Let’s talk a little about this:
It really all starts with the Seven Mothers, a desperate conspiracy that gathered to perform the most incredible ritual ever attempted by mortals. They searched the planes and worlds of the spirits to locate the shattered pieces of an obscure, long-broken goddess and inside the living wall of Time, they managed to reconstruct her into a living entity.
This was Chaotic by definition. Although the Seven Mothers are not Chaotic nor tainted by it, the product of the ritual, the Red Goddess, most certainly is. The rise of the Red Moon – the visible manifestation of her apotheosis – signaled to all that Glorantha had changed. She left behind her son, a strange demigod that was given custody of her mundane affairs and became the Dara Happan emperor, her daughter, another strange demigod who was there to advise her son, and her steed – the mighty Chaotic demon called the Crimson Bat. This was the birth of the Lunar Empire.
Despite much opposition, the Lunar Empire quickly conquered Peloria and survived its greatest challenge – the celestial demigod Sheng Seleris and his nomad hordes. Moonson died repeatedly, but he returned every time in a new incarnation. Tricks were performed, cosmic loopholes exploited, and Chaos repeatedly used as a catalyst to perform the impossible.
This is stuff far beyond what the God Learners even dared to experiment with.
You want to use fire from the Moon to burn down a Great Aldryami Forest – use Chaos to make it possible. You want to destroy a far larger nomad army backed up by immortal magicians? Loose alien worlds upon them by summoning the powers of Chaos. You want to kill one of the Greater Gods of Glorantha? You are going to need Chaos to do that. And where there is Chaos, there is the potentiality of Wakboth and the Lords of Terror. The Lunar Way does not condone the moral evils of Wakboth (and indeed many Lunars fight heroically against it), but they accept its presence as part of the Lunar Way. And Nysalor – the Source of the Red Goddess’ Illumination – is the Deceiver after all, the Seductive Chaos.
This set up a cosmic struggle with those gods that define themselves at least in part by their conflict with Chaos – the Storm Gods, the Darkness Gods, and to a lesser extent the Elder Races. In particular, the Red Goddess has created two very dangerous and determined enemies – Orlanth and Kyger Litor.
Orlanth is a turbulent and unpredictable deity, an untamed destroyer who is also the preserver of the cosmos. He is the patron of heroquesting and his cult considers it a religious virtue to find a way to work with Strange Gods and gain new powers through heroic questing. His cult is large and numerous – normally quite fractious and disorganized, The Red Goddess has given them something they can all agree upon and rally around – and something that brings in his family and companions.
Kyger Litor is a patient and cold goddess, who nurses ancient grievances against the very core of the Red Goddess’ being. She would sacrifice all of her children and ally even with the Bright God to avenge that wrong – she just waits for her moment for the Darkness to engulf all and so that the Spider’s Promise can be fulfilled.
And into this, Heroes have come or been made: Sir Ethilrist, Harrek the Berserk, Gunda the Guilty, Jaldon Goldentooth, Jar-eel, Beatpot Aelwrin, Androgeus, and many others. And of course, Argrath. All have walked secret paths and undergone terrible ordeals to become what they are.
This is the context of the Hero Wars. For better or for worse, the Red Goddess and the Lunar Empire have brought the world to this point. This is why the Hero Wars are going to be so terrible and destructive, and will radically change Glorantha.
What real world mythology or religion on Earth would have their own equivalent of the Hero Wars from Glorantha? I was going to say flippantly, “The 1960s, followed by Altamont, Charlie Manson, Castenada, punk rock, and somehow ending up with the Silicon Valley of today.” But maybe that is the right answer.
Another answer might be Jung’s Red Book: Liber Novus, Zelazny’s Lord of Light, and the end of the Kali Yuga.
Castle Blue is at the center of all of this. There the Red Goddess and her followers fought a magical, physical, and spiritual battle against the “Old Gods” – which included Orlanth, Storm Bull, Argan Argar, Humakt, and many others – and their followers. In the end, the Red Goddess was victorious and the Old Gods were forced to accept her existence. Some swore allegiance as well, but many others did not. The Natural Order had been torn by the fighting at Castle Blue, and after peace came again the universe could be made whole once more by including the Red Goddess and her powers.
And maybe if it had ended here, peace would have remained. But it didn’t. And although the gods might have been forced to accept the existence of the Red Goddess, their cults often did not.
And of course there is the question of what role if any the mysterious inhabitants of the magical city of Castle Blue played in what developed. As we all know, they accepted a single migration of strangers to enter, and then shut their gates to all but the most determined of seekers. But within Castle Blue there are many of the immortals who survived the War of Castle Blue, and it is unknown whether they seek vengeance – or have already set it in motion.
What do the Sartarite Orlanthi know of Castle Blue? It is a well-known story. Here’s one version:
I hold forth that it’s not the Red Goddess herself that is such a threat to Glorantha, but the aggressive and wealthy hungry empire and it’s leaders who would risk destroying the world to ensure their own supremacy. Greg’s great lesson still applies – Empires always fail and always threaten the world.
It is important to keep in mind that the Lunar Way made this possible, but did not condone this, prohibit it, or mandate it. It provides tools for spiritual liberation – but what people did with those tools and their liberation was their choice.
And that needs to be chewed on again and again and again.
And it is possible that the Red Goddess was perfectly aware that mortals would collectively screw spiritual liberation up. That they would take the gifts and tools she gave them and use it for land acquisition, for grabbing trade monopolies, and for personal aggrandisement. That is pretty much inevitable with human beings, after all.
But perhaps the possibility of spiritual liberation is so important that it is worth a Hero Wars.
So, knowing the Hero Wars don’t turn out well for the Red Goddess (spoiler), what did she do wrong? Why didn’t she see it coming? What do you mean? She opened limitless possibilities, changed Glorantha, and helped usher in a new relationship between mortals and the divine, and between the cosmos and Chaos. What didn’t she achieve? Oh, you mean the Lunar Empire? That’s just a thing.