A few notes on Belintar that folk might find interesting:
Belintar was a wise and beneficent being, with no grudge against the innocent, and a keen mind in marshalling his resources. In the councils of Belintar, one of the seats was filled by a troll, sometimes a Mistress Race troll, sometimes a dark troll. Other seats were filled by the Orlanthi, the Ernaldans, Caladra & Aurelion, the Triolini, and the Godless.
Belintar made little material demands on the peoples around the Choralinthor Bay, only that:
- They send their tribute like everyone else. This tribute is both material and magical.
- They obey his trade laws. Local rulers must guarantee the safety of passing caravans against robbers and brigandage, they must maintain roads and bridges in exchange for tolls and taxes on transit trade.
- Send the requisite troops to his army. The God-King maintained a small but flexible professional army and a large navy.Belintar largely let the locals rule themselves – and gave them a little boost in resources and organization. In the end, that’s all the Sixths are (and I am rapidly reconsidering use of terminology like “governor”). In each Sixth, Belintar recognized the local ruler and gave them protection and additional resources.
If this looks a lot like what Sartar established in Dragon Pass, that’s because Sartar based a lot of his policies on that of Belintar. In fact, the traditional Holy Country take on Sartar is that he was the agent of Belintar who was sent to civilize Dragon Pass, but then declared independence with his own apotheosis.
THE MASTERS OF LUCK AND DEATH
Belintar is a living god in the material world. He has a divine self that has existed since 1318, and is recognized by all the gods of the Holy Country. He also has a mortal self, that lives, ages, and dies. The Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death is held to select the new incarnation of Belintar. This is a magical contest, that sometimes has military dimensions, sometimes has gods and monsters participate and more. The winner of this contest IS Belintar but also themself. He or she gains access to Belintar’s soul, and adds their experiences, personality, and knowledge. This is not possession – more like an incredibly powerful Allied Spirit or Fetch. Upon death they become Belintar in the God World, each incarnation adding to the god.
Now if this looks familiar – it is. You should immediately think of two other rulers that more or less operated this way: the Only Old One and the Red Emperor. This system worked fantastically for over a century, but I think the first creaks showed up with Sartar’s mission to Dragon Pass. Belintar violated his own trade laws in the 1520s when he allowed (or even ordered) the Kitori to seize the trade route between Dragon Pass and Karse. Nonetheless, Belintar was still able to support Dormal in the Opening – which might really be the last hurrah of the God-King. Sure he was still powerful enough to easily route the Red Emperor at the Building Wall Battle – and I think the Red Emperor was completely outclassed there – but Belintar had become stagnant, even senile, and did. not recognize how much the world had changed.
Jar-eel ambushed Belintar as he performed rites in the Otherworld. Lunar spies had mapped out parts of his route and Jar-eel, a heroquester on par with the original incarnation of Belintar, dissected the God-King and hid his parts in the Lunar Otherworld. When the Tournament of the Masters of Luck and Death was held in 1616, there was no Belintar to join with.
The royal roads belong to the Prince and travelers and their property are under the protection of the Prince while they are on the road. Tolls on goods moving along the road are collected at various points, this is largest source of revenue for the Prince. For much of Sartar’s history, such revenues made the Prince richer than most Lunar satraps. At the entrance to each city and a few other toll stations (such as at Roadend and Dangerford), scribes and their guards assess a toll on the caravan. These tolls are sizeable (typically 2% to 5% of the value of the goods at each station) but ensures that the caravan can travel along the road without interference from the local tribes. A caravan traveling from Furthest to Karse might add another 50% to its costs through tolls, but can expect to still make huge profits; the tolls are the price of safety, security, and speed. Few experienced merchants complain much as long as the tolls are kept to these “reasonable” rates.
If the caravan tries to avoid the toll and bypasses the road, then the local tribes can impose whatever “toll” they desire (often tribal raiders simply take the caravan goods and ransom the merchant). In addition, there are tolls on ferry crossings, bridge crossings, and market taxes. This system was maintained with varying success during the Lunar Occupation.
Belintar is gone with the commencement of the Hero Wars. Jar-eel has changed things and they will not return. Period.
And by 1621, the unity of the Holy Country is shattered. Completely.
He’s not coming back, any more than the Council of Friends can be restored. Maybe there might be something new that resembles the Holy Country (in fact I am pretty sure of that), but Belintar and his magic is gone.
It is important to keep in mind that from 1318 to 1616, the Holy Country maintained an astonishing amount of internal peace. The largest internal conflict involved the Volsaxi about a generation after Belintar became a god – which was basically the Orlanthi being Orlanthi. The Volsaxi kings quarrelled with the Durengard kings about who ruled Heortland. By 1460, that conflict had largely petered out.
But after 1616, war, disorder, and invasion came to the Holy Country. The unity is gone, and things won’t go back to how they were. The Golden Age is over and the Lesser Darkness is upon us.
So if you imagine how this system would have worked in its prime – let’s say around 1550, when Tarkalor was here.Belintar resides in the City of Wonders. This is a marvellous magical place, where the gods themselves wander freely. Beings no longer present or even possible in the mundane world can be found here. Even with the Closing, there are guests from far off lands, Teshnite and Seshnegi nobles, Lunars and others. Belintar speaks with the gods and spirits, and works to keep the divine world and the material world in harmony.It is important to think of Belintar as a priest or a living god, rather than as an administrator or politician. Belintar doesn’t have politics. He does what is necessary to keep the mundane world in harmony with the divine – while also keeping the divine world from tearing apart the mundane world. He says something – well, you just follow it. Belintar just *knows* things – secrets, mysteries, impossible stuff. And he is friendly with all the gods of the Holy Country – Orlanth, Ernalda, Caladra&Aurelion, Choralinthor, the Lightbringers, you name it (yes he has a few enemies too, but they are important to be enemies of).
So if the Queen of Esrolia has a problem, she just takes the Rainbow Bridge over to the City of Wonders, and asks Belintar what to do. He’s the Great and Terrible Oz! He’s got councils, with a mistress race troll, with Wind Lords, Earth Priestesses, Twin Priests, and zzaburi. And more. Sometimes Belintar shows up in your city, with demigods and spirits in his entourage. He plants a garden or stamps his foot and a spring appears or satisfies a dozen priestesses in the fertility rites or whatever miracle is needed and then returns to the City of Wonders. He admits guests, speaks with them, and then disappears again, leaving you puzzled about what he exactly meant by that and how did he know it? There is nothing “ordinary” about him at all.
What was the Lunars issue with Belintar? Just territorial aggression that he resisted? He was a problem on every level. For most Lunar leaders, the Holy Country was a matter of growing concern since 1500 or so. The Heartlands were shipping tons of silver every year to the merchants of the Holy Country, and getting spices, herbs, wine, textiles, etc. in return. The Sartarites were getting a big cut of that silver, making them a growing threat to the Lunar Provinces. But the Holy Country was getting the rest of it.Magically, the Holy Country was a threat – it was a Proximate Realm, like the Silver Shadow or Glamour. Its presence blocked the expansion of the Glowline and stopped the rise of the Red Moon.
Ideologically, it was a problem. The Lunar Empire already has a God-King who sits atop the Axis Mundi and communicates between the divine and mundane worlds. Belintar did the same – and very successfully. Given the Red Emperor’s universal claims, the presence of Belintar was intolerable.
And it should be observed that after Harrek the Berserk sacked and pillaged the City of Wonders with King Broyan’s aid, the city sank and disappeared from the world. It is no more. Like at Atlantis, it has disappeared from view.
So not only is there no Belintar, but there is no City of Wonders either.
That’s a general theme in Greg’s stories – nothing made in Time lasts forever.
Belintar, the Lunar Empire, the Council of World Friends, the Empire of the Wyrms Friends, even the Middle Sea Empire. All were examples of what mortals can do, but also examples that nothing lasts forever.
To me, this gives Glorantha great meaning and power – unlike say Middle Earth, where caretaker stewards might rule Gondor for 14 centuries, until an unbelievably distant descendant of the ruling house from over a thousand years ago shows up. First that the stewards ruled that long while keeping the steward appearance (even Rome’s republic lasted only 5 centuries before it became a Hellenistic kingdom) and second that anyone would care about Aragorn’s lineage at that point.
Senile is the word I like to use. But at some point, even Belintar is no longer balanced. The Tournament is supposed to produce an incarnation strong enough to not be overwhelmed by Belintar – but that started to break down after the Opening.
Why the hostility between the Volsaxi and the ‘Governors’ (or whatever the title is – Prince sounds likely to me)? Whitewall is the traditional cult and assembly center of the Hendriki. Durengard is the cult and assembly center of Heortland. The Volsaxi refuse to be tributaries of Heortland (although I am pretty sure they paid their tribute to Belintar after their restoration).
So if you wanted to find some way to restart the Masters of Luck and Death – I’d suggest the following steps:
- Get back all the parts of Belintar that Jar-eel dissected and scattered with guardians. They are in Lunar Hells, on the Red Moon, with Yara Aranis, and in a necklace around her neck.
- Lift the City of Wonders from the bottom of the bay and rebuild its wonders.
- Redo the original deeds of Belintar, more or less, and gain the submission of ALL the rulers of the Sixths. And do it fast, because Harrek has a good claim to be the Ruler of the Seas, and by 1628 Argrath is one of the rulers. Not to mention Queen Samastina, who is no nostalgist.
Similarly, want to resurrect the Only Old One? Find all his parts wherever Belintar hid them. Rebuild his Palace of Black Glass.
And get all the tar out of his stairway to the Underworld. All of it.
I pity any poor bastard who is trying to stop Jar-eel the Razoress on her own top-tier heroquest, supported by the all the magical resources the Red Emperor can throw behind her. You are better off trying to physically move Kero Fin.
Jar-eel is powerful enough that just a manifestation of her self is nearly powerful enough to wipe out the household of Prince Kallyr. And that’s basically her projecting herself from a great distance. She’s one of the most powerful and skilled hero questers in all of history. Think Arkat-tier.I would have trouble imagining the Earth Temple in Esrolia doing that. They’ve got bigger problems – first and foremost how to stop Harrek and his Wolf Pirates.
Being as Argrath is real close with Harrek, the *obvious* thing for Queen Samastina would be kissing and making up with what’s left of the Red Earthers, and then with the Lunar Empire?
Greg once theorized it was possible Belintar was from the future or far past. future, no. But there are hints that he might have been originally from the Second Age. Or just elsewhere. But nobody knows where he came from. And that’s important. He may have been a god learner who escaped by passing outside of time and losing all connection. He may have come from outside.His being unknown (even to himself) is a part of him. some mysteries shouldn’t be answered!
The Prince of Sartar comic strongly hints that he was Artmali No it doesn’t. I wrote it, and made no such hint. why do you have to choose an origin? Having none is key to understanding the character. Giving him one takes a key part of Belintar away. The correct answer is He is the Stranger. The Only Old One – no slouch at secrets – had all of Hell search for the answer. They failed. The moment you give Belintar an origin – he is no longer Belintar. And this is a key insight for anyone paying attention.