Svalwal, The Shattered City

In document Glorantha the Second Age 2e (Page 75-82)

Destroyed in a 665 tidal wave sent by the Waertagi, the city of Svalwal remains a swamped and shattered ruin. Hostile marine spirits roam its sunken, canal-like streets, preventing attempts at resettlement.

Jorge Monparler

Seshnela

Seshnela is the heart of the God Learner Empire. It stood as a beacon of civilisation even during the Darkness. It fl owered early in the First Age, only to be subjugated by Arkat’s Stygian Empire in the era’s fading years. Refugees from Seshnela founded the fabulous cities of Jrusteli, liberating their homeland from the Stygians many generations later. Since then Seshnela rapidly entered a golden age, leading an Empire dedicated to trade, conquest and sorcerous inquiry.

Its capital, Frowal, sends soaring spires of bizarre God Learner architecture high into its sky. Its sunsets are brighter and more colourful than anywhere else in the world. No blue is deeper than that of its fragrant summer skies. Ill weather scarcely troubles its shores. The Imperial Palace sits on a hillside overlooking the city, folding out in two sections resembling the Abiding Book. Other cities of nearly equivalent splendour include:

X Arkwal, a city of warriors. Built around a black fortress established by Arkat during his war of liberation against Gbaji, it served as a capital during the Stygian dominance of Seshnela. Ruined during the Jrusteli liberation, it has been reconstructed as a garrison town. Mercenaries fl ock here seeking places in the Empire’s various foreign legions. It tolerates a high degree of disorder from high-spirited troublemakers and serves as a gathering place for war bands in need of fresh blood.

X Damolsten, named for its founder, a First Age hero. Its most famous landmark is the Hanging Tower, which descends from above instead of ascending from the ground (Brithini sneer that it is but a pale imitation of the original, found in their capital city). Indentured Mostali, their wills sapped by the Unbendable Staff of Damolstan, toil on behalf of wealthy Seshnegi masters.

X Estan, a university town reinvigorated by the God Learners. The last few years it has been plagued by intermittent rains of squid and octopi, surely the result of an experiment gone wrong.

X Genertsket, the wealthiest port of Seshnela, which makes it extraordinarily rich. Its courtiers advocate a program of peace and prosperity, opposing the excesses of God Learners and Rightness Army alike. They are in political decline now, having lost the Emperor’s goodwill by trying to counsel him against the Ducal Wars.

X Hrestolket, a vibrant settlement celebrating free thinking and sorcerous innovation. Castigated by conservatives as Heresy City, its cathedral contains many relics of its namesake, the Great Prophet Hrestol.

X Laurmal, a settlement dedicated to trade and craftsmanship. Its Ironworkers Guild has mastered the art of working that diffi cult metal, making weapons and

implements in demand throughout the world. Despite their brother’s mistreatment in the city of Damolsten, Mostali come here to trade with the Seshnegi. Delegations from both cities clash at the imperial court over relations with the dwarfs.

X Neleswal, a thriving port. Its Duke, Nelos V, encourages cultural expression, attracting the world’s best actors and dancers to perform at lavish masques held at his estates.

Pilgrims fl ock to Neleswal’s imposing cathedral, where ornate reliquaries display the bones of the city’s founders.

X Orphalsket, a port on the mouth of the Irier River.

It boasts three marketplaces, the most fabulous of which, the Banquet of the Gods, is accessible only by dispensation of the Emperor. There the dukes and nobles of Seshnela stroll from booth to booth, dining on incredible magical foodstuffs. Some are merely augmented by culinary Sorcery but others are the spoils of Other Side raids or made with recipes liberated from various heathen hearth gods.

X Pasos, a south coast seaport. Its religious orders are known for their austerity and resistance to the primacy of the God Learner sorcerers. The Duke of Pasos, an impatient man named Ilondin, must forever mollify its popular religious leaders. The most infl uential and troublesome is the monk Oriaba, who has maintained an uncomfortable squatting position ever since the days of his youth. He is carried to meetings on a strange thorny chair.

X Segurane, an old fortress and river port. Several stirring poems celebrate its virtues as a point of defence against the Stygian Empire of Ralios. The sages of its knowledge market are famed for their speedy responses and high prices, if not their punctilious accuracy.

Around the cities lie various duchies, assigned by the Emperor to favoured courtiers. The dukes enjoyed considerable infl uence until late, granting lands to subservient lords and withholding monies from the imperial treasuries. The Emperor’s move to strip the dukes of Aronalit and Ralios of their holdings has chastened them dramatically.

The richest of the duchies is Tanisor, a bowl of fertile land surrounding the lower Tanier River. Its people descend from the Pendali, an ancient race of lion men, who long ago abandoned their hsunchen ways. Their comparatively dark complexions distinguish them from the pale-skinned Seshnegi.

Rumours of an ancient vampire cult that haunts Tanisor by night are greatly exaggerated. Arkat fought a vampire legion in Tanisor hundreds of years ago but now the activities of its nocturnal blood-drinkers are almost entirely curtailed. Just ask the Duke of Tanisor, Langila, whose unearthly pallor is in no way connected to vampirism. His recent expeditions to the remnants of Tanewal, a shattered city also called the Red Ruin, are doubtless motivated by the purest of academic motives.

Jorestel’s Forest, a lush tree belt on the northern coast of the Seshnegi peninsula, attests to an alliance with the local aldryami dating back to the Dawn. Every year the Emperor and King Elf Jorestel meet to reaffi rm their mutual vow to protect the trees of Seshnela.

Arolanit

Local powers have always fought bitterly to control the coastal territory of Arolanit, to the north of Seshnela. Known as the breadbasket of the west, the richness of its harvests outstrip even Tanisor. God Learner sorcerers, using fertility secrets gleaned from their study of the earth pantheon, have wrenched further bounty from its fi elds, fi lling the tables of Seshnela’s ever-increasing population.

Haughty local dukes, enriched by its bursting grain bushels, aroused the wrath of Emperor Ilotos, who stripped them of their lands in the recent Ducal Wars. Unlike Ralios, a new order was quickly re-established here, with Ilotos’ favoured courtiers fi lling old ducal seats and pliantly answering his demands for increased revenues.

The people of Arolanit speak a different dialect than their Seshnegi neighbours. They revere Prince Hrestol and his mother, merciful Xemela, above all other saints. Their worship ceremonies are noted for their ebullience, joyous music and ordinary congregants’ spontaneous outbursts of giddy sermonising. The Arolaniti peasants, who consider scowling and pessimism as dreadful sins, are known as the Happy People.

Brithos

The grey and craggy isle of Brithos is home to a culture of isolationist, immortal sorcerers. Through unwavering obedience to a strict, caste-based social structure, they achieve immortality. Among the Brithini there is no room for error.

Any instance of non-compliance, innovation or questioning of authority, no matter how minor, can begin an inexorable and irreversible aging process. In matters of faith, they worship no one and nothing but revere the impersonal forces of the universe. They live forever but have no afterlife.

They hold the highest respect for Zzabur, a quasi-divine immortal prehuman who slumbers in a vast mist-shrouded tower in the middle of the island. The Brithini attribute the invention of Sorcery to him and claim him as a brother of Malkion himself. He also participated in – some say masterminded – the death of Malkion the Prophet.

Hierarchy embeds itself deeply in the Brithini psyche. Every person knows his place in the chain of authority, reporting

to a superior for guidance. The four castes are the Talars (offi cers), Holar (soldiers), Zzaburs (sorcerers) and Dronars (farmers and artisans). Each speaks a specialised dialect of the Brithini tongue.

Women belong to a quasi-caste of their own and may not wield public infl uence. Both men and women view the prospect of sexual contact with shuddering revulsion, engaging in it only when ordered to reproduce.

Children are all but absent from Brithos. Births are rare and accompanied by extensive sorcerous rituals to imbue the newborn with the capacity for immortality.

Brithini do not age or contract ordinary diseases but are susceptible to death by injury. They drop their usual reserve at funerals, which become lengthy, ritualised explosions of inconsolable grief.

The Brithini greet uninvited visitors to their land with harsh effi ciency. Few adventurers who travel there without the patronage of a Brithini lord or wizard return with mind and body intact. Vigilant citizens report new arrivals within moments of their appearance on Brithini shores. Traps and alarms litter the island’s borderlands.

Even authorised visitors may not practice their own faith while on the island.

Self-suffi ciency rules the Brithini economy. Necessities are produced by the Dronars. What cannot be made here naturally is synthesised via Sorcery, or done without. Talars and Zzaburs occasionally import collectibles, books or magical implements.

A handful of Waertagi traders discreetly conduct this business for them.

Sesupwal, the City of Circles, located in the centre of Brithos, serves as the island’s capital. Its outer circle houses the labouring caste. Its next circle, guarded by miraculous

The death of Malkion the Prophet culminated in a necessary progression of supernal states. In facilitating its fruition, I performed an essential action, without which the eventual emergence from Darkness could not have occurred.

— Zzabur, Immortal of Brithos

engines of war, comprises the barracks for the military caste.

It encircles the Talar Circle, where leaders and administrators live and work. Behind a canal of molten metal rise four towers, where wizardly orders are quartered. In the middle of these looms the tower of Zzabur himself; it can be seen from anywhere on Brithos.

If Sesupwal is the centre of a compass, the four great cities are arranged around it at its four cardinal points. Each is

devoted to a caste: Zaaburket (sorcerers), Talarswal (leaders), Gwymirwal (soldiers) and Dromalwal (farmers). A women’s city, Urusvensket, allows for birthing and other unseemly but necessary female activities to occur far from the gaze of men.

Waertagswal is the Brithini port city. It used to house the Waertagi fl eet. Now that the Jrusteli destroyed that, the Brithini have been forced to build their own inferior armada, heavily staffed by Waertagi survivors.

Reasons to come here: The Brithini are deadly enemies of the God Learner Empire, who hire expendable adventurers to conduct intelligence and sabotage missions against them.

Hostilities between the two powers date at least as far back as 823, when the overreaching God Learner Emperor launched a disastrous invasion attempt against the grey isle. Ever since then the Brithini have schemed behind the scenes to undermine the Middle Sea Empire.

Fronela

In the Dawn Age, the land that came to be known as Fronela was in turmoil. Barbarians ruled from the forests of Winterwood and Rathorela, through the Janube Valley and down to the Nidan Mountains. The land was in a constant fl ux of war and murder, with hundreds of pagan gods driving their tribes to acts of mindless slaughter. Life was short; true belief was lacking. Civilisation? None that could be discerned.

Fronela was a land of perpetual war. Pockets of civility existed;

Agria in the north, Sog City at the mouth of the Janube but elsewhere it was turmoil.

Things changed when Hrestol, a prince of the Seshneg, experienced the revelations of the Invisible God and decided to unite the western lands through union with the Invisible God.

Hrestol’s task was to teach Solace in Glory to the heathen mass and he undertook several great pilgrimages and underwent further revelations along the way. His teachings invigorated the stale, static Malkionist cults that were scattered in the midst of the pagan gods and they began to see order emerging from the disruption. As Hrestol preached, he was accepted as the Prince, the Judge and the Prophet. His ideas spread;

idealism replaced stagnation; the word of the Invisible God challenged and replaced the pagan gods, who faltered and died. Hrestol’s ideas of chivalry and unswerving devotion to the Law of the Invisible God replaced the chaos of unchecked war. Kingdoms coalesced and found direction; logic through worship replaced undirected political ambition. Steadily, Fronela became civilised.

Following Hrestol’s martyrdom on Sog City, Hrestolism as a religion takes hold across Fronela. The kingdom of Akem is formed in the south of Fronela, arising from fragmented Junora and assimilating small kingdoms around the Ozur Bay.

Akem became the prevailing nation across Fronela, uniting all under its banner, and, for 265 years, it was a powerful seat of Malkionist and Hrestolic belief. However, sorcerous experiments open the Gate of Banir in Akem, which allowed Gbaji to enter the kingdom and for almost two centuries his agents work tirelessly to establish Gbaji as the challenger to order and the Invisible God. Gbajists turn Akem’s benevolent

rule into a tyrannical power intent on subjugation along the Janube. Heroes working from outside and inside Akem, such as Varganthar and Talor, eventually close the Gate of Banir and defeat the Gbajists, but at a terrible price: Akem ceases to exist as a kingdom and is absorbed into the relatively new kingdom of Loskalm.

Loskalm represented an alliance of small states who opposed the tyranny of Akem. As others joined its cause, its territories increased, coming to include Junora and, following the closing of the Gate of Banir, Akem. Following Akem’s demise, Loskalm rules peacefully for 200 years but it eventually plunged into its own, introverted mess as the Wars of Succession threatened to wreck the kingdom completely.

Noble families struggled for the throne of Loskalm and, even though peace was reached after 25 years of war, it was at considerable cost to Loskalm. One faction had accepted the support of the God Learners; this secured them power but also cemented God Learner infl uence in western Fronela.

Loskalm joined the Middle Sea Empire in 727, forcing some generals of the Wars of Succession out of Fronela completely.

One such exile was Syranthir Forefront, a challenger for Loskalm’s crown who was pushed by Jrusteli forces across the Janube valley and out through Charg. Leaving Fronela forever, Syranthir eventually reached Peloria and formed Carmania, with himself as its fi rst Shah.

The God Learners ruled for 140 years, launching campaigns along the Janube and replacing Hrestolism with the True Malkioni Church. At fi rst, Jrusteli infl uence was benign but as the Middle Sea Empire consolidated its power across Glorantha, and prevailed in battles against the EWF, its malevolence increased. Its rule in largely peaceful cities became heavy-handed and, eventually, Loskalm would take no more. Rebellion against the God Learners was swift and brutal. Taken by surprise, the God Learners struggled to retain control and, one by one, the Loskalmi provinces and Janube city states, rose up against the Middle Sea Empire. By 865 the God Learners had been forced to abandon most (but not all) of their Fronelan colonies, the empire unable and unwilling to fund protracted warfare across such a huge area.

Fronela returned to independence. Loskalm remains dominant in the west but the Janube city states, Golaros, Charg, Rathorela and Tastolar are free of the infl uence of empire. Hrestolism has returned but is forced to sit beside entrenched Malkionist beliefs. The God Learners have pockets of infl uence here and there, but are largely isolated. In the east, the EWF has made inroads into Fronela but has been checked at the Janube city states by the intervention of the Carmanians – Syranthir’s descendents – who have placed themselves as custodians of Old Beliefs, keen to ensure that Wyrmfriendism does not

spread across Fronela in the same way the Jrusteli spread, virus-like, across Loskalm.

Loskalm

Loskalm was the fi rst Genertelan territory fully conquered by the Jrusteli after they broke the Waertagi fl eet (they began the retaking of their Seshnegi homeland fi rst but that war took longer to complete). Since Prince Hrestol’s fi rst visits here in the fi rst century, Loskalm has been conquered, divided and subsequently thrown-off the God Learner dominance that corrupted the country for so long. Now it is a land attempting to re-establish its identity expressed through Hrestolism, not pure Malkioni doctrine. Under the kings, Loskalm has forged a tradition of egalitarianism and chivalry: all men are equal and every knight and noble must understand the ways of the lowliest peasant and stick-picker if he is to truly realise his own potential.

Loskalm is therefore wary. The God Learners maintain pockets of their old empire in the Janube valley and to the south envious God Learner eyes turn to what has been lost and consider how it can be retaken.

Reasons to come here: Loskalm seeks a fresh identity and Adventurers are welcomed if they bring trade, expertise and are prepared to venture up the Janube River to challenge the residual God Learners and the remnants of the Wyrmfriends.

Notables

Hernies, the Ivory Knight, rides through the countryside righting wrongs on the back of his silver steed, named Virtue. An eloquent advocate of utopia, he declines to criticise current leaders by name. Even more troubling to local authorities are the regular thrashings he delivers to overzealous tax collectors. Wary of any action that might make a martyr of him, Loskalm’s dukes hire operators to tar his reputation with scandal, real or invented.

The sorcerer Merasch has recently retreated to his tower, where he says he will complete the Ultimate Thesis, which will categorise every being and entity on Glorantha in a tree of relationship. Adventurers who come across weird or uncategorisable creatures can sell them to him. They are best advised to go during the daytime, when Merasch sleeps, and conduct the transaction with the wizard’s steward, Ithionius. At night, Merasch’s valley echoes with unearthly screams and cackles.

During Dark Season the Loskalmi fear no name more than that of Begotha, the mummifi ed leader of an undead bandit gang. Each member of Begotha’s gang is an unliving revenant of Loskalm’s wars on the Janube Valley. They repeat the acts of cruelty and rapine visited on them and their families but now with Loskalmi as their victims. On the day preceding an attack, the cold clacking of Begotha’s teeth echo through the countryside.

In document Glorantha the Second Age 2e (Page 75-82)