Glorantha Digest: Fourth Age Controversy

Fourth Age Controversy

Date: Wed 07 Feb 1996 - 05:19:22 EET

I don't think this controversy should be taken off-line, although it could
use something other than personal insults! Here's my take:
   I have been enjoying the new-found fanaticism in the discussion of the Hero
Wars. Here are three thoughts:

   1. I now understand why they call them "loonies!" The true test of a faith
is what its disciples do when it loses. Many of those who followed Sabbatai
Sevi, the "perfect Messiah" of 17th century Judaism, found no problem that when
he was offered a choice between apostasy and death, he chose the former. They
simply assumed that this was a hidden part of his message, and followed him into
apostasy. As Gershom Sholem delicately suggests in his terrific book on Sevi,
something similar probably happened in the case of other religions whose
founders met unexpected ends. Let's see, is there ANYTHING that can happen that
would not be in the plan of the Red Goddess?

   By the same token, is there anything which would not be a step towards
repairing the World Machine, rebuilding the Elven Forests, bringing back the
Dark for the trolls, remaking the Celestial Bureacracy, or hastening the Final
Victory of Chaos? Personally, I think it is all building towards the victory of
the Invisible God (after all this Lunar "victory" seems suspiciously
"invisible!") And here's why:

   2. Glorantha, Middle Earth, Empire of the East.
   Tolkien suggests that his world, which starts as a flat "lozenge" becomes a
"bent world" when Eru sinks Numenor. And in the end it becomes our world.
Saberhagen, in the Empire of the East, argues that the nature of the world
changed when Ardneh changed it, and again when he released his change. He
suggests that it had happened before, and it certainly happens again, when in
the Sword series Lord Draffut suddenly appears, and we realize that it is the
same world! Glorantha, like Middle Earth, is populated by human analogues of
the peoples of our world. Now it is to have a white moon, and most of the Gods
are destroyed. Soon the Invisible God will round the world into a ball, and
then . . . So don't be put off by the Lunatics; the final victory will be that
of the way of Malkion!

   But here is a third perspective:

   3. The Stranger's Tale:

  The stranger emerged suddenly from the Storm outside. Tattered he was, and
he cursed the Storm as he appeared. His garments, such as they remained, seemed
red under the encompassing grey of the dust. Jospeh would have killed him, but I
told him to stay his hand. Hungry as we were, I did not want to have the blood
of an old man, crazy by the look of him, on our conscience.
   It turned out that he actually had some food with him, of a sort I have never
seen before or since.
   After our meager meal, he began to talk. Clipped to his belt was an
instrument of some kind, one that I had never seen before. He raised it and
said, it is the emblem of my lost profession: I was a scribe. We gasped at the
name. Yes, he grimaced, once I could write, when men still knew that forgotten
   I can tell you why it was forgotten, and then he told his tale, of how the
Gods of Storm were responsible for the evils of our world, talking of things
that some of us had heard of but many had not. . .
   "Once the world was a place of plenty and beauty. But the first Storm God,
Umath, ripped Earth and Sky apart to make a place for himself. Turbulent as he
was, his brood was worse. Creatures of destruction, all of them. One of them
it was, Humakt, who brought Death into the world. And yet he was not the worst.
Another it was, Ragnaglar, who brought Chaos into the world, and fathered
Wakboth the Devil. And yet he was not the worst. The worst was Orlanth, the
youngest, who brought the Great Dark into the world, when he slew Yelm, the God
of the Sun.
   Orlanth and Wakboth claimed to be enemies, and many men are fooled by this
claim. But the perceptive must note that not only are these two close
relations, but they have a common goal, the goal of destruction. They will
permit us to live, but only to live miserably, so that we cannot challenge their
   Their relation is strange, but capable of explanation. Whenever man makes a
place for himself in this world, these two powers emerge to destroy what we have
built. Orlanth is jealous that we can live without his turbulence, so whenever
he sees us prosper, he claims the prosperity is the doing of Wakboth. He sets
his foolish followers on a path of destruction, and when that destruction, as
all such destruction does, brings evil in its wake, Wakboth appears, drawn to
the evil. The two relatives "fight." And you may have heard the old expression,
"when dinosaurs fight, whomever wins, the grass is trampled." We are the grass.
   Thrice this has happened since Time began. First, when bright Nysalor was
created by the intelligent races. Orlanth and the other Gods raised up a Crusade
against him. In the end, Orlanth and Wakboth combined to destroy the best land
in the world, that of Dorastor. Again, when the EWF used the secrets of
dragonkind and the Jrusteli proved that man could dominate even the Gods. The
old Gods sank the isles of the Jrusteli and joined with the dragons to kill all
the humans in Dragon Pass. And now it has happened again, as the Red Goddess,
and her Red Moon, created by Man, were brought down by Argrath and his Orlanthi,
once again with the help of dragons. So it is that our once beautiful land has
been crushed between ice and sea, with dust in between.
   We must remember that our two greatest foes may claim to be enemies, but
they are relatives who collaborate on a common project, that of ruining all that
we do.

   It is not enough for them to destroy what man has built; they must also
destroy our knowledge. We no longer know what it was that Nysalor brought in
his wake. We do not know the God Learners secret. We do not know the secrets
of dragonkind that the EWF taught. Now we do not remember even how to write,
and this is the greatest loss of all.
   At the end of each age, we have been diminished, and have forgotten much that
we knew. But we survive."

   By now, our band was murmuring against his wild and blasphemous words.

   But he persisted. He screamed out: "Don't you see? Each time they have
done this, they have convinced the survivors that it was the fault of the
destroyed humans that the Gods did this evil. So that all one had to say was
"Nysalor" and our people would forget the generations of peace and civilization
he brought, and lay to his account the ruins that Black Arkat made of Dorastor.
Or say "EWF" and all that would be remembered was the Dragonkill. Or say
"Jrusteli" and all that one would hear was that the Godlearners brought the
wrath of the Gods down, not remembering that it was the Gods and not those who
learned about them that brought destruction. The same is true of Argrath's
destruction of Peloria. Generations of achievement are buried under snow and
sea, but we are supposed to lay this evil to the Red Goddess, and not those who
destroyed her.
   We are now more degraded than ever. That is their goal. It may seem that we
must accept that they are mightier than us, that all our achievements can be
destroyed at the whim of the Gods, as so often before.
   And yet, and yet, as we look at this shadow of a world that is left to us,
and we starving remnants that cling to life, we know that there must be a chance
to escape our slavery, for else why would Orlanth and Wakboth have to work so
hard to keep us down. Here is what we must do . . ."
   He never finished his tale, of course, for despite his years and his madness,
the blasphemies he spoke had enraged too many of our band. Since he had shared
food with us, we felt that we could not kill him, so we threw him back into the
Storm he so detested.
   Still, I must confess that his words stay in my mind. Crazy and blasphemous
they were, however, so I will say no more of them.


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