Date: Thu, April 09, 2009
Being an account of the legendary holy city of the Flan, said to be the home of the Throne of the Gods.
Based on an idea from Steve Wilson's Flan timeline in the Oerth Journal #1.
In the Year One of what would become known as the Flan Tracking calendar (-2151 CY), King Harad of the Tarakon Flan tribe was gifted with a sign from the gods, the image of a great crown hovering over a peak of the nearby Lortmils for over a day before slowly vanishing. (Certain ballads, notably Hason of Gryrax's "City of the Gods," add mysteriously "crown above the peak, and a throne beneath." Hason is, sadly, long dead and unavailable to explain what he might have meant by this.) The druids of Harad's tribe told him that it represented a great city that he would found, one that would be blessed by the gods. It would be named Haradaragh, Harad's Crown, in his honor.
The Flan up to that point, at least in the western and central Flanaess, had no great cities, dwelling instead in small villages or wandering the forests and plains of the continent as nomads. King Harad scarcely knew where to begin in completing his ordained task. Some legends say that angels sent by the gods showed him the secrets of building; more likely, he gained help from an allied group of dwarves. There are records recovered from a ruined dwarven citadel, taken back from the orcs after the Hateful Wars, which describe an order of a staggering number of supplies for some construction project at approximately the right time that some sages have suggested might have been Haradaragh, but could have as easily been another dwarven stronghold. It's also been suggested that the "angels" of legend are actually Al Kalak Elam, also called the winged elves or avariel, who live in the mountains nearby to this day.
If the dwarven records do refer to Haradaragh, the city must have taken over a century to build, but when it was complete it was an awesome sight, terrace upon terrace of narrow farm fields leading to a set of stone walls shaped like an eight-pointed star protecting low stone buildings with no spaces between. The city did not have streets as such, but instead had doors and steps on the roofs of the buildings leading downwards. In the center of the city was another tier protected by walls identical to the outer ones, towering over the rest. Within those walls was the Holy Tier, a riotous collection of shrines, idols, pyramids, and temples to every god known to the people of Haradaragh. These were not tightly clustered as were the residential buildings of the lower city; each shrine was given its own yard.
Haradaragh, with its massive series of terraced fields, had a strong agricultural base, growing corn, amaranth, and wheat. Goatherds on the nearby slopes below the terraces allowed their herds to feed on the plants native to the mountains. The grain was traded to the dwarves, who exchanged them for raw and worked metals.
The real coin of Haradaragh, however, was priests and prophecy. The fame of Haradaragh, and the favor of the gods it was thought to enjoy, spread far and wide, attracting priests of every faith and creed. So, too, it attracted petitioners in need of powerful priests for healing, resurrection, divination, and similar tasks, petitioners whose offerings flooded the city's coffers. The more Haradaragh grew in fame, the more priests and petitioners it attracted, and the more priests and petitioners attracted the more fame it grew in a cycle its populace expected never to end. They were wrong.
Pelor, Allitur, Rao, Zodal, Boccob (known as Kabak to the Flan), Berei, Beory, Nerull, Moradin, and Aerdrie Faenya were the most popular faiths in the city, though shrines were maintained to gods of every pantheon the inhabitants could discover, from the small gods of the halflings to the cold, uncaring elemental princes. Even diabolism flourished, it is said, particularly Dispater and Baalzebul.
Priests of Boccob became increasingly influential, much in demand for their skill in divination and for their principled neutrality between the sometimes violently opposed sects. The Boccobites' attempts at ensuring the power between the different priesthoods was kept in balance helped save the city from civil war more than once, and as the vital need for their presence became clear, their power increased proportionately. Soon Haradaragh became a center of magical research as well as theology.
Among the loose organization of treasure-hunters known as the Seekers of the Arcane, some have proposed that Haradaragh had a still holier site buried beneath the Holy Tier: the mythical Throne of the Gods, said variously to have been constructed by the gods themselves or by an ancient race who wished to use it to commune with their deities. As "communing with the gods" was the foundation of Haradaragh's entire economy, this theory seems reasonable on its face, though there is precious little evidence for it outside the obscure reference in Hason's ballad. It would have to have been kept a deadly secret indeed for the Throne not even to show up in legends.
Haradaragh was allied with the dwarves and Al Kalak Elam. Even the hidden vale of Esmerin opened its doors to it during its height.
After a certain point, the gods themselves seemed to become almost inconsequential to the holiness of Haradaragh. More and more began to feel it was the holiness of the city itself that empowered its priests, the gods proceeding from it rather than it from them. Eventually a temple rose in the Holy Tier celebrating not a deity, but Haradaragh, and the temple began to eclipse the idols and shrines of the gods in size and majesty.
Perhaps some genius loci of the mountain responded to this reverence, or perhaps the sheer amount of faith in the city somehow created a god out of whole cloth, for legends say the city became aware. Not just the buildings and walls that made up the city's physical substance, though the stories say these (except for the shrines and temples to the true gods) would whisper to one another and occasionally make pronouncements and issue commands, but the very vermin of the city, the rats and insects, began moving with a purpose, and the city's cultists began speaking with a single voice, acting with a single will. Haradaragh became a tyranny ruled by an all-seeing, omnipresent being.
The end came swiftly. The priests of Boccob had foreseen it, but as their warnings were ignored by the increasingly fanatic cultists of the city they quietly began evacuating themselves and their followers. The last follower of Boccob teleported herself out of the city just as the disaster hit. "Beware, lest the Uncaring turn his terrible face toward mankind at last," reads a line from one retelling of the legend; a strange one that remains the only known reference to Boccob as a potentially active, baleful deity whose accustomed indifference should be seen as a blessing; several other lines in the ancient work make it sound as if Ralishaz and Incabulos are only aspects of Boccob, these beings an inevitable result of the Archmage of the Gods paying too much attention to the mortal world.
The exact circumstances of the fall of Haradaragh are murky. Dwarven records describe an upsurge in evil humanoid activity at the time, and some of the surviving sagas speak of epic battles with orcish kings. The legends of the goblins tell of the age in which the long-sought Axe of Maglubiyet was finally discovered in a human city, and a crusade was launched to recover it. The saga of the war of the demon-seeing High King (sometimes associated with Vecna) against Imruk of Erlacor is also often intertwined with that of Haradaragh, with some claiming that the demons who directed the High King chose to make an example of Haradaragh by razing it down, particularly to challenge the strength of the devil cults. Sometimes the two ideas are combined, with the High King leading orcish armies as well as conjured demons (or undead; the Flan word is the same) in battle against Haradaragh and their allies the Al Karak Elam.
There remains a reoccurring theme in every legend, however, never referred to explicitly or in much detail, of a terrible beast sent by the gods that shattered the city. Some modern scholars associate this beast with the creature named in other legends as the Tarrasque, believing that after destroying Haradaragh it crawled to the Drachensgrab Hills to resume its eons-long sleep.
The legends say that when Haradaragh died, it screamed.
Where exactly the ruins of Haradaragh now lie, none can say. Every few years someone claims to have found them, but these finds have always been proven to be of dwarven, orcish, avariel, or giant origin. With the wealth of a thousand faiths in its temples, Haradaragh would be a tempting prize indeed.
The refugees of fallen Haradaragh settled the regions now known as the Pomarj and the Wild Coast, where they blended with the natives to become the Trakon people. Boccob became their chief patron, as they credited him for their survival. Under the guidance of the wizard-priests of Boccob, knowledge flourished, the Trakon becoming philosophers and inventors. With improved ships they sailed up and down the coast, founding colonies all along Woolly Bay and the Nyr Dyv, including places where the cities now called Dyvers, Greyhawk, and Hardby now stand. Most fatefully they colonized the islands of the Nyr Dyv, the archipelago now remembered as the Isles of Woe.
Haradaragh represented the first true independence from the druids among the Flan of the western and central Flanaess, the first development of a separate priestly caste that continued, in one form or another, to the present day. It was the first time, and perhaps the last time, that the scattered Flan nations would have a common focus, something like a unifying tradition and pantheon. The Trakon brought the calendar of Haradaragh with them on their journeys, dating back to the vision that founded their lost city. With the city gone it became known as simply the Tracking, and eventually the Flan Tracking to Aerdi sages.
On a more mundane level, ancient, primitive coins stamped with a throne motif have been found as far away as Hardby and Junre. These are generally believed to have been minted in Haradaragh long ago.
- Estes, James. "On Wings of Eagles." Dragon #233. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1996.
- Lenox, William. "The Winged Folk." Dragon #51. Lake Geneva, WI: 1981. *Estes, James. "On Wings of Eagles." Dragon #233. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1996.
- Sobhrach. "The Lortmil Mountains." Oerth Journal #2, page 14-18.
- Wilson, Steve. "The Flanae Tally of Years." Oerth Journal #1, page 13.
- Wilson, Steve. "The Olven Calendar." Oerth Journal #1, page 9.