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jeffjerwin

Tell me of Sheng Seleris

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So here is a secret. I have an old document Rob Heinsoo gave me to read when I visited Chaosium in I think 1997 or 1998? that is about the secrets of Sheng/AgartuSay. And most it made it into the Guide, but one bit that didn’t (and that is explicitly described as ‘an SS secret’) is that his First Discipline takes about 100 years to work. Like it isn’t just ‘be tortured like he was tortured’, but you have to do it for about as long. 

But the real secret? Everyone knows it takes 100 years - but it actually takes slightly yes. Godunya and the Lunars both mess up with this, which is why he is able to beat Godunya and plunder the Moon - in both cases he is assisted by demigods, ‘mini-Shengs’, that his opponents had thought they were pre-empting. 

My personal theory is that the exact number is based on the time of the rising of Kargzant and Yelm after the Darkness - eventually he symbolically becomes Yelm himself, heir to all the powers of the Sun. But that’s just a private theory, we don’t know why the timing, why he gets all sorts of solar etc powers. 

some got ‘released early’ when he was apotheosised and gets his star. 

This may explain some of the timing issues Peter notes - Sheng is putting off some of his big magical confrontations until his demigod Disciples have ‘ripened’. 

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27 minutes ago, davecake said:

So here is a secret. I have an old document Rob Heinsoo gave me to read when I visited Chaosium in I think 1997 or 1998? that is about the secrets of Sheng/AgartuSay. And most it made it into the Guide, but one bit that didn’t (and that is explicitly described as ‘an SS secret’) is that his First Discipline takes about 100 years to work. Like it isn’t just ‘be tortured like he was tortured’, but you have to do it for about as long. 

But the real secret? Everyone knows it takes 100 years - but it actually takes slightly yes. Godunya and the Lunars both mess up with this, which is why he is able to beat Godunya and plunder the Moon - in both cases he is assisted by demigods, ‘mini-Shengs’, that his opponents had thought they were pre-empting. 

My personal theory is that the exact number is based on the time of the rising of Kargzant and Yelm after the Darkness - eventually he symbolically becomes Yelm himself, heir to all the powers of the Sun. But that’s just a private theory, we don’t know why the timing, why he gets all sorts of solar etc powers. 

some got ‘released early’ when he was apotheosised and gets his star. 

This may explain some of the timing issues Peter notes - Sheng is putting off some of his big magical confrontations until his demigod Disciples have ‘ripened’. 

 

In the GRAY Kargzant returns in in 110,666.

After 134 years, Emperor Jenarong [his mortal representative] is ruler of Dara Happa in 110,800 to 110,901 (101 years)

Kargzant's ascendency takes 99 years. 111,001-111,100 (the text says 100).

These dates look off... Certainly several 'On Horse' emperors are left out.

 

This also explains why he can be the object of Argrath's Lightbringer Quest. He's a mythic Sun god, trapped in Hell. And also AgartuSay (which is clearly the Pentan name for Arkat)

Still, I think Argrath made a terrible mistake.

 

I wonder if somehow it is Argrath who is being played by AgartuSay. AgartuSay was born when the Red Goddess became a god... like Arkat's birth during the Sunstop. His path may also be inefficient because of the usefulness of following Arkat's lead.

Edited by jeffjerwin

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AgartuSay is supposedly Sheng's god, but what do we know about it beyond that? Seems to be that beyond anything else, it's his personal deity.

The comparison to Arkat is fine, of course, as they are both "Others" of deities created within Time, however, one is explicitly referred to as a deity, while the other is explicitly a mortal man (at least it seems so).

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28 minutes ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

AgartuSay is supposedly Sheng's god, but what do we know about it beyond that? Seems to be that beyond anything else, it's his personal deity.

The comparison to Arkat is fine, of course, as they are both "Others" of deities created within Time, however, one is explicitly referred to as a deity, while the other is explicitly a mortal man (at least it seems so).

Guide to Glorantha, p.364: "At the same time as the birth of the Red Goddess (1220), the man named AgartuSay was born amid great omens."

Edited by jeffjerwin
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1 hour ago, davecake said:

 

But the real secret? Everyone knows it takes 100 years - but it actually takes slightly yes. Godunya and the Lunars both mess up with this, which is why he is able to beat Godunya and plunder the Moon - in both cases he is assisted by demigods, ‘mini-Shengs’, that his opponents had thought they were pre-empting. 

 

Of course, Sheng's brother who attempted the Ten Tests could have easily therefore been a mini-Sheng, sent to distract to Emperor and waste his power. SS would have chosen the Jenarong style accession if given the opportunity.

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I think Jolaty is a Kralorelan mystic deity, possibly an obscure one essentially rediscovered by Sheng - it isn't native Pentan, was unknown to the Pentans before Sheng introduced it, and was discovered by him during his 100 years of torture. 

Oh, and Jolaty -> zolathi is linguistic drift, Pelorians trying to pronounce a Kralorelan term they learnt via Pentans.

But zolathi -> dolathi is a change in meaning - the Red Emperor purging the mystics from the Selerian era that had adopted some Selerian ideas, and replacing them with tamer, more orthodox Dara Happan, ones. 

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8 hours ago, jeffjerwin said:

Of course, Sheng's brother who attempted the Ten Tests could have easily therefore been a mini-Sheng, sent to distract to Emperor and waste his power.

The timing doesn't work. It takes 99 years to create the 'mini-Shengs' (mini, only in that they are as powerful as Sheng was in 1350, so demigods), he is not able to use them in Peloria until he attacks the Moon. Or maybe some appear just slightly earlier when his apotheosized - but none have appeared by 1428 when his 'brother' attempts the Ten Tests. 

The First crop of mini-Shengs do include some of his literal family members, though. 

8 hours ago, jeffjerwin said:

SS would have chosen the Jenarong style accession if given the opportunity.

Absolutely. All about reasserting the nomad supremacy over the walkers and city dwellers. 

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The story I heard was that Zolathi was Jolaty written down in Kralori runes.  Beyond his association with good slvary, nothing is knonw.

It's possible that Jolaty could have been a Fonritan philosophy thatt Shneg encountered in Kralorela as stranger religious diffusions have occured in the real world (in particular, the Ahura Mazda of the Zorastorians is the same as in the Japanese car maker, the patron deity of Manchu rule, Gesar of Ling, turns out to have been based on Julius Caesar and some Aboriginal people in Northern Oz worship a supreme deity that they picked up from visiting Muslim sailors in medieval times).  

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10 minutes ago, davecake said:

The timing doesn't work. It takes 99 years to create the 'mini-Shengs' (mini, only in that they are as powerful as Sheng was in 1350, so demigods), he is not able to use them in Peloria until he attacks the Moon. Or maybe some appear just slightly earlier when his apotheosized - but none have appeared by 1428 when his 'brother' attempts the Ten Tests. 

That doesn't necessarily have to be the case.  Assume Sheng lays down his first batches of Zolathi in 1355.  One crop is filled with his strongest companions and he intends to reap them in a hundred years time.  At the other end of the scale is a group  is full of recent hanger-ons and he intends to reap them in five years time.  When they report for duty, they will be tough but not so tough that he beat them all up with one hand behind his back.    As time grows by Sheng acquires more potent Zolathi who are increasingly loyal to him.  As the same time throughout that period, when Sheng acquires some new hanger-ons, he can easily give the best of them the five year treatment.  

In addition, Sheng has complete flexibility as to when he gets the new batch of potent Zolathi.  He may intend one batch to be tortured for fifty years but because of trouble elsewhere, he decides to finish their torture in 45 years instead.  There's also the possibility that some of his supporters (Praxians, Dara Happa on Horse) are busy making their own batch of Zolathi (such as the order of Kerestus).

 

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21 minutes ago, metcalph said:

That doesn't necessarily have to be the case.  Assume Sheng lays down his first batches of Zolathi in 1355.  One crop is filled with his strongest companions and he intends to reap them in a hundred years time.  At the other end of the scale is a group  is full of recent hanger-ons and he intends to reap them in five years time.  When they report for duty, they will be tough but not so tough that he beat them all up with one hand behind his back.    As time grows by Sheng acquires more potent Zolathi who are increasingly loyal to him.  As the same time throughout that period, when Sheng acquires some new hanger-ons, he can easily give the best of them the five year treatment.  

In addition, Sheng has complete flexibility as to when he gets the new batch of potent Zolathi.  He may intend one batch to be tortured for fifty years but because of trouble elsewhere, he decides to finish their torture in 45 years instead.  There's also the possibility that some of his supporters (Praxians, Dara Happa on Horse) are busy making their own batch of Zolathi (such as the order of Kerestus).

I am sure they get some benefits from pursuing his twisted ascetism for some period of years. But that just makes them a twisted mystic. The true, accept no substitutes, not just mysticism but also demigod solar powers, process takes, as I said from my old Chaosium source, just under 100 years. The ones that do it for less than that time are just powerful mystics, not demigods like Sheng. 

This is a very practical difference - the main powers of the Zolathi, despite their power, are the standard mystic ones of immunity to magic. Sheng goes far beyond that. 

And the Zolathi are different to the Bursts, AFAIK - though both mix mysticism and solar magic, I think in different ways. 

He might possibly have got some of them out early, but he doesn't want to.

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1 minute ago, davecake said:

I am sure they get some benefits from pursuing his twisted ascetism for some period of years. But that just makes them a twisted mystic.

Twisted mystics who would be still stronger than everybody else.  Who cares it they are not demigods, they will still kick ass for Sheng.

1 minute ago, davecake said:

The true, accept no substitutes, not just mysticism but also demigod solar powers, process takes, as I said from my old Chaosium source, just under 100 years. The ones that do it for less than that time are just powerful mystics, not demigods like Sheng. 

None of what you are revealing from your supposedly sooper-sekret chaosium source is actually new.  It was published in the Glorantha Com IV compendium way back in 1997.   it doesn't contain anything like do this stuff for less than a hundred years and you are a twited mystic,not a proper demigod like Sheng..  There's no cut-and-dried details on how powerful a person is depending on how long a mystic has been in the torture camp.

All that is said is that the process took less than the 100 years that everybody knew that a large group of tribesmen were freed even earlier (and perhaps unfinished) when Sheng achieved apotheosis in (1)444.  

 As matters stand, I'not particularly interested on maintaining total fidelity to some jottings over twenty years old - I'm interested in providing something that Jeff Erwin can use for his campaign..

1 minute ago, davecake said:

This is a very practical difference - the main powers of the Zolathi, despite their power, are the standard mystic ones of immunity to magic. Sheng goes far beyond that. 

That's not what is said about the Zolathi.  The Fortunate Succession merely says "They were immune to many magics" FS p74.  Many is not all.

1 minute ago, davecake said:

And the Zolathi are different to the Bursts, AFAIK - though both mix mysticism and solar magic, I think in different ways. 

Let's see.  Sheng preaches the worship of Jolaty whose followers are known as the Zolathi (from the Kralori runes Zho Lath Ey) but his elite warriors etc are not Zolathi?  Not making much sense to me.    Rather than state it should be so on the basis that what some document states, you should be using it as a springboard to describe what you think it should be like.

I'm not particularly interested in arguments to the effect that because the Zolathi took a hundred years to make, the bursts cannot be Zolathi because they were with him in the very beginning.  I would rather hear something like Shneg had a variety of people under his banner - Kralori, Teshnans, Dara Happans, Praxians and Ignorants.  He organized matters so that with every fresh crop of Zolathi that he had, the Pentans (the bursts) were always a majority and his closest family and friends would be the strongest people in his Celestial Empire when the century was up.

1 minute ago, davecake said:

He might possibly have got some of them out early, but he doesn't want to.

How do you know that?  The source document doesn't say that.  I'm simply supposing that because he had the capacity to get some out early, he chose to pursue to have some Zolathi mature early, some Zolathi mature in 25 years and some Zolathi mature in a 100 years time.  I'm ascribing foresight and planning to a very clever Sheng.

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4 minutes ago, metcalph said:

Who cares it they are not demigods, they will still kick ass for Sheng.

Well, I'm not quite sure how ass kicking they are, but sure, they are useful if you want to kick the ass of normal humans, just might not be quite up to the task of invading the moon. 

6 minutes ago, metcalph said:

None of what you are revealing from your supposedly sooper-sekret chaosium source is actually new.  It was published in the Glorantha Com IV compendium way back in 1997. 

Maybe, I will check my copy to see if what made it there is slightly different. 

7 minutes ago, metcalph said:

There's no cut-and-dried details on how powerful a person is depending on how long a mystic has been in the torture camp.

Sure, but it is very explicit about that almost 100 years thing being really significant. You can ignore that if you find the sources contradicting your personal favoured interpretation annoying, but thats just a big YGWV. 

9 minutes ago, metcalph said:

As matters stand, I'not particularly interested on maintaining total fidelity to some jottings over twenty years old

And YGMV all you want with all our blessings. Just don't ask me to reject Chaosium sources in favour of your (single) interpretation. 

 

10 minutes ago, metcalph said:

That's not what is said about the Zolathi.  The Fortunate Succession merely says "They were immune to many magics" FS p74.  Many is not all.

Yeah, they have immunity the way mystics do, not in some absolute sense (though, of course, some mystics may go beyond what are described in detail in current sources). My apologies for not explicitly qualifying every comment with references to the sources that I assume everyone involved has read. 

13 minutes ago, metcalph said:

Sheng preaches the worship of Jolaty whose followers are known as the Zolathi (from the Kralori runes Zho Lath Ey) but his elite warriors etc are not Zolathi?  Not making much sense to me. 

You can't be simultaneously rigorously following a traditional nomad lifestyle, AND being locked in a torture camp? You can't both be a combat demigod charging into the sky, and shunning all magic? Sheng has more than one type of powerful follower, as you'd expect from a guy who has built an incredibly complex empire out of at least three other empires. 

They serve different roles. I think the Bursts practice some Zolathi practices, but are not professional mystics, but professional magic warriors. 

15 minutes ago, metcalph said:

I would rather hear something like Shneg had a variety of people under his banner - Kralori, Teshnans, Dara Happans, Praxians and Ignorants. 

Again, I rather figured that we all understood this? I mean, you can't have missed that and still know what a Burst is unless you stopped reading at that one paragraph and didn't read any further in the same text box. But that is the Warmed, who are not the Bursts or the Zolathi but something else. 

FWIW, I think the Zolathi are feared, and bring terror to the population, because they are Sheng's commissars. They are immune to divine retribution and such, so they intrude into the temples of the Warmed, and especially the Fires, and mercilessly punish any who indulge in any religious practice, or preach any religious doctrine, that does not fully accord with Sheng's doctrine of 'Good Slavery', and so accept the rightness of his rule. They are absolutely willing to countenance horrific punishment for any infraction (and will dismissively reply that they have suffered worse when asked for mercy, even for many horrific tortures). But they disdain magic themselves. 

In short, the Rays and Emanations are the general leadership caste of the Empire - they are nomads loyal to Sheng who command his empire, and charge about mostly organising his campaigns and subject peoples. The Bursts are a small, hard core, within that group who are dedicated to full time magical combat and leadership - effectively, wiping out any concerted opposition and aiding Sheng directly. But given the Rays and Bursts are riding about all the time, who is it that is directly controlling the cities, and ensuring that all opposition is wiped out? That, I think, is one of the roles of Zolathi. 

(the later Lunar dolathi of the Order of the Day are far less hard core on ascetism, and fully endorse non-ascetic religious practice as acceptable, which of course is convenient for the Red Emperors who champion Lunar decadance)

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You are quite right Peter, it was published in GCon IV Compendium, I had forgotten. All the more reason to consider it correct, IMO! 

 

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My interpretation of the Zolathi, thus far, is that by their asceticism they can create a null magic space.

By their superior mundane skill they can thus wreck havoc over rune masters and other enemies empowered by magic.

By living as a simple peasant in Doblian, the surviving part of the Emperor learned to be 'ordinary' and without magic. The trouble up till then was that the Full Magical Panoply of the Emperor was essentially his whole existence.

In my game, the other key weakness of SS is in the absence of Joy. I have him, like Koschei, cutting out his own heart as part of his transformation. But the heart, hidden somewhere, is his key weakness. 

 

Edit: The Goddess/Great Sister thus defeats him by embracing his way in the sense of the abandonment of all occult power, and by rejecting it, by austerities through Compassion, not Suffering.

Edited by jeffjerwin
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This is pure coincidence, but after reading some of The Secret History of the Mongols, and more generally about steppe peoples, I decided to create a Genghis Khan-expy for my own (perpetually evolving and not much used) fantasy setting.

One thing I wanted to explore there was having a character who managed to become legendary and nearly conquer the known world almost completely without magical aid - which would sort of serve as a counterweight to the otherwise fairly common appearance of magic in the history of great conquerors and empires. It just like it thematically should be in there somewhere, a character who by sheer force of iron will and dogged determination managed to gut down every sorcerer, spirit and god sent to him, who by sheer grit and defiance would ride through curses, and raze temples and mage academies. And then, much like the real Genghis Khan, meet his demise at some point, effectively vanishing out of history and being left as a massive enigma to later historians, and kind of a bogeyman to a lot of magic groups. Part of this legacy was also a highly mixed feeling in his people, who revered him immensely as the man who made conquerors out of horse-herders living in yurts, but also nearly driving them to extinction by his unfathomable ambition. I had this little vignette written out where a magically talented ambassador arrives in his yurt to parlay, and sees a man surrounded by a blinding host of spirits circling around him like a flock of birds, attracted by the enormous innate power, but kept at bay by an iron will and discipline. 

Now, Sheng Seleris isn't really this, of course, as he is a demigod and of course very much uses magic - partly because that's just how Glorantha works (ie. its fundamental logic is bascially magical in the colloquial sense). However, I've always really like this idea of him as mostly driven by sheer grit and determination - and the idea that such could negate magic is very appealing to me. A bit different from the orthodox Vithelan sage who overcomes sorcerers, priests and shamans by avoidance and serene nullification - but thematically appealing in its own way. 

Anyway, this thread has been enlightening about this topic. I didn't previously know about the Zolathi - only that Sheng brought with him a bunch of guys he'd previously been tortured together with as the kernel of his empire.

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1 hour ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

A bit different from the orthodox Vithelan sage who overcomes sorcerers, priests and shamans by avoidance and serene nullification - but thematically appealing in its own way. 

Mashunasan is not the only eastern mystic, and he is just one of at least four known disciples of Oorduren. Venfornic mysticism is completely different and appears to be at the root of numerous martial arts practices as well as for tantric practices.

As far as failed mystics go, Sheng's reign is pretty low-key malign. He inserts himself in the Emperor slot of society, pushing out the previous holders of that slot (Godunya, Takenegi, whoever reigned over Teshnos) or that of the chief/khan.

 

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18 minutes ago, Joerg said:

 

Mashunasan is not the only eastern mystic, and he is just one of at least four known disciples of Oorduren. Venfornic mysticism is completely different and appears to be at the root of numerous martial arts practices as well as for tantric practices.

As far as failed mystics go, Sheng's reign is pretty low-key malign. He inserts himself in the Emperor slot of society, pushing out the previous holders of that slot (Godunya, Takenegi, whoever reigned over Teshnos) or that of the chief/khan.

 

I'm pretty sure all the peasants slaughtered to turn their fields into pasture might take issue with 'low-key'.

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10 hours ago, jeffjerwin said:

My interpretation of the Zolathi, thus far, is that by their asceticism they can create a null magic space.

This sounds hideous to my ears, reeking as it does of a bland magical effect given out because of some throwaway comment.

The Zolathi have endured the World Of Hurt  for far longer than ordinary mortals have been alive.  They are as a result immune to spells that cause pain and suffering or spells designed to lead them astray.  Variants of the World of Hurt have been developed among the subject populations of the Celestial Empire - the All, the World of Flame, the Agony of the Six Suns etc.  Each of these confer different strengths and weaknesses.

10 hours ago, jeffjerwin said:

By their superior mundane skill they can thus wreck havoc over rune masters and other enemies empowered by magic.

Being still in great pain, the Zolathi can make others briefly aware of the torment of the World of Hurt.  Whenever someone attempts to do magic upon them, they become briefly exposed to the World of Hurt and must suffer greatly to complete their magic.

 

 

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7 minutes ago, metcalph said:

The Zolathi have endured the World Of Hurt  for far longer than ordinary mortals have been alive.  They are as a result immune to spells that cause pain and suffering or spells designed to lead them astray.  Variants of the World of Hurt have been developed among the subject populations of the Celestial Empire - the All, the World of Flame, the Agony of the Six Suns etc.  Each of these confer different strengths and weaknesses.

Being still in great pain, the Zolathi can make others briefly aware of the torment of the World of Hurt.  Whenever someone attempts to do magic upon them, they become briefly exposed to the World of Hurt and must suffer greatly to complete their magic.

 

Well, that is more flavorful, and does work in a similar fashion.

Edit: However, it does mean that if their access to this memory of suffering is obstructed, they are as vulnerable as any other ancient hero...

Edited by jeffjerwin

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I'm curious about something though, how many Zolathi choose Liberation instead of the World unlike Sheng Seleris?

Has SS somehow altered the training to "force" Zolathi to become like him or is there a kind of preselection creating more Zolathi of the "right" type?

Given the original use of that mystical training method by the Kralori, I doubt that evil demigods were a very common result before Sheng.

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39 minutes ago, Tarumath said:

Has SS somehow altered the training to "force" Zolathi to become like him or is there a kind of preselection creating more Zolathi of the "right" type?

I think they weren't given a choice.  Sheng leaves them to cook for a certain amount of time and then just before they are ready to decide, he pulls them out and quenches them.  That way he has intentionally made them into failures.  

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8 hours ago, metcalph said:

I think they weren't given a choice.  Sheng leaves them to cook for a certain amount of time and then just before they are ready to decide, he pulls them out and quenches them.  That way he has intentionally made them into failures.  

Doesn't that choice come with the moment of Illumination? Or is it just after?

Sheng is playing with fire: a liberated Zolath is practically in-oppressible and an occluded Zolath is his rival and near-equal.

It ought to be at the moment of, since illumination is liberation... So every Zolath is at the cusp of actual illumination?

When his army was turned to stone at Kitor, were they 'en masse' exposed to the opportunity to choose? I think it in keeping with the Lunar Way if this was so.

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Some observations on the Empty Emperor, Kazkurtum, who was identified as Sheng Seleris by the Lunars.

1. Kazkurtum is the Shadow of Yelm, the Keeper of the Black Fire, the Heart of Yelm. It is he as the Black Shadow who faced Antirius at the Hill of Gold.

2. He is the Greater Darkness as an entity. He was 'cut into pieces' (lesser shadows) by Shargash at the beginning of the pre-Dawn. Shargash and ZZ are both undeath and hellfire cults.

3. Kazkurtum's indelible image as a monster was carved into a stone 'a few miles upriver' from Darleep. Here is/was worshipped. The land around here, Kostaddi, was 'stolen' from the magical body of the Red Emperor by Sheng Seleris/Kazkurtum in 1443.

4. About thirty miles from this to the SE is the city of Zeranos. Interesting, if this is the 'Cruel God', then the 'Selfish God' Orlanth is at Orlentus not far away...

5. ZRK Zeranos. KZKRT...

6. Zorak Zoran stole the fiery heat of Yelm in the Underworld.

7. Sheng Seleris is Arkat/AgartaSayu. He is the Other of the Emperor, like Kazkurtum is to Yelm. Arkat famously became a worshipper and avatar of Zorak Zoran.

8. Zeranos was where the Sun Dragon devoured the Dara Happan Emperor during the EWF conquest.

9. Zulan Zubar ~ Zorak Zoran ~ Zho Lat Ey ~ Jolaty ~ Solothi

...no smoke without fire...?

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12 minutes ago, jeffjerwin said:

6. Zorak Zoran stole the fiery heat of Yelm in the Underworld.

Nice. When they erupted near what is now the Kingdom of Ignorance they saw a black sun there waiting for them.

Since my favorite bogey is the Bijiif I suspect there are as many shadows as suns, getting conflated over time with their suns and occasionally sharing secrets. Thankfully Spol is over.


 

basko.jpg

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