The Silver Age
Heort’s great successes inaugurated a period of twilight that preceded the actual first sunrise. This is called the Gray Age, or often the Silver to mark its increasing splendor. Elmal had never left his perch atop Kero Fin, and now he grew stronger when his horses came to him. The people of Dragon Pass, now called Heortlings, began to increase in population. Steads that had survived the endless winter went from a couple of dozen people to a few hundred.
Several famous heroes are remembered from that time. They are not all Orlanthi, but the most important are mentioned here: The Strong Man, Ezkankekko, Panaxles the Architect and Sesarto the Artist, Aram Yaudram, destroyer of Gouger, and the Queen of Esrolia.
At the Dawn, the Heortlings were ten clans with a few thousand members in total. Compared with any other nearby human group they were a unified and comparatively strong people. Furthermore, they were allied with local uz, aldryami, mostali, dragonewts, and other minor races. They were encouraged by their Lightbringer religion to go out and light up the rest of the world.
The Secrets of the Darkness
There is great power in the Darkness – and the Darkness holds the secrets of the Underworld. During the Great Darkness, Ezkankekko – a powerful Darkness entity – offered his protection and friendship in exchange for tribute and acknowledgement. He offered more as well – Ezkankekko offered to teach people the secrets of the Darkness so that they could survive in the Darkness.
Few people took up this second offer until Varzor Kitor accepted and learned at the feet of Ezkankekko the deepest secrets of the darkness. Varzor then taught others – humans, dragonewts, wind children, and anyone else who would learn – how to pray, make sacrifices and learn these secrets. Kitor’s followers learned prayers that halt uz, dehori and anything born of the Underworld (as long as it is of the dark). They learned the secrets of the darkness of night and the darkness after death. These initiates of the Darkness formed a separate people who – regardless of their origin – were called the Kitori.
Ezkankekko greatly favored the Kitori and allowed them to reside with him in the Palace of Black Glass. Ezkankekko made the Kitori his envoys to the peoples of Kethaela and Kerofinela and gave them the privilege of collecting the Shadow Tribute – tribute owed to Ezkankekko from every tribe, settlement and group in Kethaela and Kerofinela for their survival in the Great Darkness. The tribute was not onerous and was fixed by ancient tradition. Failure to pay the Shadow Tribute meant swift and deadly retribution from the Kitori – and because failure to pay was oathbreaking, the guardians and tribal gods would not protect the community.
The peoples subject to the Shadow Tribute were called the Shadowlands or the Kitori Empire. It was an empire of tribute-collection, without governors, government, central laws or rule. The tribes and cities paid the tribute owed Ezkankekko and Ezkankekko offered them protection from the Darkness – especially the Darkness creatures loyal to him: the many thousands of uz of the Shadow Plateau and in the handful of uz trading posts. The Shadowlands coexisted and overlapped with other kingdoms and empires – the Heortling kings and high kings, the Esrolian Grandmothers, the Arstolan Forest and the Gemborg dwarves. But all acknowledged Ezkankekko’s sacred authority: a carefully circumscribed and ceremony authority, but authority nonetheless.
The Kitori were the most visible representative of Ezkankekko’s authority, and they were commonly called the “Shadowlords”. They wore distinctive garb so that all knew their status: black fur-lined cloak and hood, leaden mask, and ebon spear; and trolls or even more frightening darkness entities often accompanied them. Feared and respected as sorcerers and magicians, many viewed the Kitori as the rulers of Kethaela.
Dawn and Time
At the Dawn, the god Time came with his 294 sons and daughters and told Orstohra, King of the Theyalans (the First Age Orlanthi), how to chronicle Time. Time introduced his sons and daughters to the king one after the other. Each backed into the room, bowed to the king, and told him how to speak their name in runes. The Theyalans have kept the proper names of the sons and daughters of Time ever since.
- Prax. Wasteland east of Dragon Pass, occupied by animal-riding nomads who are enemies of the Heortlings.
- Dogland. Region north of the Heortlings, occupied by Tunoralings, a race of thieves, enemies of the Heortlings.
- Votanki Lands. Forested region occupied by Votanki peoples, enemies of the Heortlings.
- Chaos Woods. Forest region inhabited by monsters and Chaos.
- Esrolia. Land occupied by Esrolians, a nation of women who worship Ernalda.
- Shadow Plateau. Site of the Unity Battle and the Palace of Black Glass, here is the center of Ezkankekko the Only Old One’s Power.
- Block Site. Urox smashed Wakboth and pinned him under a huge cube of truestone, a half mile on a side, that is still in Prax.
- Horshassu. The ancestral nest of the ancient dragonewts.
- Unity Battle site. Atop the Shadow Plateau, the united armies of Dragon Pass met the triumphant chaos army fresh from vaporizing the Spike. The united armies and magics were so great than the chaos was unable to absorb, negate or mutate them. Since then, nothing has grown atop the plateau.
The Ten Heortling Tribes
Runes show the sites of their central stead.
- Berenstead, hillfort and temple center of the Berenethtelli Tribe.
- Penentelada, walled town and temple of the Pennenteli Tribe.
- Gorolfstead, hillfort and temple center of the Vestantes Tribe.
- Uraldastead, hillfort village and temple complex of the Forosvuli Tribe.
- Deksarshill, Orlanth temple of the Infithtelli Tribe.
- Karfonstead, hill fort with village of the Liornvuli Tribe.
- Iliastead, town and temple of the Stravuli Tribe enclosed by cyclopean walls.
- Korolstead, village of the Koroltes Tribe.
- Ulaninstead, hillfort, town and temple complex of the Orgovaltes Tribe.
- Ililbervor, fortified temple to Orlanth and Ernalda of the Garanvuli Tribe.
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