wolfsire writes "“Summer Breeze: The Urakan and Yorodhi of Sybarate” is a portion of the memoirs of Equinus Melaine of Gryrax discussing the history of the isle of Sybarate as discovered within Porpherio’s Garden.
Moments ago, as I played in my garden with my grandchildren, I recalled fondly my days of relaxation in the warm luxuriance of Sybar, that paradisiacal island village upon Sybarate off the southern costs of Fairwind isle in the Hold of the Sea Princes. And it occurred to me that I am old.
My memories were summoned by a stray fragrance upon the wind that brought to mind a song (FN1), now bittersweet in my mind, which I heard when I was there long ago:
Sweet days of summer, the jasmine's in bloom,
Richfest is dressed up and playing her tune.
And I come home from a hard day's work,
And you're waiting there, not a care in the world.
It is not widely known, but several have reported that on the tiny island of Sybarate there is a fading realm known as Porpherio’s Garden (FN2). As one who has seen it, I can say that it is a fairyland beyond compare and a wonder to behold. A wonder, and to me, a sadness.
For in the two weeks that I tarried there almost thirty years went by in the outside world; my infant children had grown and had children of their own; my beloved wife, may the gods care for her, had passed away. But that Garden is not the only mystery of that island. Or rather I should say that it only part of the story, for the soil in which that Garden grows has been fertile for a long, long time.
Over tall mugs of ale and long pipes, I heard many tales from one who would know, the demigod that walks upon the Oerth, Mother Nature’s Son, the Green Man. But I will start with a hint that any may see. Those who have lingered in Sybar might have noticed something unseen anywhere else, at least east of the Barrier Peaks: a mare’s head holy symbol. Perhaps they have wondered at the origin of the names, Sybar and Sybarate (FN3), or why its Governor, unlike all the other nobles of the isles, was one of the few who would have supported Prince Jeon II to end slavery in the Hold. These things arise from its history and were explained to me by the Green Man.
II. The Urakan of Tamoachan
Who knows when men first settled upon the isles, but it is believed that the first were the Olman. Indeed, it was likely before they became the Olman, and more than three thousand years ago. The far southern Flan are not noted seafarers and did not cross to the isles until they were driven there by Suel refugees. The Olman nation that lived there, the Urakan, much like their cousins across the Jerlea Bay in what is know called the Vale of Berghof, were not like most other Olman as migrants from Hepmonaland. Rather, they were of the aboriginal, littoral stock acculturated later with the rise of the Olman Empire in the Amedio Jungle following the migrations back west in flight of the Touvish invasions far across the seas (FN4).
The Urakan made their living primarily as fishermen, gathering the abundance of both the shallow Jerlea Bay and the deeper waters of the Azure Sea. They were also, anomalously, matriarchal. With the rise of the Olman civilization in the Amedio, long after the discovery of the alien Olman gods in Hepmonaland, the aboriginal worship of sea-animal spirits drifted into the propitiation of the water goddess, Chalchihuitlicue (FN5).
Chalchihuitlicue literally means Lady of the Jade Skirt. To the Urakan, the Jade Skirt was verily the blue green sub-tropical waters that covered her fecundity. The nation’s name derives from her, and their, relations with her grandfather the storm god Hurakan, whom they believed was their creator. As wife to the rain god Tloloc, before the fall of the Olman Empire, upon the isles she was often known as Ixchel, the Lady of Rainbows. Later, after the coming of the Suel, she would be known as Ixtab, the Lady of Suicide.
Of all the Olman nations, the Urakan were the most proficient sailors. Indeed, the great catamarans that developed out the simple dug-outs and canoes of their ancestors were the natural extension of their culture, which made possible the migrations both to and from Hepmonaland. Upon the isles, the greatest expression of this culture was retained the longest, while elsewhere most Olman turned to the sacrifice and seed of jungle agriculture.
This proficiency, more so than anything else, has allowed some aspect of their culture to survive to this day. Not on Sybarate to be sure, but far, far to the south, in an enclave of Xamaclan, upon the Isle of Dread (FN6) and some say, upon other small and far flung Olman colonial islands. Although the Urakan did not sponsor colonies, indeed they had no true cities of their own, their skill at seafaring resulted in a great many of there number being selected to make the journey as settlers. It also provided to them a favored position as one of the provinces within the great seafaring Kingdom of Tamoachan, founded by the mercantile King-Priest Tlacaelel (FN7).
III. The Fall of Tamoachan
And so it was until the year CY -490. Then the Olman Empire began its slow collapse with the assassination of Emperor Tloqasikukuatl in the fair inland city of Chetanicatla. That treason was followed immediately, in retaliation, by the imperial army’s destruction of the city of Elatalhuilhle. Matters necessarily changed for the Urakan as civil wars were fought throughout the Amedio and their youths were conscripted.
By CY -425, the Kingdom of Tamoachan was in crisis. Lesser families of the Suloise Houses of Pursuit had arrived upon the southern coast of the Jerlea over a decade before (FN8) in search of Zellifar ad Zol, knowing that some Suel even then lived peaceably in the heart of the Amedio (FN9). Almost rabid in their zeal, from persecution south, and from disease, they undertook to slaughter every Olman they encountered including, when they found them upon the waters, the Urakan. Thus began a war that continues to this day, a thousand years later.
In that year, CY -425, the King-Priest Ayocuan in Tamoachan was forced to violently suppress a massive uprising led of disaffected priests insistent that a recent landing in the nearby waters of part of the celestial vessel II-Nedraw heralded the imminent arrival of their dreadful gods. In a magical battle that lasted merely one day most of the city was destroyed.
What was left of the city barely held together the remnants of the Kingdom, even as the jungle encroached, for three years until the Twin Cataclysms stuck. Then the Hellfurnaces ignited, destroying the towns of Terabar and Westgate that connected the Amedio with the Suloise Imperium, and raining down ash throughout the southern lands and waters. What is now called Lake Spendlowe violently rolled over releasing poisonous gasses that destroyed the Olman in the Vale.
After the tidal waves settled, and seeing no aid from the mainland, Chibirias (FN10), the High Priestess of the Urakan, whom some said was a lesser goddess in her own right and descendant of Ixchel, declared herself queen and vowed to her goddess never again to send the sons of the Urakan to the aid of ungrateful overlords. In truth, she was not divine, but as many of the nobles among the Urakan, she bore the blood of the sea elves, giving her long life and a complexion that was, in the light of the sun, almost magenta rather than the red of the Olman.
But the Kingdom of Tamoachan was not yet utterly destroyed. From the volcanic ashes emerged the horror that was Tloques-Popolocas Yohualli-Ehecatl, the Master of the Outsiders, a vampire and Chosen of Camazotz. It was not until over two hundred and fifty years later, in CY -170, that he wearily, but gladly, laid himself to rest beneath the great temple of Tamoachan. Having achieved the victory he sought, halting the advance of the Suel for which he took his title, he released the undead grasp that had already let slip the crumbling remains of Kingdom.
It was on the very day when Elatalhuilhle, which had been reconstructed by the advancing Suel even while Tamoachan fell ever deeper into ruin, mysteriously fell once again. Until then, he had led and urged the sundered northern Olman to fight an ever retreating battle against the Amedi Suel as they moved ever east and south.
IV. Xiburis the Lamia
From the start, Chibirias refused the summons of Tloques-Popolocas. Indeed, the Urakan did not participate in any of the battles with the Amedi Suel. They had their own wars, first with the Flan and Firstcomer Suel displaced from the Sheldomar, then with the Kingdom of the Toli. These were the ruin of the Urakan. Upon Fairwind, Jetsom and Flotsam, some slaves now have mixed Urakan ancestry, but none of true blood now remain on the isles.
That doom was, at least in part, brought about by Chibirias’ defiance of Tloques-Popolocas. After his blood rage quieted, in cold calculation and with deception he sought to seduce her. And he was successful.
But in the moment she relented, Ixtab cursed her as forsworn and turned her into a monstrous greater lamia. The Urakan lost their queen, never again to be unified, though many still paid her homage nonetheless. For the goddess had also blessed the very spot upon the island where Chibirias relented to love and made there a fountain of healing that would, from time to time, restore her beauty and goodness. It was this fountain that ultimately brought about her death, for word of it traveled far to the north.
Gradually, the very name Chibirias was corrupted, eventually to become Sybar. In circa CY -350, she was known as Xiburis when an anonymous author penned (FN11) these sad words:
For somewhere in that sacred island dwelt
A nymph, to whom all creatures knelt;
At whose red feet the languid Tritons poured
Pearls, while on land they wither’d and adored.
Left to herself, the serpent now began
To change; her elfin blood in madness ran,
Her mouth foam’d, and the grass, therewith besprent,
Wither’d at dew so sweet and virulent.
As Xiburis agonized upon her isle, seven hundred miles to the north another half-elf princess was made to suffer from her own curse. But she was blessed with a true love.
V. Coming of the Yorodhi
Porpherio Profundacus was a mage of great power. Born of the Yorodhi (FN12), the earliest of the Oeridians, in the land of Ull, where he was first tutored in battle magic, he was also trained in the mystic arts by the Suel. He and many other Yorodhi were members of the Rhollan House of Immris that settled in the southern foothills of the Lortmils before the founding of the Kingdom of Keoland (FN13). So powerful was this mage that even the dread Vecna upon his Spidered Throne chose to let them live in peace.
In this new land, Porpherio fell in love with Caerwyn, a half-elf princess of Lothromenoron, of the land later to be known to mankind as the Duchy of Ulek (FN14). She loved him in turn. They would have made a fair and wondrous life for themselves there, and indeed shaped the fate of the whole Sheldomar Valley, but for the fact that the faithless Kas slew his master Vecna and matters changed.
The Oeridian Keogh, close relatives of the Yorodhi and a great gathering of tribes that had been held back from entering the valley by Vecna’s realm, then entered the Sheldomar en mass. The plans of the Neheli Suel were disturbed. Rather than face the possibility of a strong Keogh-Rhollan alliance centered about Immris and Porpherio, indeed one with strong demi-human support, which would have greatly diminished their own power, the apprentices of Slerotin that would eventually form the mystic order called the Silent Ones in secret placed a dreadful curse upon Caerwyn and with feigned mercy directed Porpherio to the south for her salvation.
In his love for his princess, Porpherio abandoned his good master and the Sheldomar and settled with many of his Yorodhi servants upon the isle of Sybarate. Slaying the monster he found there, Xiburis the Lamia, and all the savage Olman upon that isle even as the Flan, Firstcomers and remnants of the Urakan fought for control of the more northern isles, he build for Caerwyn the magical Garden about the Fountain of All Heal that would ease her suffering.
VI. Sotillion’s Sweet Days of Summer
In the Hold of the Sea Princes, the worship of Sotillion is somewhat limited. Although in that southern land she take preeminence among the collectively worshiped Oeridian agriculture gods, such worship is largely limited to the Oeridian houses along the Hool River. To some extent her worship has become popular, as token or fad, among the Suel nobles of the Hold as well (FN15). Her deific emphasis on the lazy days of summer suits well the disposition of the plantation owners. But it is upon the isle Sybarate that she is most prominently worshiped.
When the Yorodhi followers of Porpherio Profundacus settled upon that isle they brought with them their worship of their agriculture gods whom they collectively represented with the mare’s head, a tradition harking back to their semi-nomadic life upon the grasslands of Ull, before the coming the Bakluni into those lands. And so it was that with the ease of life provided to them by the magics of Porpherio the inhabitants of Sybarate turned exclusively to the worship of Sotillion. For upon that isle, almost every day is summer. That very spirit effuses from his Garden to this day.
While Fairwind, Flotsam and Jetsom were enslaved, the rise of the Kingdom of the Toli did not touch Sybarate, except to make the Yorodhi, who had inherited the nobility of the Rhola in the court of Immris, detest even more that institution. Porpherio would never again allow Caerwyn to be disturbed, and while they lived none landed upon their shores without their consent. Even as they laid themselves to rest, Porpherio provided for the protection of the Garden, and its isle, by offering it to the Green Man as an abode.
Alas, the Green Man. I would curse him for my sorrow, but I know he did not slay my wife or draw me into the Garden. And why be so foolish as to curse a god? I took from him eagerly all that he offered. I now share it willingly as I paid for it dearly. As I think upon it now, he offered a bit of song (FN16) in which I can now find some solace:
Let me bring you love from the field:
poppies red and roses filled with summer rain.
To heal the wound and still the pain
that threatens again and again
as you drag down every lover's lane.
Love from the field. And there it is, with my grandchildren.
FN1: Slightly modified lyrics from “Summer Breeze” by Seals and Crofts.
FN2: Porpherio’s Garden is detailed in the module UK1, Beyond the Crystal Cave, and described in Keoish Intelligence Report from the Hold of the Sea Princes, by Osmund-Davizid, at http://www.canonfire.com/cf/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=445
; and Places of Interest on Oerth, Part Two, by tamerlain, at http://www.canonfire.com/cf/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=236
FN3: The mare’s head holy symbol is found in UK1 in the Palace of the Spires. None of the gods of Greyhawk has it for his or her holy symbol. A review of the module makes it easy to conclude that the symbol was taken from that of the Greek Goddess Demeter. Among many other sources, Legends and Lore describes her holy symbol as the mare’s head. The island is described pastorally as a place of endless summer, befitting a land perpetually blessed by the earth mother Demeter. The God Poseidon is sometimes displayed as having horns or a foliate head, and is himself, in this guise, a variant of the Green Man. In mythology, Poseidon is strongly associated with horses. The offspring of Demeter and Poseidon was a talking horse, Arion. The Oeridian collection of agricultures gods includes Sotillion, the goddess of summer. Notwithstanding her winged tiger holy symbol, her familial connection to the sea god, Procan, makes her a good candidate for utilization of the mare’s head horse symbol. Her candidacy is much strengthened in that she epitomizes the endless summer of the isle of Sybarate and, in her character, she is indeed a “sybarite” as that term is used meaning a person addicted to luxury and pleasures of the senses.
FN4: The Spiritual Legacy of Lake Spendlowe and the Proto-Olman, by Wolfsire, http://www.canonfire.com/cf/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=777
, and sources sited therein.
FN5: As far as I am aware Chalchihuitlicue is not a canon goddess of Greyhawk referenced in any source, but she is described in Legends and Lore, Aztec Mythology, as the wife of the canon god Tloloc. Most of the Aztec gods described therein are canon. Those facts, plus the relative absence of Olman goddesses in canon, make her well suited for adoption.
FN6: "Exploring the Isle of Dread" by Gary Holian and "Torrents of Dread" by Greg Vaughan, both in Dungeon 114 describes aspects of the Olman culture there.
FN7: Much of the history of Tamoachan provided herein is derived from the module C1, Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, and in particular the three great tombs located in the lowest level, as well as other sources referenced in FN4. The references to the collective burial of Kings of Tamoachan in a well in Dungeon 114 increases the historical importance of the tombs of C1. Noteworthy, a careful look at the texts in The Scarlet Brotherhood and the Green Nightmare regarding the fall of Tamoachan indicates that they are intentionally equivocal and so the history herein is considered by the author to be apocryphal and not heretical. Credit must also be given to GVD’s Tamoachan Revisited - The Fall of Tamoachan, http://www.canonfire.com/cf/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=730
. This article provides a somewhat different interpretation of the fall.
FN8: OJ1, the History of Oerth; History of the Frutzii by Flandall, http://www.canonfire.com/cf/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=231
; The Rhola and the Toli: the Battle for Jeklea Bay, by Samwise, http://www.canonfire.com/cf/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=731
FN9: The Olman Invasion of the Suloise Imperium: Cause of the Twin Cataclysms? by Wolfsire at http://www.canonfire.com/cf/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=776
, and sources cited therein.
FN10: The Mesoamerican goddess name Chibirias was selected in propriety and because of the similarity to the word Sybaris, but the poster of this name is also due credit for her contributions to the Olman: http://olmanifesto.blogspot.com
FN11: The lines are from John Keats’ Lamia slightly modified. The name of the Lamia in Greek mythology was Sybaris which is the origin of the word sybarite and the island name Sybarate.
FN12: For further description of the Yorodhi see Mortellan’s collected works on Ull at http://www.canonfire.com/cf/modules.php?name=Your_Account&op=userinfo&username=mortellan
and Living Greyhawk Gazetteer Addendum: The Baklunish West, Part II, by CruelSummerLord, http://www.canonfire.com/cf/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=572.
FN13: WG8, The Fate of Istus.
FN14: OJ16, A Guide to the Duchy of Ulek by Russ Timm. Much credit, which I unfortunately cannot specifically identify, is due to Samwise, whose collected works may be found at http://www.canonfire.com/cf/modules.php?name=Your_Account&op=userinfo&username=samwise.
FN15: Hold Of The Sea Princes, by Erik Mona, http://www.dracheninsel.de/dracheninsel/add/greyhawk/seaprinces.htm
FN16: Lyrics from "Songs From The Wood" by Jethro Tull."