When the Wolf Howls
Taken from An Introduction to Glorantha.
Glorantha is not a sphere, hanging in space, orbiting a sun. It is a lozenge of earth floating along the river of time, surrounded by additional planes of existence that accompany it on its journey. Above the world is the Sky Dome, separating the sky from the land, and, in this bowl, hang the stars, the planets and Glorantha’s rarely seen Blue Moon (which is a goddess, not a satellite).
Below the land is soil and rock but below that, wrapping it, is the immensity of the Underworld, province of gods where once the sun was held prisoner in death. Seas lap Glorantha, but they are not governed by conventional tides. All waters flow to the vast maelstrom at the centre of the lozenge known as Magasta’s Pool. Here the waters plunge through Glorantha, leaving the mundane realm far behind, but eventually circulating once again: if one were to travel through Magasta’s Pool, able to sail it, one would eventually emerge upon the surface again, but changed.
Glorantha’s gods are real and living: they reside on the God Plane which co-exists with the physical world, separated from it by the Great Compromise, a pact between the gods preventing them from engaging in the kinds of wars that, before the dawn of time, saw chaos arise and almost tear the world asunder. Through this pact to remain aloof, Glorantha’s physical surface is the province of many races who are able to interact daily with their gods, but, separated from them, forge their own destinies.
And the world has many races. Humans proliferate, but they co-exist with the Elder Races; those that came before: the dragonewts, the dwarfs, the elves and the trolls, principally, but others exist. Humans are not alone and whilst they might proliferate they do not necessarily rule unequivocally. Each race has its dominion. The dwarfs reside beneath the surface, working hard to repair and maintain the World Machine. The elves are cloistered in their forests, keeping a deliberate distance from artifice, tied to the things that grow and flower. The trolls lives underground also, because, tied to the Darkness rune, the light of the surface is painful to them. The dragonewts, most enigmatic of all Glorantha’s many races, are scattered across the world, engaged in matters incomprehensible to most and tracing their own agenda, seemingly oblivious to the schemes of mortal kind.
In most respects Glorantha resembles a conventional planet with seas, rivers, mountains, valleys, plains, deserts and valleys. Yet none of these features are a result of geological activity. Each is a result of the actions of the gods, shaped before time began. Each feature is a deliberate act of creation or recreation; each has its own, separate reasons for being. Some features, such as the great rivers, are gods, manifesting in physical form but bound by the Great Compromise from interfering with the mundane world around them. The peoples of Glorantha know this and revere it. It is a way of life. If a river decides to reverse its course and flow uphill, it is because the god that is that river has a reason for doing so.
Everything in Glorantha has a reason for being, but that reason for being is mythical not physical. Humans and others might shape the world as they go about their affairs, but the changes wrought are temporary at best: only the creation and manipulation of myth can exert and permanent changes – and the creation and manipulation of myth involves altering the
actions, history and nature of the gods, and therefore the runes.