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The Secret History of Sun County: The Somash Connection
[The following is based on the fragments of a document apparently written by a Somash follower in the mid-1600s. While he grossly exaggerates the role of the Somash priesthood in Sun County, there is some truth in the author's ravings.]
When Monrogh came back from his journey through Teshnos with the young Tarkalor, having had the Many Suns Vision, he passed through Sun County, and taught the priesthood there of the things he had learnt on his travels. He brought them the cults of Dayzatar and of Ourania, but it was what he told them of Somash that had the greatest effect. At this time Sun County was suffering under a succession of kin slaying brothers. Using the new magical techniques Monrogh taught them, the brothers were thrown out, and an Impala leader, Poskuturri Criminal-slayer, became Count. In a fit of enthusiasm, the dress and hairstyles of Teshnos became popular with the Sun County nobility - long red tunics, and plaited hair. The mind-altering drugs used in Teshnos were not available here, but Hazia was found to be a useful substitute. However, while Somash gave protection from the nomads, he could not help against the Uz, who now invaded from the north.
In 1567 Varthanis Brighthelm came to Sun County and taught them of his new discovery - Yelmalio. Yelmalio knew the Uz among his enemies, and they feared him. Sun County could now repel both the nomads and the Uz, as Yelmalio trained good soldiers.
Safe from external enemies, Sun County turned to internal strife again. Yelmalio was a sun god who had lost his Fire powers. In Varthanis's cold Sartar home, this had been of no consequence. But in the heat of Sun County, the remaining followers of Somash asked how Yelmalio could be the Sun if he did now have the power of Heat. Varthanis did not have the Vision of Many Suns, and was unable to explain it. However, he did know that Yelmalio gave military strength to all his worshippers, whereas Somash gave his great magic only to his priests, and his drugs weakened the discipline of the common soldiers. Varthanis revived the old law that forbade the wearing of "women's dress" (originally intended to forbid nomad shamen), and discouraged Hazia, alcohol, and all other mind-altering drugs.
In 1593 Varthanis Brighthelm died, and his son, also called Varthanis, became Count. He was more interested in philosophy and magic than in warfare: and, unfortunately, more interested in drugs than in discipline. Unlike his father, he encouraged the worship of Somash, and revived the dress styles associated with it. The Templars did not approve, but when their leaders protested, Varthanis asked them how they could follow a sun god with no Fire powers, and they could not answer.
Varthanis however had his own "Doctrine of the Two Natures of the Sun", and expounded it to them. The Sun, Varthanis said, had Two Natures. The First Nature was Summer and was known as Somash. Somash gave great heat but was powerless against the Dark. The Second Nature was Winter and was known as Yelmalio. Yelmalio gave great light and could withstand the dark but had no Fire powers. This would have settled the controversy but Varthanis went too far, favouring the Somash priests over those of Yelmalio. Since there were very few of them, this had no great effect on the common people of Sun County other than to make Hazia more widely available, but caused a widening split between Varthanis and the Templars.
In 1610 a new element entered the debates, as the Lunars came to Prax, defeating the nomads by using their own fire powers against them. It was clear to Varthanis that the Lunar sun god must be more powerful even than Somash, and he sought Lunar favour in the hope of learning of this new god, giving them his palace in Pavis. Belvani also saw the Lunars as a source of power, though perhaps in a rather different way. The Lunar explanation of Yelmalio's loss of his Fire powers at the Hill of Gold gave credence to the Templar stance (at least, it was enough to convince the Light Captain, Invictus, that the Lunars were on his side), but also made Yelmalio a mere Son of the Sun, not the Sun himself. And the arrival of Yelm-worshipping Dara Happans, who viewed all Sun County natives as peasants, did nothing to lessen the arguments.
Just to add fuel to the fire, various priests on both sides of the argument became involved in increasingly desperate attempts to gain support for their Sun by marrying him off to the Red Goddess. Karial "the Pure"'s attempts to explain how the monogamous Yelmalio could be married to both Ernalda and the Red Goddess, while still performing the River Ritual, brought disgust from many of his own followers.