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Some notes on the Cradle aftermath...

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Sea Season 1621 – When word came that the Lunars had failed to stop the Giant Cradle at Pavis, Count Solanthos of Sun County resolved to take the prize when it floated downriver to his lands. In the failed attempt to capture the Cradle at Harpoon, almost the entire military and magical resources of the Sun Dome Temple were mobilised.

Afterwards, agriculture across all of Sun County suffered. Spring planting had been disrupted, and a lack of oxen meant many farmers now had to resort to pulling their own ploughs. Furthermore, despite the efforts of the priests, many of the rituals performed to protect and boost the coming harvest either failed, or seemed listless, flat, and lacking vitality.

At the same time, levees would burst, and channels would clog or divert at inopportune moments. The waterways of the county were plagued with stinging botflies. It was clear that the Zola Fel was angry with the Sun Folk for siding with the Lunars against the Cradle.

At the Count’s command, Lord Invictus had the River Ritual reenacted, seeking at least to make amends with the river. But the chosen participant, the popular rune lord Wulf*, was later found drowned – this despite a full suite of chanting priests supporting him and hundreds of farmfolk fervently praying along the riverbanks. Clearly the river god remained unappeased.


*that's Wulf, as depicted by Luise Perrine in RQ2's RuneMasters. The updated POD edition restores material previously cut from the original, specifically each of the 45 character backgrounds. There Wulf is described as "the son of a thane of the Telmori tribe in Sartar. Growing up as a barbarian, he joined the Yelmalio cult to learn to use a pike." So poor Wulf definitely has an interesting back story...

Later on Wulf's character description notes, "As his unpadded armor tends to chafe, he tends to be very short-tempered when wearing his armor." (he has the geas, 'never use padding'.)

(These restored character descriptions are entertaining, and make for a more well-rounded book. Some even have special heroquesting abilities! The descriptions were cut from the original 1981 RuneMasters for space reasons when, according to the author Bill Keyes, Chaosium at the time "decided to compact the material into a $5 size book instead of an $8 size book." It's great the new version has them included.)

[I posted this over on the RuneQuest Facebook group; posting here too, for ease of future retrieval]  

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9 minutes ago, MOB said:

There Wulf is described as "the son of a thane of the Telmori tribe in Sartar. Growing up as a barbarian, he joined the Yelmalio cult to learn to use a pike." So poor Wulf definitely has an interesting back story...

Someone over on Facebook noted "I wonder if he would be considered to be from Jomes' people instead now?" and I think that might make more sense, especially  lycanthropy is a crime in Sun County. At this distance from Dragon Pass, Wulf's origin story could have got muddled in the telling. You could say he is from Telmori lands, it's just that his people, led by Jomes, conquered it from the Telmori.

(And that also probably means the Yelmalio rune lord Wulf is like Jomes originally from Aggar in the Lunar Empire, where as a youngster he would have first seen the glittering domes of a Yelmalio temple).

As always YGMV...

Edited by MOB
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A bit more about the Cradle aftermath — In the reproaches and recriminations that followed the Cradle debacle, the chagrined Count Solanthos saw fit to squarely lay all culpability on his frontline commander at Harpoon, the Light Captain Lord Invictus.

Solanthos had sent a contemptuous message to his rival and overlord, the Lunar Governor Sor Eel, bragging that with their great spear-casting machine at Harpoon, the Sun Dome Templars would succeed where the mighty Lunar Empire had so miserably failed. The cost to Sun County, in terms of men, materiel, and magic for their own subsequent failure was huge; but to the count personally, even greater was the loss of prestige and face.

The count took out his anger on Invictus through various petty indignities and jibes, and by reallocating some of his responsibilities and privileges. These were instead bestowed on Lord Belvani, Invictus’s deputy (who had fortuitously and somewhat unaccountably been absent during the whole Cradle episode).


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I put the Light Son Wulf into my post-Cradle narrative (TL/DR: drowned in the River Ritual), so I thought I’d add in the two other Yelmalio characters from Rune Masters as well.

Here's the rune lord-priest Xendar (TL/DR: killed in a duel by Rurik Runespear!)

After the Great Winter, Haloric Glowbow was called to serve at the Great Sun Dome. The prominent rune master Xendar, chief of mercenaries, succeeded him as Light Captain of Pavis.

In his role as patriarch of the Eiskolli family, Haloric also made arrangements for his daughter Rana Goldenhair to marry Xendar.

Rana had first been married to the Light Son Rurik Runespear. As a convert of modest origins, Rurik was welcomed into the Eiskolli family after becoming celebrated and wealthy from many successful forays into the Pavis Rubble. But sadly, Rurik disappeared shortly after the wedding, at the time of the Cradle episode.

Subsequent divinations suggested Rurik was dead and so it was pronounced*.

Under the influence of the high priestess Daralanda, Rana’s fervent desire as a young widow was to immerse herself in the affairs of the Ernalda cult. To Rana’s dismay, straight after the ceremony Xendar forbade her from “prancing all over the city after Daralanda”, and from then on she was to remain sequestered at home like all decent and demure Yelmalian wives should.

Fortunately for Rana, when Rurik later returned with Argrath White Bull, he furiously enacted the Three Blows of Anger to reclaim his lost bride, killing Xendar. Rurik promptly gave his wholehearted assent to Rana, fulfilling her ambitions, and continues to safeguard the interests of his wife and the kinfolk he married into.


*not for the first time were divinations about Rurik’s demise wrong, see Wyrms Footnotes #13!

Edited by MOB
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And here’s the last of the three Yelmalio characters from Rune Masters, Vandar. Including an explanation for his very weird helmet... (all this, as always, YGMV)

As the most prominent Sun Domer family in New Pavis, the Eiskollis adroitly survived the change from the Lunar occupation to Argrath as King of Pavis. Although their prestige and fortune remains largely intact in the new regime, they find themselves with conflicted loyalties in the Time of Two Counts.

Formerly accommodating to the Lunars, those Eiskolli family members resident in New Pavis now tacitly accept “Count” Belvani’s rule. He in turn has confirmed all their ancestral privileges (except that he has claimed their former Suntown palace for his own).

Rana ‘Goldenhair’, married to Rurik Runespear and newly-inducted as an Ernalda priestess, is the acknowledged head of the Eiskolli family. She is also the Suntown representative on the Pavis City Council. This is the first time in Suntown history a woman has led a family or represented the Yelmalio district on the city council.

However, back in Sun County Rana’s distant relative Vandar contends that he is the rightful Eiskolli patriarch, despite his lowly birth in the extended family.

On becoming a light priest Yelmalio blessed Vandar with the gift of permanent Catseye and the Total Celibacy geas. His detractors whisper that geas was Yelmalio’s way of showing Vandar will never truly be the head of a family dynasty.

Fanatically devoted to Lady Vega, Vandar serves as captain of the countess’s Golden Guard, leading the efforts to root out and destroy the Sun Dragon heresy. In Earth season 1625, Vandar personally slew The Gamon, Lord Belvani’s dragonewt servant, when the opposing Sun Dome forces fought each other in the Big Rubble. He now righteously wears its skin.

Vandar’s divine ability to see in the dark makes his eyes somewhat sensitive to daylight (and glow in the dark). The special enclosed helmet he always wears during daylight hours might soothe his eyes but presents a frightening visage and unfathomable aura of menace.


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Continuing with what happened in Sun County after the Cradle debacle...



Shunned by Zola Fel and with prayers that ran flat, the farmers of Sun County brought in a meagre harvest that foretold a hungry winter.

Count Solanthos ordered village headmen across the County to gather together all available grain, but the corn yield was further diminished by the widespread secret cultivation of the banned narcotic hazia. Although the Guardian of Sun County, Vega Goldbreath, led strenuous efforts to stamp out the illegal trade, hazia seemed to be the only crop that thrived in that blighted year.

Fell omens continued to plague the dreams of the Light Keeper, Gaumata the Strange.

Gaumata saw bare fields and dry rivers, an unyielding cold, and a gnawing hunger. To his horror, the Sun Dome temple itself was cracked and defiled, and overrun with ravenous ghouls.

Always in his dreams Gaumata saw as the source of evil a subterranean pool, surrounded by ghostly trees thriving on darkness.

Much disturbed by these omens, and at great expense in pure gold and salt, Gaumata dispatched Lord Belvani and Porthor the temple cellarer to the Paps. There they purchased what meat animals they could from the Sun Dome’s tribal allies.

Meanwhile, Etyries merchants in Pavis were bemused and overjoyed when Sun County’s trade representative, the Lokarnos priest Thandren Clubfoot, bought up all the supplies possible, and at a significant premium.

As Dark season 1621 approached, Gaumata took some comfort that the granaries, storerooms, and cellars of the Sun Dome Temple, at least, were well stocked for whatever lay ahead...

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8 hours ago, MOB said:

Much disturbed by these omens, and at great expense in pure gold and salt, Gaumata dispatched Lord Belvani and Porthor the temple cellarer to the Paps. There they purchased what meat animals they could from the Sun Dome’s tribal allies.

BTW, it is on this mission to the Paps that Belvani first learns of the White Bull Society and its enigmatic leader Argrath. He establishes a secret line of contact.

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When Whitewall fell to the Lunars, the god Orlanth was fettered in the Underworld and the Great Winter began. I've put together some notes on how the people of Sun County in Prax fared in this terrible time, what they did to survive, and the efforts they made to end the Windstop. nb Everywhere within a radius of 250 miles of Whitewall was affected by this unprecedented calamity. Literally all the other peoples in that circle would have their own stories of this terrible time to tell, if they survived that is.

The Great Winter began in Dark Season 1621, when incredible events in far-off Heortland brought the dead air of the Windstop to Prax and the River of Cradles.

The nomads took their herds deep into the Wastes to escape, leaving Prax barren and empty. With Ernalda asleep and the cycle of growth stymied by a seemingly endless winter, the usual fertility rituals were useless.

Anxious villagers surreptitiously turned to Maran Gor, but even their blood sacrifices were in vain.

In times past, Yelmalion heroquesters could combat the extremes of winter by defeating Inora, the White Princess, one of the traditional foes at the Hill of Gold. The Light Lady Vega Goldbreath rose to the challenge. She embarked on the Hill of Gold quest, intent on overcoming the Ice Queen and loosening her frigid grip on the land. But, in order to reach Inora, the myth decrees that questers first must encounter Orlanth; however, where Orlanth should be Vega and her comrades found nothing – only stagnant air and an unnerving stillness.

Deeply frightened and unsure how to continue, they returned to the mortal world in failure and confusion.


nb the smaller circle is just to show that Sun County fell within the Windstop.

Edited by MOB
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With the Windstop other terrors came to Sun County.

Fertility blessings failed as animals and children began to die in the womb, gravely endangering their mothers as well.

Out of the Great Bog came swarms of locusts, both normal-sized and giant. With them came gangs of ravenous wild trollkin, some even riding the huge flying insects. They swept through the farmlands, stripping all the vegetation in their path. In their wake came a plague of famished traskars and cliff toads, driven from their usual lairs by hunger.

Even more disturbingly, chaos horrors emerged from a great eruption of sinkholes that appeared around the abandoned village of Rabbit Hat, formerly a center of the illicit hazia trade.

As the fields dried up, more such holes began to appear all across Sun County. Investigating parties sent in by Vega Goldbreath found themselves in a dangerous and confusing network of excavated tubes, suggesting a widespread subterranean infiltration of the land by Krarsht, the Devouring Mother.

The leaders of Sun County were sorely pressed dealing with these calamities, but the real crisis lay in the dwindling supply of food. As even harsher measures were enacted against hoarding, people began to accuse their neighbours of being in league with Krarsht.

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16 minutes ago, MOB said:

With the Windstop other terrors came to Sun County.

Forgot to add: And meanwhile, on the river a strange sea-monster, its breath like a poisonous cold mist, wreaked havoc. To the Count’s vexation, the Great Ballista at Harpoon was useless, lacking arrows to slay it – these had all been expended in the Cradle debacle!

(Even Sor Eel’s soldiers couldn’t kill the monster. It eventually it made its way upriver to the Rubble, where it is said to have disappeared into the Puzzle Canal.)

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Come the end of the year and things only go from bad to catastrophically worse for the Sun Domers in the Great Winter...


Worse was to come. During Sacred Time, the customary rituals to renew the world utterly failed.

Perimides the Chaste, the aged high priest, collapsed at the Sun Dome's High Altar, spilling the sacred libation. He was carried away, raving about a red-clad seductress.

As the shocked celebrants went to symbolically awaken the high earth priestess, Penta Goldbreath, they found she could not be roused.

Meanwhile, a creeping rot spread from the spilled libations to the sacrificial food offerings (and was later found to have spread to the granaries).

Evil spirits began to assail the assembled worshippers in the Gathering Place. In horror they realized some people in the crowd were actually the undead of Nontraya, those who had already died of hunger. In the confusion, the sleeping Penta vanished; panicked onlookers said she was carried off in the jaws of a great spectral wolf with horns.

Aghast at his own moral failing, Perimides immediately renounced the high priesthood and withdrew to a retirement tower in shame.

Gaumata – formerly called the Strange, but now known as “the Seer” since his dire premonitions were justified – became the new spiritual leader of the Sun Folk. He grimly pronounced that the Great Darkness had come again. Together the people of the Sun Dome and their allies must fight to stop chaos overcoming the world.


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When the Lunar Governor Sor Eel was recalled to Dragon Pass early in the new year (1622)*, most of the hungry army went with him. While this would mean less mouths to feed in Prax, before leaving Sor Eel's soldiers requisitioned all the food they could lay their hands on.

Count Solanthos rebuffed Sor Eel’s attempts at a levy in Sun County, but most of Pavis County and virtually all of the Grantlands were picked clean by the departing Lunar troops, causing great privation and suffering.

Down the length of the River of Cradles cold and hungry refugees from the countryside fled to the major centers, compounding the problems for the civic authorities.

In Pavis, whereas before the Teelo Norri kitchen welcomed all comers, the newly-arrived Lunar governor, Halcyon Var Enkorth, insisted those seeking food relief must prove their names were recorded in the official paper lists. Even then they only received a tiny millet cake that seemed to be mostly sawdust, though it was said the governor had brought tremendous quantities of food with him from the Heartlands. Certainly throughout the crisis Halcyon and his entourage never stopped looking sleek and satisfied.

The Sun Dome Temple was inundated with starving Grantlanders seeking sanctuary, who by custom could not be turned away.

Those refugees who made it to Corflu were bluntly informed by the Lunar garrison that they had no food to spare. This forced many in desperation to take passage with the Vadeli, the only seafarers to visit the port during the Windstop.

At least by now the nomad allies of Pavis and the Sun Dome were bringing in some provisions from the Wastes, though they refused to bring their herds back within reach of the dead air. But this was still not enough food to stave off impending mass starvation in the settled lands of the Zola Fel valley.

*The people of Pavis might be surprised to learn Sor Eel's recall had nothing whatsoever to do with his failure to capture the Cradle. Sor Eel's ouster came because the Red Emperor elevated Tatius the Bright to Governor-General of Dragon Pass as reward for his great victory at Whitewall, and Tatius quickly moved to purge and replace all the friends and kin of his predecessor, Fazzur Wideread. (GSB, p36.)


Edited by MOB
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In Sea Season the spring melt in the Rockwoods normally brings the Zola Fel back to full flow. In the year of the Great Winter though, the river had slowed to little more than a fitful trickle.

The Sun Domers hoped the Zola Fel was ready to forgive them for their attack on the Cradle, but it proved impossible even to commence the River Ritual in the few stagnant pools that remained.

With no prospect of a new harvest, the new high priest Gaumata called the Yelmalio cult leadership and community to announce a desperate measure. He foresaw that only by emulating their god Yelmalio’s grim and lonely endurance in the Darkness could the People of the Sun hope to survive the crisis.

For the first time since the Solitude of Testing, Sun County gathered to support their leaders in the heroquest of the Last Light.

As in the myth, the Great Sun Dome Temple became a bastion, attracting to it allies who could aid in the struggle. Some were expected, such as their Light Khan kin from among the nomads, and the Star Maiden Cathea Goldenhelm*, but others were a surprise.

One such unexpected ally was the wyrm Windwhistler, said to be the last living worshipper of the Sun Dragon.

Vega Goldbreath reminded Count Solanthos of how the Last Light myth speaks of the false friend. She urged him to drive the heretical creature away.

The Count was set to do so, until Lord Belvani told him that the wyrm brought interesting news.

When lured to the Sun lands Windwhistler first went to Old Sun Dome; this was the true temple in the days long ago when he dwelled in these parts. Back then it was a place of vibrant dragon worship, but Windwhistler was surprised to now find it shunned and deserted.


Peering in through the cracked dome, Windwhistler spied a woman curled on the flagstones below; sleeping or possibly dead, the wyrm could not tell. Before he could investigate further Windwhistler said he was driven away by evil spirits.

Frantic with concern for his abducted wife, Invictus the light captain urged the count to depart for the Old Sun Dome without delay.

But Gaumata shared Vega’s distrust of the wyrm. He cast a divination, and saw what Wind Whistler saw – though to Gaumata the sleeping figure seemed more like an alluring woman in red than a matronly priestess like the missing Penta.

As a speaker of Truth, the high priest voiced his doubts, but in the end Count Solanthos was swayed by his favorite Belvani, and so Windwhistler was permitted to join them. Gathering their new allies, the Yelmalio heroquesters made ready to journey to the Old Sun Dome...

Edited by MOB
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13 minutes ago, MOB said:

As in the myth, the Great Sun Dome Temple became a bastion, attracting to it allies who could aid in the struggle. Some were expected, such as their Light Khan kin from among the nomads, and the Star Maiden Cathea Goldenhelm*, but others were a surprise.

*Formerly known as Cathea Silverhair (see 'The Raid on Yelorna' scenario in RQ Classic's Big Rubble: The Deadly City), somehow in her adventures this Yelornan came into possession of a fabled ancient treasure, a so-called “Yelmalio Helm”. After attaining Star Maiden rank she took to wearing the magnificent helmet, hence her new nickname, “Goldenhelm.” The helmet is fashioned from pure gold and is engraved with solar symbols. Its faceplate depicts a handsome bearded man (Yelmalio himself); as this is somewhat incongruous on a unicorn virgin, Cathea tends to keep the visor open.

The Yelmalio Helm's properties are outlined in 'The Raid on Yelorna' scenario, and @M Helsdon, author of The Armies and Enemies of Dragon Pass has further described the Yelmalio Helm here:

"The Yelmalio Helm is fashioned from solid gold and is engraved with Solar symbols. Only a very few of these Golden Age artefacts exist. The faceplate depicts a handsome bearded man said to be Yelmalio himself. The faceplate slides up into the top of the helmet."58279c723d12b_Yelmaliohelmfin.PNG.5402dfc06aa19ed9998b23733d8f3a5e.png.d0df2885129d4dd5b0c7efb50ae8b5da.png

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The Last Light heroquest emulates Yelmalio’s grim and tenacious survival in the Greater Darkness, and is only performed at times of the gravest existential peril.

The Last Light has helped Sun County endure various trials and torments during the terrible Solitude of Testing period (1200 – 1575). The heroquest was last performed in the reign of Count Skindilli Longlegs (1439-1458), of whom the Light List says, “drove away Daga and made slaves of the Storm Bull men.”

Although an entire community can take part, the lead participant must have completed at least the Sacred Time version of the Hill of Gold heroquest, where Yelmalio is disarmed by Orlanth, and then ambushed by Zorak Zoran, who steals his fire powers. In most cases this would be the Count*.

Stations of the Last Light Heroquest

  1. The Son of the Sun falls and bleeds out his life-giving heat, but his wounds do not deter his struggle in the Darkness as he girds his strength and fortitude.
  2. He joins with allies to fight against the relentless approach of chaos. The elves will be one, and there will be others, but one friend is false that only later Truth can reveal.
  3. He fights off those who would drag him to hell like his father and becomes the Last Light, the strongest god of light to live in the Darkness.
  4. He finds his wife Ernalda**, the earth mother who was lost in the darkness, and stands guard over her while she sleeps.
  5. The false friend is revealed and he is wounded again, bleeds out the last of his firepower into Ernalda, and that helps warm her enough to be awakened.
  6. He survives the Darkness, and watches over the ruins of the world until he greets the rise of his father, the Sun, at the start of time.

*a leader who has gone on a pilgrimage to the actual Hill of Gold in Vanch itself greatly improves the chances of success and enhances outcomes.

**this can be any other earth goddess who has gone to sleep, e.g. Esrola, Eiritha, Aldrya.

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Having gathered their new allies, the Last Light heroquesters journeyed to the Old Sun Dome, wondering what horrors awaited them. They found the ruins there swarming with vengeful wraiths and the ghosts of Sun Folk who had died of hunger.

Entering the blackened temple, a host of undead assailed them: the animated remains of yet others who had starved, driven at them by demons with scorpion whips.

After battling their way through the zombies to the vault, Count Solanthos himself used his fabled iron pike to slay the great horned wolf guarding the sleeping woman lying half-concealed in the gloom.

But, before the heroquesters could go to her aid, the woman rose of her own accord.

Stepping into the light, they saw that she was not the missing priestess Penta after all, and – just as in Gaumata’s dream – she was garbed in red. In her arms the mysterious woman cradled a brass jar, which she held towards them.

She smiled, and removed the stopper. The jar rattled for a moment, and then, with a great discordant dry-throated roar, out of the jar emerged Daga, the desiccating god of drought.

As the deathly spectre grew before them, Invictus caught sight of the crumpled form of his wife Penta in a dark corner. There she lay, half-buried in a mound of dead earth.

Yelmalio in the Darkness bled out the last of his fire power into Ernalda to awaken her, and Invictus could do the same. But between husband and wife stood the red woman. Before he could reach Penta, the stranger caught his eye. The Light Captain tried to resist, but was beguiled.

For the others, the encounter ended abruptly. With a blast of scouring dust, Daga suddenly swept out of the vault in a blinding whirlwind. At the same moment there was a vivid pulse of crimson light and the red woman suddenly vanished, taking Invictus with her. The empty brass jar clattered on the floor.

The reason for the Red Witch’s sudden departure became clear moments later, when the dog-headed god Jajagappa and his pack suddenly swarmed into the crypt, seeking to drag the Yelmalion heroquesters to Hell.

Flying in on Windwhistler’s back through the crack in the dome, Belvani swooped to rescue the comatose Penta. He also snatched up the brass jar. Windwhistler bore Penta and soared out of the temple to safety.

Meanwhile the Count, his Light Sons, and their allies successfully fought off Jajagappa, proving they were worthy of the strongest god of light to live in the Darkness.

The heroes left the dog-headed Hunter of Souls and his Hell Hounds to gorge themselves on the undead infesting the ruins.

They returned to the new Sun Dome, which now shone with its own brilliance. But everyone knew the famine would still continue, as they had failed to awaken the Earth Mother. And now Daga freely stalked the land. It was a small mercy that thanks to Belvani and Windwhistler Penta Goldbreath was at least safe, though she remained in a deep sleep.


The next morning, Invictus found himself awake in the bed of Marusa, the secretive Lunar priestess who arrived in Pavis with the new governor.

The Light Captain fled the city in shame and humiliation.



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Alliance with the Elves

Shortly after the Count and his heroquesters returned from the Old Sun Dome a lone elf from Pavis arrived, parched and weary. Clad in copper armour, the wood lord Rohir Oaklimb* had heard the call for the Last Light.

Rohir brought news of how the Aldryami of the Pavis Garden were suffering terribly. Their mother goddess Aldrya too was lost to them, and everything in the Garden lay enfeebled or dormant.

Taking advantage of their weakened state, the trolls of the Rubble had gleefully devastated great swathes of elvish territory, forcing the Aldryami to retreat back to little more than a small area around their sacred Shanasse tree on the summit of Green Hill.

The elves were grateful when Haloric Glowbrow, Light Captain of Pavis, brought his Sunspear Guards to help drive the invaders back, enforcing the mythic ties of Yelmalio and High King Elf striving together in the Darkness. From their camp in Angle Fort, atop the ruins of Yelmalio Hill, Haloric launched a daring midnight assault on Troll Bridge.

The elves’ chief tormentor Ziolan Onge, Queen of the Loricek Clan, and a host of her Zorak Zoran bodyguards were killed in the battle. Swearing bloody vengeance, the Death Lord Lorgzang Redeye escaped over the bridge with the remnants of the Darkdemon Regiment.

Rohir used the break in the fighting to slip out of the Rubble and make his way to Sun County.

*one of the Aldrya characters from Rune Masters!

Rohir Oaklimb's write-up in the restored character descriptions says that he originates from "the forests on the Storm Hills’ hillsides" in Sartar, so I'm going to say he's an adventurous elf who was on a mission to the Pavis Garden when the Windstop hit.


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A Secret and an Ancient Evil

When the Wood Lord Rohir Oaklimb learned that the Sun Domers had failed to awaken Ernalda, he shared an important cult secret with his new allies: the Aldryami of the Garden had discovered where their own mother goddess slept.

Far underground and by still pool of pallid water, Aldrya was hidden in a thicket of ghostly trees.

The hiding place was deep, deep beneath the site known as the Devil’s Playground in the Pavis Rubble. The elves feared to go there, for their visions foretold that their Great Seed was watched over by an ancient, intensely malignant presence.

But together with their Sun Domer allies, perhaps they could quest together like High King Elf and Yelmalio had in the Great Darkness. Perhaps everyone could be saved by rekindling a connection to Aldrya herself as the primal source of sustenance?

When Rohir Oaklimbs's description was relayed to Gaumata the Seer he realized that this was the evil place that had long haunted his own dreams.

Searching through the temple archives with Temple Librarian Hector the Wise, Gaumata learned of an ill-fated expedition to the Devil's Playground, many years before*. The sole survivor was a Light Priest, one Taleo Lumine, now an aged and blind hermit in one of the temple’s retirement towers.

Although it was now the middle of the night, Gaumata ordered Taleo be brought before him immediately. The high priest's attendants hurried to the retirement tower in the temple grounds.

Shining a lantern through the grate in the tower's door, they were shocked to see furtive movement inside, instead of a solitary hermit at rest. Fumbling with the key, they heard sounds of violence and a stifled groan; casting a light spell revealed two masked figures were throttling the old man.

Forcing the door open, the attendants rushed inside to find Taleo Lumine dead and his masked assassins escaping through the tower's open roof. An alarm was called but the killers disappeared into the night.

Searching through the blind priest's meagre effects found nothing. But hidden on the back panel of his oblation stand Hector discovered ominous scratchings.

Where lies the flesh of the Devil,

The foulest part of all,

That sees through the flesh of every evil,

And watches through the parting pall?

Long ago with sightless eyes, Taleo Lumine had etched these words, and below them the image of a great pallid eye. Marks on the wood showed he must have spent endless hours tracing the markings over and over with his fingertips, reliving the horrors and remembering his shame.

From all this, Gaumata and Hector reached a grim conclusion: the still pool beneath the Devil’s Playground was none other than the Eye of Wakboth, a fragment of the devil itself, torn from its face when battling Storm Bull in the Gods War.*See 'The Devil's Playground' in RQ Classic's Big Rubble: The Deadly City. It's possible IYG Taleo returned to the Devil's Playground with a group of adventurers (player characters) as per that scenario, seeking to atone for his failures and cowardice the first time he was there. In which case if he survived the second visit, he returned to his tower. If he didn't make it back, the Moon Masks off the unfortunate new hermit resident in the tower anyway, get surprised the same way, and Taleo's etchings are still found.



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Temptation Resisted

With food supplies almost gone and no end to Winter in sight, Count Solanthos Ironpike decreed that the heroquesting band of Sun Domers, Elves, and their allies would go to Pavis, there to the face the Eye and awaken Aldrya.

Vega Goldbreath would remain behind at the Great Sun Dome. With Invictus missing and Belvani questing with the count, this left her, the only female rune lord in the cult, to serve as temporal head of the Sun Folk.

Vega's earlier heroquesting attempt to break the Winter had not succeeded, but she swore she would prove to all a Light Lady was just as worthy of the mantle of leadership as a Light Son.

Of the absent Light Captain, Gaumata could only discern from his divinations that Invictus had "fallen", and although he would "see the light", would "fall further yet".

Another of the seer's visions was clear though. As the questers prepared to depart, the high priest told the count they must take the reformed baboon Melo Yelo along with them.

The Light Khan Golungan was most unkeen to have such a beast in their party, for out on the plains the Sable Nation considered baboons little more than vermin. But Gaumata insisted Yelmalio's Light of Truth had shone on this curious creature and it might yet still have a part to play in their mission. Given his own well-known antipathies towards non-humans, Solanthos was surprisingly quick to relent.

The questers were eager to make haste to Pavis, but their path was blocked: a great host of ravenous Gagarthi outlaws were despoiling the area around Garhound.

To evade the raiders, Lord Belvani cleverly suggested using the subterranean tubes of the Krarshti.

Making their way through the tunnels the questers were shocked to come across a huge excavated vault, stuffed to the brim with hoarded foodstuffs – grain, preserved fruits and meat, wine, assorted luxuries, as well as contraband including hazia. There was even fodder for animals. This was enough to help sustain the population for weeks!

The Yelornan Cathea Goldenhelm argued that this unexpected bounty meant they should now abandon their dangerous mission altogether. But the count knew that in the Darkness the Son of the Sun too had been sorely tempted to give up.

Solanthos gritted his teeth and implacably ordered all the tainted supplies destroyed.

Yet again Belvani’s cunning came to the fore: through a series of clever feints, the Light Khan Golungan and his sable riders lured the starving Gagarthi to the vault, and when they went in whooping for the plunder, the Count sent Sunspears and salamanders after them to righteously consume it in fire.

The way was now clear to Pavis.

Melo Yelo SC.png

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Invictus the Light Captain made his way back to Sun County following his embarrassing interlude with the Lunar priestess Marusa.

All around him Invictus saw the terrible grip the Great Winter had on the land: frozen fields that were once thick with golden corn lay dry and hard, and now that Daga was at large, withering corpses of farm animals lay clustered around drying up canals and wells.

At the Sun Dome Temple the Light Captain was vexed to learn that the Count and his questers had already set off for Pavis; sadly, their paths had not crossed.

Lady Vega chided Invictus for his mysterious absence. Guilt-ridden that his wife – Vega's own sister – was still comatose, he couldn't bring himself to confess where he'd been or what he'd done.

Deeply ashamed of his moral failure at the Old Dome, Invictus resolved to atone for it. Before Vega could question him further or Gaumata lay Truth on him, the Light Captain took up the Brass Jar left behind by the Red Witch and set out alone to vanquish the god of drought.

It is Zola Fel who assumes the role of Heler in the Sun Dome version of Daga’s Banishment, so Invictus knew he would need the aid of the river.

Following the familiar heroquest path taken by the Counts in the annual River Ritual, he made his way down the course of the Ouel Stream. But this time the Ouel was dry, and the desperate and dying people lamenting their misfortune and croaking for his help were real, not play-acting farmers.

At the Ouel Stream's confluence with the Zola Fel Lord Invictus waded as deep as he could go into the frigid and now very shallow water. He raised his arms and called on the river. There was no answer.

For hours he tried but to no avail; the river ignored his calls. Finally, the crowd of starving farmers who had gathered around lost their patience. First they shouted reproaches and insults their once-popular hero; they knew Invictus had commanded the forces against the Cradle and held him to blame for the making the life-giving river angry with the People of the Sun. Then they began to pelt their Light Captain with stones.

To escape the furious mob and their brickbats, Invictus waded across the river and disappeared into the reed banks of the New Bog on the other side. For an unknown time* he wandered aimlessly through the frozen swamp, growing numb with cold and despairing what to do next.

Then came his chance to make amends with the Zola Fel: Invictus found the ancient catfish priest Brighteye trapped and suffocating in the dwindling dregs of a pond. Through stinking thigh-deep mud, Invictus dragged the great fish over the riverbed to the safety of a deeper pool, all the while fighting off a swarm of leechlike broo that were drawn to them.

In gratitude, Brighteye brought Invictus to Zola Fel, who had retreated in alarm to a secret shrine as the waters dried up around him.

The river god was still deeply upset with the Sun Domers. Nevertheless, he was grudgingly thankful that the Light Captain had saved his oldest devotee, and listened to the promises the Yelmalion made to heal the rift between the River and the Sun lands.

Invictus then told Zola Fel of his quest to fight Daga, and implored him for aid, as he had given to the Counts of old**. The river god was reluctant, until he noticed that Invictus had brought a brass jar, like the Counts he’d aided in times past. Only then did Zola Fel finally agree to help.

* I suspect Invictus is actually on his heroquest at this point and has stepped out of Time, he just doesn't know it.

** as described in The River Ritual in RQ3's Sun County.


Edited by MOB
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