Here’s a popular Orlanthi tale of the rise of the Red Goddess. This is similar to the story presented in King of Sartar.
Orlanth is the god who began the Great Compromise, and he has always been the one who has led in its adherence. He has never budged from perfect participation, unlike the followers of Yelm who had allowed the intrusion of Gbaji, spawn of the Devil, into Glorantha.
Ever since that first crucial weakness, when Gbaji and his spawn were freed, there have been many conflicts with evil. And in each of those Orlanth has been foremost to combat Chaos and destroy it forever. Thus, whenever the cosmos is threatened, the winds are raised, and Orlanth is there first to see.
The birth of a new god or demon is always an attraction, and so Orlanth was there to see when Gbaji was born, and the Machine God was made, and when the Red Goddess cheated her way to acceptance.
The Red Goddess had begun as almost nothing: a petty spirit, one among many which sought power in the world. She was aided by sorcerers and a priest of Gbaji, and the spirit possessed an innocent girl to gain life. She was called Shepelkirt, or Poison Blood, when the Orlanthi priests saw her in their dreams.
The Red Goddess gained followers, and a country. Her primary foes were not Orlanth and the Lightbringers, but she courted those who were enemies of Orlanth, and who had already allowed Gbaji into the world. One time her foes pursued her, and she went out of the normal world to where the gods live. She was lost in those realms of the gods for many years. At that time Gbaji seduced her, and gave her great and terrible magics for her loyalty. She brought them back to the world, and because they were new they brought great victories. Thus the Crimson Bat, the stone soldiers, and the Scarlet Wave brought quick victories for her. Now everyone knows they are monsters from the realm of the Red Moon. With them she has spread her power. So over the years she gained allies through conquest, alliance, and seduction until she established her Lunar Empire.
But all that time, she was never a threat to the cosmos. She was not a deity. Thus no deity alive could act against her, even though she used chaotic powers, and had embraced the ways of Gbaji. Orlanth howled with rage over this evil.
One day the Red Goddess angered Vyran, the queen of Castle Blue. The two women argued, and Vyran sent three of her swift foot servants to avenge her lover’s wounds. All three were slain, and crippled so they could never walk again. Then two women in red and a man in crimson were captured attempting to bring slime worms into the castle, and they were executed. So then the Scarlet Warlord came, with his companions, to wreak vengeance and impress the Red Moon Empress by his act of heroism. Alakoring Dragonbreaker, the famous warrior, was supping at the Blue Castle that day, and said, “If I could fight that man myself, I’d be so eager that my sword would raise itself from my sheath.” The weapon then lifted silently from its sheath, and everyone knew that the Great Compromise had somehow been broken. Alakoring slew the first of these Scarlet Warlords, and the Battle of Castle Blue was begun.
The Battle of Castle Blue was fought to decide whether the Red Moon Empress was a deity. If she was not able to withstand the rigorous examination by the assembled deities of the Great Compromise, then she could be revealed as a monster and destroyed by them in concert. Orlanth led that cause, to test her.
First Orlanth went to her with contests, and she was a great competitor. When they tried the Contest of Music, she astonished everyone by defeating Orlanth with the Harp, using exactly the same instrument which Yelm had used and been defeated with! When it was a dance, her Dance of the Cycles was defeated by Orlanth, but then came right back before he had finished his victory cries. So then Orlanth made the War Challenge.
Orlanth made the usual preparations, and he summoned his council and family to war. They brought their brave followers, who sought adventure upon the reaches of the mythic worlds, and they circled around the whole battlefield three times, looking at it and preparing, drawing closer. They saw the army of the Red Moon Empress attacking Castle Blue, whose valiant defenders were in danger of falling before the furious assault. They landed, from the north.
Orlanth and his people took the position in the center, of leadership and honor and prestige. To the left, the weak side, were the briny and sweet cousins of Queen Vyran, risen from the deep to sweep the world clear of Chaos. To the right, the dangerous side, was the army of the others, commanded by Humakt.
She won because she cheated. She won because she did not obey the normal laws of war and of creation. Things which simply could not be, were! This was where she had one son, in many bodies! Where she had a body part, as a living being! Where she had her shadow self, better than her! Where her crookedness became her, and her veracity betrayed her, and so she escaped from all the things which held a normal deity down.
She was not unscathed! We know that one of her mothers is not known, even to the initiates of that goddess! And it was Orlanth who drove that monster out of existence!
But she won, and the waves, which had risen like cliff walls higher than a bowshot around the Oronin lake, fell. The castle flickered a few moments, and the Red Goddess and her entourage departed in great pomp and ceremony.
And there, deep in the body of Orlanth, was the wound which she had made, and which was her own entry into the world of Order. Now, the Red Goddess is immortal, and it is only the last secret of Orlanth which keeps the world from Chaos once again.
This is a “tale” not a myth or cult secret told to initiates. More something you might hear sung by poets or written by scribes.
I expect like with the Orlanthi, the Lunar tales vary. But the most common rants about evil Argrath raising dragons, animal nomads, allying with monsters, and doing all sorts of cheating things.
The Lunar Empire was inevitable, for this land has been ruled by THE emperor since before Time. Since before Mortals, really. Even when the emperor is overthrown or usurped, he always returns in one form or another.
And since empire is inevitable, it is best that the emperor is the son of the Red Goddess. And that is how it has been for nearly four centuries. The emperor holds up the Sky and sets guardians in the four directions. He is a demigod, the son of the Red Goddess and accountable to her, the goddess of cycles. What better system of government is imaginable?
The Orlanthi give out rule to sacred families or powerful warlords, and let other powerful families decide whether they shall follow them or not. They form together into great factions that threaten to swallow the world, only to fall apart in bickering and disunity. Why would anyone want to adopt that?