During the Lesser Darkness, Ernaldela was ruled by a tribe of Air demigods (the Vingkotlings), who protected the goddesses of the land but also fought with trolls, sky people, dwarves, elves, and of course each other. Their rule was inherently unstable and when the Vingkotlings fought their own Mahabharata, the royal line was wiped out. And so the Esrolian Grandmothers seized power for their own protection and established the earliest framework of Esrolian society – rule by the priestesses of the Earth cults.
However, the Grandmothers enabled survival, not recovery. Recovery came from the Silver Age heroes.
The Silver Age heroes straddle the period between the Greater Darkness and the Dawn and helped knit the world back together. The most widely recognized Silver Age heroes include: Queen Merngala of Nochet, who was called daughter of Ernalda; King Heort, who fought the Unity Battle and founded the Heortling peoples; Vogarth, who was often called simply the Strong Man; Kalops the Sacrificial King; Tessele the True, who relit the fires that warm the earth; Aram ya-Udram, who conquered the pig demon, Gouger; Panaxles the Builder, credited with many of the ancient structures; and Sestarto the Artist, who first depicted the gods in sculpture and painting.
The Silver Age heroes are known throughout Dragon Pass and the Holy Country. Every Sartarite knows their stories, just as every Esrolian does. But they are perhaps more important to the identity of the Esrolians.
NOTE: few if any of these Silver Age heroes have independent cults. Their worship has long since been incorporated into larger cults, such as Ernalda, Orlanth, or Caladra and Aurelion. The following is a Third Age Holy Country or Sartarite overview:
Merngala the Great Queen
The greatest queen of Esrolia, Queen Merngala was the daughter of Esrola. She wielded awesome Earth powers, gained when her goddess mother retired to the Land of Sleep. Her main residence was a palace on Lake Bakan where her army guarded the bodies of the dead. The site is now simply called the Necropolis. With the Dawn, Merngala invited the Lightbringers back to Nochet.Merngala was a mighty priestess with many husbands and is the model to which all Esrolian queens are compared. Some husbands were rivals for her at times, even murdering each other, as Heort did to Panaxles, or were boon companions, as were Aram ya-Udram and Vathmai Entrulsson. Even the Only Old One was her husband. She had Panaxles and the Strong Man build the great walls around Nochet and invited the Waertagi to set up piers for the dragonships. Merngala had Sestarto decorate the city and temples with countless sculptures inhabited by the gods. She allied with King Heort but did not join his kingdom. Merngala is worshiped as the founder goddess of Nochet.
Founder of the Heortling people, Heort was born in the Greater Darkness and spent his youth in hiding as the forces of Chaos destroyed the world. When all the world was gone, and every man was alone, Heort went out upon the world. There, at the edge of the world, he met with the Second Son, who told him of his great and terrible battle. The Second Son showed Heort his wounds, and the secret of the Star Heart, and told him the secrets of the I Fought We Won Battle.
Heort remembered that fight and went on past the Second Son, to the edge of the world. There he met the evil of his world and won. He made his way to Dragon Pass where he found others to resist the encroaching Chaos, and he made friends to fight the Unity Battle. King Heort supported the Only Old One to create the Unity Council.
Heort was one of the husbands of Queen Merngala, a bountiful woman of great fame, who is elsewhere recorded as the object of many Silver Age rivals. Another famous wife was Ivarne, who founded several dynasties in Dragon Pass. Heort fought several famous battles and duels.
At the Dawn, King Heort reestablished worship of Orlanth and the Lightbringers throughout his lands. When he died, Heort was burned sitting upright upon his throne, atop a colossal bier surrounded by his treasures. A huge wind rose and carried all away in a maelstrom of fire. Afterwards, people everywhere in his land worshiped him.
Vogarth was the Strong Man. He was huge, powerful, and generally kind, but he was noted for his dull mind as well as his great power; he was the strongest man in the world.
He did many great deeds. The Strong Man was always ready to engage in challenges of strength. A huge stone giant once came and threatened the Only Old One, who called for Vogarth’s help. He came running and cracked the stone giant with his hammer and saved the Only Old One. He threw a dragonship onto the Palace of Black Glass, and the trolls ate the Waertagi. Another time he challenged Jeri Babo, called the Immovable Person, and pushed him off his chosen place. Another time, he carried the wondrous Living Stone Tree from the Footprint to Queen Merngala’s palace. She took him as her husband for a while and had him build the walls around her city.
Kalops was the Sacrificial King. He gave his very life to animate the Victory Spirit that inspired the troops at the Battle of Henerel, where the dog men were defeated and destroyed to the last creature.
Tessele the True
Tessele, a mortal child of Aurelion, was one of the first Twin Priests. When her Soul-Sibling was trapped and sacrificed by the Priests of Thed, her subsequent quest for vengeance made her the first hero of the cult.
In those troubled God Times, Tessele set off on impossible tasks that she performed through the efforts of miracles and willpower, eventually even succeeding in reconstructing and resurrecting her lost partner.
Aram ya-Udram was a great hero in the early Dawn Age. Aram was a civilized statesman, experienced general, and a religious leader of the Orlanth Adventurous cult. His most famous deed was defeating Gouger the God-Child, a divine boar. He took Gouger’s great tusks and made the Ivory Plinth, gaining control over the wild boars of the region.
Aram ya-Udram was a great friend of King Heort, and one of the husbands of Queen Merngala, but his boon companion was Vathmai Entrulsson. Together, Aram ya-Udram and Vathmai defeated the Pralori, and Vathmai founded the first ruling dynasty of Slontos.
At the Dawn, Aram ya-Udram was chosen to represent humanity on the World Council of Friends. Aram ya-Udram lived over two hundred years. When he died in 178 S.T., he was burnt at the Ivory Plinth, finally retiring to the Other Side. Aram ya-Udram had always worn a necklace of diamonds, which he named Uleria’s Necklace. At his funeral, the Goddess appeared and proclaimed a contest to win it. The winner of this contest was chosen to speak for humanity on the World Council of Friends, although the custom ended soon after when the council became the High Council of Genertela.
Panaxles the Architect
Panaxles was descended from the Stone-Souled builders and was thus related to the dwarfs. His mothers were the Tilntae, who were prevalent and important in the early ages of the world. Panaxles lived atop the slopes of the Spike before the Great Darkness. When the Spike was destroyed by Chaos, Panaxles managed to land in the place known as the Broken Arms. He was captured by trolls and made for them the Shadow Plateau to protect their Palace of Black Glass as a fortress against Chaos. The Only Old One set Panaxles free, who then wandered throughout Kethaela during the Silver Age.
Panaxles was the great builder of the period. He built the oldest sections of the temple at Ezel; the walls of Nochet; the palace of Queen Merngala; Whitewall; and many other famous buildings. Panaxles became a rival of King Heort over the affections of Queen Merngala and built for her the great sewers that drain the city of Nochet. It is said that King Heort met Panaxles upon the day the sewers were completed and the first waters rushed through it. Panaxles mentioned his contentment with his creation; Heort agreed, yet added, “It is a shame it is so ugly.” Thus began one of the most famous feuds of the Silver Age.
Sestarto the Artist
Sestarto the Artist shaped the landscape to create Ageless Beauty. He made the Farfalls, the Needle, and the sculptures that populate Ezel and the temples of Nochet. His sculptures became more and more realistic as he worked. Once, he made a sculpture in human shape. That was Ahrela, the Most Wanted, the Desired. The statue is still worshiped as an incarnation of Uleria, for everyone who sees it is seduced by it.
The Silver Age heroes are the great mythical figures of song and story. Everyone has stories about Queen Merngala and her many husbands – some are always mentioned (like Heort), but others appear in just one story. The Silver Age cycles contradict each other in chronology – and there are likely many different Lhankor Mhy attempts to put them in order, but new stories are continually told, and each true. Their deeds are in the God Time, not mundane Time.
The Only Old One is of course the center of the next set of notes.
How the Great Darkness ended, and the Silver Age started? The Great Darkness is generally said to have ended with I Fought We Won. But some identify its end with the culmination of the Lightbringers Quest or other events.
I thought the Dawn was the end of the Greater Darkness? Depends on your vantage point. The Theyalans have loads of stories about a time of great heroes who did great things after I Fought We Won but before the Dawn. Plenty of sages will tell you that some four or five hundred years were between I Fought We Won and the Dawn.
The War of the Sword and Helm, which ended the Vingkotling Dynasty, really must be the Orlanthi Kurukshetra War. The leaders of sides were closely related, and like in the Mahabharata, the warriors were pretty much wiped out on both sides. In some accounts, the Battle of the Last Royal Betrayal went for days, with numerous duels and contests, but basically everyone died. Some stories say just twelve warriors survived out of the countless thousands who fought there.Of course many great speeches, poems, and teaching get attributed to this by some of the Orlanthi – it was awful, but glorious!