Micheal O’Brien (Mob) is one of the regular posters in the RuneQuest Facebook Group. here’s some of his recent RuneQuest posts, only Mob’s replies are included where relevant. Facebook membership is required to access the originals.
The Unlucky XIIIth Aka The Cack-Handers
To test and strengthen their faith, Yelmalions who take a gift also take a geas. Yelmalio bestows these so that his people will serve him better, and to admonish and correct the wayward.Unfortunately, some of Yelmalio’s geases make it difficult for those who receive them to continue serving in the line of battle, which relies on a uniformity of action and singularity of purpose.Templars whose collection of geases renders them incapable of joining the line are instead sent to a serve in a specialised unit at Harpoon, as are other templar misfits: inveterate left-handers, shirkers, and assorted reprobates not considered bad enough to warrant a spell at Pent Ridge. Here they guard the famous giant spear-throwing weapon that sits high on the bluffs.Although officially designated the XIIIth Square (“the Unlucky Thirteenth”), the rest of the Sun Dome Templars fix on the left-handers in this group and derisively refer to them all as the “Cack-Handers”.
Led by the senior initiate (and sometimes Light Son) Ouric Goldflinger, whose chequered career is said to have earned him the unofficial Sun County record of simultaneous geases, the Cack-Handers are formed into outsized half-files of 10 or more, depending on their prohibitions.The lowest of the low are the final file, the “Dirty Dozen” who all share that same unfortunate geas, “Never bathe”.
The XIIIth Square on parade are certainly an interesting sight, lining up with a variety of armour missing, and carrying assorted weapons or shields in either hand. The other templars snigger and say that the only thing more amusing than watching the Cack-Handers try to form a reasonable shield wall is watching them try to eat at dinner time.In the Time of Two Counts, many members of the Cack-handers – including all those who were actually left-handed – defected to Lord Belvani. Ouric Goldflinger did not, and Countess Vega has rewarded his loyalty by reinstating him as a Light Son.
Isn’t everyone bar Dragon newts right handed? Only if you use the Orlanthi definition of “all”. Yes, left-handedness is a dragonewt thing. And it seems to be a thing of those who embrace the Sun Dragon heresy.
there’s a new civil war happening in Sun County, between those who have embraced Yelmalio in his Sun Dragon aspect under ‘anti-count’ Belvani, an ally of Argrath White Bull, and those who cleave to the traditional values and practices under Yelmalio’s cold light, with Lady Vega Goldbreath as their leader (ironically, the first-ever female Count).
“Beg the Count to pluck out your eyes rather than send you to Pent Ridge.”- Sun Domer adageSun County’s salt mines are at Pent Ridge, several days journey east from Wiley’s Well, out in the parched wastes of Vulture’s Country. Formed from where one side of a great fault line subsided, the exposed ridge extends for many kilometers in a roughly northern direction – serving as a pointer for the animal nomads to the broad grasslands of Pent.
BTW, the disgraced and defrocked Light Priest Daystar was banished to Pent Ridge after his morally repugnant crimes came to light. Daystar was tried in secret, and no one knows why Count Solanthos chose to exile him to the mines, forbidden to see the sun, rather than just have him executed or immured in a retirement tower.
Sun Domers don’t have cavalry of their own – they call on their co-religionist allies in the tribes for such a role.
The Sun Domers of Prax gave up riding horses during the Solitude of Testing (1200 – 1575), adapting to their fate on foot. As first described in RQ2’s Pavis and then RQ3’s Sun County.Also look out for a recent post of mine here with the heading “Things are going to have to change in order to stay the same”.
Despite centuries of separation, the Sun Dome Templars of Prax share many enduring cultural values and practices with their distant Yelmalion kin in Dragon Pass and beyond. One interesting variation is food.As is well-known, Templars on campaign in the wider Yelmalian world subsist on their famous ‘black pudding’ – actually a large type of sausage. From Sartar to Saird, Yelmalio mercenaries on the march may be seen with these hearty black sausages dangling from their belts.But when Arinsor first marched his Templars across the Long Dry, the searing heat caused their blood sausages to dry and shrink. By the time the regiment reached Pavis all that remained inside the shriveled casings was a pungent black ooze. Adapting to the arid conditions of their new home, the Yelmalions settling Sun County embraced this concentrated paste as their new special food*.
Known as “black gold”, the thick, viscous paste is unknown anywhere else.Whereas it’s common knowledge Yelmalio black pudding is made of groats soaked in animal blood (typically mutton or goat), and with only vinegar and salt for flavour, the recipe for black gold is a closely-held cult secret.With an arresting, almost sulphurous odour, black gold has a strong, bitter taste laconically described as “as dark as Hell”. It is typically served on dry bread or barley cakes. Black pudding is more versatile; it is usually sliced and fried, or put into a soup, but can also be eaten raw in the hand while on the road.While black pudding is nourishing, its flavour is strong but unsophisticated. Black gold on the other hand is very much an acquired taste. On meeting fellow Yelmalions from Vaantar in early 1625, Sun Domers serving under Daystar were told the boisterous tale of how a detachment had been captured and disarmed by the Lunars, only to bludgeon their way to safety using their black puddings as weapons. The Praxian Sun Domers just laughed – “All we’d have to do is get those soft Imperials to try black gold and they’d all run screaming”, they said.
(*Or so it is told. This explanation may be nothing more than an aetiological fable, recounted by the Praxian Sun Domers to culturally connect with their distant Yelmalio kin. It is telling that a curious Irripi Ontor sage acquired a sample of black gold in Furthest, and their magical analysis found the paste to be of vegetable origin, with no blood or other animal parts. “If black gold is a treasure, it’s a treasure no one wants”, summarised the sage, while gagging and looking for a bucket.)
Winning By Not Losing
While the current (1627) politico-religious instability in Sun County, Prax is indeed highly regrettable, up until now the Sun Domers there have always managed to not be on the losing side, ever since leaving the Pure Horse People in the lurch at Alavan Argay in 1250*.Likewise, they prudently lined up with the Lunars at First Battle of Moonbroth in 1610 – and so got to tenaciously hang on to their independence during the Lunar domination of Prax.But then, come Second Moonbroth fifteen years later, and they adroitly and unexpectedly switched sides again, quite literally at the last moment. (I can picture the Sun Dome Templars all dutifully lining up in a shield wall with the Lunars, then suddenly opening a gap for the White Bull’s nomad hordes and passively standing by as the rout and massacre of their former allies ensues.)The reigning Count was (curiously enough) the only Sun Dome casualty at Moonbroth II, and unfortunately two rival claimants emerged to succeed him.King Argrath formally recognises one of them, but after being driven out of his rival power base at the Old Sun Dome, “Count” Belvani finds himself stuck in impotent exile in Suntown, New Pavis, lacking funds and men.The other claimant, Lady Vega, is firmly ensconced at the Great Sun Dome, and has carefully taken pains to not provoke the new regime in Pavis upriver.I suspect the Yelmalio hero Rurik Runespear, one of Argrath’s Companions, will be the figure who eventually brokers a lasting compromise and peace in Sun County, Prax – probably involving further revelations of the Many Suns. Fortunately for Countess Vega’s rule of Sun County, Argrath White Bull himself has far, far bigger fish to fry in Dragon Pass and beyond to care much about that insignificant and strategically unimportant backwater.
As with his ‘Holey Wheels’ stunt, Lord Invictus called on the heavens to rebuke him if he did any wrong at Moonbroth, and Yelmalio did not answer.
“I Don’t Know What’s Scarier, Losing Obsidian Warheads, or That It Happens So Often There’s Actually A Term For It.”
In my recent post about the great spear-casting machine at Harpoon, a commenter wondered where the Sun Domers got the obsidian tips for the three mighty arrows shot at the Cradle? And that got me thinking…I don’t believe any of the Harpoon’s later arrows have the special obsidian tips – it’s just those three huge bolts that date all the way back to the original construction of the machine. And I suspect it’s the razor-sharp and enchanted obsidian warheads that make those particular arrows so-called “dragon killers”.As to where the warheads came from, I think we can say it was the refugee Dwarf who originally built the Harpoon. In the aftermath of the Dragonkill War, it was these obsidian tips that helped convince the Sun Domers his great machine would protect them from the vengeful wrath of Dragons.The Dwarf stole the obsidian warheads from an EWF bunker when he fled Dragon Pass. Yes, we’re talking a “Broken Arrow” situation here…
I’m currently having fun revising/updating an old, old scenario of mine for inclusion in the fourth book of Jonathan Webb‘s ‘Sandheart’ series, set in Sun County, Prax.
The adventure culminates with the Templar assault on the Cradle at Harpoon: the player characters get the take part in that epic event, from the Sun Domer side! If you’ve read or played RQ2’s ‘The Cradle’ adventure (hey, available in print again: https://bit.ly/3pafDWX), you’ll know that the great spear-throwing machine lobs three mighty chained arrows at the Cradle, and the Sun Domers attempt to haul it to shore (having requisitioned every oxen in the County).In that scenario, these arrows are described as having razor-sharp obsidian points and are 25 meters long (!!). So, given the Cradle Valley runs through a desert, where did the Sun Domers get such mighty lumber from?The answer lies in the River of Cradles’ headwaters in the Rockwood Mountains. While tree trunks sometimes come down in the winter floods, people from Pavis and Sun County can head upriver to get supplies of timber when needed, although it is a difficult and dangerous enterprise.
The Sun Domers’ great arrows are fashioned by specially trained artisans at the hamlet of High Water, several km down river from Harpoon. The redwood tree trunks used for this come from the great forest around Leaping Place Lake at the headwaters of the Zola Fel.
Floating the logs downstream is only possible at certain times of the year, and is an adventure in itself, going through the troll-infested Desolation Hills, Pavis County and the Big Rubble, to the Lands of the Sun. Ensuring a supply of this timber is one of the main responsibilities of the XIIIth Square (“the Unlucky Thirteenth”), who are based at Harpoon.
Their leader, Ouric Goldflinger, has led three such expeditions in the past decade.Most of the missiles for regular use are only 10-15 meters long; although there are still much taller trees at the Leaping Place, manoeuvring logs bigger than this downstream would be considered extremely challenging, if not impossible. The three great bolts launched at the Cradle date from the harpoon’s original setting at the Sun Dome, though few people remember that*. Old stories say they would be powerful enough to pierce the hide of a dragon and kill it, should one ever threaten the land. *The history of the Harpoon is all but forgotten by the people of Sun County. Only Hector the Wise, the temple librarian, knows the whole tale. As one might suspect, its original purpose had nothing to do with skewering pirate ships or sea monsters swimming up the Zola Fel. The harpoon actually dates from the period just after the Dragonkill War (1100 ST), when the people of the Sun Dome tore down their old temple, purged themselves of any vestiges of EWF-inspired solar draconism and returned to the unsullied, pure light of Yelmalio. Fearing the vengeance of the Sun Dragon, to protect their land the Sun Domers built a series of watch towers throughout the County. And with the expertise of a dwarven refugee from EWF persecution the Great Ballista was built at their newly constructed Sun Dome Temple, to protect it from draconic retribution.
Who would they normally shoot these mighty arrows at? Sea monsters and pirates. But the Great Ballista originally sat atop the Sun Dome Temple’s lookout tower, always loaded, a great arrow pointing directly at the sky. There it stayed for several hundred years, ever ready to strike deep into the heart of a vengeful dragon. But the dragons never came, and the fear gradually passed from people’s minds. The County, however, was beset by other enemies during this time, which is known in the histories as the ‘Solitude of Testing’. To deal with more immediate river-bourne threats the machine was moved to its present location. Later a settlement sprung up around it.
“Things are Going to Have to Change in Order to Stay the Same”
Jeff recently talked about the challenges Yelmalio worshippers in Sartar face maintaining their distinct society among the dominant Orlanthi cultures of Dragon Pass.Of course, it was no picnic for the Sun Domers stuck out in the Mad Max II hellscape of Prax either. When Pavis fell in 1200 ST and civilisation as-they-knew-it thus ended on the River of Cradles, their struggle to survive and maintain their identity hinged on convincing the hostile Praxian tribes surrounding them that they, the People of the Sun, deserved to be seen as better than mere Oasis Folk, that the nomads regarded as little more than chattels.How did they accomplish this? Palishon was Light Captain, and then later Count when the ‘Solitude of Testing’ began. He solemnly told his people, “Things are going to have to change, in order to stay the same.” Like their kin back in Sartar, rigorous military training provided a line of defense. But giving up their cherished horses was a key to the Sun Domer’s survival. Adapting to their fate on foot at least removed the automatic and unthinking antipathy of all the Waha tribes*.Palishon also reestablished closer bonds with the Animal Nomads, which had grown distant in the years of peace and plenty. This came about after he was captured by the Impala Nation (or, it is said, allowed himself to be taken prisoner). The khans were about to inflict terrible punishments on him when Palishon proved to them that their great spirit Sky Daughter and Yelmalio were in fact one and the same**.As it happens, their co-religionists in the nomad tribes actually outnumbered the sedentary Sun Domers 2:1. The pacts made between them by Palishon have helped maintain the status quo to this day; the great Sun Dome is a holy place to Praxian and Sun Domer alike.Count Palishon certainly deserves his epithet “the Clever” in the recitation of the Light List, even if his precise deeds are no longer fully remembered.
*The Sun Domers also broke off the long-standing alliance with the Pure Horse Tribe, which doubtless contributed their defeat and banishment from Prax at the Battle of Alavan Argay in 1250. Whether this was adroit statecraft or perfidious betrayal depends on your point of view. But it is said the Sun Domers’ geas “Never let a horse suffer needlessly” originates from this time.
**I’m thinking a kind of ‘Man Who Would Be King” situation here…
MOB is completely correct here. The Yelmalio cult held out and even prospered in Prax during the Solitude of Testing for over 300 years.
As MOB says, part of that success comes from the cult being accepted by several of the Praxian tribes. However, Yelmalio was embraced not only by the Impala (Yelmalio is one of the three main men’s cults among that tribe – and tied with Waha and Orlanth), but also by the Zebra and Sable Nations. In fact, Yelmalio is the second most important men’s cult among the Sable Tribe (after Waha) and the Zebra (after Pavis).
I kind of imagine Sun County in Prax to be something akin to Alexandria Eschate. Surrounded by hostile local tribes, it managed to hold on long enough to rejoin its co-religionists after the Dorasor founded New Pavis and Varthanis brought the light of Monrogh and ended the Darkness.Jeff Richard
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