So let’s think a little bit about the Empire of the Wyrms Friends. Perhaps the most important elements of that Second Age empire is in the name- the Wyrms Friends. Here’s an abridged snippet from the forthcoming Cults. There’s a lot in here to unpack, so digest it carefully!
Two great schools of investigation existed in the Second Age. One originated in the far east. It became a popular mystical religion in Dragon Pass and created new horizons of magic. The political form of this religion was the Empire of the Wyrms Friends, who had learned powerful secrets from the dragons and enjoyed the support of the dragonewts and the rest of dragon-kind. This splendid and colorful age combined many parts of many ideas to make a new wholeness to face the world. The ruling humans became progressively more interested, fascinated, and enmeshed in the strange draconic magics. These left-handed pathways offered exotic and strange powers, whose effects could be exceptionally devastating when manifest in the physical world. In 826, the Empire of the Wyrms Friends—or the Third Council—was established to rule over the material interests of the leaders of the draconic movement. The rulers began a long and intense ritual that was expected to take generations to conclude.
During the development of the Grand Ritual, the fortunes of the Empire of the Wyrms Friends grew. Armies of dragonewts and trolls led by Lightbringers who rode dragons and wyrms conquered much of central Genertela. The barbarians of Prax were defeated, and the Shadowlands and the Storm Hills paid heavy tribute rather than fight. Jrusteli information and trade filtered into Dragon Pass, where it was quickly appreciated by the rulers and used in tandem with their new draconic magics.
In 889, the Third Council demanded to be worshiped in place of the traditional Lightbringer deities. Immense energy and power were 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. Whatever the case, the gulf grew between populace and leaders. In 889 this erupted into violence when the people were instructed to worship the Council. The Pelorian peasants welcomed Carmanian spirits into their newly-built temples, and burned the images of the Third Council members. The dark trolls of the Blue Moon Plateau killed and ate the dragonewts that garrisoned Peloria. Dara Happa rebelled and Prax fell. Orlanth Rex reestablished his primacy over the gods and slew his Third Council imposter.
Another member of the Third Council awoke to the threat of the barbarian hero Jaldon Goldentooth, and directed some divine energies to aid the beleaguered Six Sisters upon the border with Prax. The tattered remains of the Empire gained heart, and members of the Council took form and descended to the earth to aid their people.
Such was the cause of their downfall, for in aiding their fellow mortals, the Council abandoned their unfinished ritual. The Grand Ritual was left with insufficient leadership among those few Council members who did not return to earth. The magic lost direction, and its release was directed first against its makers and then against their followers.
There’s a lot to unpack in that sentence.
Armies of dragonewts and trolls led by Lightbringers who rode dragons and wyrms
So if you imagine some Moorkockian scene, with Wind Lords and Humakti riding dragons and wyrms, calling down thunder and lighting, while armies of Mabden, trolls, and dragonewts are on foot – well you would be on the right track.
The EWF used secrets from the Jrusteli. I always thought of the two empires as ideologically separate. People are rarely hermetically sealed from other peoples. Especially an empire that was founded on the Orlanthi idea that maybe it could be useful to befriend those weird strangers (dragons).
So imagine the EWF as “something like” the old World Council of Friends, BUT the Orlanthi are clearly the dominant group and they are firmly allied with the dragonewts and other draconics. And their rulers are in deep conversations with the dragons, seeking power and understanding. Eventually, that ruling council concludes that they are gods and should be worshiped as such.
So we have this Orlanthi empire that dominated central Genertela. Now wait you might say – the Third Council insisted on being worshipped as gods! How can you say they were Orlanthi?
Simple – the rulers established themselves atop the traditional cults and allocated more and more the worship energies to the great great ritual of the Proximate Realm. But the base was always the traditional cults at least until near the end.
But this mighty empire – which steamrolled Dara Happa while fighting off the Middle Sea Empire – lurks behind Orlanthi history.”We hate dragons and would never cooperate with them.””Perhaps that is true. But our ancestors did, and they ruled the world.”
Until they killed every one of “us”. ah but was that because dragons are bad – or was it because the ruling council became decadent and bad? If we just hold true and don’t become decadent and bad, I am sure it will be fine. And of course, it was not the EWF that died in the Dragonkill War. It was those who came to destroy the dragons that caused it.
So where we see the EWF dominant, we also see the Lightbringers Pantheon (Orlanth, the other Lightbringers, Ernalda, Humakt, etc). The very top of the society are engaged in mystical experimentation, but most people at most dabble in this and worship their Theyalan gods as led by their priests (who are increasingly engaged in mystical experimentation).This is of course a gradual process. In 826, we might have a ruling council allied with the dragonewts and dragons, who are supported by the priests who seek to maintain the Proximate Realm, and the rest of society just do what they have always done with a little extra for the Proximate Realm.By 889, those rulers are now gods and demand to be the primary focus of worship and are supported by the priests. The rest of society is torn about this, but the rulers are as powerful as gods, are backed by dragonewts, dragons, and many mercenaries. And so things erupt in violence and peoples who might have supported the original Empire of the Wyrms Friends now oppose it. And people who did oppose the original EWF, now support it.
The EWF was dominated by its Storm Voices, many of whom had learned to speak with the dragons and dragonewts. The priests formed the council that ruled Dragon Pass and beyond, and the chieftains and war lords were bent to their will. Orlanth Rex fixed this, so that the Rex rules the priests and can even cut them off from their magic.
And now, we have an Orlanth Rex who can speak with the dragons and dragonewts. And not just any Rex, but the Prince of Sartar, who also has Jaldon Goldentooth at his side. History sure can have a sense of irony!
The Empire of the Wyrms Friends still haunt the dreams and ambitions of the Orlanthi – and is still feared by the Praxians, the trolls, and the Pelorians.