, simple, passionate, deep-hearted, life and laughter loving, direct, untroubled, unreflective, violent, restless, imaginative, stubborn. Such are the Heortlings. These barbaric farm folk have saved the world at least once, and perhaps they will do so again. Yet do not waste breath musing on such things, for action, not idle speculation, is the Orlanthi Way. Take up your spear and walk with them across the sacred tulas of the land.

Who Are We?

We are Orlanthi, born in hardship, formed by story, strengthened by adversity, made invincible by freedom. We are a tribe of the longhouse, of the field, of the great forest, of the battleground. We are a people whose sons and daughters will endure as long as the winds shall blow.

We are the People of the Storm, the men and women of Thunder. Renowned in all the worlds, we are the tribe of Orlanth and Ernalda. We are many, and we are strong. We are a rich people, for we know the secrets of the earth. We are a proud people, farmers and herders, warriors and peaceweavers. We live in steads and villages and hunting camps, but can also build cities and fortresses, and sky steads made of wind and lightning. We are of many clans.

To be Orlanthi is to throw off your kilt and pants and run naked in a hailstorm. To be Orlanthi is to stand alone against an overwhelming foe and know they shall never pass. It is to hold your youngest child in your arms and feel tears of beauty course down your cheeks. To be Orlanthi is to understand the thrill of stealing past a hostile clan to take the great bull in a cattle raid; to dance with laughing earth goddesses as the first green shoots appear through the plowed mud of your field; to walk in fear and wonder along the sacred paths of the Godtime.

The Lunars have come with their scimitars and strange gods. They have conquered our land by treachery, so that only our rivers run free. Servants of the Predark, they ban true worship and offer us instead the mask of their twisted Red Goddess, the lies of their Seven Mothers, and the wind of their false Thunderer, Doburdun. They might as well blow on dead embers: they will be vanquished soon, and the freedom wind shall blow again. We will cleanse our land, for they have nothing that we want.

We are Orlanthi. To understand who we are, you must know two things. You must know the land that formed us, our Mother. You must know the story of our tribe, of Orlanth and how he ordered the world.

We are born of Thunder, wise in the ways of the Storm. We are a proud people, descendants of Vingkot, children of Heort, oath-kin of Sartar. We make mistakes, but we are always responsible for our actions, and we never give up. If we make harm we fix it, because that is Orlanth’s Way.

In generations past we built many great wonders – cities and palaces and roads. We will do so again. For now, we have our steads, and our herds, and the great forests where we hunt. In these, we are content.

We are a free people – nobles and thanes, cottars and carls, kings and priestesses, stickpickers and godar. We seek courage, wisdom, generosity, justice, honor, glory, and freedom. We live by the strength of our limbs, and we succeed by the blessings of our kin. We are all naked at birth, and we follow our wyrd as the winds may blow, to be warrior, crafter, cattlewoman, or skald. We all have mud between our toes, and even a king must sweat and groan before the plow.

How Do We Live?

We live at Mahome’s Fire. If a stranger wishes to understand us, they have but to spend a season at one of our hearths. A household hearth is never empty, never silent, never still. All of life passes before Mahome’s sacred fire. Old men and women drowse for days before the coals, covered in children or cats, guarded patiently by the clay goddesses and ancestral idols that sanctify the hearth. The hearthmistress oversees her sons’ wives as they attend to the day’s baking, teaching them songs of lust and healing, sharing the wisdom of her years. Wide-eyed infants are passed from breast to breast to be suckled by their mothers and aunts, all under the protective gaze of the first alynx. Children wrestle and make merry, laughing and screaming without censure, cattle-boasting and playing at priestess and king as they pose their clay dolls and carved wooden herds amidst the rushes on the floor. 

The senior men bend in quiet conversation, planning the next harvest or the next moot, scheming how the progress of a lawsuit might bring favor to them all, occasionally glancing to their wives for agreement or guidance. A young weaponthane polishes his armor while flirting with a seed priestess who weaves a dye-bright tapestry on her loom. A sullen cottar carves a new handle for her hoe. A Bevaran sews the wound of a cursing thane who was too slow on the practice field. Apart from all the bustle at the hearth, curled in the storage racks under the rafters, a cattle-boy cradles his grandfather’s sword and dreams of first love and first herd.

As darkness gathers, the young men and women come in from their fields and herds, laughing and swearing as they scrape the mud and cow dung from their boots. Odaylan kinsfolk arrive from the upland hunting camps to sample the exotic pleasures of the stead. The evening meal is served, and with it song, story, and boasting. The hearth is crowded – a hand of hands or more! – a boisterous, loud, argumentative, joyful crowd all competing to be the center of attention.

By the light of the flame that burns forever, they pass the sweet thick beer. All relive, through the skald’s gift, the eternal stories of gods and heroes. As the night progresses there is music, dancing, and wrestling. The men are stirred easily to sudden grief or passion, bursting into tears, striking at kinsmen, proclaiming their courage and valor. The women watch, speaking less, though when they do give voice their words are sharp and well directed.

Finally, the night draws to its conclusion. Children curl against the nearest warm body, and couples retire to the sleeping platforms by the wall or the hammocks stretched from the aisle posts. Guests curl about the hearth, or share the crowded sleeping platforms of kin. As the rest of the stead sleeps, cradled to Mahome’s sheltering breast, the star-watch draw cloaks about themselves and prepare for a chilly night on the palisades.

What Is the Difference between Men and Women?

Men and women are different according to their shaping and the journey of their lives. Women are shaped like the hills and valleys of the generous earth, while men are wild like the wind: they bluster, and have great shoulders and chests so as to blow mighty breaths. Women have wisdom and secrets, while men have great passion and thick heads to take many blows. Men are impulsive in youth, and must learn from their mistakes, but can acquire wisdom with age. Women are cold and calculating when young, but with the passing of years can learn recklessness and true freedom. Men have their brothers, and the trick of being a leader, while women possess the greatest magic of all: the magic of life.

Sometimes we think we are separate tribes, but we know we are truly one. With courage, a man can do whatever a woman does; with heart and training, a woman can be the equal of any man. Humakti men become as cold as any woman, while I myself have taken scars from a dancing Vingan on the practice fields. My grandfather’s brother was a Nandan who knew all the secrets of the birthing hut, while my mother could sway even the wildest chieftain in the moot!

Where Do We Live?

We live in Kerofinela, the center of the world. Everything that is important occurred here, and everything that is going to be important will here, too. In fact, if anything important occurs anywhere else, it is because it is contributing to something that is happening here.

Here is the first mountain, Kero Fin, the Mother of Mountains. Here is the First River, the Engizi River, where the first water fell from above and flowed to the sea. Here was the first fight, when Orlanth defeated Sh’hakarzeel, and sent it fleeing eastward. Here Orlanth and Ernalda wed, with their families and friends sitting on either side of the Dragonspine. Here Vingkot made the first tribe, Hantrafal burned the first sacrifice to the gods, and Durev and Orane settled the first homestead, with its pigs and barley and longhouse and grain hut. Vingkot’s children lived here, Heort lived here, and Orlanth began and ended the Lightbringer’s Quest here.

The Four Great Mountains mark our land. Of course, Kero Fin is greatest, because she is the Mother of Mountains. Kero Fin is the tallest mountain in the world. She can be seen from anywhere, even as far away as the Choralinthor Sea. Kero Fin is the mother of Orlanth, and they are together in the center of the world. Lowlanders call our land Dragon Pass.

Three great mountains form a triangle around Kero Fin, and we Heortlings live within their boundaries. These three are Spider Mountain, in the north, where Engizi falls; Arrowmound, among the Skyreach Range in the southwest; and Stormwalk, a distinctive spiral-shaped peak among the Storm Mountains to the south. Many other important mountains are nearby, of course, but these are the great ones.

Spider Mountain used to be called Conquest Mountain or Blackorm Mountain, because it was made when Orlanth dropped it on a dragon that threatened Vingkot and Barntar. Later, the demon called Cragspider rescued the dragon, and it is now her thrall. Everyone fears Cragspider, a demigoddess also called the Fire Witch, the Troll Goddess, the Darkness Monster, and the Daughter of the Spider. Spider Mountain stands beneath the great Skyfall of Engizi, which is a hole in the sky. Engizi is an ocean that rains downward continually from the black clouds that hide the wound, into the deluged Lake, where trolls go fishing.

Arrowmound is always snowcapped, and stands among several similar peaks of the Skyreach Range. When he drove off Jagrekriand, Orlanth heaped up this earth and stuck his lightning arrows into it, ready to be grabbed and hurled with deadly force. On Arrowmound, Jarani got Justice from Orlanth the first time. Here, too, Heort got Justice from Jarani. We still go there today to get it. Arrowmound was one of the places that the Lightbringers stopped when they went on their great quest. The winged nar sylla people, also called wind children, live on its steep slopes.

Stormwalk was a rock monster, a foe of our ancestors, until mighty Urox grabbed it by the head and twisted it into a spiral, whose shape can be clearly seen from any distance. Upon its slopes, Orlanth tamed the Storm Bull to be his follower. Upon its peak Hendreik the Untouchable hid in splendor, though if you walk up it around the spiral you find only ice and snow, and perhaps the stead of gigantic men all frozen solid at dinner. Urox raised the other Storm Mountains to prevent a fight between his friends Tada and Vingkot. Followers of the heropath of Gorangi Vak can tame the ferocious zarur sky bulls that live on the top, gaining powerful flying mounts.

Quivin Mountain is a large, steep peak that rises north of the Storm Mountains, from which the Sambari Pass separates it. It is the mountain from which Orlanth leapt into the sunset to kill the Fire King. It is the mountain that Vingkot leapt upon to prove his worthiness to be king. Down its slopes came the first blue sheep of ancient times. Within its valleys, King Sartar established once-proud Boldhome, capital of the Kingdom of Sartar.

The Engizi River is also called the Creekstream River because its three main sources are the Creek, the Stream, and the River. It used to empty into the Marzeel River, but the Pharaoh diverted it several centuries ago. The waters now flow through the New River and empty into the Choralinthor Sea through the lands of the Esrolians.

Who Lives Near Us?

Four-ways and other strangers surround us. You must beware of foreigners, for they worship strange gods, and cannot be trusted. All of them are less than whole, and most of them are our enemies. Their stories are twisted, and lack the power of our own myths. They have nothing that we want.

Esrolians look like us and call us cousins, but long ago their grandmothers grew greedy, and they no longer follow the true ways. They have nothing that we want.

Aeolians look like us and call on Orlanth, but they worship another, distant god who is really Nothingness. They have nothing that we want.

Tarshites are a fallen people, who have surrendered their lands and their breaths to the Shepelkirt, the goddess of the Red Moon. Their rain is weak, though they love Ernalda. They have nothing that we want.

Lunars are evil. They are less than human; they do not gift, they are not free! They cannot breathe the soul of our land. They are our greatest enemies, and they try to enslave us and turn us from our gods. Their own goddess seeks to claim Orlanth’s place as Master of the Middle Air. They have nothing that we want.

The horse-spawned Grazelanders have strange gods, and raid out of season. Their Feathered Horse Queen holds the sovereignty of Kerofinela, but her thanes neither plow nor reap. They have nothing that we want.

The nomads of Prax are cowards and thieves. They are barely human. They sleep beneath their animals, and do not wash. They have nothing that we want.

We do not want the world, or great empires, or fine cities of stone. We want only our own lands, our cattle, and the freedom of the winds. This is our hope for our children. It is our way, and to defend this way we will fight and we will die. We are the true people, the People of the Storm, and we can become the thunder.

What Makes Us Special?

We live by the sacred stories. We are made strong by story, molded by myth, empowered by the sacred truths of the godar. Knowing the eternal stories means we understand how the gods made the sacred order – we walk their paths, and we shape the world as they did.

Our rituals and ceremonies take us to the Godplane, the Other Side, and there we meet the gods themselves. We take their roles, we bargain with them, and sometimes we even fight them. The Godplane is that timeless source-place where everything begins, and where everything happens at once. Even the hells of the underworld have their beginnings there.

On the Godplane, we walk down the paths the gods walked: we do as they did, and gain their power and magic. Every adult of our tribe has seen Karulinoran, where Orlanth toasts his heroes in hall, and green Daleel, where ripen the fragrant fields of Ernalda. Every man has met Second Son, and fought alone against the Predark, and every woman has slept alongside Ernalda and learned her secret wisdom in the Nurturing Dark.

Our stories hold the secrets of our rituals and ceremonies, the secrets of our gods. They are our greatest treasures. The most powerful myths are known only to the godi, who require many years of training to receive them. But everyone knows the most important tales. There is wisdom in our weaving songs, in the lays of our heroes, and even in the cattle-boasts that the children recite round the hearth. Listen, and you will understand.

Other clans may know our sacred stories. Sometimes they do not know all the secrets or their stories are wrong, and so their ceremonies are not as powerful as ours are. Some other clans’ myths are confused, and they do not understand their gods. Their power is diminished.

In Sacred Time our stories become flesh. The realms of gods and men become one, and then we ourselves shape the world and sustain the Sacred Order. For the Godtime is not only long ago, it is here, it is now, it is all around us.

How Orlanth Made the World

In the beginning there was a huge mountain at the center of the world that was called the Spike. It was everything, and inside it lived the Gloranthan Court, gods and goddesses that do not exist anymore.

Some gods and goddesses came outside of the Spike and shaped the world. Among these gods was Umath, Orlanth’s father. Umath made the air and everything in between the earth and the sky. Asrelia is the mother of Ernalda, Esrola, and Maran Gor, and she shaped the earth and underworld. 

After Umath was killed, Orlanth became leader of the world. He defeated the Emperor, an oppressive foreign god who stole breath from the air, life force from the earth, and fluidity from the water, and who banished all darkness to the Underworld. Then Orlanth calmed his brothers, welcomed deities who were not his relatives, and formed the family of gods called the Storm Tribe.

When Orlanth married Ernalda the great Storm Age began, when all was well. Orlanth and Ernalda ruled over all of the Middle Heavens. His Storm Tribe married into her Earth Tribe, and the people were our ancestors, the Vingkotlings. Orlanth fixed all troubles, and people were happy.

Enemy gods then ruined everything. Hunger, death, and darkness took away all that made life worthwhile, until even Ernalda entered the Great Sleep. Chaos gods, led by Wakboth, invaded the world. Orlanth fought but could not win, and so he sought another way. He called his companions together, and they set off on the greatest quest ever. They went to the Gates of Dusk, entered the Underworld, and sought the Land of the Dead. The Great Darkness began.

After they had left, Wakboth destroyed the Spike. Evil and Chaos were everywhere. Some weak gods helped a few people to survive, but Chaos monsters destroyed many humans. Heort taught our ancestors how to survive, and we initiate our children to be adults with his rites even now. Thus, we are called the Heortlings.

Orlanth fought, cajoled, and tricked his way to the Land of the Dead. He liberated all life from the underworld, including Ernalda and our ancestors. The Sun rose, an event called The Dawn because it was the first one. Orlanth and his companions have ever since been called the Lightbringers, because they brought back the light.

The gods and goddesses of the Storm Tribe, led by Orlanth and Ernalda, took rightful rule over the universe. The other gods, both foreign and enemy, took their appointed places as well. All was fine again, but not for long, for the Red Moon appeared. Evil re-entered the world, and Chaos once again invades. The Red Moon and her minions swarm upon us and Orlanth calls us to fight.

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