Thursday 19 July 2012

Tharkantus in Balazar

Way back when Chaosium's 2nd edition Runequest was the thing the cult of Yelmalio was pretty straightforward. Then, as discussed extensively on numerous Glorantha forums, Greg Stafford redid the whole business, adding Elmal, Tharkantus, Halamalao and whole bunch of other bits of mystical backstory and annoyed a few people and muddied the waters no end. This is how Yelmalio/Tharkantus/whatever works in my current Griffin Mountain campaign

The mighty hero Balazar worshipped a god called Tharkantus, the Son of the Sun. Balazar founded shrines of this god at a number of locations throughout his newly conquered territory, and expected them to develop into the mighty Sun Dome temple colonies he had known back in Vanch, his homeleand. Instead they remained small shrines, each with its own small cadre of hoplites and the towns never expanded beyond castles in a stone age wilderness.

There are maybe 1500 worshippers of Tharkantus out of a total Balazaring population of 25,000 or so, mostly followers from among the pig tenders at the citadels, plus a few dozen initiates and acolytes among the Citadel Warriors and 14 priests, the leaders of the warriors and advisors and administrators for the kings. The cult is strongest in Dykene, moderately powerful in Trilus and fading in Elkoi.

The Balazarings are not entirely ignorant of the great upheavals in their only deist religion since the dawn of the Third Age; they have heard the names Yelmalio and Elmal from foreigners and know about Sun Domes, and a few have even visited such mighty Temples.

Taklong Woodheart of Elkoi is the accepted High Priest of Tharkantus for the whole of Balazar, though the other priests almost invariably put loyalty to their citadel above loyalty to him. He only has two subordinate priests at Elkoi, and a dwindling congregation as the local citadel warriors and pig tenders convert to Lunar gods.

The Sun Dome Temples at the Laramite Hills and the Daughter's Road are both claiming the dead hero Balazar as one of their own Templars, and thus dominion over the Balazar temples and the right to choose its High Priest and a tithe of their meagre income. Even worse the Daughter's Road lot are True Sun Revivalists, claiming to have rediscovered the ancient mystic practices of Yelmalio Daysenerus, while the Laramites are Disciples of the Third Emanation, followers of Monrogh's version of Yelmalio Tharkantus, both gobbledygook to Balazar's soldierly faith.

The Lunars interfere, as they always do, and are pressuring Taklong to take up the Daughter's Road offer, so he is openly courting the Laramites out of spite. Mostly he wishes the whole question would just go away. He is also heartily sick of the sight of his priests, one of whole he suspects is a tool of the Lunars, the other of whom IS a Lunar, or as good as, a half-Tarshite who is far too pally with that oleaginous goit Clodius Semprino, the Lunar 'Security Advisor'.

Tradition states that Taklong can name any priest he pleases as his successor, but he refuses to do it, as as soon as he does so he knows he will be poisoned, knifed or otherwise removed. He is looking to poach clergy from the other two temples, but none relish living in Elkoi.

The Trilus Temple has five priests (one died recently fighting the Moon worshipping Spiral Tribe) led by Chief Priest Tarkan Ormsfoe. Tarkan was exiled from Trilus by the last of the Gadaringer dynasty, and was instrumental in bringing Yalaring to the throne. He was a Black Lion, but has become a loyal Impala since the change in regime. While he has nothing but admiration for Yalaring's abilities as a warrior he is losing confidence in his talents as a ruler and losing patience with his tolerance of the Orlanth cult. Bluebird's position as tutor of Yalvann and advisor to the King is really bugging him as well; he was training Yalvann up to be the ideal lordly, stern and majestic Tharkanti King – might have spoilt the boy a little along the way – and he is afraid Bluebird will convert him to some weird foreign god.

The Trilus branch of the temple has a tradition of voting for a new Chief Priest among all the Temple personnel from initiate upward upon the death of an old one, a practice justified by an ancient standing order from Trilus himself about field promotion of officers. Tarkan's protégée, Zangil the Faithful, died, and he is looking for a new candidate to support who is sympathetic to his aims. Torath Manover keeps banging on about this god back in his homeland called Elmal, who he claims is Tharkantus in disguise or some such rubbish. The fact that in Torath's tales Elmal is always a loyal follower of Orlanth tells Tarkan all he needs to know about his ambitions.

In Dykene the Tharkantus Temple has no rivals and the citadel is all but a theocracy. King Skilfil appoints the Chief Priest personally, and has chosen his old friend and comrade Sylvanthi Brighteyes, who is a shaman of the spirit-cult of Balazar, which scandalized a few die hard traditionalists. They didn't say much about it though, Skilfil would have had them dismembered and fed to his giant hawks. There are another six priests (including Skilfil's daughter Starnia) and one shaman at Dykene and they regularly drill the populace in militia skills.

According to the traditions of Balazar the priests of Tharkantus must crown a king for him to be legitimate, and the king must be of the bloodline of Balazar himself and be an initiate of Tharkantus. King Glyptus of Elkoi has let his initiateship lapse and never bothers to turn up to temple at all. Yalaring never was a proper initiate having never taken the requisite gift and geas, but Tarkan crowned him anyway, and notes wearily that while Yalaring is always dutifully in the temple every Fireday he often falls asleep during the ceremonies. This, in his own opinion at least, makes Skilfil the only true and rightful king in Balazar, and thus his temple ought to be the most important, not the one in Elkoi, and all Tharkantus followers should obey his orders. Only a couple of worshippers have fallen for this propaganda, Elkoini fed up with Lunar overlordship.

Each citadel has an orb and mace-like sceptre that are part of the royal regalia, imbued with magic powers to enhance the abilities of the king. King Glyptus claims to hold the original Globe of Authority as passed on to Elkoi, his eldest son, by Balazar himself, and has a nice new silver(!) sceptre that was a gift from the Lunars. Yalaring has only the Sceptre of Trilus, the Orb was taken into the wilds by the fleeing Black Lion clan, Joh Mith had a pretty looking but magically feeble replacement made in Dragon Pass for him. The Orb and Sceptre of Dykene were recovered from the ruins of the old citadel during its reconstruction by the Dwarves. Taklong has collected information on these items and has made it known that once he has the true sceptre and orb of Balazar he will crown a High King of Balazar and end the centuries old civil war amongst the citadels once for all – some hope say the cynics.

Taklong would also like the Hawk Standard of the Golden Legion, last used to summon all the followers of Tharkantus and Balazar from the whole land to fight off Godar the Windwalker and his Army of the West Wind two hundred and some years ago. All of the Citadels claim it is interred in one of their royal tombs, but no one really knows where it is for sure.

Balazar is worshipped as an ancestor by many out in the wilds. The relationship between the Tharkantus worshippers and those of Balazar is usually cordial, and the priests recruit many of their best Templars from among the Hawk Warriors who claim to be descended from Balazar or his Golden Legion. However many of the Hawk Warriors of the Balazar cult are too full of themselves and too enamoured of the idea of being of the blood of kings to embrace the Tharkantus virtues of discipline and loyal service to the royal house wholeheartedly, and a few are hostile to the bossy know-it-alls in the stone huts, with their squiggly clay tablets, tribute records and fancy gilded bronze armour.

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