Sunday, 2 March 2014


The cult of Issaries first appeared in the Cults of Prax in 1979, and has undergone the usual mutations and expansions as Glorantha has devloped over the years, with versions of the cult for Heroquest, MRQI and so on. I am giving purely my own interpretation here as with all my previous treatements of classic RQ cults and giving stats for Legend in RED and Runequest 6 in BLUE.

Who is Issaries?

Issaries is the trader god of the Lightbringer pantheon. He was a deity who seems to have led an independent life to the Storm Tribe and only joined Orlanth after the holy mountain called the Spike blew up. He negotiated his way through the epic Lightbringer's Quest, though it took the cunning of Lankhor Mhy, the compassion of Chalana Arroy and the violence of Orlanth to get past many of the obstacles along the way.

Who worships him?

Everyone among the Thelayan peoples who trades worships him. There is a shrine in almost every village where people come to trade their crafts, crops and livestock, and every market is a temple to him. The largest towns and cities have at least one and often more temple/guildhalls where the local traders meet and discuss business, organise caravans, get licenses for market stalls and shops, set tariffs and generally do whatever is needed to make money and support each other.

Issaries is also Orlanth's herald, and among the feud-prone Thelayan tribes the clan ring will almost always include an Issaries worshipper who doesn't just trade the clan's good with neighbours, but gives gifts, negotiates treaties and makes peace. His wife was the goddess of language and his followers can speak Tradetalk and many foreign tongues as well, making them ideal emissaries and explorers.

Lay members

Everyone is a lay member on market day. Giving a copper coin or a small sample of one's wares (a pinch of grain, a miniature clay pot, a tiny sliver of bronze) to the shrine of Harst, Issaries eldest son, will hopefully make your deals fair and equitable. Some temples mint half and quarter clacks for this very purpose.

Lay members do not usually get any benefits, but caravan guards, new apprentices and the like will be given the chance to learn the skill Speak Tradetalk at the usual rate.


Those who work at a market stall or shop trading in other people's wares, or who accompany a merchant venturer may wish to become initiates.

They require 50% in three of the following skills:
Legend: Evaluate, Influence, Speak Tradetalk, Commerce, Pact (Issaries)
RQ6: Influence, Speak Tradetalk, Commerce, Exhort (Issaries)

And may learn the following common magics:
Legend: Glamour, Golden Tongue, Protection
RQ6: Calm, Glamour, Lock, Protection

and the following Divine magic, at ¼ of their characteristic POW
Legend: Shield, Blessing, Dismiss Magic, Heal Wound
RQ6: Shield, Dismiss Magic, Heal Wound

and 50% in two of the skills listed under their subcult:

Garzeen the Shopkeeper:
Legend: Lore (Accounting), Lore (Regional), Craft, Streetwise
RQ6: Bureaucracy, Locale, Craft, Streetwise

Legend: Common – Abacus
RQ6: Folk - Calculate

Gultha Goldentounge, the Merchant Venturer:
Legend: Drive, Ride or Shiphandling, Lore (Foreign region), Language (any foreign), Lore (Logistics), Any cultural weapon or Staff, Craft (Map making)
RQ6: Drive, Ride or Seamanship, Lore (Foreign region), Culture (Foreign), Language (Foriegn), any cultural combat style, Navigation

Legend: Common – Understanding, Detect Enemy
RQ6: Folk – Translate, Find Enemy, Appraise, Alarm

Herald Goodwoord, the Emissary:
Legend: Ride, Lore (foreign region), Lore (Politics), Language (any foreign), Oratory, Art (Poetry), Courtesy, Insight, any cultural weapon.
RQ6: Ride, Lore (foreign region), Lore (Politics), Language (any foreign), Oratory, Art (Poetry), Courtesy, Insight, any cultural weapon.

Legend: Common- Understanding, Detect Enemy, Entertainer’s Smile
RQ6: Folk – Translate, Find Enemy, Cleanse

Issaries demands no special duties, but it is expected that a member of the Garzeen and Goldentoungue subcults will be part of a guild or trading company and will pay guild dues to support members through lean times or in return for exemptions from town or city duties, and may receive training from senior members in return. Heralds may well be commanded to go on specific missions for their chief and clan ring. They may refuse, after all one of Orlanth's mottoes is 'No-one can force you to do anything', but clan notables will not be impressed by those who refuse the honour of serving them and the clan's interests. These obligations usually amount to 5-10% of the income or time of the member.

Garzeen cultists are under a geas however. If they come across a part of the dead god Genert they must go into the Wastes and try and find the rest of the long dead god's scattered body, and live in great fear of hyaenas which apparently carry such things. If they can pass on the object to another follower of any subcult before sundown, then they pass on the obligation. Fortunately these pieces are very rare, as crossing the Wastes with its savage nomads and frequent chaos nests is a near certain death sentence, though there have been a few humble shopkeepers who have become legends for their exploits and adventures in the far east.


Acolytes must have 70% in four skills at least one of which must be from their subcult list. They are the leaders and officials in the guilds and leaders of caravans, and are notable and usually wealthy people within their clans.

They get use of the cult special divine magics Market, Divine Lock and Pathwatch, and may learn up to half their POW in divine magic.

Acolytes are expected to make greater donations to the cult guildhalls and to carry out more extensive and important missions for their clan. A mere initiate might be asked to take a message to a neighbouring chief and deliver it courteously, an acolyte might have to to a tribal king, attend his feats, recite or even compose a praise poem, get a good deal trading the clan’s excess cattle and swear an oath to seal a peace treaty. Obligations take up 5-30% of a members time or income.

Acolytes are expected to go to the aid of any other acolyte of the cult; an emissary visiting another clan will be protected, with arms if necessary, by the equivalent Issaries cult leader in the host clan should the laws of hospitality be put aside. If a caravan is in trouble in the wilds, then an acolyte will divert his own caravan to help it out. A merchant who has fallen foul of bandits can expect at least an easy long term loan from his peers down at the market or caravanserai, if not the offer of a safe journey home. If the guildhouse is being attacked or robbed, then the acolytes must muster to defend it. If a merchant has been kidnapped then his peers must gather and deliver the ransom.


Any follower of any rank can be a 'priest' of Issaries as in the head of local guild or master of a merchant company, but recognised priests who can use the most potent divine spells have a lot of respect from their peers.

They require 90% in three skills, two of which must be from the main cult set, and one from the subcult set, plus Theology or Devotion of Issaries at 35%. Most priests will know more than this but this is not a very inward looking cult, they are men and women of the everyday world.

Spells: Create Great Market, Special Divine Lock, Spell Trading, Excommunicate and cam learn up to ¾ of their POW in divine magic.

High Priest

There is no high priest role, no unifying temple hierarchy even within a kingdom. The closest thing the cult ever had to such a position in Sartar was the hero Sartar himself, since he started out as a follower of Issaries and followed many of the gods legends as heroquests to gain the powers of diplomacy and reconciliation that helped him create his kingdom. Subsequent Princes have always had a couple of Issaries priests on their advisory ring to manage the economy, act as almsgivers and as ambassadors, but they had no authority over their fellow cultists other than what the secular royal laws gave them.

Cult Special Spells

Duration 1 hour per point of magnitude, Resist Persistence, Rank Acolyte
Creates an area of neutral ground defined by four staves 1 m long carved with the likeness of various guardian deities. The maximum area is 3m a side plus 1m per point of magnitude. The spell warns the caster if anyone crosses the softly glowing defensive screen with hostile intent, including theft, who fails an opposed roll of Pact/Exhort vs Persistence. It also hits the violator with a disruption spell. The spell dissipates if the caster moves outside the defined area, and if the staves are damaged or removed. Canny merchants often bury them if they are staying somewhere for long, or invest in tough bronze versions.

Great Market
Duration special, Resist Persistence, Rank Priest
Enables several merchants to combine their market spells into one huge spell that covers a whole fairground, adding the duration and area of each individual market spell o the whole. Areas with a large Issaries temple and a permanent priest in residence will have a market spell going pretty much all the time.

Divine Lock
Duration 1 week per point of magnitude, Range Touch, Rank Acolyte
Enables the caster to seal a doorway, chest or other opening for 1 week per pint of magnitude. Conventional lockpicking won't open it, magic is needed to get in, or brute force. The caster can open the door/box etc at any time. A caster can only have one Lock operational per spell, if he wants to seal a number of objects he will have to sacrifice for the spell multiple times.

Special Divine Lock
Duration 1 week per point of magnitude, Range Touch, Rank Priest
As per Divine Lock, but one additional person can be allowed to pass the opening per point of magnitude, and if the lock is bypassed, broken etc. the caster is immediately warned.

Duration Special, Range Special, Resist Persistence, Rank Acolyte
Must be cast on a visible path or road (trackless wastes are not permissible) with a defined destination. The spell acts as a Detect Enemies and Detect Trap spell with a range of 10m per point of magnitude to either side of the road and ahead, and it will last as long as the road lasts or as long as the caster remains awake. A Priest can create a path which can later be a target for this spell by leaving or creating markers every 20m (Joh Mith has done this in areas of Balazar), but if he misses a marker and wanders off the path the spell is dispersed. The road markers along the Royal Roads of Sartar double the range of this spell.

Spell Trading
Duration Special, Range 3m, Rank Priest
Can only be cast within the confines of a Market spell. It enables the trade of one use of any Divine Magic, the exchange being symbolised by the swapping of suitable tokens. The spells must be used within 1 day per 10% of the magnitude of the spell. For example, if Thorvald the Canny (Pact Issaries 70%) swaps a use of Shield with Yalzaring the Bitter (Pact Tharkantus 40%) for Truespear, Thorvald must use the Truespear within 4 days, and Yalzaring must use the Shield within 7 days. Has no effect on Sorcery, Common/Folk magic or Spirit Magic, and magic must be swapped for magic, not for gold, goods or any other consideration.

Standards of Behaviour

Issaries merchants are supposed to be honest, never cheating a customer, never telling an outright lie and never stealing. They are expected to be mutually supportive, even when they are business rivals, and to set aside clan and tribal rivalries when life and limb are at risk, especially at higher ranks, and are supposed to maintain the peace, negotiation and trade being better than war and raiding by any merchants reckoning.

But no one is perfect and Issaries rules are often broken, though usually in small ways. Among the clannish Sartarites some traders hold that Issaries rule that one must never cheat only applies to kin, people from other clans and foreigners are another matter, whatever the tribal kings and princely laws of the kingdom might say. Going to the aid of a caravan being beset by vicious Bison riding beserkers on the wild plains of Prax? Well we did go to the nearest Lunar fort and asked them to send out a cavalry detachment, that's helping isn't it?

In the networks of villages and steads that make up most of the Thelayan lands personal reputation is everything, a merchant who is gives a bad deal is soon gossiped about among the neighbouring villages and among fellow stallholders at the market and so most are pretty honest. In the cities and towns the comparative anonymity can lead to more lax behaviour, and guilds require members to swear oaths to uphold the local trading rules, and hold market courts to hold cheaters to account. All the bigger guildhalls have blessed standard weights and measures, and most will have a stocks.

Issaries merchants will deal in anything, the scruples of the merchant being the only limitation. Most Sartarite Issaries don't deal in slaves, as it isn't part of most clan traditions to keep people as thralls, but there are some that do. Some sell Lunar gin and other imported narcotics despite the obvious damage it is doing in the towns and cities of their homeland, and Issaries merchants have been known to participate in intertribal raids, trading for the best bits of loot (and captives) from the warriors out on the battlefield, and may well pretend ignorance when known bandits come to their shops.


Mules were created by Issaries by magic. They have the advantage of being horse like enough to be acceptable to equine cultures like the Grazelanders and Galanni, while being unlike enough for horse haters like the Praxians to allow them passage across the Plains of Prax.

Issaries and Etyries

Etyries was an Issaries merchant who was trading in Torang when the Seven Mothers performed the miraculous ritual that led to the birth of the Red Goddess. She was one of the first to see the newborn deity and one of the first converts, and after the dramatic events of the Lunar Empire's foundation became the first Immortal (after the Mothers themselves) to rise to the Red Moon. She proved herself the incarnation of Issaries daughter, born in the Godtime, and now resides at the Great Emporium of the Cerise City on the bright side of the Moon, trading with merchants from many Otherworlds. Or as the Sartarites tell it she fell under the spell of the evil chaos sorceress, went mad, committed any number of atrocities and now trades with the demons of all the hells for the gibbering remnants of men's souls to feed her demented mistress.

In Sylila and the Lunar Provinces Etyries now fills the position once held by Issaries and her merchants have the use of exactly the same divine magic and even suffer the same geas to rebuild the lost Genert and same curse of raw greed if they indulge in too many dishonest deals. The subcults are organised a little differently, but they are pretty much the same religion with a red livery. Where Etyries merchants trade in the same lands as Issaries ones they make a big deal out of their common heritage, being as honest as can be in the dealing with Issaries merchants, giving tithes to Issaries guilds, aiding Issaries merchants in trouble and generally trying to overflow with camaraderie. This has not been reciprocated in any way. Members of the subcult of Daretyries, the equivalent of the Heralds, are sometimes kidnapped and their tongues cut out to stop them spreading lies and Moon Madness, and their fellow 'peace loving' Issaries merchants aren't usually bothered a bit.

Famous Issaries Merchants

The most talked about merchant in Sartar is Gold-Gotti. He turned up in the port of Karse 35 years ago in one of the first generation of ocean going ships built after the Opening of the Oceans by Dormal the Sailor. The cargo was Kralorean silk, not seen in Kaethela for 400 years, and he made a killing. He put the profits into further ventures and is now the richest man in Dragon Pass. He owns a good part of Wilmskirk, has 'factories' – warehouses – in all the Sartarite cities and many in Heortland, Tarsh and Esrolia too and loans money to chiefs and kings. He is generous to his local temple, many young merchants have learnt the trade as 'factors' in his organisation and he has invested in many risky caravans.

Rumours abound about him though. He isn't married and never has been as far as anyone recalls, some people are sure that the tale of the Kralorean silks isn't true, and while he dresses ostentatiously in public it is said he lives in one spartan room in his vast mansion with just an abacus and a pile of tally sticks for company. And while he loudly proclaims his membership of the Balmyr tribe he was only adopted into it twenty five years back, and his true origin is obscure. He speaks Sartarite with a perfect 'courtly' accent, as favoured by lawspeakers and poets, but is fluent in many other tongues too. Despite apparently starting out as a sailor he never invests in sea voyages, which have been the most thriving and expanding area of commerce in recent decades as sailors head out from the Holy Country in all directions to rediscover the world.

Gringle Goodsell is sadly no more. He started out running caravans across Prax, and was one of the first to take magical artefacts from Pavis to Gonn Orta's Castle in the Rockwoods, a damned risky trip, but he allegedly made even riskier ones into the Otherworld as well. He was almoner for doomed King Salinarg and after the Lunar invasion he retired to Apple Lane. He set up a pawnshop and let magic items come to him, passing them on to other merchants to take to Gonn Orta. He was called back to act as a tax assessor by the Lunar occupiers, dying while resisting an attempt by King Blackmoor to arrest him for maladministration and profiteering. A sad end to a once great man. The spirit of raw greed is thought to have got the better of him, though friends insist he was an honourable man to the very end and was actually assassinated.

Joh Mith is a moderately prosperous merchant based in Jonstown, but he spends at least half the year in the bleak and barbaric land of Balazar. He was an apprentice of Gringle's during the Pavis years, and later got a loan from Gold-Gotti to open up a new route to the north that avoided the tolls imposed by the Lunars for crossing Tarsh. He makes reasonable money from the exceptionally high quality furs he brings in from Balazar, but the serious cash came from taking Gringle's surplus magic artefacts to Gonn Orta by the safer but longer northern route he discovered. Now he's gone Joh is going to have reassess his business, but he put a lot of money into ensuring Trilus in Balazar had a sympathetic ruler and he would be loath to abandon the country and his many friends there now.

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