Glasswall

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Glasswall

Glasswall stands on the Sharl Planes in the Far Place. The following piece is an 'in Glorantha' account concerning the fort and region.

Extract from the Expedition to Sartar

The extract is from the 2nd Book of the Expedition to Sartar by Artaozus. Hints in the full text in indicate that the author may have been born around 1590 and was a native of the Dara Happan Tripolis. He seems to have come from a noble family and is known to have studied with Timotheus of Shipol. He considered himself a champion of the conservative solar values of Dara Happa but his writing betrays far more Lunar influence than he would ever have admitted. The events he describe probably occurred in 1612 and were first written down in the 1630s. Artazoas appears to have hoped that Harvar Ironfist would become an ideal solar prince and he and his companions journeyed to Aldur Chur to offer him their service.

 

……We could see steep rocky slopes ahead of us as we came along the road from Too Far. That night I had seen strange lights and heard noises in the north and Kandake, a barbarian of Tarsh, who travelled with us, said that there was a place there called Griniji where the krjalk live to this day. The road climbed by a series of sharp turns until I was surprised to see that a broad flat plain lay ahead of us though we were far above the valley. Ahead we could see more hills. Later in the day we came to a place where there were many statues or pillars of glass of different colours. Some were perhaps shaped a little like men or horses but only very roughly so. I asked Kandake what these were but he would tell me nothing. Before dusk we arrived at a village belonging to the local barbarians who Kandake said were called the Princeros. He told us the name of the village meant glass-wall and said it was the city of the tribe though I cannot credit this for it was a place of no great size. Truly though the walls of the place were the shape of a shield and made of blue glass which was quite smooth and cold to the touch for I went forward and laid my hand on them though Kandake hissed and made a sign as I did so. They were around 30 cubits tall and seemed to descend into the earth at the bottom of the ditch. At the edge of the glass wall the road was blocked by a ditch and rampart with a wooden gate. As we approached we saw that some women and girls had come out to observe our approach and they seemed amazed by our clothing and shields. To my eye these people looked alike to the people of Tarsh though they wore thick woollen mantles coloured in squares of pale blue and green. Kandake spoke to them in the language of Tarsh and they seemed to understand him. He reported that the headman of the settlement dwelt within the glass-wall itself whereas this outer work was inhabited by foreign people.

 

Indeed as we passed through the gate I could see a Lunar missionary church of the sort which is so common in these lands and, as is also frequently the case, the mean hovels of poor and destitute folk crowded near its walls. There were also some other buildings belonging to the Lunars and some officials and soldiers. Kandake told us that our leaders must go into the main part of the village and speak to the headman because there were many of our men waiting outside and the barbarians feared our arms. Chreisophus spoke up at this point saying that if we were to go inside the wall we could easily be taken prisoner but I said I would go in with Kandake as these people were the subjects of the prince we had come to serve.

 

Some of the warriors of the tribe were waiting for us and Kandake spoke to them. They were armed like theurophoroi rather than the peltastoi of the tattooed people we had seen in the country of the exiles. They led us into the village and we crossed the wall on broad stone steps which seemed quite ancient. Inside the wall were many buildings most of which were round huts with thatched roofs. There were also many smaller rectangular huts which stood up on four wooden pillars above the ground. These Kandake said were granaries where the natives kept their grain in the air on account of the dampness of the ground. In the middle of the village was a high pillar at least 20 cubits high made of blue glass and around this was arranged the chief buildings of the place. Many of the villagers had come from their dwellings to stare at us but they seemed neither hostile or friendly though some made a sign with their hands which I think was a ward against foreign magic. The house of the headman, who Kandake said was a basilleus, was made of grey stone with narrow shuttered windows and carvings on the posts of the doors. More warriors stood at the threshold and it was there that we piled our arms. Inside was a great hall with light coming in faintly through the smoke that gathered near the roof. The basilleus was called Byggar and was a large man dressed in a manner that was odd in this respect: part of his clothing was that of the tattooed barbarians but in other respects he dressed like a civilized man. I was also surprised that he spoke to us in the Lunar tongue called New Pelorian. He was friendly and commended our decision to serve the prince and thus invited us to stay in his hall which we agreed to do.

 

The barbarians of this place have a strange drink which is a kind of barley wine that they keep in great bowls. The actual grains of barley floated on the top, level with the brim, but it was a pleasant drink when one got used to it and was very strong unless mixed with water. This also provided us with flat bread also made of barley, bowls of beans and the meat of the sheep which abounded in the region.

 

At this time I questioned the basilleus on the subject of the glass walls and pillar and he recounted the following tale. In the godtime there was a city of krjalki which stood high in the mountains at the place now known as Skyfall Lake and from there a great army set out to destroy the people of the land. Three krjalki ruled the army one was called the Silent Death, one was called the Fighting Death and the third was called Krjalk after the ones he ruled. Now at this time the basilleus of the people was named Peranados and when he saw the army of the enemy approaching he despaired for he knew that no force of arms would stop them so he determined to ask the gods to help them. First he went to the sacred cave and begged Mother Earth to help him but Silent Death came for her and she went down into the darkness and still the krjalki came onward. Next he went to the high hill and begged the Raging Storm to help them but the Fighting Death came for him and he went down into the darkness and still the krjalki came onward. Last he called to the sky and though the sun was gone the Little Sun cast down his shield from heaven and made a wall around the people and this the krjalki could not cross and they raged around calling on the people to come forth. Then Krjalk itself leaped the wall of the shield and seized Perandos and there in the middle of the wall they wrestled. Perandos was cast down and Krjalk would have devoured him then but the Little Sun threw down his spear from heaven and pierced Krjalk so that he lay on the ground. Then Perandos tore of the limbs and head of Krjalk and cast them over the walls so that the army went back to the mountains with the pieces of their lord. Since that time the wall of the shield and the spear of the Little Sun had stood in this place.

 

Next I questioned him about the pillars and statues of glass which stood outside his walls. The basilleus said that these were the remains of the retreating army of the krjalki which was turned to glass by the power of the Little Sun once their lord had fallen.

 

Kandake later told me that the priestesses of the Red Moon said that these stories were false and that the glass wall was made in a war long ago when the people of this place made war with the dragons and that the wall was made of earth and wood before the dragon fire washed over it. She said that the glass pillars were made by dragon-fire in the same war. I asked him where the spear came from but he said that she did not know. You may choose to believe the priestess’s story if you wish. It is true that the Lunars make glass with sand and fire but I preferred the story of the basilleus for he was of noble blood and thus it would be dishonourable for him to lie. Also it seems to me that an army burned by dragon-fire would be turned to dust and ash - not glass.

 

There are a number of words and ideas in Artaozus’ account which are either hard to translate or in other ways unusual:

 

Krjalki: Artaozus often used this word for monsters in general whether they were chaotic or not. Therefore when he describes a being called Krjalk it is hard to know if he meant the chaos god of that name.

Theurophoroi: strictly speaking this referred to a soldier carrying a theuros which was a wooden oval shield. Artazaos often used it in general for semi-heavy infantry who fought with spear and javelins.

Peltastoi: strictly this word applied to the light infantry of the lunar army who carried crescent shaped shields called pelte. Artaozus used it of any skirmishing foot.

Basilleus: this word meant the king of a city. In this case it appears to mean a tribal chief or petty king.

Mother Earth: often known as Ernalda, Esrola or Dendera.

Raging Storm: probably Orlanth or a similar storm deity.

Little Sun: probably Yelmalio given the context of the story.

 

Artaozus sometimes leaves matters unclear especially when he describes things that would have been common knowledge at the time or if he was unclear himself about them. For example as the women and girls in the story would have seen lunar soldiers before it was perhaps the paintings on the mercenaries’ shields they found surprising.