"Come now my child, if we were planning to harm you, do you think we'd be lurking here beside the path in the very darkest part of the forest..." - Kenneth Patchen, "Even So."

THIS IS A BLOG ABOUT STORIES AND STORYTELLING; some are true, some are false, and some are a matter of perspective. Herein the brave traveller shall find dark musings on horror, explorations of the occult, and wild flights of fantasy.

Sunday, February 17, 2019


Chapter Five

You’ll soon see what I’m made of, father, and I don’t think you’ll find me lacking...
Telemachus, in “The Odyssey”

Notes for this Edition

THE ORIGINAL version of Rites of Passage was written for “Classic RuneQuest” (RQ2) circa 1990.  I was nineteen at the time, and had been playing RQ for about seven years.  There in university was when I graduated from playing the game to actually running it, and I had the idea for kicking off my first campaign with the characters being initiated into adulthood.  I liked the idea.  It started the characters as roughly the same age as their players, and we were being initiated into our world as they were into theirs.

A rewrite came along a decade later.  King of Sartar had appeared in the interim, changing much of what we thought we knew about the Orlanthi, and a new Gloranthan RPG, Hero Wars, was upon us.  As a result, the second version of Rites of Passage was a VERY different animal.  The first version had basically entailed the adolescent characters being painted blue with woad, drinking a mildly hallucinogenic mead, and going out on a raid to bring something back of value to the clan.  The second version was more of a heroquest, a mythological exploration of Orlanth’s adventures and the Lightbringer’s Quest.  Two more revisions would appear over the next eighteen years, but these both followed the path of the second version, the vision sharpening as Orlanthi mythos itself became more clear to us all.  The most recent version prior to this current one, appears in full here.

This version of Rites of Passage differs from all others in that for the first time it is not the introductory episode, but rather the fifth chapter of Six Seasons in Sartar.  As part of an ongoing story, it is filled with references to the characters—both player and NPC—and events of that campaign.  These will have to be weeded out for adaptations to other campaigns.

Before running this current version, Gamemasters may find it useful to read both “Orlanthi Initiation Rites” and “The Initiation of Orlanth” from Stafford’s The Book of Heortling Mythology (pp. 34-35).  This incarnation of Rites of Passage leans heavily on both.  Aside from these, The Guide to Glorantha (my bible for all things Gloranthan) volume 1 pp. 31 - 37 has a superb overview of Orlanthi culture, and pp. 113 to 124 sets the mythological context nicely.  Page 651 of volume 2 describes the constellation Orlanth’s Ring, also important to this episode.

Andrew Logan Montgomery
Tokyo, 2019 

Note to the Previous Edition

LITTLE IS KNOWN of Heortling ritual practices outside of the very broadest outlines.  There are, of course, several reasons for this.  Aside from the immense antiquity of these ceremonies, and the fact that they were in the main orally transmitted rather than written down, the cataclysmic violence of the Hero Wars period brought an apocalyptic end to the era in which they were practiced.  As a consequence, most of what went on before the Wars was lost, and what little remains comes to us from secondary sources, civilizations which rose from the ashes of Third Age Glorantha and wrote about these matters from a great distance.  Their authenticity must be taken with a grain of salt.    

To the modern reader some of these ritual practices—meant to initiate adolescents into adulthood—may seem brutal, even barbaric.  We would do well to remind ourselves who the Orlanthi were and what sort of world they lived in.  This was a warrior culture, where every adult male was expected to be able to kill with the same ease with which he might plow a field.  Surrounded on all sides by hostile tribes, inhuman forces, and the ever-present threat of Chaos, pacifism was not a luxury they could afford…nor was innocence.  If we bear this in mind, there is a certain nobility in these practices, embedded with reminders that violence is not the only option, and imbued with a deep spirituality.  These rites helped breed a powerful race that would reshape the world.  

Setting the Scene

Begin With:  Sacred Time, before 1620.

In the Black Stag clanstead, the player characters are woken in the dead of night and pulled from their beds. While the mothers look on, consoling younger children, masked men seize each character and drag them out into the howling gale.  Rain lashes their faces; lightning illuminates the scene in jagged flashes.  Monstrous figures stand assembled in the storm…Telmori wolfmen, dragonewts, goat-headed broo…and the player characters are thrown in the mud at their feet. The monsters take them, bound and blindfolded, and they are forced to stumble across the icy fields of the vale.  They walk for hours, tripping over tree roots and stones.  Finally, the walking stops and the blindfolds are whipped off.  The characters stand in a spruce clearing, surrounded by four towering giants.  In the flashes of lightning they can barely make out the shaggy forms of these hulking monsters, but the night is filled with the booming, earsplitting bellows they make...

The Situation: The player characters have been seized for the triennial initiation into manhood.

The word “manhood” here is a poor English translation of the actual Sartarite term, which means rather “those who walk Orlanth’s path.”  Orlanthi gender roles divide broadly into those who follow Orlanth—plowing, fighting, raiding, doing heavy labor—and those who follow Ernalda—cooking, healing, raising children, managing the household.  Biological gender is irrelevant in these roles; more important are the individual’s Runes.  Those with the Air Rune tended to be called to Orlanth (as did those rarer cases with the Fire/Sky Rune).  Those with the Earth Rune tended to be called to Ernalda.  Darkness and Water were more obscure cases, and required divinations to assign the roles. 

Rites of Passage describes Orlanthi initiation.  This was done every few years and in groups.  Ernaldan initiation was a personal, individual process; girls usually underwent it immediately after their first menstruation, while boys went through it annually during Sacred Time.    

After passing through these rites the player characters will be full adults, magically awakened, with all the privileges and responsibilities of grown Orlanthi.  But this is not mere fraternity hazing; this is Glorantha.  The rite is a heroquest, sacred and time-honored.  The danger is real and the ordeals are all necessary. In order to rouse the Runes sleeping in their souls, their childhoods must be stripped away.  They must die as children and be reborn as adults.

Main NPCs: The Chieftain and his Ring—the male members at least—are present.  That means Chieftain and Wind Lord Gordangar Kenstrelsson, Chief Thane Jorgunath Bladesong, Wind Voice Savan Kenstrelsson, Lawspeaker Jodi White Hart, and Skald Keladon Blue-Eye.  Blue-Eye has a critical role later in the episode.  Many other men from across the tula are there as well; the boy’s fathers, many of the thanes, and several of the prominent carls.  

Short-Term Goals: As representatives of the Storm Tribe their goal is to rip away childhood from the characters an awaken the adults sleeping inside them.  The will draw on clan magic reserves to part the veil and expose the characters to the Hero Plane.

Long-Term Goals: To preserve the continuity of the clan and welcome the characters as new members into it.      

Scene 1: Umath Makes Camp


Proto-Indo-European root meaning "stranger, guest, host," properly "someone with whom one has reciprocal duties of hospitality," representing "a mutual exchange relationship highly important to ancient Indo-European society" [Watkins]. But as strangers are potential enemies as well as guests, the word has a forked path...

THE “MONSTERS” THAT DRAGGED the boys here start removing their masks and cloaks.  They are in fact weaponthanes of the clan, members of the clan ring, and prominent carls (landholders).  The boys watch them unmask, drenched and shaking in the rain.

Gordanger Kenstrelsson, the Black Stag chieftain, emerges from the darkness and walks towards the center of the clearing, carrying a large runestone.  He is painted with woad, looking mighty and terrible.  He places the stone in the center of the clearing.  “I am Umath,” he says, “and I claim the Middle Air.”

Thunder snarls across the sky.

He builds a fire near the stone and lights it by magic.  The flames leap up in a shower of sparks.  Around him, ten men circle.  The announce themselves as they form a ring around the stone and the fire.  “Watcher.”  “Porter.”  “Scout.”  “Fireman.”  “Foodman.”  “Waterman.”  “Cook.”  “Caster.”  “Healer.”  “Singer.”  Each lays a bedroll out around the fire.  

Umath raises his hands skywards.  “The Camp is made.”

Now many of the other men approach him, one by one.  He addresses each.  “Hail Stranger, who comes this way? I am Umath, slayer of the Howling Void.  Tell me your name.  Are you friend or foe?”

Each in turn gives his name, and the name of his father, and declares their friendship.  Umath then says to each; “You are welcome here.  I offer you the warmth of my fire and the protection of my house.  I offer you a blanket to sleep under, meat to fill your belly, and salt as a token of your honor.  This is a thing we offer only friends and kinsmen.”

And each responds; “I accept this with gratitude, and I will ever speak of your generosity.”

Umath then turns his gaze to the player characters.  As the ritual has proceeded, the sky chieftain seems to have grown physically larger…not painted with woad, but actually blue.  Lightning flashes in his eyes and ripples under his skin.                  

“Hail Strangers, who comes this way? I am Umath, Slayer of the Howling Void.  Tell me your names.  Are you friends or foes?”  

As each goes through the exchange with Umath, the world seems to grow even darker.  The giants guarding the clearing are larger and more terrifying.  When all the characters have passed the greeting, Umath presents them to the assembled company.  “Friends, may I present to you the Sons of Umath.”

He introduces the boys as Urox, Vadrus, Humakt, and Orlanth.  Kalf Lightfoot is named as Urox (his Air and Beast Runes make him the best candidate); Leika the White is named as Vadrus; Kalliva Kalessasdotr is named as Humakt (she has the Truth Rune); and Beralor Three-Fathers is named as Orlanth (his Runes are identical to Orlanth’s).  These assignments are for the purpose of the initiation only…and are not meant to suggest the characters will join these cults.    

There is another boy as well, and they get the impression it is Ashart. He seems in shadows, however, and the air quivers around him.  The more they try to identify him, the harder he is to see.

There is another terrific blast of lightning, so bright and deafening that the player characters are dazed.  Something seizes them…the giants?!?  They are each hurled into a separate pit…  

Scene 2:  The Sons of Umath

Initiation means the journey inwards:
nothing is changed or can be changed;
but all is trulier understood with every step.

Aleister Crowley

THE CHARACTERS WILL NOW FACE separate trials, magic recreations of the tests faced by Orlanth and his brothers when they became men.  Each character is in his or her own separate pit, facing one of the four “confrontations” below.      

The walls and floor are slick with cold mud and slime.  Roots jut from the walls.  Heavy lids are placed over the mouth of each pit, leaving the characters in total darkness.  Above, they can dimly hear the men chanting.  This seems to last for hours.  Alone, in each pit, each character will be tested.  Ancient magic ensures this.

For each of this, an Extended Contest is the best choice (despite this coming so early in the episode).  Each stage of the Initiation is a complete mini-Heroquest and the player characters can opt to leave after each stage.  For this reason, each stage—The Sons of Umath, The Star Heart, The Devil’s Face, and The Void—should be played as climactic.   

1. Confrontation with Ancestors
Myth: Vadrus and the Deep Well

LEIKA falls.  Her plunge is broken by ice cold water.  She has been tossed into a well.  

Overhead she can see the lid close.  There is the sound of rushing water as a deluge comes from above, filling the well but pushing Leika under the water.  There is a very real chance she will drown as the struggles against the flood.  

As she struggles to keep her head above water, she feels something brush her legs.  Something grabs her ankle.  Something pulls her under.  Despite the darkness, the creature below her is illuminated by its own black radiance.  It is an emaciated corpse, naked and female, flesh rotting off its bones.  Its eyes are missing and replaced by a deep indigo light.  It is Leika’s dead mother, Anardera.

Below her, she can make out dozens of other corpses swimming upwards towards her.  The tattoos all seem to glow darkly on their skins.  They are all members of her own clan…her own ancestors, come to drag her down into the underworld with them.  She can hear their voices in her head.  Leika.  Join us.  Stop fighting and sink.  She realizes she can speak with them in her head.

This is a spirit combat.  Failure means they drag Leika down into the depths.  Success means she can perhaps convince them to aid her, lifting her up to the lid of the well so that she can escape.  Since her Runes are not yet active, Leika may use her Spirit-talker ability for this.  

2. Confrontation with the Devouring Monster
Myth: Urox and the Animal Corral

KALF lands facedown in the mud.  As he gropes around his hand closes on the haft of a spear.  

There is movement all around him.  As his eyes adjust to the dark he sees he is in a large corral, wooden fence enclosing a large pen.  Around him is a herd of ghost deer.  They are making frightened noises, stamping in the mud.

There is a roar.  The deer scatter in terror as a massive black boar charges through the pen goring them on its tusks.  It guts one and stops to feast on its entrails.  Then it sees Kalf.  The boar charges him.

He will need to fight.  After the boar, a second animal attacks.  A massive gray wolf leaps into the pen and attacks.  After the wolf, a brown bear enters the corral and attacks.  These are three animals, but run as one Extended Contest.

Assuming he wins, The panicked deer continue to buck and scream and pace nervously.  There are more roars in the distance coming closer and they cannot escape.  Ideally, Kalf will help them by smashing through the wooden fence.  This will end the test.  

3. Confrontation with Ancestral Enemies
Myth: Orlanth and the Strange Gods

BERALOR can hear something hissing in the darkness.  This is punctuated by a strange trilling sound, and a warbling like an exotic bird.  There is a dry, slightly acidic smell in the pit, under the scent of the mud.  The character becomes aware of slightly luminous eyes watching him.  

A sword is dropped into the pit, and lands blade first in the mud in front of him.

His eyes begin to adjust to the darkness and he can see the creature.  It is a Warrior Stage Dragonewt.  It hisses at him, flaring the leathery ruff around its neck.  It is not alone.  

Another figure emerges from the shadows, a Dark Troll. It turns its beady eyes on Beralor and bellows.

A final figure appears.  It is a Brown Elf warrior, tall and straight, with patches of bark on its skin and leaves for hair.  

This can turn into a four way fight, or Beralor can try and communicate with the three strangers and get them to cooperate.  This is, of course, the way to win the test.  He can see now they are all in a pit, but working together they might be able to climb out.  Make this an Extended Test, either as a fight or a conversation.  Each round gets Beralor closer or farther from escape.  

4. Confrontation with the Mirror Self
Myth: Humakt and the Fighting Pit 

KALLIVA stands dazed in the center of a fighting ring, such as she has seen boxers use during her own clan’s Game Days.  It is a circle of bare earth marked by small stones.

Looking at herself…she realizes she is wearing armor and is armed.  But the armor she wears and the weapon she bears are those of a Lunar soldier.  A curved sword hangs at her side and she is wrapped in a crimson cloak.

Ahead of her, four figures enter the ring.  She recognizes them; Leika, Kalf, and Beralor.  But leading them is a figure that leaves her surprised and confused.  It is herself—her absolute twin—but dressed in Heortling garb. 

“You killed my father,” Kalf glares at her, gritting his teeth.  He is armed with a spear.  “You lied to us,” Leika says.  She is holding a bow.  “My fathers are dead because of you,” Beralor says.  He is armed with a hammer.  “You have to pay,” Kalliva tells her, armed with her own sword, Moonthresher.

The goal here is to persuade them not to fight (kinstrife would be a powerful argument here).  This is another Extended Contest in the form or an argument or debate.  If it comes to blows and Kalliva manages to win, the Contest still ends…but she is haunted by the image of murdering her own friends.

This should be the last fight.  After it ends, the pit begins to fade around Kalliva and she is standing in the clearing again with the other characters.

Scene 3: The Second Son

downwards I peered;
I took up the runes,
screaming I took them,
then I fell back from there

“Rúnatal,” The Hávamál

LIBERATED FROM THE PITS (with no clear memory of actually leaving them), the characters stand dazed and blinking in the same clearing as before.  Any weapons they had in the pits are gone.  A storm still rages, flashes of blue and purple in the heavens.  The men have all vanished, but the giants remain, watching over the clearing.  If the characters go closer to investigate them, they will see the “giants” are made of wood and wicker and woven branches.  And yet, if the characters try to go around them to escape the clearing, they creak to life and block the way.

The pits have been dug around the circumference of the clearing.  They are empty now…all save one.  The lid of the pit is still closed, and the sounds coming from inside are disturbing.  There is movement down there, the sound of wet, smacking mud, and moaning sounds.    

If the players do not make the connection, have the characters now suddenly recall the shadowy other boy standing with them before…the one they thought was Ashart.

Rolling the lid back reveals horror.  The walls of the pit are alive and writhing...dozens of naked bodies are embedded in the wall, completely covered in the same slick black mud.  The bodies are intwined, touching, grouping, engaged in all manner of sex acts.  But this pit has no bottom, and instead it is a tunnel heading down deep into the earth.  There is no sign of the mysterious boy.  

It is possible that some of the characters are injured.  In any case they are unarmed.  But clearly the only way forward is down the hideous tunnel.  As they enter, one of the writhing figures in the wall reaches out and clutches one of the characters just for a moment, hissing in his or her ear “This is the sin that brought low the world.”

The stench of the tunnel is almost overpowering.  It smells like rot and filth and untreated wounds.  As they continue down, there are no more bodies in the walls, and there is even the warm glimmer of firelight ahead.

The Guide

The tunnel rounds a corner and widens somewhat.  Here it is dry, and the awful smell is replaced by the mouth-watering scent of fresh bread and roasted pork.

An old man is sitting near a campfire.  He is clearly Heortling, but his garb is slightly strange.  He wears only gray, nearly the same shade as his long braided beard and hair.  Nothing indicates his tribe or clan.  Despite his age, his build is powerful, and he has broad shoulders and strong hands.  He has a basket of bread and is turning a small wild boar on a spit over the fire.

“I am Hengall Vingkotsson,” he tells them, rising to his feet.  “Who are you?  Friend, or foe?”

With a Simple Contest they will recognize the name.  Vingkot was the son of Orlanth and the founder of their people.  Before King Heort came during the Great Darkness, the people were called Vingkotlings rather than Heortlings.  This is literally Orlanth’s grandson.

Each should introduce themselves (as they did with Umath).  Having done so he offers them the hospitality of his fire, giving them food and drink.  As they rest and eat and drink his fine mead, the characters feel restored (and negative penalties from the tests are removed).  At some point he will ask them; “Do you know where you go and whom you seek?”

After they reply he will tell them; “When Umath yet lived and his sons were but boys, Umath’s own giant brothers—Lodril,  Magasta, Dehore, Genert, Kalt and some others—came upon the Sons of Umath and seized them.  The giants bore Umath a grudge, and wished to punish him by destroying his children.  They separated the brothers and put them each into a different pit.   Vadrus they put in the Deep Well, Urox into the Beast Pens, Humakt into the Fighting Pit, and Orlanth they in the Cell of Strange Gods.  The Other Brother, the one whose name we no longer mention, was put into the Sex Pit.  This was the sin that brought low the world.

Vadrus, Urox, Humakt, and Orlanth all overcame the challenges of their pits...but the Other Brother succumbed.  The brothers tried to save him.  They formed the Brother’s Ring and chanted and prayed.  But what he saw in the Sex Pit, what he experienced, infected him, and he would forever after inflict this same violence upon the world.  He visited it first upon Thed, breaking her mind and siring her monstrous get.  Then the pair joined with dread Malia, and this Unholy Trio brought forth he of whom Madness was his Father, Rape his Mother, and Pestilence his Midwife.  The Devil came into the world.”

He spits upon the ground before looking at the boys.  “You are chasing Madness and entering into Darkness.  Ahead of you lies the Devil’s Face and ultimately the Void.  I will lead you to the Threshold, if courage fails you there, you may turn back and none shall judge against you.  You will still be Men.”

They pack up the camp and Hengall leads them into a dark tunnel. As they plunge into shadow without any torch they begin to notice that Hengall radiates faint light from his body, as if something luminous was inside him, something that lights his way.  He speaks as he leads them; 

“There are things it is not good for children to know, and all lives must have a season of innocence. The Giants tore innocence from the Other Brother and the result was an abomination...a creature with a child’s hunger and adult appetites.  This is why these rites exist, why there must be a line between what is good for boys and what is good for men.  But seasons change, and as Sea Season flows into Fire, the time has come for you to cross the line and learn what is good for Men.”

The Rune Cavern

With this they step into a larger chamber of the cavern, and the characters realize there is faint light in the room.  The space is immense, with multiple stalagmites rising from the floor to support the ceiling like pillars.  Beyond this central space, the dark walls are embedded with luminescent stones that give the impression of stars.  Hengall moves towards the center of the stalagmite cluster, which form a horseshoe-shaped circle of columns around the empty space.  

“You have passed the test of the Pits,” he tells them.  Now you are rewarded with the gifts given to all men and women.”  He then draws himself up, taller than even before…in fact he seems tall enough to be a troll, or larger.  “First there are the Laws; No one can make you do anything.  Violence is always an option.  There is always another way.  None of us can live alone.”

He seems even larger still, towering above them.  “And then the gift that all men and women are given.”

The cavern hums, the walls sing. Each stalagmite seems to vibrate at a different frequency, making music like a choir.  Now the characters can see carved into each stalagmite one of the Great Runes.  They realize in awe they are hearing the voices of the Runes themselves…and they feel compelled to sing along.  The entire cavern pulses with sound.

The player characters should all assign values to their Runes now, 1W, 17, and 13. 

When the Runes are chosen, the characters now feel those same frequencies humming inside them, their own personal song.  It changes them.  They feel stronger, fiercer, braver.  They have thoughts and feel yearnings they never had before.  

“The Runes are the seeds from which all Glorantha has sprung.  Gods possessed those seeds.  And giants.  And Heroes.  Now you possess those seeds too.”  Hengall’s voice grows deeper and even more powerful as he now towers so large his raised arms seem to support the dome of the cavern.  He looks down at the boys and there are flashes of blue under his skin and lightning in his eyes.  Is he Umath?  Orlanth?  He speaks with a voice like thunder.

“The seeds are now yours and is the way of men to sow.  Sow your seeds in the soil to grow food for the people.  Sow your seeds in the flesh to grow new people for the Clan.  Sow your seeds in the world to change it.  This power…this making…is the same possessed by the gods.”

The music fades, the vibration stops.  The characters feel simultaneously exhausted and exhilarated.  New power runs through their muscles, their veins, their loins.  They are adults now, with the full magical and procreative powers that come with this.

Hengall—now no taller than any other man—steps out of the shadows.  “In your blood and bone you now have the Gifts all the full grown receive.  This is enough; you may turn back now and return home.  Most men do.  There is no shame in it.  Go home and work the forge, go home and till the soil.  Go home and train in the fyrd to defend the land.  What lies ahead is not for all.  Chasing the Devil is not for men but Heroes.  Decide now, for soon we must part ways.”

The entire rest of the episode is OPTIONAL.  It is entirely possible to leave the quest now and still continue to play “Six Seasons in Sartar.”  The stages ahead grow increasingly harder, more dangerous, and potentially deadly.  Overly ambitious initiates die in these rites of passage!  That having been said, neither RuneQuest nor HeroQuest is about playing “ordinary” characters…completing the next two stages (The Star Heart and The Devil’s Face) will mark the characters as potential Heroes.  The final stage (The Void) is not meant to be completed now…it is something the characters might come back to time and time again as the years progress.  The GM may wish to tell the players all this outright, or drop strong hints, depending on her style.  If any of these stages is skipped, skip ahead to the final scene, “The Feasting.”

Scene 4: The Star Heart

Be thou a new star
that to us portends,
Ends of much wonder, 
and be thou those ends.

John Donne

“WHEN I WAS BORN,” Hengall tells them, “the Third Mother gave me a Star Heart.  There is a further secret but I cannot be the one to tell it to you.”

He is leading the characters up a winding tunnel now, away from the Rune Cavern.  “I can tell you this was in the time before Time, when the gods walked alongside men.  Great and powerful are the gods, wise and cunning.  They set the patterns of the world and examples for mortals to follow.  And yet they bickered.  They quarreled.  They killed.  The Elder Gods, the Giants, broke the mind of one of the Younger, and he in turn brought the Devil into the world.  He was not alone in this monstrous act; even Orlanth played a role in bringing the Darkness to Glorantha.”

The sounds of screams, shouts, clashing swords echo faintly thought the tunnel as they walk.  “But Orlanth knew that it was right to accept responsibility for one’s misdeeds.  He understood honor.  So he gathered the honorable gods—and some less so—to confront his nephew the Devil in Hell.  Time was born, gods and men were separated.  The world was saved.  Where did the King of the Gods find such courage?  Perhaps, if your spirit is strong enough, you will know.”

They reach the end of the tunnel.  Terrifyingly, they can see the entire world of Glorantha spread out far below them…the two great continents covered with cloud, the glittering oceans…Magasta’s great maelstrom.  They are standing at the edge of a hole in the Sky Dome itself.   A narrow ribbon of translucent light, light a rainbow of shifting colors, leads from this hole up and up towards the ceiling of the dome, the Pole Star in the center of the sky.  

Hengall stops, turning slowly to face the characters.  “This is where I leave you.  My place is here in the shadowland, the place of initiation, the border between Boy and Man.  What lies beyond is for you alone.  But first…I have gifts.”

He gestures behind them at sealed jars in an alcove there.  There are spears and swords and shields there as well.  “Strip away all of your clothes.  You must go ahead as naked on the day of your rebirth as you did the day of your birth.  The contents of those jars is all the protection you shall need.”

He turns to leave them, going back whence they came.  Darkness closes in on them as his light withdraws.  “Remember what I said…ahead lies the Star Heart, the Devil’s Face, and the Void…do not let foolhardiness be your undoing…go only as far as you dare…”

He is gone.

Inside the pots is blessed woad.  It must be smeared over the entire body, and will act as armor until washed off.  When they have prepared themselves and are armed, the cavern flares with brilliant green light.  A burning green sphere floats past them, out of the portal, following the path of light towards the Pole Star.

If the players do not make the connection, a Simple or perhaps Automatic Contest will illuminate what is happening.  It is a phenomenon they have been watching all their lives.

This portal, this hole in the Sky, is the Stormgate.  On Windsday the eight stars of Orlanth’s ring emerge from the Stormgate and for seven days march upwards towards the Pole Star.  There the stars enter the Underworld for seven more days until appearing at the Stormgate again.  There are seven orange stars, representing the Lightbringers, and the green star, the Head of the Dragon.  The green orb that burned past them is the Dragon Star, and they are meant to follow.  They are the orange stars.

Behind them emerge three more figures, bringing their total number to seven.  One is a veiled and hooded woman, in black from head to toe.  One is a smiling, naked man whom they have never seen before, but somehow reminds them of every man they have ever seen.  And the last…is Keladon Blue-Eye.  

Or is he Eurmal?  

“Allow me to present Ginna Jar and Flesh Man,” Keladon tells them.  “I assume I need no introduction.  Hurry!  Time is wasting!”  He leaps past them onto the thin path of light and starts to follow the green star.

The scene if dizzying and terrifying.  As they march the burning sun rises and falls seven times, sailing across the sky.  Stars burn around them, clouds and storms whirl below.  After the first two passages of the sun across the sky, the green star suddenly flares, belching out emerald flames that burn and scorch the characters.  Run this as an Extended Contest using the characters’ highest Rune values.  Failure results in the characters being burned and scorched and forced from the quest.  If a player “wins” the contest before the final secret is revealed, the fires of the stars simply have no effect on them.  

As the wave of fire washes over them, a voice speaks in their souls; There is a Mother that Births you, a Mother that Delivers you, and a Mother that Blesses you…

The character(s) now choose to go on or turn back.  If they go on, tell them they walk for what feels like another few hours, but another day passes.  As the sun sets, the green star flares again.

The voice speaks; As the Second is Midwife to the First, the Third was Midwife to the Mother of Time…

The journey repeats, the Pole Star ever-so-slowly growing closer.  Another blast of fire, and the voice; She beheld the Secret that Devoured the Devil, and this she hid away in trust for you at the moment of your birth…

The Pole Star grows closer still.  Another day passes.  Another blast. The voice says; The Devil cannot corrupt it, the Predark cannot blacken it, it is the Secret the Storm Lord knew and that all his truest sons keep…

Now the Pole Star burns directly ahead.  They stand at the highest point of the world.  As they entire the fiery aura of the Pole Star, hovering there, breast high, are the most beautiful things the characters have ever seen.  The characters almost feel like falling to their knees, weeping at the beauty of it.  They are stars the size of a fist, burning brilliantly, each encased in a nimbus of the purest light.  Each character present knows by instinct which star is his.  As they reach for their stars, the green star flares again.  Those who survive, intact, watch their breasts open and the star settle inside their chest cavities. The light shines through him, the universe sings, and the voice whispers the Great Secret; 

Only YOU can save the World.

Defeat means explosion from the quest.  The character cannot complete the quest for the Star Heart at this time…his or her soul is not yet ready.

Having attained the Star Heart, the character gains it as a new Ability, “Star Heart,” at 13.  This is a deep self assurance and conviction that the character is destined to be a Hero, that he or she has the power to shape and remake the world.  They understand it is the source of all Orlanthi magic, this power of motion or willed “change.”  They understand that it makes each of them a light in the darkness, that no matter how black the night must shine.   The Star Heart Ability can be used to augment any rolls in fighting Chaos, or can be rolled against when courage is needed or to chase away self-doubt.  Similar uses can be devised.  It is improved like any Ability.  

If the character ever tries to communicate this mystery to another living soul, the words dry up in the throat and fade from the mind.  The secret cannot be shared, it bust be directly known.    

Scene 5: The Devil’s Face

Human beings do not like being pushed about by gods.
They may seem to, on the surface, but somewhere on the inside,
underneath it all, they sense it, and resent it.

Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

GINNA JAR, FLESH MAN, and “Eurmal” now stand at the edge of the Pole Star, a burning hole in the Sky.  “The path ahead is not for everyone,” Keladon warns them.  “You have accomplished much already.  Remember what Hengall told you! Ahead lies the Star Heart, the Devil’s Face, and the Void.  Do not let foolhardiness be your undoing…go only as far as you dare…  Give them the chance to abandon the quest here.  If they accept, skip ahead to “The Feasting.”

If they enter the Pole Star…

…all the light suddenly fades, and a bitter, howling darkness falls upon them.  The reek of decay hangs in the frozen air, gagging.  Howls and the clanging of swords echo around them.  Screams rise and are cut short.  The weapons Hengall gave them radiate light in the darkness, but beyond this glow they can see absolutely nothing.  They have the sense of being in an immense cavern but there is little way of knowing. There is a chance here, to return.  They remember Hengall telling them this.  If they decide to press on, the way forward is to follow the screams.

The Road to Hell

The screams form a constant, undulating cry…scores of them, hundreds perhaps.  Voices in agony, horror, maybe madness.  The sound pours in a constant stream from ahead.  As the group heads in the direction of the sounds, the light from their weapons begins to outline the shapes of massive pillars, many of them fallen and shattered.  If examined, they are carved with strange, unrecognizable shapes, giant insects, and Trolls.  Perhaps they are in the lightless halls of the Underworld?  

Almost in answer…they begin catching glimpses of pale figures moving just beyond the edge of their light.  Just a flash of white at first, but then another…and another.  If they investigate, turning aside for a closer look, they start to see pin-points of green floating just beyond the edge of the light.  These lights bob up and down, always in matched pairs…. The characters realize it is the light of their own weapons reflected in the eyes of the Dead.  If they thrust the light closer they will see them...pale zombies in various states of decay, eyes reflecting the light in an eerie green. They screech and flee from the light.

Moving through the Underworld, their light is the only light in the unbroken darkness, and the Dead are both drawn to it like moths to a flame and terrified of it.   As they walk, more and more of the Dead cluster in to follow alongside them.

The Dead will not attack unless attacked first, but don’t let the players know that.  If the players are foolish enough to launch an attack, the spell is broken and the Dead will start to swarm in.  There are scores at first, and hundreds later.  The player characters cannot hope to win and will have to flee.  They are faster than the dead and their only hope is to outrun them.

These are the Dead of the Gods Age.  They are those who fell in the Lesser Darkness and the Darkness before Time.  Thus, they did not have the relationships those born after Time developed with the gods and therefore no afterlife other than this (how can their gods save them when the gods themselves are in Hell?).  The despair of the endless dark—and in many cases seeing the Devil and his armies—has made them insane.  Yet another reason to join a cult, and follow a god, is to avoid this fate...

Further ahead they come upon a pair of troll statues several meters high, showing six-breasted females.  The cold seems to intensify, and they can see their breath like steam.  The woad seems to be keeping them warm.

Beyond the troll statues the stench in the air grows worse, clawing at the inside of the nose and throat.  It takes strength not to retch.  The characters start coming upon bodies...men and women, trolls, animals...lying dead on the black stone floor.  Their faces show agony and horror.  All of them have burst abdomens, entrails spilled out, and bloody trails crawling away from the bodies into the darkness.  

Some of the bodies are still twitching and steaming.  Keladon/Eurmal whispers;

This is the sin that broke the world.

Images assault them, flashing unbidden in their minds.  A child god in a pit.  The writhing bodies in the walls of the pit.  The child screaming as they pull him into the walls with them...

The outlines of a massive Troll temple—or palace—emerge from the Darkness in front of them.  The Dead will not enter here.  Massive pillars outline the entrance, and an impossibly wide flight of stairs rising upwards.  The steps are large, clearly not meant for human legs.  

There is a growing sense of wrongness here.  Oily black light shimmers over the steps and pillars.  The air feels sharp and prickly.  It tastes acidic.  Every instinct in the characters screams out against this; they know, somehow instinctively, this is Chaos.

If the press on, at the top of the steps, the come to the source of the screams.  

This is a great pillared hall, lit by the greenish yellow fires of burning bodies.  There are prisoners lashed to the pillars, naked, bellies swollen and distended.  Men, women, children, other species...they look pregnant and ready to burst.  Some are screaming.  Some have bitten their lips bloody.  Some foam at the mouths.  If the characters watch long enough, they see one of the figures start screaming in agony, only to have their belly rip open and burst.  In a rush of blood and entrails, larval things slither away in search of the shadows.

The Devil’s Father

This is the first time they see the Broo.

Armed Broo move amongst their captives, checking on them, making sure their bonds are tight.  There are too many of them, at least double the number of characters.  Maybe more.  It would be best not to get noticed.  There is also the question of where to go from here.

With a Simple Contest they can make out in the dark opposite them towering leaden doors, partially ajar.  They are able to spot the positions of the Broo guards as well.  Getting to the doors is not as difficult as it might seem...there are many pillars and the sickly yellow fires do not light much of the dark. 

If they make for the door, each character makes a Simple Contest check to elude the Broo and reach the doors unnoticed. If a player character is spotted, the Broo will sound an alarm by blowing horns and close in on him...

If a character is spotted, the Broo will attack.  They will not kill the characters if they can help it.  Instead, they will take them alive and bring them before their master.  Essentially this takes the character where they want to go, but they will be disarmed and it is a far less comfortable way to get there. 

Assuming they reach the doors, or are brought there as captives, beyond them is a wide circular chamber under a dome.  There are statues of Mistress Race Troll queens in alcoves around the circumference.  A throne has been set up in the middle of the circle, and there are at least eight armed Broo guards around it.  Worse, crawling all around the throne are hundreds...maybe thousands...of larval Broo infants.

Sitting upon the throne is a child, a boy of perhaps 12 years.  At first they think it is Ashart…but then it looks like a younger version of Darestan.  He is beautiful to look upon, but his dark eyes burn with madness.  Goat-like horns spring from his curly black locks, and his legs are shaggy from the waist down, ending in cloven hooves.  Between his legs his is engorged, priapic.  He notices the characters as soon as they enter.

Beside his throne are two women.  To his right stands a naked woman with a distended belly.  Her garments are torn, partially ripped from her body.  To his left is a spindly, emaciated woman veiled from head to toe.  Flies and spirits buzz in the air around her.

“Ah!  My brothers are come!”  He claps his hands in delight and slaps the arms of his chair.  Some of the Broo around his throne immediately begin playing pipes and drums.

“Vadrus!  Urox!  Humakt!  Oh and Orlanth too!  Marvelous.  I am so pleased.”

How you play all this depends on your group.  If you have already associated the players with gods he will address them as the gods you identified them with.  Or you can leave it vague (he talks to his brothers as if they were there amongst the players without looking at any one character specifically).

As Ragnaglar sits on his throne, the players also see him screaming in the Sex Pit, being pulled into the walls and defiled.  The two things seem to be happening at the same time.  It is.  Because the is before Time, many things are simultaneously happening here;

  1. Ragnaglar is still in the Sex Pit being driven mad
  2. He has raped Thed and fathered the Broo
  3. He has sired the Devil with Thed and Malia
  4. Urox has killed the Devil and sent him to Hell 

The characters should begin to have a sense of this...they are standing in Hell and the Broo have been born...but at the same time have visions of themselves standing in a ring around the Sex Pit, singing and chanting to liberate their brother. And yet all of these visions seem to lead to one unavoidable point.  All the myths and gods and people seem to converge on a single moment...the Devil in Hell...the beginning of Time...

They are standing back at the Sex Pit, holding hands, chanting for their brother to be freed...

...they are in Hell, Ragnaglar is speaking.  “Have you come to see Him?  Have you come to see my beautiful Child?  I can take you before Him, my Son, my Vengeance. He is yours as much as mine, dear brothers, my reply to the wicked gods who cast us into the pits.  Those who tried to ruin us and destroy us...behold how I have rewarded them...behold what I have done to them and their precious world...” 

...they are standing in a ring around the pit...

Let the players know they have this chance.  They can, right now, “jump out” of the myth by clinging to the visions of themselves standing around the pit.  Or they can chose to willingly go before the Devil.


If they chose to face the Devil, the characters find themselves firmly back in Hell.  Ragnaglar is up and off his throne, his eyes feverish with madness.  “He is here, O my brothers, He is this way...”

He rushes down and grips them by the wrist (each perceives him gripping his or her own wrist no matter how many are there).  Immediately there is a black and howling wind that screeches in their ears, the dizzying sensation of falling.  The wind is bitter cold and biting but they feel hot and feverish at the same time.

They plummet into a reeking bog.  Each is completely alone, no sign of his or her companions.  The slime is thigh deep.  It is black and thick as tar, but cold and stinking of rot and filth.  Floating in the tar are severed limbs, carcasses of all manner of beasts, faces, bones.  They are standing thigh deep in all the dead gods and beasts and mortals of the Greater Darkness, all rotting into the same muck...

The slime begins to rise, surging.  Something massive is rising from the bog.

It explodes upwards, showering the character in filth.  The thing in front of him towers higher and higher...

Each character will perceive the Devil differently (at first), but each will see Him as a manifestation of Chaos.  The Devil might be...

...a gigantic Broo, it’s flesh covered with weeping sores and Chaos features...

...a massive Scorpion Man...

...a beautiful nude woman meters high (an ogre) with golden hair and alabaster skin...

...a towering column of iridescent slime (gorp)...

...a thing more mouth than anything else, with arachnid legs (krarshtkid)...

And so on.  Keep track of what vision you show to each player, and if at all possible, later in the campaign, make sure that Chaotic creature features prominently in the character’s life.  The point here is to emphasis the Devil as the embodiment of all the Chaos in the world, and to give the players a prophetic vision of some Chaos that will “devil” them in the future.  Then…

...then the visions starts to shift for all the characters.  No matter what they saw before, the shape starts to bloat and swell, ruddy and glowing, until before them they see the baleful Red Moon.  It grows larger and larger, crawling under their skin, clawing into their minds.  They can feel the terrible weight of it pressing down…

Seeing the face of the Devil is no small thing.  The character must immediately roll a Simple Contest to resist madness.  This should be at least a Very High Difficulty, if not Nearly Impossible.  On a failure, the character is driven insane.  They suffer the corresponding penalty on all social interactions until the madness is cured.  

If the he or she succeeds, the character has faced the Devil and lived.  He or she is now immune to fear or demoralize attempts caused by Chaotic features or powers (and ONLY Chaotic features or powers).  It doesn’t mean they could defeat the Crimson Bat, but they would be immune to the madness and terror caused by its keening song.     

Seeing the Devil’s Face is a prerequisite for the final stage of initiation, the encounter with the Void. 

Scene 6: The Void

One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light,
but by making the darkness conscious…

Carl Jung, Psychology and Alchemy 

Stepping out of the narration a moment, let us speak Gamemaster to Gamemaster.

Rites of Passage is written as a HeroQuest scenario.  As a HeroQuest story, the encounter with the Void ends with Illumination.  This isn’t such a big deal in HeroQuest…characters can start with Illumination as an ability (see HQG, p. 203).  If you are running this in RQG, We don’t fully know yet how the game will handle Illumination.  And judging by how it was handled in RQ2, it seems likely to be a much longer and more arduous process to attaining than in her sister game.

As with all the rest of this episode, this is all my interpretation of Orlanthi initiation rites, based on what has been written on the subject.  Naturally, Your Glorantha Will Vary.  In the game, I am presenting all this as how Black Stag initiation works, but I am of the opinion that all initiation rituals end in Illumination if the character goes deep enough (I’ve written two others, one for women and Ernaldan characters called The Riddle and one for Lunars, that both end with the Void as well).  In other words, all the initiation rites in Glorantha lead to the same center (its the perennialist in me).  

Given the dim view the Orlanthi take of Illumination, however, it explains the view that the Void “dissolves the soul” of any who dare look upon it.  Technically, an Illuminate isn’t really an Orlanthi any more.  So be cautious with players who wish to go “all the way” and gaze upon the Void.  Again, we must bear in mind that about 60% of the candidates of these rites turn back after gaining their Runes (encountering the Second Son), and another 30% probably turn back after the Star Heart.  Pushing on to see the Devil, and further still to the Void, is not mandatory nor even suggested.  Don’t feel the need to run this episode to that conclusion!

All this being said, I suggest that HeroQuest players who go all the way to the Void enter play illuminated.  RuneQuest players and GMs might wish to be a bit more cautious (until we have definitive rules on the subject).  Until we get those rules, I recommend reading the cult of Nysalor/Gbaji in the Cult Compendium (p. 319) and the details on Illumination.  If the player and GM are comfortable with an Illuminate, go ahead and have a character be illuminated after this scene.  If you wish it be a longer process, have the character partially illuminated.  Roll a 3d10 and this is the character’s Illumination percentage.  He or she will have to seek out Nysalorian Riddles if the character wishes to complete the Illumination.    

Whatever you decide, remember…A KNOWN ILLUMINATE IS LIKELY A PARIAH IN ORLANTHI VILLAGE SOCIETY.  It is something the player character might wish to keep a closely guarded secret.

That said, let us begin.          

THE RED MOON TURNS PALE until it is finally a bloodless white.  There is the sound of thunder, a tremendous flash of lighting that blinds.  The moon shatters, and the fragments keep dissolving until they are nothing but swirling dust.  The Devil is gone.

But there is something ahead.

If the character walks forward the ground beneath his or her feet slowly becomes more solid, until it is something like naked stone.  The smell of rot and decay fades until there is no scent at all.  The bitter cold in the air warms until it feels neither hot nor cold.  A sense of calm falls over the character, a sense of equilibrium and peace.

Ahead, emerging from the darkness, there is a Crack in the World.

The character can see it…a massive fracture running from the horizon up several kilometers into the sky.  This feels like the very edge of the world, the dome that encloses Glorantha.  That crack in the blackness is blacker still, the deepest shade of black the character has ever seen.  It is not merely the absence of light but the non-existence of light.

The stillness is unearthly.  All motion has ceased except for the character’s movements.  Looking around, he or she sees only this endless dark plane beneath a dark sky.  Only the Crack, ahead, stands out.

Moving forward the characters foot touches something.  Looking down it is a mask.  The visage it depicts is horrible, fearsome.  The Devil.  But the Devil is just a mask.  Moving forward, the character begins to see other masks…the bearded visage of Lankhor Mhy, the beatific features of Chalana Arroy.  The character sees the leering features of Eurmal and even the proud, stern face of Orlanth.  All are just masks discarded on the ground.  The character begins to wonder who wore the masks.  The character begins to wonder what is behind the masks…

The Crack looms, higher, impossibly high.  It grows wider as the character nears it.  The blackness beyond it doesn’t seem fearful…it calls to the character.  As it gets closer, there are thousands upon thousands of masks on the ground, all crumbling to dust.  Only the Crack seems real.

Is this Chaos?  Is this the Darkness?  Is this where the Devil entered the World?  But is is so peaceful…

This is the player’s last chance for the character to go back.  After this, the character will be Illuminated (or at least on the path to Illumination)…

The Crack now fills the character’s entire field of vision.  Even though there is nothing but the blackest blackness, the character has the sense of looking into forever, of falling into forever, of forever looking into him…

The blackness is soon all encompassing.  There is nothing any longer to look at, nothing to be seen…and no one to do the looking.

Scene 7: The Feast

As for the primitive, I hark back to it because we are still very primitive. How many thousands of years of culture, think you, have rubbed and polished at our raw edges? One probably; at the best, no more than two. And that takes us back to screaming savagery, when, gross of body and deed, we drank blood from the skulls of our enemies, and hailed as highest paradise the orgies and carnage of Valhalla.

Jack London

THEY STAND AT THE BASE of an immense and craggy hill.  It rises from a fertile plain of cultivated fields.  The characters can see acres of barley and oats, apple orchards, even a vineyard of white grapes.  Vast herds of cattle can be seen grazing on the hills in the distance.  Overhead the sky is grey and cloudy, strong gusts of wind blowing across the fields.

No matter what scene was their last, when a player character exits the quest he or she appears here.  More than that, even if other characters pushed ahead, everyone ends up here at the same time, together.

At the base of the hill, the trail passes under a high wooden gate.  A dragon skull is mounted at the top of the gate and the posts are carved with Runes.  There is a man waiting for them under the gate.  He is a warrior by his build, though unarmored.  His hair and heavy, braided beard are golden red.  He hails the characters and steps towards them.  “I am Jarstakos Heortsson, and I have been sent to welcome you, my sons, the the Hall of Orlanth.”

Jarstakos is, of course, the founder of the Black Stag clan.  He comes forward and embraces the characters, one by one.  He then leads them up the high hill.

Role play whatever conversation you like during the climb.  As they reach the summit they climb up though cloud until arriving at Orlanth’s Hall.  It looks like the hall of their own chieftain, but far, far larger and more grand.  Here it seems to sit on an island in a sea of cloud tops.  Overhead is the starry night sky.  Notably, there is no Red Moon.

As they reach the outer palisade wall and pass through the gates, a large crowd of men stands on either side of the pathway.  These are their ancestors...famed Black Stag heroes and warriors come to welcome their new kin to manhood.  They cheer and beat swords against their shields.  Horns are blown.  Jarstakos leads them down the long path to the hall as the ancestors stand and cheer (if any characters have lost a father, he is here to greet them).  Finally they go within.

They will never clearly remember what they saw in the hall...it will come to them only in vivid dreams.  They will remember their wounds being tended and being healed.  They will remember being washed clean of the woad and led into a chamber where the tattooists went to work upon them, placing the marks of the Colymar and the Black Stag on their skins.  They will recall being clothed and led into the feast hall, glimpsing the gods themselves sitting at the high table at the head of the hall.  They will recall sitting with their ancestors at a long table and feasting on the most succulent pork and beef, eating the best bread, drinking the finest mead.  They will recall the music, the cheering, the dancing...

...but all only dimly, like a half remembered dream.

They feast, and for the first time in their young lives they drink deeply.  They drink so deeply their eyes grow heavy and their vision blurs.  Finally they pass out.

They will wake in the Black Stag clan hall in the village.  They are hungover and sore (especially where they have been tattooed).  Already the memories of Orlanth’s great hall, and the faces of the gods, is fading.  If they received any injuries on the Other Side these wounds are healed, EXCEPT if one or more was driven mad or killed (characters killed on the Other Side are dead).  

For the rest of Sacred Time they remain guests of the chieftain, while the god-talkers and priests begin to instruct them in politics, religion, sexuality, and their duties as men.  If characters felt touched by a god during the quest, they will be accepted as lay members now.  

Childhood is behind them.  At the turn of the new year, they will return to their homes as their own masters.


Moving Rites of Passage from the 1st scenario to the fifth actually made it stronger, in retrospect.  The first four episodes--as youths--allowed the characters to form attachments to the NPCs and the community, making this transition more meaningful.  If I ever end up running Six Seasons again, Rites will remain towards the end rather than the beginning.

I think because they have had four episodes already, the players (all new to Glorantha prior to this campaign) were much better prepared than they might have been if Rites had been introductory.  They caught on immediately to the importance of the ritual greetings in "Umath Makes Camp," and even recognized the correspondence between the titles of people in his Ring ("Fireman," "Caster," "Healer," etc) and those of Kallyr Starbrow's Companions.  In short they were thinking as Orlanthi.  This came to the fore in the first round of tests in the Pits.  They made rolls against the Heortling Keywords to look for a myth that paralleled their situation, and so I read them "The Initiation of Orlanth."  Armed with this, they could make guesses about how to face the challenges.

Ironically, Beralor thought he was in "Humakt in the Fighting Pit" rather than "Orlanth in the Pit of Strange Gods," but despite this he acted exactly as Orlanth did to resolve the situation.  This set up a strong character arc for him in this episode; his Runes already match Orlanth, he thinks as Orlanth thinks, and by the end he had decided to initiate to the cult of Orlanth.

I set the difficulty low for this first round of tests ("Low," or Base - 6).  The Pits are the basic clan initiation, after all.  Most people pass them and need to in order to become adults.  Things got considerably harder the deeper into the rites they went.

Having beaten their trials, again like good Orlanthi they went into the Sex Pit after the Other Brother without hesitation.  They believed, I think, they were rescuing Ashart (despite the fact that at 13, he is still too young for these rites).  But Ashart has become a favorite NPC among the players, a bit of a little mascot, and it made sense that their characters would associate the Other Brother with him at first.

The encounter with the Second Son and the awakening of their Runes went well.  Then, for the first time as actual adults, they faced the trial of the Star Heart.

This version of Rites of Passage is the first to tie the Star Heart quest directly to the constellation of Orlanth's Ring.  I went this way for several reasons.  First, this version of Six Seasons is much more connected to the bigger picture of Sartar Rising, and the Dragonrise and Orlanth's Ring is essential to that.  In the long run, bringing the Ring into focus early will make it more meaningful down the road.  Second, the characters have already become part of Starbrow's plans, and thus are themselves connected to Orlanth's Ring and the Dragonrise.   Third...well, embarrassingly in the 35+ years I have been running in Glorantha, I have neglected the night sky!  

It worked very well though, and because of the 7 orange stars in the Ring also tied into the Lightbringer's Quest.  This allowed me to bring Keladon Blue-Eye (the manipulative bonded Trickster who might be Beralor's true father) back into the mix, appearing as Eurmal.  

The Star Heart proved to be much harder (intentionally, I set the difficult at "High" or Base +6).  This made all the difference.  All four managed to finish the trial successfully, but it was a near thing, and until the very last stage of the quest remained uncertain.  HeroQuest does dramatic pacing damn well.

Given the choice to turn back, the group decided to press on to "The Devil's Face."  Their resources were stretched a bit more thin here, but they went anyway.  Leika started to show her shamanic stuff by communicating with Darkness spirits for some guidance.  

The revelation of the Other Brother--primal rapist Ragnaglar--as Darestan drew an "of course" from Kalf's player, David.  This was the effect I wanted.  Again, having Rites of Passage appear later in the campaign allowed me to bring in established allies and enemies in a sort of Wizard of Oz sort of way.  The initiation becomes part of a continuing story in this way.

Leika confronted the Devil as a Chaos-tainted werewolf; Beralor saw it as the ogress he killed; Kalf saw it as a Scorpion Man (some foreshadowing here); and Kalliva saw it as her Lunar father (even more foreshadowing).  In the end all saw the mask fall away and the Devil assume the form of the Red Moon...a perfect set-up for the next episode (the finale of Six Seasons).

The difficulty here was "Very High" (Base + 1 Mastery), but all managed to pass.  They would indeed be returning to the Vale as destined Heroes.

Only Kalliva was tempted by the Void...but the group decided against gazing into it just yet.  They returned instead to the Halls of Orlanth.

A surprise moment for me was when describing the assembled ancestors greeting them, David asked if his character's father (who died in Starbrow's Rebellion) was there.  He was.  This allowed for a really touching reunion, and further confused Kalf's feelings about Starbrow (his father was proud to follow her and die fighting for Sartar's liberation, coloring somewhat the feeling that Kalf and his mother had shared that Starbrow got his father killed).  

By the end of Rites of Passage Beralor was certain he wanted to become and initiate of Orlanth, and Kalliva--whose character arc has been a struggle between her aunt and her mother, one who wanted her to be Ernaldan and one Vingan--decided to initiate to Vinga.  Leika will probably continue looking around for the right spirit tradition, and Kalf's path has yet to reveal itself (though I suspect soon shall).

Next time, March 10th, we will assemble for The Turning, the climax of Six Seasons in Sartar.  This is not the end of the characters or the campaign, merely the end of the first "novel."