Shadowlands – the Only Old One was the son of Argan Argar and Esrola, born in the Lesser Darkness. Argan Argar, a powerful Darkness deity and one of the commanders of the forces of Darkness on the Surface World, set up a camp atop Esrola, and the goddess went to him to plead mercy. Argan Argar told her to stand proud, for he would rather have her friendship than her fear. He became her lover and protector, and their child was the Only Old One, who was made king of the land.
Lodril was a spiteful and powerful god, and he attacked this place of darkness, but he was captured and subdued by Argan Argar and forced to work for that god of night. Lodril was forced to build the great
, wherein lived the Only Old One and his minions. It was a huge metropolis with tall slender spirals rising over spiked turrets of sharp obsidian. Its basement reached the Underworld, and its tallest tower reached to the sky’s zenith until it was broken by the Sun in the Dawning.For millennia, Esrolia was protected by the Only Old One. Now the Only Old One was both benevolent AND malevolent. He was a troll after all (or was he?). He strictly followed his bargains, but the terms of those bargains could be cruel and merciless. The Only Old One endured for over a thousand years. He was the offspring of Argan Argar and Esrola, but also in some means a mortal or demigod rather than a full god subject to the constraints of the Compromise. He regularly acted in Time, but is thought to have had several incarnations. He definitely did not require something like the Tournament – instead it would appear that his connection to the divine realm was his Palace of Black Glass (aka the Palace of Night) that enabled him to directly access the Underworld.
The Only Old One’s influence can still be seen in Esrolia:
There are still places of shadow and darkness (the Necropolis is perhaps the most important, but there are many others).
Many secrets are kept in the shadows – for example Lanbril lurks in the shadows.
Yelmalio (by whatever name we call him) is a much smaller cult in Esrolia than in other Orlanthi lands.
Argan Argar is a powerful and fearsome deity, capable of defeating Lodril and forcing him to make the Palace of Night. Argan Argar is still one of the most important cults in Esrolia – think of him like a fearsome asura who is nonetheless worshiped because he is the husband of Esrola (who is just a guise of Ernalda after all).
The Shadowlands era casts a long shadow (ha ha!) over modern Esrolia. It is an era with both benevolence and cruelty. It is not just (as Belintar is), but it is pragmatic and bargained for. An Equal Exchange – I feed you so that you do not feed upon me. But in return, you agree to protect me. Of course, if I do not feed you, then not only do you not protect me, but you likely feed upon me.This affects how the Esrolians view the Darkness. Not as evil or a source of fear, but as something dangerous that can be bargained with.
One way of thinking about the Only Old One is like how the Ozians viewed the Terrible Wizard of Oz. He was a fearsome and dangerous being, who also could give good advice and generally kept the peace. But don’t bother him with trivial disputes or treat him with disrespect lest he devour you!
The fabled pragmatism of the Esrolians perhaps comes from this. The Only Old One is an ally because 1. he is useful, 2. he is too powerful to afford as an enemy, and 3. his demands are affordable. This is not an ideological alliance – that’s not really the Esrolian way. It is pure pragmatism.And of course, Belintar made a much better offer as we will see soon.
It is worth keeping in mind that the Shadowlands were darkest in the Dawn Age, interrupted by the Broken Council for a generation, and then the shadows grew again throughout the Second Age. But never quite so dark, as the dragons pierced the Only Old One’s darkness from time to time. But the shadow was not lifted over Esrolia until 1318.
In all of Esrolia, there are some 70k Argan Argar cultists! A huge number – and it is the third largest cult in Esrolia (but dwarfed by number one and number two – Ernalda and Orlanth). The cult of the Lord of the Night is powerful, and we can imagine all sorts of nocturnal rituals in Nochet!
The Only Old One was often cruel – he was the Son of Night after all! But he was also generous to his friends and supporters.As long as he was powerful enough to keep worse things away, the Only Old One was loved by most in the Shadowlands. And the trolls never abandoned him until after he was defeated and scattered.
But the Esrolians were always willing to replace a protector who was too weak to protect – just like their Goddess.
By the end of the Second Age, some feared that the Only Old One was “senile” – trapped in patterns from the God Time and incapable of dealing with a changed world. Some say that this was a result of the Broken Council – the Only Old One was forced to leave the Council of Friends that he founded. Others say that it was when Hardros Hardslaughter killed the Only Old One and forced the shadow out of Dragon Pass. Still others say that these weakened him, the EWF weakened him further, and the struggles against the Middle Sea Empire and the Dragonkill War broke him.
Regardless of the source, the Only Old One’s shadow was not so dark in the Second Age as the First, and even less at the start of the Third Age.