Answer by Greg Stafford and Jeff Richard.
The Kitori Empire
After the disasters of the Closing and the Dragonkill, many Kethaelans turned to the Nightcult. The Kitori Empire was reborn and many tribes and clans once again paid the Shadow Tribute to protect them from the Darkness. The Kitori worshiped the Darkness in the Dekko Crevice and other places sacred to the Shadows. The Kitori were Men of Darkness, creatures that were neither troll nor man, nor were both, but were Kitori. Laymen paid protection to them, and many worked for them as well. Thus representatives of the Kitori appeared more often as man or troll than true Kitori. As darkness creatures, they followed Vamargic Eye-Necklace, leader of the wood trolls, in his wars in Dragon Pass. There were Kitori settlements in the Troll Woods, the Upper Marzeel Valley, in Forthanland and Vusvan.
The Hendrikings fought against this encroachment, but they were weak and people preferred the security of the shadows. Because of Kitori strength and raids, the Hendriking tribe largely abandoned their great fortress of Whitewall except for ceremonial purposes. Since even Kitori attended worship there, it was kept open to all Orlanthi.
The Kitori supported Ezkankekko against the Stranger and were badly hurt by that defeat. Ezkankekko and his primary supporters were all killed. The mighty Engizi River was diverted towards Esrolia and the Styx Grotto became less Styx and more grotto without the sacred waters roaring through. Darkness magic weakened throughout Kethaela. Now it was the Kitori who were weak. They were too weak to delay or slow the Black Spear clan from passing through their lands. Other waves of settlers paid tribute for safe passage through their lands. Belintar did not punish the Kitori and allowed them to recover. Belinar helped the Kitori when the Volsaxing kings seized Whitewall and the surrounding lands. The Nightcult spread, largely through propitiatory worship. Several sites in cities were consecrated and chiefs in many places sent tribute and gifts. From 1460 to 1560, the Kitori collected their tax and worship from the Troll Woods to the Shadow Plateau.
Their power was finally crushed by King Tarkalor Trollkiller of Sartar and his newly introduced gods and soldiers, the Sun Dome Templar mercenaries. Many Kitori fled to the Troll Woods but many more were taken as slaves by the Sun Dome Templars. The Upper Marzeel River was given to the Bacofi clan and the rich Forthanland valley was given to the Templars.
Vaantar and the Templars
Vaantar is an ancient sacred site to the cults of the Sky and Light. During the Resettlement Period and the early decades of the kingdom of Sartar, Vaantar was an important temple of Elmal, belonging to no tribe and defended against the Kitori by determined members of the cult.
Monrogh Lantern, a companion of Tarkalor, brought back Yelmalio to Vaantar, and his presence vitalized the people, who became the core of a rapidly growing cult. Within a generation, half the Elmali of Sartar had joined the new cult, creating terrible strife within the tribes of Sartar. The presence of many unattached foreigners aggravated the social problems.
Tarkalor was the youngest son of Prince Saronil. Around 1550, he was in a noble feud with the Kitori clans, and he promised the new Yelmalio cultists that they could have their own lands and the chance to make their own rules, if they would defeat the darkness. Monrogh Lantern accepted the challenge, and with his new god’s powers bypassed defences and looked into places that had been hidden before. Archers won his day, protected by spear men. The Kitori were smashed and their survivors ran away into the Troll Woods.
The conquered lands and the defeated peoples were divided among the victors. In 1579, King Tarkalor recognized that the Yelmalio cult was legal possessor of the lands of the Amber Fields and Forthanland and the cult erected a new Sun Dome Temple at Vaantar. As a military leader Monrogh took the Kethaelan title of “Count” and its rites; his successors have succeeded to that title.
The lands of the Yelmalio cult – usually called Sun Dome County or Sun County – are now home to approximately 12,000 people. However, only about 2,000 are initiates of the Yelmalio cult; the rest are women, children and a large population of slave helots called ergeshi – descendents of the Kitori captured and enslaved during the wars. The servile ergeshi allow the Yelmalion Templars to spend their time on spiritual practices and military service. Sun Dome County can muster massed archers, spearmen and two superb regiments of Templar pike, although half the army always remains to keep an eye on the ergeshi.
When the Kitori were crushed, the strong and the lucky escaped to the Wilds or places like Teken. The rest were became the ergeshi slaves of the Templars and forced to renounce the Trollmouth and their Kitori magic. Legally, the ergeshi count as half a thrall in law and are subject to routine ceremonial and magical humiliation. Unlike Orlanthi thralls, the children of ergeshi are ergeshi – “as long as they are tainted with Darkness”. They are largely invisible to their Yelmalion lords; they serve as the naked bearers, the carriers, the field-workers and the pack animals. The ergeshi claim that they were made by Orntar the Plow, who freed them from the Darkness when he turned the soil. They worship the gods and goddesses of Vaarntar in communal ceremonies but, as slaves, they do not initiate to Yelmalio. They worship a variety of earth deities, ancestors, and spirits, but are forbidden from sacrificing to the Darkness.
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