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The Oronin River flows through west Peloria, dividing the Heartlands of the Lunar Empire from the West Reaches. The wide, meandering river runs north from Lake Oronin to its confluence with the Poralistor. Its valley is green and fertile, as befits one of the birth-places of agriculture and civilisation, studded with towns and cities, and liberally dotted with the ruins of bygone empires.
The natural climate of the Oronin Valley would tend to extremes, with hot summers and icy winters. The rise of the Red Moon has moderated weather patterns throughout Peloria, however, and since the Fifth Wane the successive Icebreaker expeditions of the Kalikos cult have greatly improved the climate in Storm Season: the river no longer freezes over every winter, while ice storms and snow hurricanes are rare.
The Oronin Valley was cultivated and civilised before Time began, though the land suffered severely in the Great Darkness. Local saviour-heroes include Bisos, who brought agriculture to feed the starving cities; Deveria, who rekindled dead Turos in the black city of Hagu; and Lendarsh, who revived the ancient glories of the Pelandan Empire. Their successes enabled Entekos, the Planet of Virtue, to return to the Sky, heralding the world's rebirth at the Dawn of Time.
The culture and religion of Pelanda blossomed at the Dawning, earning the jealousy of Dara Happa. The land resisted the Bright Empire, and was a reluctant province under Nysalor's rule. To better resist the Empire of Light, the Spolites wilfully adopted the ways of Shadow. This was at first good and natural, but when Nysalor fell, much of Pelanda came under the influence of the Spolites, whose shadowy Empire of oppression and gloom engulfed the cities of the Oronin Valley.
The Spolite Empire was destroyed by an army from the far West, led by a heroic mercenary captain named Syranthir Forefront. His son by the goddess of Castle Blue was Carmanos the Prophet, First Shah, Child of the Lake, who brought his new insight to the blessed army and people of Brinnus, and thereby made them the first 'Carmanians'. Strengthened by this superior knowledge, the army of Carmania set forth to destroy the Stygian ingorance emanating from Spol, bringing balance to the whole of Pelanda once again. Carmanos blessed other folks in his life, and their descendants are Carmanians too.
The new overlords changed the former social order: dwelling in lofty castles above rural estates, their new lifestyle set them apart from the common folk, whom they oversaw with benevolent leadership. Later, this relationship degenerated into prideful separation, as the Carmanian army ceased liberating the cities of Pelanda and instead seized the reins of power for itself. Civic life dwindled, while the farmers became serfs, tied to their land and no longer free to leave it.
The Carmanian Empire grew to dominate and occupy much of Dara Happa, before being overthrown in turn by the upstart Lunars, who forced them back upon their capital. The Red Goddess defeated the gods of Old Carmania at the Battle of Four Arrows of Light (to the Carmanians this was Shah-Maat, the Death of Kings), then proved her right to exist to the assembled Old Gods at the mystical Battle of Castle Blue. She then ascended into the Middle Air, leaving her son, the Red Emperor, to inherit her mundane domains.
The Oronin River became the border between two hostile powers, the new-born Lunar Empire and the remnants of Old Carmania. Over the next half century, Lunar agents gradually eliminated the last heirs and claimants to the Carmanian throne in a campaign known as the Blood Kings' Wars, marked by courage and treachery, conversion and betrayal, vendetta and assassination. The Great Houses of Carmania were formed in this period as the oldest noble lineages surrounded themselves with their most faithful retainers, defending themselves with seclusion, secrecy and suspicion.
Upon the suicide of the Prince of Worian, last lineal descendent of the Bull Shahs, the two sides lapsed into a wary truce. For years the Magi of Carmania treated the Lunar Way as tantamount to heresy, and banished its temples and missionaries from the West Reaches wherever they could. Yet conflicts between the powers were henceforth fought by proxy: most were feuds between the converted and traditionalist Great Houses, confining themselves to the West Reaches. The last great conflict was the Bindle War of the mid-Second Wane, in the course of which vengeful Char-Un war-bands devastated much of Spol and Bindle.
After the conclusion of these wars, Aronius Jaranthir, a noble lord from Jhor who had seen the Lunar light, championed his beliefs before the Magi at Brinnus. His truth prevailed: the Red Goddess won her place in the Carmanian pantheon, sitting at the left hand of Idovanus, and the Lunar Way gained new followers in the west. Under the guidance of Aronius Jaranthir and his heirs, the cities and civic life of the West Reaches were restored and refined, with such success that in the Third Wane the Red Emperor awarded all the free inhabitants of the West Reaches the status of Citizen Foreigners of the Lunar Empire.
When the horse nomads of Pent invaded Peloria, the cities of the lowlands suffered. The barbarians ravaged the Lunar Heartlands for almost a century, during which time thousands of refugees fled the Heartlands and Pelanda to the west, some crossing the Sweet Sea to found the Arrolian Colonies in Fronela. Others accepted the rule of Carmanian overlords and settled in the West Reaches, bringing a cosmopolitan mixture from the Heartland cultures to the cities of the valley.
Carmanians fought side by side with Lunars against the Horde led by Sheng Seleris. Aronius Jaranthir was born again, leading sorties down from the forts of the Brass Mountains to keep the nomads from the West Reaches. After a prolonged absence the missing Red Emperor returned, wearing the mask of Magnificus, to fight and win the Battle of Kitor at the close of the Fourth Wane. Thereafter, Carmanian nobles helped him expel the remnants of the Horde from the Pelorian Bowl, and they were at the forefront of the Fifth Wane restoration of the cities, culture and life of the Lunar Empire.
Commerce with the Arrolian Confederation brought prosperity to the west, though when Arrolians returned to the Empire (fleeing the barbarous onslaught of the White Bear Empire) they were not permitted to return home, but sent instead to settle the Redlands, far to the east. But all such communications were broken when a magical catastrophe afflicted Fronela, making it impossible to cross the Sweet Sea, the Esel River or the Grey Mountains to reach the western lands.
Far to the east, Lunar settlements in the Redlands had provoked another desperate war against the horse nomads; the army of the West Reaches was deployed to fight in Pent, but suffered annihilation in the near-genocidal Battle of the Nights of Horror. This distant tragedy sowed the seeds of Carmanian decadence: deprived at one stroke of their most active members, and facing no immediate threats to their borders, the wealthier nobles of the West Reaches have retreated into luxury, devoting their lives to profitable frivolity, gambling and display. Their more traditional (or less successful) peers, incensed by the growing importance of "filthy lucre", keep alive the Old Ways of austerity, piety, and martial virtue.
Inhabitants and Culture
Whether they are city-dwellers, valley farmers or highland freeholders, most natives of the Oronin Valley have similar ethnic origins. Their hereditary rulers are mostly Carmanian, with an administrative class of Lunar and Dara Happan officials east of the river and at Kitor. Significant minor groups include mountain tribesmen, blue-skinned boat people and wandering Harangvats. There are no sizeable non-human populations, other than the dwarf slaves in the mines of Kitor.
The native tongue of the Oronin Valley is Pelandan, a Pelorian farmer-language. New Pelorian, the official language of the Lunar Empire, is a closely related tongue, the most common second language in the Heartlands. Both Dara Happan and Carmanian are employed by the educated and noble classes. All four of these languages have well-developed written forms in everyday use.
In the Second Age the Oronin Valley was the heart of the Carmanian Empire; it has now been politically marginalised, following the Lunars' pragmatic policy of "divide and rule". The Oronin River defines the border between the Lunar Heartlands and the West Reaches. The valley is distant from political power centres: authority is split between the Lunar Sultans of Oronin and Doblian, and the Great Houses of the Carmanian nobility.
The Sultan of Oronin rules from the Red City of Carantes in the land of Naveria, east of Mount Jernotius, while the Sultan of Doblian is based in Doblian City, south-eastwards over the highlands of Arir. Carmanian nobles and satraps are accountable to the Governor of the West Reaches, an imperial appointee whose administration is based at Kitor. In practice, the Great Houses can exercise their powers with little restraint.
Lunar laws are overseen by appointed magistrates. The courts are adversarial, plaintiffs and defendants being represented by lawyers if they can afford them: in most civil cases a jury of citizens is empanelled to determine guilt or innocence. Lunar citizens can appeal against a court's decision and have their case referred to higher imperial authority: in the first instance, these would be the Sultans, or the Governor of the West Reaches.
Carmanian laws come in two types: commands and prohibitions, called the White and Black Laws. These are based on scriptures interpreted by generations of learned scholars. Carmanian courts are inquisitorial: viziers act as investigators, with wide-ranging powers to determine the Truth. Citizen foreigners have no right of appeal against the outcome of a case.
Border controls exist on both sides of the frontier, to collect customs duties, apprehend fleeing criminals, and repel unwanted immigrants. Carmanian courts enforce their own traditional laws, which makes the West Reaches appear an attractive haven for fugitives from Lunar justice; on the other hand, serfs oppressed by harsh Carmanian masters may flee towards the comparative freedom of the Heartlands. Extradition procedures can be swift or lengthy, while disputes over which side has jurisdiction in a case can be curtailed or protracted indefinitely - for the right money, in every case.
The Lunar Heartland Corps rotates units throughout the Sultanates, and a permanent regimental garrison is stationed in Kitor (the Malachite Phalanx). Some of the Red Army's best troops are recruited in Pelanda. Border guards from the Black Army, the Empire's sinister internal security force, are present at all major frontier crossings. The Oronin River is patrolled by boats from the Blue Navy, making customs inspections and acting to suppress piracy and smuggling.
The Sultanates' private armies include militia raised from the local population, both brass-panoplied hoplites from the cities of the valley and highland skirmishers, the bisosae, in their bull-hide armour.
Each of the Carmanian Great Houses maintains a small force of cataphract cavalry, armoured in coats of brass scale and armed with lance, sword and bow. These are supported by Pelandan infantry, similar to those found in the Sultanate militias, and by Char-Un light cavalry skirmishers from Erigia to the north.
The native mythology of the Oronin Valley is highly complex and highly developed, and is described in Greg Stafford's book, The Entekosiad. The most popular religions in the region today are the cults of Turos and Oria, Charmain, the High Gods, Bisos and Eses, and the City Gods of Pelanda; these are described below.
The ruling classes in the Oronin Valley follow their own religions, whether these are Lunar, Carmanian or Dara Happan. All three religions are willing to accept and incorporate the cults of Pelanda, though attitudes vary from open encouragement through strict control to neglect and even contempt.
LUNARS may follow any of the various state-cults of their theocratic empire: though these range from army regiments to charitable institutions, all are ultimately devoted to the Red Moon Goddess and serve her divine son, the Red Emperor. Most Lunar worshippers also follow the gods of their homeland: the Lunar Way is tolerant and all-embracing, encouraging diversity and upward mobility. The local cults of Natha and Gerra are regarded as precursors to the Red Goddess, and though they have small followings, their congregations and temples are generously supported by the Empire. The eastern bank of the Oronin Valley is within the Glowline, and Lunar cyclical magics are always at full strength.
CARMANIANS have a complex dualistic religion which centres around the conflict between Idovanus the Wise Lord and Ganesatarus the Evil One. Each Carmanian Great House jealously guards its own divine rituals, ancestor-cults, local spirits of place, mystical insights, sorcerous techniques and dualistic heresies, making for a confusing mixture of traditions. The Viziers of Carmania are sorcerers, teachers and jurists. Only the Magi can worship Idovanus directly, and they strictly regulate the other cults of the West Reaches according to the will of the Wise Lord.
DARA HAPPAN religion centres on Yelm the Sun God, ruler of the Divine World. The religion is centralised, hierarchical and patriarchal, devoted to principles of purity and heredity which can seem absurd to outsiders. Peasants worship Yelm's brother Lodril, who is seen as an impure, inferior being. Other than Yelm's wife Dendara, most female deities are ignored, despised or feared. (The Dara Happans equate Turos with Lodril, and Entekos with Dendara).
Map of the Oronin Valley, by Phil Anderson
Places of Interest
Arir: The highlands south-east of the Oronin Valley, part of Doblian Sultanate. This is a very rugged and broken country, unsuitable for agriculture.
Balovius: A small city on the middle Oronin. A single great pillar, the mighty trunk of an ancient stone tree, adorns its grand council chamber.
Castle Blue: This Hidden Castle behind the mists of Lake Oronin is home to a race of magical beings who include Charmain, the divine ancestress who bestowed royal power on the Shahs of Carmania. As with other Hidden Castles, most mortals cannot attain Castle Blue, which is not wholly of this world. Syranthir Forefront is said to have entered, but never returned; his son Carmanos returned to found the royal line of Carmania. At the start of the Third Age, Castle Blue was the setting for the mystical conflict in which the Red Goddess reshaped the world, proving her right to exist against opposition from the Old Gods.
Brass Mountains: Known as the Tarakolos to their rugged inhabitants, these high obsidian and granite peaks are the spine of the modern West Reaches. Here Carmanos tracked down and slew the Lion of Brass: noble hunting parties seek to emulate his feat in high summer, though lions are now few and wary.
Brinnus (temple): the capital of Carmanos, first Shah of Carmania, is now primarily a religious centre for the order of Magi. Their Great Temple of Idovanus is closed to any not of their ranks: here their Hierophant communes with the Wise Lord and proclaims his will.
Burntwall (ruins): The last proud capital of the great Carmanian Empire, destroyed by the Red Goddess after the Battle of the Four Arrows of Light. Called Shardash in its heyday, its palaces are now ruins, empty courtyards of columns supporting nothing, each bone-white on one face and burnt black on the other. This destruction was wrought by the Red Goddess after the. The soot-black shadows of incinerated courtiers and guards can still be seen, blasted into the walls; at night, they whisper of unholy things to those few poets, madmen and dreamers who dare listen.
Carmania: Second Age manuscripts refer to the Oronin Valley as "carmania": the valley was the heartland of the old kingdom. Nowadays, the term is more commonly used to refer to the West Reaches.
Dendeno: A city located where the Oronin River flows into the Poralistor, with a view of Burntwall on the north bank. The wharves have prospered in recent years with the opening of trade across the Sweet Sea.
Dezarpovo (temple): This temple, called the Place of Tears, was restored by the Red Goddess in the Zero Wane after centuries of disuse, and is a centre for the Cult of Suffering. Worshippers of Gerra congregate at the Descending Pyramid to practice their hideous rites of self-mutilation.
Enthyr (ruins): Former capital of the Spolite Empire, where the dark goddess Oktaki was propitiated in the early Second Age: its ruined mausolea and sacrificial altars stand as grim reminders of that black period.
Hagu (hidden ruins): This bleak, ruined city of the dead is a ghost, lost to Time and Place. Its inhabitants are shades of the Underworld, blessed survivors of the sacrifice at Natha's Well, the burned Ash Men of the Army of Decrepitude, and others still more strange. The sky is black and dead, the waters dry as dust. Hagu is the place before hope, and therefore the source of Hope - for those who can withstand its despair. Most travellers who chance upon Hagu never leave.
Hariij: A city on the lower Oronin. The Hungry Ones of Hariij were liberated by Lendarsh in the Grey Age: a public feast is held each midwinter to celebrate this event, and is now a popular tourist attraction.
Hurvisos: A small city south-west of Lake Oronin, whose nobility are descended from the bull-god Bisos.
Jernalf Hills: The forested highlands east of the Oronin Valley, from the centre of which rises Mount Jernotius.
Mount Jernotius: The seven peaks of this Sacred Mountain show the faces of the Seven High Gods, or so say their worshippers. Its slopes are inhabited by the mountain sages, ascetic devotees of the god Jernotius, an avatar of Rashoran who taught Illumination here in Godtime. An elect number become wandering monks, the embodiments of mystical peace and perfection. They are professional priests of the High Gods, respected throughout Pelanda.
Jhor: These bleak highlands west of the Oronin Valley were given by the grateful Pelandan cities to their Carmanian liberators in the early Second Age. The castles of Jhor, tucked amid forests and crags, are the oldest seats of the Carmanian nobility, and the austere values of old Carmanian tradition were shaped by this harsh country. This region is the heart of one of the four Satrapies of the West Reaches, ruled by Haraxalur the Bald.
Karresh (temple): This place in the Darsen highlands has been a sacred garden since Wendarian times, and is now celebrated in Carmanian religious poetry as the Paradise of Karresh.
Kendesos: This city on the upper Oronin was once the City of Torment, ruled by the Blue King, who was famous for inhuman cruelty. His sorcery prevented the High Gods from helping their people against him, until he was slain and his Blue People driven beneath the waters of the Sweet Sea by Jernotius, Daxdarius and Bisos. The city is home to the greatest legal school of Carmania, where viziers learn to interpret the Black and White Laws of the old kingdom.
Keselia: A small city situated where the Oronin River flows out from Lake Oronin.
Kitor: The legendary City of Brass is perched on the cliff-like slopes of Mount Jalardo. Its lofty minarets and brazen domes shine forth above defensive walls of granite, marble and obsidian, built by the greatest martial power of Second Age Peloria. Amid the baroque architecture of the outer city are scattered grotesque relics from the climactic battle of the Fourth Wane, when the Red Emperor lured forth Sheng Seleris and defeated him with Carmanian aid. Kitor is the centre of Lunar government in the West Reaches: Governor Palamtales holds court here. Beneath Kitor is an underground labyrinth of mines, dug by dwarf slaves of a god known as Three-Eyed Piku. Bound by ancient oaths, their unceasing toil has equipped generations of warriors with arms and armour of shining brass.
Meglardinth: A city on the shores of Lake Oronin.
Mintinus: A small city on the shores of Lake Oronin, site of the largest temple to Bentus, the god of Pleasure, whose festivals are riotously popular.
Natha's Well: A great crater lies between Hagu and Gerra's Pyramid, with a steaming bog at its heart. In dire years, Natha's Well sends forth disease and death, unless its spirit is appeased by human sacrifice.
Lake Oronin: A caldera lake, in the shattered remains of Mount Fire's crater. King Oronin attacked Turos in his stronghold, and when the clouds of steam cleared, the mountain was no more: instead, deep Lake Oronin stood in its place. The waters constantly swirl with mists and steaming currents, fuelled by the fires that still burn beneath the earth in this, the former home of Turos, God of Power. In Syranthir's time the lake was home to magical fish of five colours, but none have been caught there since the Battle of Castle Blue.
Oronin River: In early Godtime the Blue People invaded Wendaria, streaming from the North towards Mount Fire. The course of their advance is now the Oronin River, which defines the boundary between the Lunar Empire and the West Reaches. This wide, slow, meandering river flows from Lake Oronin in the south to its confluence with the Poralistor in the north. The Oronin Valley is now a happy and prosperous region of the Lunar Empire, a popular destination for tourists, pilgrims, and the wealthy and retired. The banks of the river are decked with white-columned villas, ancient temples and picturesque ruins.
Osthens: A small city north of Lake Oronin, notable for a fissure split open by Turos the Shaker. From this the god speaks to pilgrims, and his priests interpret the oracles.
Pelanda: When the barbaric Andam Horde attacked Wendaria from the south, they were beaten off by the great general Daxdarius of Peldre, who invented hoplite warfare and forged an empire of city-states. This was when the Oronin Valley gained its modern name of Pelanda. The Pelandan Empire's culture flowered under the legendary King Garthemius the Wise, but collapsed during the Great Darkness and was only reconstituted at the Dawn by the great hero Lendarsh.
Peldre: this small city beneath Mount Jernotius is famous for its temple which holds the panoply of General Daxdarius, a native of this place, who founded the Pelandan Empire in Godtime and is now the God of Hoplites.
Petela: A small city on the lower Oronin.
Rafelios: A small city in Jhor, home of the original Sceptre of Order, a gift from Turos.
Spol: The Carmanian satrapy north-west of the Oronin Valley, ruled by Yolanela the Taloned Countess.
Tawenos: A small city south-east of Lake Oronin, the ancient centre of the followers of Bisos and Eses, the Bull God and Cow Goddess, who brought meat, grain and beer to an oppressed land of starving cities and desperate survivors. They are still worshipped by highland freeholders, soldiers and nobles in Worian and elsewhere.
Ulawar: This small city on the central Oronin River boasts the world's oldest temple to Uleria, goddess of Love, which has made it a favorite resort spot for the Lunar nobility. Few who can afford it can resist a visit to the House of Anomaly, where they can drink wines whose flavors can be described only in poetry, eat food which induces fantastic bodily reactions, have sex with a third gender, or perform ejem with creatures from other worlds. (Ejem is a sort of dance, mind meld or auditory banquet, whose completion induces an unexplainable, but very pleasant and long-lasting experience).
Utheneos: Small city on a tributary of the Oronin Valley, with historic ties to Ulawar. The younger citizens are famed for their beauty and passionate love affairs; their elders devote their time to chess problems.
Valkenth: A small city in the highlands of Arir, on the trade road from Doblian to the West Reaches.
Wendaria: The ancient name for western Peloria, including what later became the Oronin Valley. The Wendarians worshipped the god Turos, who dwelt within Mount Fire; four other Sacred Mountains defined the boundaries of their land.
West Reaches: The westernmost lands of the Lunar Empire, beyond the Glowline and the Heartlands.
Worian: The Carmanian satrapy south-west of the Oronin Valley, ruled by Moralatap of the Anger. The highlands of Worian are a stronghold of the bull folk, worshippers of Bisos and Eses.
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