The Empire of the Wyrms Friends was formally founded in 822, and soon after, in 826, proclaimed itself to be the High Council of the Lands of Genertela (usually called the Third Council). The Third Council was established to rule over the material interests of the leaders of the draconic movement and the rulers began a long and massive ritual that was expected to take generations to conclude.
The EWF came out of the Kingdom of Dragon Pass established in 580, when the Orlanthi overthrew the trolls and forced the Only Old One to relinquish any rights over Dragon Pass. Some learned how to communicate with the dragons (possible through contact with Kralorela), and they gained the support of the dragonewts and the rest of dragonkind. Initially feared by the rulers of Dragon Pass, this new dragon religion became increasingly influential. A dragon joined the Ruling Ring in 725, and the other rulers quickly adopted the dragon religion, despite traditionalist opposition. The Old Way Traditionalists were finally defeated in 775. Two generations later, the Third Council was established.
In 889, the Third Council demanded to be worshiped in place of the traditional Lightbringer deities. Immense energy and power was needed to sustain the Grand Ritual. The dance of the gods in the early stages of the ritual provided much of the energy used to expand the Third Council’s domain. However, in the latter parts of the spell, more and more power was to be provided by the population, who were at the same time growing distant from their increasingly demanding Council. The Council, deep in spectacular meditation, was either unaware of the dissatisfaction, or unable to break their concentration to do anything about it.
The rulers of the Third Council who possessed seemingly limitless magical power and wealth. They did not provide magic directly to their followers – as with the Red Emperor and other god-rulers, the magic points they received from worship were used by them to power their spells. They did teach some of their followers Dragon Magic that is thought to be similar or even identical to that used by the dragonewts. Those followers in turn taught what they knew to other students. But this was always a minority within the EWF, originally mostly made up of Lightbringer priests that embraced draconic secrets after 725.
The Third Council was presumably based on the traditional Lightbringers Ring of the Orlanthi, with seven members, although that is not certain. The actual membership of the Third Council is now a mystery, although Isgangdrang (thought to be the same as Drang the DIamond Storm Dragon) and the Golden Dragon Emperor of Dara Happa are both widely thought to have been members. As the Third Council members needed to be deep in meditation to perform the Grand Ritual, the actual day to day work was performed by their senior followers, the so-called Outer Circle. The Outer Circle members also possessed great magical power, though not as much as the Third Council.
On the battlefield, the Third Council was arguably the most powerful in history. Armies of dragonewts and trolls led by Lightbringers who rode dragons and wyrms conquered much of central Genertela. They made regular use of Pentan mercenary cavalry. They defeated the barbarians of Prax, the Shadowlands and the Storm Hills paid heavy tribute rather than fight. The EWF regularly defeated the Middle Sea Empire in battles, although the EWF armies always returned soon after to Dragon Pass and the Middle Sea Empire would return.
The Third Council was incredibly rich (far richer than the Dara Happan or Carmanian empires), and the outer ring were great patrons of culture and building projects. The cults of Chalana Arroy, Issaries, and Lhankor Mhy received much of this largesse. These cults were also an important conduit with the God Learners. As a result, God Learner knowledge was widely disseminated and the techniques of Mythical Synthesis embraced. Much of what we know of the Monomyth was preserved by EWF sources.
So if we imagine, from 822 to 875, the EWF had limitless magical energy at its disposal. Wyrms, dragons, huge storms, you name it. But as the demands of the Grand Ritual increased, this magical energy started hitting limits. What had been inexhaustible was exhausted.
After 889, the Third Council demanded to worshiped as gods, which helped out for a while, but the demands of magical energy kept increasing. Meanwhile, the demand to be worshiped as gods caused revolts, which meant that the Third Council needed to expend even more energy. And the Third Council found itself embroiled in a major conflict with the Middle Sea Empire.
The goal of the Grand Ritual is thought to have been to awake the Great Dragon of Genertela. The world would be enlivened by draconic energies and bring about a new Golden Age of perfection for all participants. The earliest participants (ie. the Third Council, then their followers and students) would benefit first, with others following later.
Its spine was intended to be the Oslir and its wings were the Rockwood Mountain. The entire population of Peloria was to be divided into five cults to form its intellect, and its breath the erupting volcanoes of the Holy Country. The scale and scope of the Grand Ritual was breaktaking.
Based on the Book of Heortling Mythology, was the actual purpose of the directed worship to power the transformation of the ruling Ring into True Dragons? I would take that all with a grain of salt.
Is the fall of The Empire of Wyrms Friends and the Middle Sea Empire a lesson in how hubris can be one’s downfall? It may not be purely hubris. It may be that things just don’t go on forever. What goes up usually comes back down.
Note that this is not intended to be a comprehensive timeline of the EWF!
How do the Praxians remember, or otherwise look back on this era? Right now I am principally interested in thinking about at how the EWF rose and worked. Maybe later we’ll get to the stage when the wheels fell off.
But this period of the EWF was a litany of disasters for the Praxians. The EWF moved a whole tribe of Pure Horse People into Prax and kicked the Praxians from one end of Prax to the other. A EWF associate built a huge walled settlement in the River of Cradles and crippled Waha. Eventually the Praxians were forced into the Genert Wastes.
So what made the Third Council so powerful?
- The ability to perform Dragon Magic. If the Inner Ring and their students could perform Dragon Magic, that is a game-changer, especially Full Priest magic. As the Third Council members were originally mortal humans, they were not as reluctant to use their magic.
- The ability to talk to wyrms, dragons, dragonewts, and other draconic creatures and get their help and knowledge. Imagine attacking with the aid of a score of wyrms and dream dragons! With Beaked Dragonewt cavalry!
- Knowledge of and access to the Hero Plane combined with 1 and 2.
Then add hill barbarian, dark troll, and Pentan mercenaries, and Sun Dome templar foot soldiers (might not use them with the trolls – or maybe you do!).
On point three, does that imply that Heroquesting was comparatively limited/non-exploratory elsewhere? This was the Second Age, so there were many efforts to creatively interact with the Hero Plane, to “map it out” so to speak.
Why did the dragons choose to help in the first place? Humanity spoke to them. They offered unity and offered to join in the dance of the dragons. Right Action and the Grand Ritual. It was exciting and exhilarating.
Was it because the humans at the time really were sincere and pure in their intentions? I suspect the latter. The nature of mortals is that we are fragile, limited, and often cannot see or even accept the consequences of our actions.
Was it good faith? Most things mortals try to build are begun in good faith. The Unity Council, the Lunar Empire, the Kingdom of Sartar, the Holy Country, your tribe, whatever. Of course, once something is started for some purpose there are those who gain a strong vested interest in keeping it going even if that purpose is long gone. That’s not “imperialism” – that’s just humans being humans.
I think there is a much broader point than just “empires”. Human-made arrangements are ultimately ephemeral. They all eventually get misused regardless of scale and we end up with new arrangements that get misused and then a new new arrangement.
And yet mortals crave for the eternal and the permanent. The God Time.
The interplay between mortality and eternity is the source of magic, but also the source of our humanity. At least in Glorantha.
The Kralorela influence of an incredibly powerful draconic ruling class that are worshipped as divine entities but remain distant from general management of their empire is pretty clear. What helped the EWF repel the Middle Sea Empire when Kralorela failed?
Kralorela had a very different ruling class from Dragon Pass to begin with. But most accounts describe the Seshnegi as “confounding” Emperor Yanoor. Moreover, the Seshnegi had their own group within Kralorela that was willing to work with them. Yanoor retired to commit utuma.
Now there is a Seshnegi account of this that I find particularly fascinating:
Now in Dragon Pass, some of the key resources of the God Leaners – like the Lhankor Mhy cult – were also perfectly willing to work with the EWF.