Spotlight: Gauren and Iarmov in Exile

morvugol

Daemoth remained imprisoned in the Hiyorugh for years unnumbered. During this time his sons and their fiendish offspring dispersed across the four worlds, bringing misery and avarice in their wake.

Gauren and Iarmov, his eldest sons, sojourned in Morvugol, the planet farthest from the new-made sun. There the shadow-children of Ulmhasa dwelt in black jungles. Gauren disappeared on obscure paths through the wilderness, while Iarmov became a hidden terror to the sunless beasts as he hunted and raped them from his stronghold Throlugaur. By the falling of the stones of Daemoth, the shadow-dwellers that first inhabited Morvugol were mostly gone, displaced by the unspeakable fruit of Iarmov's loins.

When the stones of Daemoth fell across the four worlds, two shards landed in Morvugol. The first struck ground in the jungles near Throlugaur, and the second plummeted into Ulmhasa’s stronghold Ekhmarai, blasting the great city at its center and carving a deep pit at its heart. From this tunnel the pure shadow that brooded beneath Morvugol's surface erupted and awakened the primordial goddess of shadow from her wrathful sleep. When Ulmhasa claimed the stone of Daemoth, her power over the Primordial Realm was magnified. The dreams of all living things were shadowed by a great malice, and many souls across the four worlds turned from fitful sleep to waking death as Ulmhasa devoured their minds.

Sensing the great power that had arisen beyond his lands, Iarmov bore his own stone to the foundation of Ekhmarai. The black magma sat in steaming pools where it had erupted from the pit. Marveling at the scene, Iarmov was set upon by Imbakhao son of Ulmhasa, who slithered around his throat and caught him in a deadly grip.

Fat with her supper, Ulmhasa rose from the pit and tortured Iarmov, dipping him in the raw, black magma until his body was shriveled and his flesh covered in weeping sores. Iarmov's metamorphosis left him maimed, but not powerless. The elders do not record how, but the stone of Daemoth itself became a part of Iarmov's putrid form, and his power was only amplified.

A desperate duel laid waste to much of Morvugol as Ulmhasa and Iarmov struggled for control of the remaining stone. In the end, the second son of Daemoth was driven from Morvugol into the Darkplane, where his connection to the stone guided him to the Hiyorugh and a reunion with his father. Upon discovering Daemoth's prison, Iarmov set to work drawing out his father's essence.

The records of the elders tell that 7,000 years after Iarmov's maiming, the jharethil saw the sun darken and knew the Hiyorugh had returned. The colossal stone plummeted toward Vinramar and the heart of their empire. All that remained of Anarthos was obliterated, never to be rebuilt. Many thousands of jharethil were slain at its fall, and the wave of destruction tore across half the world. Nothing was left where Jharus once dwelt but a barren crater, which today men call Vitollos.

The fall of the Hiyorugh was only a herald of the vengeance with which Daemoth descended on Vinramar. Fetid aberrations followed him and infested the waters and deep places. The jharethil and their fey cousins were all but obliterated in a rancorous vortex as the souls of many living things were dragged howling from their bodies into the void. Daemoth’s victory would have been absolute but for the betrayal of his eldest son.

At his father's onslaught, Gauren emerged from the jungles of Morvugol and fought alongside his father. He brought no armies of his own, but had learned in his exile to bind the souls of the dead into his service, and thereby turn fallen enemies into soldiers. When the initial incursion was done and all the lands near Anarthos stood in smoking ruin, Gauren demanded Daemoth grant him a boon for his service. He coveted Atiakha, the daughter of the moon, who by force had borne Omuel and the daemons. As condition for his service, Gauren demanded Daemoth free the primordial and grant him her hand.

Daemoth was enraged at the request. He opened his maws to consume his insolent son, but Gauren and his bound souls resisted. When at last the traitor was taken, Daemoth's rage was turned from Vinramar and he abandoned his conquest. Gauren was carried to the ruins of Maromutalcoth and dismembered in punishment for his treachery.

— From The Stonewar: An Assembled History by Bram Genning

Spotlight: Silphenor and the Sack of Anarthos

The time following Daemoth's banishment is not recorded. The elders of Irrachost speak vaguely of the Days of Stars, when the heavens stood absent of the sun and unwelcome things came to dwell on Vinramar. Sowm's death, they write, irrevocably tarnished her creations and fated the remaining worlds to ruin.

But Jharus, hoping to salvage what survived, formed a new world to replace Salvendum and set it in the heavens. The elders tell that he bound himself eternally to the High Seat there so that its light would never dim again. The jharethil he tasked to protect Vinramar in his absence. With their father in exile, Daemoth's sons divided his dominions, establishing tribes and kingdoms to rival the jharethil's.

The earliest recorded histories remember a jhareth named Silphenor who rose to prominence as a high priest among his people. While traveling west Silphenor came upon the ruined tower of Maromutalcoth, its valleys blanketed in the bones of the second brood of Daemoth. Far off in the Darkplane, the great rock that held Daemoth's imprisoned spirit collided with something, sending a hail of stones plummeting to the surface of Vinramar. Whether by design or chance it is not known, but in the moment that Silphenor approached the tower, the stones of Daemoth fell to the ruins about him and overthrew his mind.

Silphenor returned to Anarthos in a tempest of murder. Hearing of the oathbreaker’s bloody work, Loragg hastened there to find him in battle with Forlortha and many hundreds of the jharethil. In a haunting echo of Jharus slaying the brood of Daemoth at Maromutalchoth, Silphenor alone besieged Anarthos, massacring its people in a thirty year siege. In those years he never ate or rested. He alone butchered its armies and scattered the jharethil to the coasts of present-day Arrochule.

The siege ended with a desperate struggle in the highest chamber of deserted Anarthos. Loragg was slain and cast bodiless back to Mardelthwaide, leaving Forlortha alone to withstand Silphenor. Seeing no other hope, she wrenched a part of the stones' influence to her own mind. With its will divided, Daemoth's enmity dissolved from the stones, but the fracture drove Forlortha and Silphenor mad.

In deranged flight from the ruins, Silphenor let fall the eight stones of Daemoth and they were scattered across the West. Little is told of him from that time, but some whispers tell that he fled into the Darkplane where his madness was seen as wisdom.

Forlortha fled formless to the world Iltallach, which she now claimed as a refuge for herself and her children. A great tree sprang from the rocky desert to house her spirit, and beside it she raised two gates to Vinramar—one opening in Orucolantra and another in Talanbir. Over the following centuries the fey children migrated to Iltallach in droves, where they tended the obstinate stone until water and life filled the deserted world.

The madness of Forlortha estranged her from her husband Loragg, who searched Iltallach for her in vain, not perceiving that the deranged malice within the tree was his wife's own spirit. This malice began at once to poison the land of Iltallach itself, making its people wanton and cruel. Elsewhere are told many tales of the mad elves and their dealings with the mortals of Vinramar.

From The Stonewar: An Assembled History by Bram Genning

Spotlight: War between Brothers

In the eons after the Creation, Jharus and his children settled in Anarthos and the surrounding mountains. When word reached him that Daemoth held two of the Irvallath captive to bear him children, Jharus traveled to Maromutalcoth and entreated his brother to leave the primordial offspring and live in Anarthos. Daemoth smiled sweetly and ascended his towerbut instead of proclaiming exodus, he called his brood to war.

From the lowest gates of Maromutalcoth, thousands of unspeakable things issued forth and engulfed Jharus while Daemoth and his eldest children fled with the captive Rinshari and Atiakha into the North. Jharus alone slew the vile army and returned to Anarthos, enraged by his brother’s rebellion.

It wasn’t long before Atiakha's demon-spawn were seen in the South and East, where Daemoth sent them wandering in a hungry rage. As they fell on the fey settlements and burrowed into the feet of the mountains around Anarthos, Jharus began a great work of armament among the jharethil, forging swords and lances for the hunting of Daemoth’s brood.

With each passing year the assailing creatures grew more hideous. The fey children took the brunt of the assault, having no protection from the North. Many of them crossed the Sea of Ivorlost to the land now called Telgard for escape. In time the demon-children of Daemoth learned to fare the waters, either by nature or by craft, and besieged the entire South.

When the raids became unbearable, Jharus and Loragg mounted a great legion of their children to put an end to his blasphemous craft. Jharus’ host drove the demons back to Maromutalcoth, where he and Loragg found Daemoth’s high seat empty. The sky above went dark, the light of Salvendum extinguished. A rain of immortal blood fell across the worlds, and Jharus knew that Sowm had been slain.

At Maromutalcoth, Jharus and Loragg waited the return of the godslayer. The colossal stone of Salvendum, its heart and core that was now without light, descended toward Vinramar. Above it hovered Daemoth, engorged from feasting on the body of Sowm herself. His flesh had grown bulbous and putrid. Jharus and Loragg fought Daemoth with all the might of their deity, and at last forced his very soul into the stone of Salvendum as a prison. Jharus and Loragg rolled the stone into the far abyss of the Darkplane, where Daemoth would lie imprisoned for time unmeasured.

— From The Stonewar: An Assembled History by Bram Genning

Spotlight: Jharus and the Heretics

JHARUS

God of artisanry, bravery, creation, and justice

Alignment: Chaotic Good

Symbols: Eagles, precious stones, swords

Names and Titles: Jharus, the Artisan, the Sword of Life, the Host Lord, the Lord of Mardelthwaide, Ureleth (Eagle Helm)

Abode: Mardelthwaide (Salvendum)

Enemies: Daemoth

Vassals: Ava, Iala, Loragg

Religious Organization: The Jharric Faith

THE HOST LORD

Jharus is the younger of the Sons of Sowm. With Daemoth he subdued the primordials and built a throne for himself in Vinramar. His tower was called Anarthos, seated in the highest peaks of the South.

When Sowm was slain and her body broken, Jharus and his son Loragg crafted a new one—a great stone to replace the fallen sun. Jharus bound himself to the stone and became Salvendum, the source of all light and natural life. Mardelthwaide, the Hall where Jharus sits bound, lies at the center of creation and can be seen from all the four worlds. It's home to the many gods and exarchs in his service.

Few have seen Jharus since he became the sun. He is depicted as a colossal man with golden-feathered wings, dressed in golden armaments. He's known for his courage and cunning mind, counseling his servants and directing mortal affairs from afar.

The Jharric Faith

The Jharric Faith is an ancient religion. Its adherents, called Jharrics, have worshiped the Jharric Pantheon (Jharus, Loragg, Ava, and Iala) since the first children of the gods took breath. Each of the four gods is represented by a separate order of priests within the faith. Though they revere all four gods, many of the faithful identify with one more closely than the others.

Once the Jharrics were a highly organized group with a rich tradition, but are now so depleted in numbers that most congregations are really just a handful of the faithful praying together at hidden mountain shrines. Outlawed in most nations, the church is required to operate in secret to avoid persecution.

In the secret cities of the jharethil, hidden from the sorrows of the world, the church is still organized as it was of old, with the reigning king or queen serving as high priest over the people. The Council of Lansari sits beneath the high priest, each Lansarus presiding over one chapter of the faith. The chapters consist of four branches, one for each god in the pantheon. All the branches within a specific geographic location meet together in the chapter house.

Central to the ethos of the Jharics is the concept of mahat, which represents the five pillars of the natural universe: balance, justice, life, morality, and truth. Mahat is both a concept and a force. It is what protects the four worlds and all natural life from the infectious influence of the Darkplane. It emanates from Salvendum, sowing life and ordering matter by natural laws.

Those of the Jharric Faith are expected to preserve mahat by embodying its five pillars—maintaining personal balance, sustaining order and justice, preserving life, encouraging moral rectitude, and speaking only truth. Of course, this is far easier said than done, especially when most of the world wants to execute you as a heretic.

Priests of Jharus

Domains: Life, Light, War

Alignments: Lawful Good, Neutral Good, Chaotic Good

Type: Orthodox Communal

Place of Worship: Jharric chapter houses

Holy Symbol: Ensign of the golden wings

Among the Jharric gods, the priests of Jharus are the quickest to action. The most elite of their order train in both combat and the channeling of divine magic. Those who follow Jharus are expected to uphold his tenets and succor the weak. Though they embrace all five pillars of mahat, the priests of Jharus place more emphasis on justice than life, allowing them to take life in retribution for sin or oppression.

 

  Zeriel's Light  by  Chris Cold

Zeriel's Light by Chris Cold

THE JHARETHIL: GUARDIANS AND HERETICS

At Anarthos, in the earliest age of Vinramar, Jharus built forges and mines where he and Loragg crafted the arts of the earth—cities, ramparts, crowns, and swords, all set with the radiant gold and the finest cut stones. Jharus’ hand was greatest among all living things in the shaping of creation. While Anarthos stood, the land about it was bathed in constant daylight from the workmanship that adorned its walls.

Though Jharus delighted in craft, Loragg desired most to emulate the beauty of Mother Sowm in the creation of life. From the soul, spirit, and body of Vinramar itself he shaped a woman and called her Forlortha. At her creation Forlortha was more beautiful than Rinshari and wise as Loragg himself. Though she loved her creator and husband, her chief love was with the earth from whence she came, with trees and flowers and the beasts that roamed the wild. Forlortha bore numberless children to Loragg, Jhareth and Feiren being the eldest.

The children of Loragg revered Jharus and Sowm as the Lady and Lord of Life, the Mother and the Son of Creation. Jhareth took Eralatha his sister to wife. Their subjects were the jharethil, radiant souls that soon filled the valleys and woods at the feet of Anarthos. Feiren took his sister Culfirith to wife, and their followers were the Fey Kindreds who settled across the Sea of Tacarros.

The jharethil were much to the liking of Jharus their grandsire, and he taught them in all his arts of craftsmanship. Their wisdom and valor became greater than their cousins, and under the tutelage of Jharus they were appointed protectors of Vinramar. As their power grew, their spirits shone through their flesh in auras of light, and they manifested wings, great and feathered like those their lord Jharus bore. The jharethil rarely strayed from the sight of golden Anarthos except in small patrols.

Their peace and glory wouldn't last. Anarthos was sacked and turned to a nest of unspeakable horror. Millennia of war, captivity, and bloodshed changed the jharethil from the righteous protectors of the earth into a secretive and despondent race despised as heretics in most parts of the world. Their cities have been taken up into the invisible High Realm, a dimension that protects them from outsiders. Many jharethil were left behind to curse the god that abandoned them.

Ethis and the Maahiset

It has been told that Ethis deceived Sarnoss and later bore Jukai. After the Irvallath escaped from their imprisonment in the Primordial Realm, she frolicked in the open North of Vinramar, where Ruethas returned to again try his suit with her. In her wanton mood she accepted and conceived with him, each of the primordial lovers wearing the shape of a fiery eagle. Ethis laid her eggs in the mountains north of Vunhaeg.

The eggs hatched quickly, bringing the first phoenixes into the world. Enamored of her power of creation, Ethis bore hundreds more of Ruethas' young in a hundred different forms. The remnants of their brood are still to be found scattered about the wilder regions of Vinramar.

But Ethis wished more and more to make children after the manner of the Sons of Sowm—an intelligent offspring like the daemons that were settled nearby. Leaving Ruethas in secret she came to Vunhaeg, where she found the king’s harem, composed of his own daughters. Using her mask to take the form of the daemon king Hitullos, she lay with each of his daughters and departed. But in her haste she left behind the mask.

Each of the daughters of Hitullos bore a child from Ethis, stocky and fire-eyed with bright runes that burned beneath their skin. These stunted creatures were raised among the kindred of Hitullos, but were shunned and mocked. Their mothers called the litter maehisath, “the charred ones.”

After lying with Ethis, the daughters of Hitullos conceived only the her children, no matter the father of the child. Within 50 years the maehisath, outnumbering their cruel kindred, turned the sword on the daemons and drove them from Vunhaeg. Bereft of his station and offspring, Hitullos departed into the wild as a vagabond, carrying only the mask of Ethis.

By this time Ethis had lost interest in her children, and the maehisath called upon her for succor in vain. But after some years Ethis chanced to pass Vunhaeg again, and there found a thriving body of her children, who now called themselves the maahiset. Her arrival was trumpeted from the walls of the city, and she walked with the maahiset again, teaching them powerful runes both for speech and for primordial magic. Though Ethis gloried in her children, her mischief and cunning soon embittered the maahiset. She dwelt in Vunhaeg for a short time before tiring of them and departing.

From The Labors of the Irvallath by Bram Genning

THE MAAHISITES

Settling the mountains north of present-day Trentsmund, the maahiset flourished as one of the great ancient civilizations. During the height of their power, the demon-legions of Mohtra ravaged the maahiset lands, causing them to scatter far across the West and flee into the mountains.

Four thousand years later their descendants, called Maahisites, began to emerge: the heathfolk, sarrow, gugrum, and telmatra. While sealed off, each Maahisite race had grown apart from the others, developing different physical and cultural attributes. The sarrow, for instance, remained short like their ancestors, while the gugrum grew much taller. The heathfolk preserved some of the maahiset’s arcane tradition, and the telmatra became able seafarers.

Along with humans, Maahisites have become one of the largest and most diverse racial groups. Thousands of years of separation have estranged these four races, and it’s doubtful that any kindred loyalty remains between them.

At its height, the maahiset empire covered much of the regions of Trentsmund, Chayrshellech, the Norlythe, and Goltaraim. Though their monumental cities have been buried and ground into dust, there are still artifacts, ruins, and places of power to be found in these regions—remnants of the runemages’ forgotten art. But those who can discover the secrets of the forbidden relics may live to regret it.

Today, the Maahisite races have little memory of their ancestors. They take for granted the folklore, nursery rhymes, and symbols of power that survive from that era. Even the heathfolk, who inherited a tradition of simple rune magic from the maahiset, know very little of the ancient practices. Time swallows secrets, and the mysteries of the maahiset are no exception.