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Cult of the Dawn

by Marco Dalmonte English translation by Gary Davies

Worshipped in: Isle of Dawn
The Isle of Dawn was colonised by the first human beings of Neathar race around 2200 BC, and following the migratory movements of the Antalians in 2000 BC causing both northmen and other Neathar tribes to move into the territory of the Dawn, spreading themselves out to the extreme capes of the island. The Antalians remained settled in the northern tip, gave life to the Helska people (current inhabitants of the Kingdom of Helskir), while the remaining Neathar scattered into in the surrounding area, pushing all the way to the Shadow Coast. They shared a series of original beliefs that contributed to make them a unique people, with the veneration of Viuden (Odin) widespread among nearly all the people also on the basis of the influence of the neighbouring Antalians. With the passing of the centuries, the Neathar Dawners (a term that indicates the Neathar tribes of the Isle of Dawn) started to slightly differ in their own linguistic and cultural customs, until some legends on the creation gave life to real split in the clans, each of which claimed a divine descendance from one of the original divinities. There nevertheless exists a substantial mythological basis shared by all the Dawner clans and founded both on the ancient Neathar belief and above all on the events that have influenced the history of the Dawners and Antalian peoples of the region, which has seen the rise of several charismatic individuals among the Immortal ranks during the Age of Heroes (1900-1600 BC), and subsequently also deified by the human legends. Because of this the so-called Cult of the Dawn gathered the mythical sources that are shared by the descendents of all the Neathar tribes of the island, who nevertheless revere with varying fervour the Dawner Immortals. Each community has in fact a divine patron who is thought to be the forebear of the clanís founder to which it belongs, and therefore every clan passing on the mythic events gives prominence to the figure of its own patron in respect to the other gods, a characteristic that has frequently unleashed war and rivalry between still very touchy clans, and that has contributed to not uniting the Dawners (and thus making them easier prey for the conquerors of the neighbouring empires).
The Dawner clans share the following cosmology: at the beginning of the world there were three brothers: Viuden (the sky), Bel (the sun) and Manadyn (the sea). They discovered the land of the Dawn to the east of the continent and decided to settle there, since it was a fertile region and given of great wonder. Exploring the region, the three brothers encountered the faerie, timeless beings that had created and shaped part of this world in order to indulge their wishes. They were succumbing to a fight against the giants, and asked help of the three brothers, who used all their powers in order to defend this small paradise. The giants were therefore forced back beyond the reefs of Westrourke, and in order to be sure that they couldnít return, the three brothers unleashed the force of the elements in order to destroy the stone bridge that linked the land of the faeries to the continent: thus creating the Isle of Dawn. The faerie people recognised the power and wisdom of the three brothers and bowed down before them, acclaiming them their sovereigns and revealed their secrets of the Dawn. By common accord, the three decided to take wives in order to give life to their own lineage, who would rule over both the beings of nature and small mortals that populated the area and who were still ignorant and wild. Wandering the island far and wide, nevertheless only two had luck: Viuden joined with Dun (mother of the earth and fertility), while Bel joined with Vanu (goddess of the moon and passions). Manadyn didnít find anybody who wanted him, he retreated to the coast to weep, and his tears were so many that the sea became completely salty. Even today Manadyn wanders around the shores of the island and via the seas in search of a spouse, but when he is rejected or suffering from loneliness he plunges among the waves and fidgets on the bottom of the sea, unleashing storms and tempests.
From the line of Viuden (Odin) and Dun (Terra) were born the gods Brian (Frey), Brianna (Freyja), Donegal (Thor) and Farbautides (Loki). Naturally these divinities are an inspiration to the characters who accomplish truly epic actions in the nearby Lands of the North during the Age of Heroes and that are still remembered by the Antalian cult as well as the Dawner.
From the line of Bel (Ixion) and Vanu (Valerias) were born Silenus (Faunus), lord of the woods and sylvan races, the mythical smith of the gods, Wayland, and the patron of the arts and wisdom, Turlock (Chiron). In a second moment Vanu gave birth to Eiryndul, when she was joined (unknown to her husband) to the prince of the faerie. From this illegitimate son was born the line of the elves, graceful creatures given of long life and magical powers with faerie and divine blood in their veins, of which Eiryndul is sovereign and who settled in the woods of the central-western part of the island (an event that witnessed the passage of the Shiye across the Dawn around the IX century BC and the settlement of some elven clans near the forests of Redstone and Septentriona, at the side of the faerie).
The three brothers therefore divided the paradise (or the Isle of Dawn) with the promise of peacefully ruling over their own nation and of protecting and make their subjects prosper: Bel settled in the central area (Redstone, Kendach, Septentriona) with his descendants, while Viuden and his children remained in the north (Westrourke, Dunadale and Helskir). Each divinity chose a wife or husband from among the mortals, and joined with it in order to bring to light the chiefs who would have to lead the human tribes in the name of the Immortals: the eleven famous founders of the original Dawner clans (to which are later added the elven clan of Eirys, considered to be of the same standard as the first eleven, and the Kendach clan followers of Halav, which instead has never been numbered among the major clans due to the outside origin of its founder). To each of these clans was given an artefact forged by the same gods with the aid of Wayland, a gift that allowed them to prosper and defeat any enemy also when the Immortals cannot be at their side: the Thirteen Sacred Treasures.
Some centuries later, a little-known named Nyt (Hel) arrived from the north bringing disorder among gods and mortals, gaining the favours of one of the divinities and convincing him with sly words to make war on his brothers in order to conquer their kingdom (favouring the area in which the story is told, the traitor is the Immortal patron of a rival clan, or Farbautides, the most greedy among the Immortals). Thus the peace between the peoples was broken by the guilt of Nyt, and the island was bathed in the blood of the innocents. Nyt took possession of their souls and their treachery was revealed when they gave birth to horrible, deformed creatures born from the unhealthy union with the divine lover and with the souls of the lamented: the so-called fomorians (a term that for the Dawners indicates specifically the humanoids and more generally the monsters that infested the island). They were united under the banner of Nyt and make war on the children of Viuden and Bel, which fell divided (this part of the legend refers to the humanoid invasions that hammered the island from 1720 BC to 1700 BC, originating from Norwold). This period of great instability and of internecine fighting lasted for some years, during which all the sacred treasures were lost or stolen following unexpected reversals and treacheries. It was in this epoch according to legend that on the suggestions of the Faerie Court, the gods left the island: some wanted to follow the traitors in order to punish them, others simply decided to abandon the Dawners, disgusted by the ferocity of the mortals and decided to remain to watch until the conflict was resolved. When they saw that their children continued to not always listen to the weaker voices of their clerics, they decided to send to the island a herald who brought a new teaching and a new hope: It was thus that in X century BC the most famous of the legendary heroes of the island entered into Dawner history: the great bard Dallbard (Tiresias).
Dallbard at that time was the most powerful among the spellcasters of the island and a seer without equal. His origins are uncertain according to the Cult of the Dawn, and all the clans asserted a kinship with the hero, who certainly must be the son of a divinity, even if there isnít an agreement on who could be his sire (some claim him to be the divine son of Brian, others of Eirys, yet others of Viuden or Bel). Tiresias came to the island on the demand of his patron Khoronus, after having left his homeland (Milenia) in order to complete his journey to Immortality. Here he was know as Dallbard and remain strongly attracted to the local culture full of passion and love for the legends, so much that he took to heart the Dawner cause. Thanks to his charisma, after several years he was able to bring to assembly all the heads of the Dawner clans and told them that the island would be liberated only if they could elect just one ruler who take the power in his hands. When he realised that none of the clan heads were disposed to submit to the others, Dallbard persuaded them that would be up to the gods to chose the successor who would lead them to the rebirth and reconquest of the island, invaded by humanoids and by the bronzed skinned foreigners (the Nithians, arrived on the island in 1050 BC and that hade already started to enslave the natives and to found the colonies that would later become part of the Kingdom of Thothia). With the help of the faeries, Dallbard forged the powerful sword Caledfwylch and placed it in the rock of a headland, leaving his student Finnegar to watch over the weapon: whoever could extract the sword would be the new ruler, and Finnegar would announce it to all the island with a long trumpet blast. Dallbard then disappeared, taking himself to the seven corners of the island in order to recover the thirteen sacred treasures of the gods, which had helped the rebirth of the Dawners.
Numerous chiefs tried to extract the sword, without any success. It was only a few years after that a foreigner with fiery-red hair arrived from the west and presented himself to Finnegar and was able to take up Caledfwylch: his name was Halav, and would pass into Dawner history as Fulvachioma (Gruaigerua). Thanks to his guidance and charisma, the Redstonians and the Kendachese were able to unite in order to over turn the dominion of the foreigners and forced back the fomorians on the mountains, gaining independence. Unfortunately the other clan heads didnít want to bow before a foreigner both because of pride and envy and they plotted against him when he tried to gain their alliance. Halav resigned himself then from becoming the ruler of all the Dawners, and shortly after having won the countless battle against the humanoids mysteriously disappeared on the plateau near to Kendach, and the sword Caledfwylch that he carried with himself was lost.
When Dallbard returned from his peregrinations recalled by Finnegar, he realised that his prophecy had been forgotten, and despite having recovered all the sacred treasures of the island, the people were still divided. With great sacrifice, he departed once more towards the kingdom of Nyt (for some situated in the swamps of Dunadale, for the others in the heart of the Lost Plateau), deciding to slay the queen of the darkness and free the minds of the Dawners from her nefarious influence. He was able to destroy the Throne of Bone, an evil artefact thanks to which corrupted the minds and controlled her troops of fomorians, but Nyt escaped his fury and withdrew to the Afterworld, where she still waits for the best moment to return. Sure of having resolved the problem, Dallbard returned to speak to the clan heads, and saw that the faith in the ancient divinities had nearly disappeared. He realised therefore that all his solitary battles wouldnít be enough if they didnít regain confidence in the divinities and in their sense of fraternity, and he therefore gave the treasures to the thirteen clans and composed the final prophecy before leaving to join the gods: only the one that had reunited the treasures and had retrieved the sword Caledfwylch ought to reunify the island, but only if he was able to do so together with the legitimate owners of these treasures. In that moment finally, the gods had finally returned reconciled between them and the mortals, and had given to the Dawners a new golden era.
In the following centuries thanks to the use of the artefacts the clans were able to not fall under the complete dominion of the Nithians, which later vanished by the will of the Immortals. With the turning of the years, the new invaders had the better of the arrogant Dawners, and some of the clans fell into disgrace, also losing their own relics. Many continued to search for the sword Caledfwylch, even the successive dominators Alphatians and the Thyatians, but in vain. As yet remaining hidden to the eyes of most, and they muttered that Finnegar still waited on his throne of stone (Finnegarís Watch) for the moment in which he could again make the announcement that the King of the Dawn had arrived to free his people from the tyranny.
According to some later legends (the work of Thyatian monks), the three brothers had help from a sister who they nevertheless exiled from the island at the beginning of time, due to jealousy and pride, judging her unworthy of receiving a part of that paradise. The sister took under herself an indomitable people related to the Dawners and led them to create a great empire, with the aim of returning to her brothers and asserting her own right to rule on the Dawn (considered a paradise on earth). The arrival of the Thyatians on the island has therefore been arranged by their patroness, Vanya, the divinity that the three male siblings had out of spite removed judging her inferior (it is no accident that according to the legend it was the brothers who chose their wife and chased away their sister, and in all the legends the women always have a secondary role, a testimony of the profoundly patriarchal nature of the Dawner society). However, Vanya had mercy of the state in which the children of her brothers were in, and thus she changed her intentions and from avenger became the peacemaker and the unifier.
Always according to this version, only a true follower of Vanya will be able to find the sword and lead the Dawners to victory. Vanya has pushed her people (the Thyatians) to the reunification with their dispersed Dawners cousins: she would be the key to the rebirth of the Dawn. The message that the Thyatian priests of Vanya are trying to spread is clear: the renegade sister has founded a powerful empire, and was also trying to bring the Dawners under her protection. Only whoever is aligned to her side has the proper heritage and can govern the island by winning. Given that the Thyatians dominate in particular in the west of the Dawn, it isnít surprising that Vanya has a great following also in Westrourke and in Redstone, where some clans have disavowed the ancient divinities and sworn fidelity to the Grey Lady. In Kendach instead, Halav reigns undisputed, since the legend would like that he had been the father of the first founder of the Kendach dynasty. The Kendach region has always been identified with the myth of the King Fulvachioma and its governors have always considered themselves the legitimate heirs of the Dawner crown. Because of this they are faithful to the cult of Halav and the most active in the quest of uniting the clans under a Dawner ruler.
The list of the Dawner divinities is the following (divided into order of seniority according to the myth):

Viuden (Odin) - Good government and authority, sky, storms, winds, knowledge
Bel (Ixion) - Sun, light, fire, power, war, heroism, wisdom
Manadyn (Protius) - Water, oceans, marine creatures, unpredictability, travel
Vanu (Valerias) - Love, desire, sensuality, beauty, fertility, protection
Dun (Terra) - Creation, balance of the cycle of life, birth, prosperity, fertility, earth, herders and farmers
Silenus (Faunus) - Sylvan races, animals, sexuality and instincts, drunkenness, revelry
Donegal (Thor) - War, fighting, fury in battle, honour, audacity
Brian (Frey) - Passion, strategy, virility, loyalty, friendship, fertility, agriculture
Brianna (Freyja) - Abundance, fertility, family, beauty, love, female fighters
Farbautides (Loki) - Guile, deceit, tricks, fire
Wayland - Metallurgy, engineering, craftsmanship, magical constructs
Turlock (Chiron) - Arts, healing, knowledge, wisdom
Eiryndul - Elves, illusions and deceit, guile, jokes, adventure
Dallbard (Tiresias) - Poetry, music, legends, songs, revelations, visions, magic
Arnelee - Independent women, freedom, adventure, travel, loyalty, sincerity, wisdom, guile, messengers

It is necessary to note that while all the first thirteen Immortals are considered fathers of one of the original Dawner clans, Dallbard isnít associated to any clan, even though he is considered a divinity on par with the others. In reality the clan of Dallbard is composed of bards, troubadours and wanderers as well as priests of the Immortal that are united in being his eyes and mouth, as well as the historic memory of the Dawner people. The clan of Dallbard is therefore formed from all those Dawners that heed the calling and practise this role, which lose their affiliation to their original clan and entering as a part of that which is known simply as clan Dallbard, a group respected and feared by whomever.
In the epochs after the disappearance of Dallbard his has been added to the Dawner cults as well as that of Arnelee, a heroine coming from the northern area, who completed incredible deeds and of whom the bards sang the praises of, even amounting to present her as the daughter of Viuden. Therefore, even if not a part of the thirteen Immortals that created the first Dawner clans, the cult of Arnelee as patroness of independent women, courage, messengers and of loyalty is however numbered among those typical Dawner, and the clan that bears her name now live in the northern part of Westrourke.
Nyt (Hel) instead is known by all the clans as the Immortal of discord, death, corruption and reincarnation, patroness of monstrous creatures and the humanoids (fomorians) that infest the island attempting to find new souls to feed to their mother in a way that gave birth to new horrible fomorians in order to thicken their legions (according to the popular belief in fact, any mortal who was killed by the fomorians and eaten by them loses his soul, which is taken by Nyt into the Afterworld and reincarnated as a fomorian). According to the Dawnese religion, only the valorous and those that respect the traditions carry hope of joining the gods after death in their refuge of Tir nan Og, where they prepare themselves for the final battle against the forces of Nyt and the invaders of the Dawn, joining with their ancestors and the Immortals on the day in which the gods, recalled by their faithful, arrived in order to finally cleanse the island, where they returned to dwell together with the mortals and the souls of the righteous.