Tuesday 15 May 2012

The Great Hunt

Hunter's Hill

Every year during the Sacred Time hunters from all across Balazar converge on the citadel of Trilus for the Great Hunt. This ritual decides who gets to call himself 'Hunter', and count himself (and sometimes herself) an adult in their clan, and who amongst the Hunters is the greatest.

The fun starts up to two weeks before the event, as parties of hunters from the various clans come and camp on the Hunter's Hill, a ditch and rampart earthwork on a hill a couple of hundred yards from Trilus. All domesticated pigs and horses are kept out of the area as a mark of respect to Foundchild, (and because many hunters will kill them for meat, not accepting that it is possible to own a live animal). The only clan that sends no one at all is the Blue Bear clan, though attendance from a number of clans is low with many youths from eastern clans going to Taksmound to be initiated.

Within the circle all clan feuds are supposed to be put aside, and the Master Hunter's word is law. People who are judged to have broken the truce are given until the following dawn to leave the circle, and when they do they will be permissible prey for the duration of the following hunt.

The Games
The games held at this time used to be informal contests of skill between bragging hunters to pass the time until the ritual began, but since King Yalaring began offering prizes they have become more formal and for some hunters a more important part of the occasion than the hunt itself. When King Glyptus began offering a few prizes by way of keeping up with Yalaring, and King Skilfil of Dykene offered prizes for the hunters at the 'Old' Hunt at Taksmound, politics and prestige have got mixed in, much to the annoyance of the more serious minded and traditional Shamen.
On Freezeday of Truth week Yalaring, his chief priest of Tharkantus, the Great Hunter and whoever Glyptus has sent to represent Elkoi, open the games with libations and sacrifices, and wine, beer and meat are distributed to the hunters.

The sports vary every year, depending in part of whether Glyptus or Yalaring thinks his tribe can win the competition. Glyptus always sponsors distance running as the Grey Wolf clan almost always come first, Yalaring sponsors sprint as the Sables almost always win. Games such as the traditional wrestling, the 'catch the greasy boar' game, archery, javelin (accuracy as well as distance is important), hauling the carcass (a deerskin full of heavy sand is lugged up and down a hill then finally taken up a tree), dog racing and dog fighting, jumping and drinking competitions have all been part of the event over the last few years. 

Some prizes are well worth having; the distance running prize is a black loping dog from Glyptus own kennels and Yalaring offers a magic arrow for the sprint, but other prizes can be a bit more peculiar – enchanted bear fat for the wrestling, the boar itself and the guarantee that one will father a son in the next year for the boar catching, a headdress of yellow feathers for the archery, a smilodon skin cloak for the carcass hauling and so on. 

This year there will be a Shield Push contest, with teams from the Elkoi city guard and the Lunar garrison and from among Trilus' warriors. The prize will be a silver inlaid shield donated by the Temple of the Reaching Moon itself. The Lunars are quietly confident, the Triloi win over the Dykenean Tharkantus templars last summer was a fluke.

The Hunt

On Godday of Truth week, the shamen set up their drum and chant circles and the serious business of the hunt begins. Everyone swears the Hunter's Oath and gets the sacred warpaint mark of a participant in the Great Hunt. Some shamen offer other marks in return for sacrifices or as favours to men of their own totems. These give bonuses for the duration of the hunt (the two weeks of Sacred Time). The Pure Hearth mark offers +10% resilience, the Two Stone mark gives a temporary hero point to any hunting dog, Rigtaina's mark gives +10% Spirit Walk and +10% Tracking while in forests, the Darkness mark gives protection from trolls at the cost of being a target for elves, while the Old Tree Mark has the opposite effect, Balazar's mark gives +10% spear attack. Last year a Five Moon Shaman from Elder's Rock offered the blessing of the Red Moon, which tied the hunter to the Lunar cycle, weakening him on days of the dark moon, but making him much stronger when the moon was full. This year Throggar Giant Baiter will offer the West Wind mark, greatly enhancing missile range when shooting with the wind behind you. 

Some hunters will have sought other blessings at Hearth Spirit sites before the hunt begins and some shamen will offer fetishes with spirits who are bound to serve until the end of the Great Hunt only. Those who do not break the fetish on the last day are asking for trouble.

Only flint weapons may be used and only a loincloth may be worn. If the hunter made his own weapons (and most will have) they get 1 temporary hero point, and personally slew the beast that made his sacred hunting garment he gains +10% Survival.

The hunters disperse in all directions, many making forced marches of several days before looking for game to make sure they are well away from the mass of other participants. He who strikes the final blow gets the kill, and it is common practice (though strictly speaking not within the spirit of the hunt) for fathers to weaken a game animal and allow a young son to finish it off to gain their initiation. 

The beast must be of reasonable size (SIZ 10+) and either edible or capable of eating a man, and must be witnessed by a shaman of Foundchild in the field or the head taken back to Hunter's Hill. Succeeding in three hunts in a row and having sufficient skills and knowledge to satisfy the shamen of Foundchild makes you a Great Hunter. The Hunting Shaman who brings in the best beast is made Master Hunter. Ogolorph Windshaper won last year with the head of a huge Sabre Tooth tiger, but Willarnia Oakbow of the Great Sables says she is going after a Cave Troll this year.

Monday 7 May 2012

Sacred Sites in Balazar

Where is Where

The various Clan Hearths are holy sites where mighty ancestor spirits dwell and important historical things have happened. According to Shamanic Lore there were many more, but their sites fell out of use or were destroyed in past conflicts. Three locations are known – the Citadels – but the rites to contact the Hearth Spirits there are unknown. Following a Hearth Spirit gives you access to various lesser servant spirits, common magics and heroic abilities.

Halberd Games Map of Balazar, from the Glorantha Wiki

A long mound shaped like a winding snake or wyrm from the mouth of which springs the stream that is the source of the Redwyrm river. The soil around it is red ochre on the days of the full moon, black ochre on other days and magic warpaint can be made from it. The kings of Elkoi used to muster their clans here before raiding the lowlands, but now the Redwrym warriors serve the lowland Lunars as scouts.

Flint Hill
A great hill that has always been a source of good quality flint, and the gravel beds here about are a source for many other kinds of stone, many of them magical, such as Sunstone, amber, God's Blood Crystal, Magnetite etc. A cottage industry chipping obsidian knives for export operates here and the Lunars are setting up some kind of shaft mine with slave labour, much to the annoyance of the traditional flint miners and workers.

Elder's Rock
A monolith on a bluff overlooking the Elf Sea marking the spot where Votank himself died resurrecting his dead half-brother, the Sun, and where the Sun went up into the sky. Also the place where Balazar was crowned King after his conquest of what was then Votankiland and his defeat of the Trolls. The spirits here supposedly impart wisdom, judgement and good advice, but of late the spirits seem to argue amongst themselves as much as the Shamen do, what with the differences in doctrine between the old Votank and Grandmother Sky Shamen and the new Five Moons and other shamen from around the Empire who have taken up residence.

Morak's Mound
Traditionally Balazarings leave their dead on platforms in trees in a form of sky burial, but the fallen bones are later collected by Shamen and put in barrows and burial mounds. Morak's Mound is the biggest, a huge artificial hill with many passages and chambers that act as ossuaries for the bones of many clans, some now extinct, and individual tombs for many mighty heroes long forgotten. The Shamen here can summon more ancient ancestors and know more songs and sagas than anyone else, and are very good at taming the unquiet dead.

Pure Hearth
This fire was lit by Grandmother Sky herself and has been kept burning since before the beginning of time. It was used to kindle the newly reborn sun on the First Day. The Pure Hearth followers do not like Balazar or Tharkantus, nor the cities he built, believing that Votankiland was better of with its traditional gods and ways. They are good healers though.

Crow Stone
A great rock like a huge flint knife sticking out of a plain littered with bones and broken weapons, the Crow Stone is the site of many ritual battles and the Crow Warriors are creators of much human carrion for the Crow spirits. A place to swear vengeance, fight duels and end feuds with payment of blood, though the current Crow Shaman is trying for a more peaceable approach to conflict resolution.

Another burial mound, but better known as the former site of the Master Hunter's lodge before Yalaring had it moved to Trilus. Many hunting spirits here, and many masters of hunting lore. If you need to know how to take down a Hadrasaur, or the best way to butcher a Walktapus, this is the place to go. Hunters who follow Tak can even pursue prey into the spirit world and track them by the imprint of their breath upon the forest leaves. There is still a yearly Great Hunt here during the Sacred Time, but the Trilus one is more popular as it is the only chance to be made Master Hunter.

Once an Aldryami totem, now tamed and used by men. The only place men can find readily useable tree spirits and, it is said, meet the lesser Aldryami such as runners and pixies on friendly terms. The Shamen here perform strange rites and consort with Dryads and Hunting Nymphs, and are a distant and peculiar bunch. More conventional types warn against the danger of being turned into an Elf, and say the Old Tree must be chopped down lest they re-establish their rule over the land.

Gravel Stand
Another site yielding flints and magic stones, and also the site of a hill fort and temple where in the White Goat and Griffin clans kept the memory of Dykene alive during the years the citadel lay ruined. The streams near here yield gold dust and nuggets, the source of Dykene's wealth, and the Dwarves have set up a smelter and mint for Balazar's first native coinage in 500 years.

Two Stone
A haunted and disturbing site where a permanent cloud lowers over a stone monument. Supposed to have been three stones, set up by the three sons of Balazar to signify their unity, Elkoi's has fallen, toppled by giants. The site is guarded by a huge dog spirit, and the spirits here are his offspring. Recently there has been much kerfuffle over the stones with interest from Dragonewts and Dwarves.

Tuno's Cradle
Here Votank turned himself into a bear and wrestled and defeated the giant Tuno, ousting the mountain spirit that had possessed him and turning him back into a man. Great place for bear spirits, wrestling matches (occasionally with bears) and finding healing herbs and honey.

A small hill that continually glows with an inner fire and occasionally spurts great geysers of flame. Around it are pools of bubbling mud and hot springs. If he can endure the painful ordeals a shaman can gain the service of fire spirits and elementals. The fact that the greatest geyser spouts once a week on nights of the full moon has made some traditional shaman suspicious of the spirit here however. It is also a site for dramatic suicides and has a number of ghosts.

Two posts in two days - yup, it's a Bank Holiday weekend.

Sunday 6 May 2012

The Tribes and Clans of Balzar

Who's who in Balazar

Following the Moon Design version of Griffin Mountain, below is the common knowledge about the tribes and clans of Balazar 

Elkoi Tribe

Black Dog Clan
The Citadel clan (ie they live in the citadel itself). Ancient clan that took in many Jajalorings from the nearby Dog Plains in Holay, breed excellent black hunting dogs. Firmly allied with the Lunars and include many Seven Mothers and Jakaleel worshippers. Some even live in farming villages.

Great Sable
Allies of Elkoi who have a lot of Redwyrm followers. Long standing feud with Crocodiles and Crow Warriors. 

Territory is being absorbed by farms, some have even taken up farming themselves. Have many Seven mothers followers.

Grey Wolf
Internal feud over tribal cheiftainship. Rumoured to have many were-wolves despite ancient ban.

Blue Bear
Shunned by all other clans as they kill Eubucks, the sacred animal of Foundchild. No actual animal called the Blue Bear exists.

Cave Bear
Live in the harsh lands of the Dog Hills. Use massive spears to hunt the huge cave bears.

River Snake
Live along the Morande River and have some success dealing with the Water Wyrms. Say that one day one of their shamen will lift the curse that makes the rivers and Elf Sea impassable. 

Trilus Tribe

Citadel clan. Ordinary hunting clan until about eleven years ago when Yalaring took over the city of Trilus. Still finding their feet with this 'civilisation' business.

Live in the South Woods and currently fighting a long running feud with the Great Bisons. Their current residence is the result of a tactical retreat, NOT a defeat, and don't you forget it.

Red Sable
Possibly being turned by the Elkoi and becoming moon worshippers, or by the Dykeneans. Much dissent anyway. Foes of the Black Lions.

Barking Deer
Well connected and outgoing clan, chiefs have married their sons and daughters into many other clans. King Yalaring's wife Vania is a Barking Deer.

Thunder Lizard
Live in the far off Dangerground hunting dinosaurs. Some western tribes don't believe they really exist, even though the current Master Hunter, Ogolorph Windshaper, is one of them.

Silver Hawk
Perennially troublesome clan many of whom are devoted to Balazar. Suspected of being deeply implicated in the Spiral Tribe rebellion.

Stalwart warriors who admire the bloody nature of the Crow Stone. Prefer to trap their crocs rather than hunt them though, not safe to linger too long by the Dwerrow River.

Brown Boar
Very into the Pure Hearth spirit and distrusting of all the Citadels and of worshippers of Tharkantus and Balazar. Civilisation never did anyone any good they say, but pay occasional tribute to Yalaring as being the least worst of the Citadel Kings and because they might need his protection someday. 

Dykene Tribe

Tree Ghost Clan 
A clan formed only recently by King Skilfil's Great Uncle Hafranil to rule Dykene after its reconstruction by the Dwarves. No one knows what the Tree Ghost is.

Very dedicated to Balazar and Tharkantus and in awe of their totem spirit rather than hunting them. Will keep horses to sacrifice to the Griffins. The hero Hafranil was a Griffin before he founded the Tree Ghost clan.

Great Bison
Numerous clan dominating the open spaces of the East Plain. Noted fighters of Broo.

Black Lion
Former overlords of Trilus, now a fugitive clan in the Dangerground. Have a history of dealings with trolls, which does not make them popular with the more devout Tharkanti. Allegedly actively plotting Yalaring's overthrow and also implicated in the Spiral Tribe rebellion.

White Goat
Unusually for a non-citadel clan they keep livestock, hardy goats that can survive on the tough grass and windswept tops of the Bear and Brother's Hills.