After the Dragonkill War, the Only Old One proved himself to be a troll in magical contest with Kajak-ab Brain Eater and so shared rule of Dragon Pass with the leaders in Dagori Inkarth. This led eventually to the first troll civil war in Dragon Pass which weakened the Shadowland trolls greatly. The westerners called upon Lightbringer worshipers to free them from the Shadowlands and again the troll region declined in size. With both seas and Dragon Pass closed to all useful trade, Kethaela was surrounded by poor kingdoms whose residents viewed the Shadowlands as rich prey. Internally, the humans of Kethaela fought amongst each other over the rich fields of Esrolia, until that conflict sputtered out in 1168. Though much of the former richness was gone with the absence of trade, much of value was carried off in plunder during those years. Yet no one invasion was more significant than the appearance of a single, lone stranger.
Belintar was a human being who swam ashore from the deadly sea at the Rightarm Island of Sindpaper one bright morning in the year 1313. He had great bearing and power, and quickly proved he was no mere pauper washed ashore. He undertook great trials and travels, and he made important friends quickly. His origins have remained unknown, though all hell knows that the Only Old One tried.
Belintar revealed that he had come to depose the Only Old One and liberate the land from darkness. He did this through the process of mustering ancient allies on Heroquests and opposing the magical forces which aided the Only Old One. Belintar called forth many of the Silver age heroes, plus others of a more recent or different origin. The process was long and difficult. At one point, Belintar was slain and completely devoured. But in the end, he succeeded. He met the Only Old One himself in combat and cast him down and cut him into pieces. Then he pulverized the Palace of Black Glass, covering all the Shadow Plateau with dense, heavy black sand which smothers most life. He made other changes in the land too: raising Loon Island and creating the City of Wonders in the center of the Mirrorsea; digging the New River to divert the Creek-Stream River to flow into the Lyksos River past Nochet, among others. He then took the title of God-King and began his rule.
The ascension of the God-King in 1318 also marks the beginning use of the term Holy Country to describe this land. Belintar first used it in his proclamation of rule and the tribes all about echoed it, for the land was kept holy by the rites arranged by the God-King. It prospered internally and cowed all who might think to invade it. It sent messengers and merchants outward to the west, through Nimistor to Ralios and beyond.
The Holy Country contained many old secrets which people sought. The investigations of the Jrusteli and the Empire of the Wyrms Friends had unleashed terrible powers which changed the face of the world. Heroquesting had explored and released many ancient things which were blamed for the terrible state of life in the Third Age. Thus, most people shied from investigation and heroquesting. Yet such forces cannot be suppressed by official decree nor unnatural fear once they are remembered, and folk across the continent again used them, carefully.
In contrast, Belintar encouraged exploration of the mythic paths that tied the Holy Country together. Belintar himself explored the Other Side many times and each time proved himself worthy of ruling over a part of the population. He divided the Holy Country into six sections – one dedicated to each of the five Elemental Runes, plus one for the Invisible God of the humanist sorcerers. None were equal in either size or splendor, yet each of them were filled with miraculous holy places whose names are known throughout the speaking worlds. They were:
- Caladraland, the Sixth of Fire;
- Esrolia, the Sixth of Earth;
- Heortland, the Sixth of Air;
- Right Arm Islands, the Sixth of Water;
- Shadow Plateau, the Sixth of Darkness; and
- God Forgot, the Sixth of the Invisible God.
At the center of it all was Belintar and his magical palace at the City of Wonders. From here, he arranged the rituals and ceremonies that tied the Sixths together and blessed the whole land.
The extensive cross-cult communication and interaction under Belintar’s patronage resulted in a mythical synthesis that defined the elemental progression as a continuous cycle rather than as a mere set of oppositional conflict. Belintar’s elemental synthesis enabled the six parts of the Holy Country to work together – not only politically and militarily, but magically and mythologically. Under his enlightened rule, the gods of the Holy Country cooperated for the maintenance of the individual, the Holy Country, and the cosmos. The Holy Country became a land of myth and wonder, where the myriads of religious rites brought the gods down weekly, and where magical roads crossed land, sea, and air.
In 1336, Belintar “used up” his body the first time and the first of the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death was held, which resulted in his divine soul blessing a new body. The Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death was part of Belintar’s elemental synthesis. It recharged and made necessary changes to the magical pathways that united the Holy Country’s mythological landscape.
Although the seas had closed, the merchants of Ralios still desired goods from the Holy Country. Bold adventurers set out from Ralios, through Pralorela, and eastward through Maniria, toward the fabled Holy Country. Over the years they settled several strongholds to look out for their interests. Over time they came to terms with their neighbors, either by conquest, absorption, or assimilation. A series of old chivalrous families, called the Trader Princes, held a chain of forts stretching from Bastis to Esrolia. Their farmers retain their worship of Orlanth without rancor towards (or interference from) their Malkioni overlords.
Dragon Pass had been closed to all humans by a powerful draconic curse in 1120, and since that time only non-humans had lived there. The Beast People, a polyphyletic people, were allies to the Only Old One and fought for him against the usurper, Belintar. When Belintar won and became God-King, the Beast People, like many others, chose to withdraw and observe from the safety of the curse in Dragon Pass.
What is interesting is that their hero, Ironhoof the Centaur, had already allowed some humans to dwell within their area. He had dubbed them the Grazeland Pony Breeders, and they were a peaceful people who loved horses above all else in the world. Whether this was known to the Only Old One is not known, but the God-King’s scouts who entered the land in 1325 were quite surprised. Ironhoof claimed that the human presence was an example of his personal magic, and that the God-King would do well to stay out of Dragon Pass. Belintar agreed, and the Stone Cross was erected to mark the boundary. Ironhoof was very proud and gained much fame for this, but the God-King never exhibited any territorial aggression and was pleased to have the Grazelanders and the Beast People as his allies to the north.
More settlers in Dragon Pass came from Heortland and Esrolia. Many of the Orlanthi sought to worship their gods without Belintar’s interference. Some gathered at the ancient sacred fortress of Whitewall and rebelled. Others left Heortland and resettled Dragon Pass. Dragon Pass was eventually filled by other people as well, migrating from the north. They founded the kingdom of Tarsh in 1330 and fought a famous war against the growing Lunar Empire. During this time, the God-King resisted several invasions, and proved the immense power of his land. Belintar insisted upon strict neutrality in all things. Tarsh agreed, and so the Holy Country became a tacit ally.
Other kingdoms rose and resisted the Lunar Empire for a time, but Tarsh fell in 1490. Belintar supported Sartar’s quest to become King of Dragon Pass, and he aided that kingdom against the Lunar Empire. So, the neutrality of the Holy Country came, once again, into question. But this time there was a new factor, for the seas were now open.
Dormal the Sailor was an intrepid hero, fostered by the benevolence of the God-King’s rule. Upon the researches of others, he dared to brave the deadly seas. Others had tried often, and always failed, before him. Many methods had been tested. Dormal, with the guidance of his friends and the divine guidance of his heart, tried and succeed.
Dormal maintained that his success was built upon a few simple factors, and as long as they were maintained then other men could sail as he did. These factors include: ship design, a particular stout ship with sails; propitiatory worship, especially to the Water gods; and formal cooperation among the crew. Dormal drilled these things into his followers and, in 1580, sailed out from the City of Wonders west to the city of Handra, went across the ocean to the Three Step Isles, and navigated back to the Holy Country. A second fleet was built, and the hero went again to Handra to teach them his secrets. From there he sailed further westward, and Dormal the Opener spread his knowledge along the coast. His secrets were quickly institutionalized to become the Dormal cult, and the hero sailed westward into the sunset and legend. His followers continued onward, often with less pure motivations that their founder, and human navies once again roamed the waters of Glorantha.
The original fleet built by Dormal remained in the Holy Country. When Dormal left Handra, the Holy Country fleet sailed in, proclaimed the laws of the sea as determined by their fleet and magic, and proceeded to stake claim to the waterways of the area. Their claim extended westward and south to the coasts of Ramalia and the Three Step Isles, and to whatever eastward lands their exploratory vessels discovered. Colonies were established in Teshnos and Jrustela. However, after a fleet was sunk by the Kralori in 1588, Belintar decreed that his navy would conquer no more.
And what’s going on in Maniria, you might ask.
The early Third Age was spent stabilizing the lands from the disasters that ended the Second Age. As is common in such turmoil, Chaos found the opportunity to strike and grow. Mallia spread wide her maw, broo raped their way to strength, and a small ogre kingdom tried to gain ascendancy along the Vankthi River before being smashed by otters, newtlings, and an unusual collection of werebeast magicians summoned for the special occasion.
The people sorted themselves into four generalized groups of people, based primarily upon their region and favorite deities. They spoke the same language and knew generally of their common heritage, but thought more of their immediate concerns rather than long-range ideals.
The first group were the coastal and island dwellers. They were mostly survivors from the sinking of Slontos and eked out a poor living with farming. Herding was more successful, but failed to provide enough wealth to support cities. The ruins of Hermat, an ancient Pralori city in ages past, were used as the seat of power. Their favorite god was Voriof, the Herding God, and Humakt was their god of war.
The second group were the tribes of the Noshain River through the fens. They favored Orlanth as King of the Gods, though they had no king themselves. They could not afford to worship the lesser deities of the Lightbringer Pantheon. They were, however, friends with the cult of Noshain, god of their river. Noshain’s cult was exclusively in the control of the otters who guaranteed or withdrew protection of the humans’ rafts and canoes. The playful otters did not bother to oppress with their position of superior communications, and so the peoples were peacefully knit together, plagued only by their daily lives and human jealousies.
The third tribe was the Sarbosi River peoples. They lived in tiny hamlets within the marsh and along the lower river, and in fishing villages along the higher, dryer portions. Their favored deity was Sarboai, the River God that they loved, but they also offered great propitiatory rites to the nameless Spirit of the Marsh, a formless and fearful entity which could control the mud sharks, crocodiles, will o wisps, giant frogs, giant herons, giant whirligigs, eerie mists, dense fogs, and mysterious sounds. It was the Spirit of the Marsh who caused the land to turn to reed and reed to turn to water in the spring, and then change all of the channels of a well-known river when no persons were there to know.
The fourth group were the conservative Pralori in the dryer parts of the region, living in small bands and following the herds of elk from hill to lowland each year. They still worshiped Pralor and Foundchild the Hunter God, and trusted shamans to keep them safe from trouble.
These groups spoke with the same accent, and they preferred to cut their meat in certain ways, or to use different rites in propitiatory sacrifices. But disunity was their most common feature. The Noshain group had at least twenty chieftains who each swore to his own independence, while the traditionalists in the hills were uncountable family bands who met and dissolved according to season or occasion. Their fractured independence was common to all of them.Southward, beyond the rugged Soft Hills, the land of Ramalia was a larger grouping of Slontan survivors. The region was untouched by the disasters, but refugees and raiders had reduced their population. Many kinglets, often bearing ancient titles, waited in their quiet land, listening to philosophers wonder at their sorry fate, and each year beggared themselves with expensive sacrifices to the terrifying ocean in hope that they would be spared their ancestors’ fate.
To the west Tarnin’s Forest had grown in strength. The Aldryami reached from the Soft Hills to the southern edge of the Noshain River and New Fens.
The Elk Hills were, as before, the hunting grounds for barbarians from Pralorela and from Helby in Ralios.
To the east were the Wenelian barbarians. They were mostly forest dwellers, descended from mixed Pralori, Entruli, and Slontan stock. They were mainly Lightbringer worshipers.
Handra Liv was a slave from a land in Ralios, sold as a child to a boatsmith and as a youth to a boating company. She spent years at the oar, plying the rivers and lakes of Ralios until she and her fellows were swept up in the slave revolts of 1150 which swept the lakes of Ralios. Handra was one of thousands who plundered Helby and one of hundreds who managed to escape two years later when heavy horsemen arrived to settle the dilemma. Handra led a loyal band southward through the Elk Hills where some of them found their old people. Handra lived for a while among the traditional Elk peoples, but could not resist the call of the Sarboai River.
Handra went to a place she blessed as the Source of the River, and there found a shrine to Diros, God of Boats. This was also the ancient place where Diros had left the waters to trek overland, and so was already powerful with the spirit. Handra Liv then proceeded downriver, pointing to trees which Diros had shown her in a vision. These were chopped down and sent floating upon the river. Where they all landed was decreed another holy place, and that is the high point boats can sail, called Highwater. There Handra Liv built a boat from the wood she had gathered, and Diros was pleased to see another shrine set up. Then Handra sailed downriver to the mouth of the Sarboai, where it joins the Noshain. There she called together all the people and beings she could find, and together they made a wonderful floating temple to Diros. Handra taught people how to make better boats, and how to worship the boat god. She pleased the otters by making them supreme River Priests in their river, with no other race allowed, though other races are priests on the tributaries.
Handra Liv then sailed downriver with many craft, until they lost sight of both riverbanks and though they must be entering the dreaded ocean. The waters were both muddy and salty when the flotilla was attacked by a kraken and half the loyal boatmen lost. The magical effects of Zzabur’s curse took effect then as they abruptly found themselves sailing towards their river again.
There were some islands nearby and Handra Liv instructed everyone to land on them. They erected another temple to Diros there, the Mouth of the Noshain. The river god answered his summons, and told the prayers which he and Diros had once before made 270 kilometers away from there. A new pact was made, and Handra Liv was awarded High Priesthood of the Noshain.
Handra Liv ruled for 93 years. By that time there were many boats plying their ways along the rivers, aided and guarded by proper worship of the gods. Trade, meager as it was, moved along the waterways. Towns grew up, especially in the northern regions around Highwater where good trekked overland from Ralios.
About the year 1300 a previously sporadic trade emanating from the east, past Wenelia, began steadily entering the New Fens. This was carried overland by Issaries merchants from the Holy Country. This was an unheard of place, but people soon learned that a stranger had swum ashore from the inhospitable seas and, with much labor and several lives, established himself as a God-King, of the region and instituted a new way of life. The Shadowlands, which had been ruled by the Only Old One and his trolls since before the Dawn, was cast down forever.Highwater became an important post along this land-based route. It was also the first site to fall to the adventurous nobles from Ralios who sought to get rich on the route. These Trader Princes established bases through the north of Pralorela and Wenelia to the Holy Country, and for centuries prospered. At first the occupation of Highwater caused consternation among the river peoples, but after wars and invasions proved their eternal cost the inevitable compromise was reached. The rulers of Highwater endorsed the river cult and the city became the unofficial capital of the region.
The press of civilization moved downriver and wherever there was trade or worship there were small towns. Better places fostered larger populations, and the Seven Isles, at the Mouth of the Noshain, was in an excellent position.
Seven Isles was puny by most city standards, but it was the largest city on the coast for many hundreds of kilometers. Its boats also ventured for short distances along the coast, and the residents made contact with newtling groups who lived even further away and who claimed to be in contact with the Deep Sea people, the Triolini.
In 1580 a ship, propelled by sails, approached the Seven Isles from the sea. It was larger than any boat men knew, and everyone recognized the craft of a god. Some thought it was Diros arriving once again.
It was not the god of boats but the god of ships. This was the craft of Dormal the Sailor, who brought new secrets and a cult to the city of Seven Isles. He offered to sell them the secrets, and a long period of peace, for great treasure and wealth. He received it, and kept his word, then recruited many young people and creatures for his crews and sailed off with two ships. Seven Isles quickly set up their religion, built a ship, and tested their faith.
Dormal’s words were true. No black fog enveloped them, no mysterious force turned them about. More ships were built and a small flotilla sailed eastward along the coast, towards the direction Dormal came from. They found other small cities like their own, who were also building ships but were slower since they lacked the resources of the Seven Isles. The flotilla reached the Holy Country, where Dormal came from, and paid homage to the God-King and the High Priest of Dormal.Trade began, and was established with cities to the west as well. In 1583, an army from Ralios moved over the Elk Hills at the request of the Prince of Highwater, and landed into boats to sail south. The intent was to seize the Seven Isles and take control of all the resources of the Noshain. But there was quick resistance, and the invaders were destroyed. A Seven Isles force was sent northward and seized Highwater with aid from the citiens. The Malkion temple was razed and the ashes sent to the wind. An Orlanth Temple, with other shrines in it, was established.
Seven Isles continued its growth, but its leaders did break away from Highwater. The distance was too great, and Seven Isles profited from the inland contact but was rightfully preoccupied with the seas. Highwater lost its importance as a stop along a profitable trade route and dwindled in size. Most people moved to Seven Isles, or more popularly called Handra, which welcomed them and their wares.
When Sartar fell in 1602 many refugees moved south into the Holy Country, but for many there was no welcome for them there. Unrest grew, and many followed their instincts to Seven Isles. A considerable refugee population was established and many wandering exiles have found their way there.
So one thing you should be able to glean from this is that the Trader Princes are “a series of old chivalrous families” reinforced by bold adventurers set out from Ralios.
Now thinking about that whole scale thing, here’s something that was posted on BRP Central – it shows the coast of Maniria from Ramalia to the Holy Country, superimposed over real world areas (Aegean, Southeast US, Great Lakes).
So putting things in perspective, the Choralinthor is smaller than Lake Erie but bigger than the Marmara Sea.
So from Nochet you could see the towers of City of Wonders, if it wasn’t that Holy Island was in the way. Or from Karse, if it wasn’t that Sober Island is in the way. You can definitely see the City of Wonders from Seapolis and Rhigos.
It is about 72 km from Nochet to the City of Wonders, and only about 60 km from Karse to the City of Wonders.If I recall there is actually a dangerous festival-competition where athletes swim from Nochet to Holy Island (12 km distance).
SO in the Third Age you get a movement of mixed peoples from Esrolia and Heortland into Dragon Pass. As the Beasts already occupied Beast Valley, the settlers Esrolians ended up either going into the Dragonspine Hills (and being forced to submit to the rule of the Grazeland Pony Breeders) or went into valleys around the Quivin Mountains. So the Sartarites are likely a mix of Heartlanders with Esrolians.Because of the cataracts on the New River between the Runnel and Lysos Rivers, the Creek-Stream River is not as good a route as one might think. Beast People and trolls pose problems for caravans, which the route using the Sartarite roads avoids.