The Hoary King
- Title(s) – Hoary King, Red Shepherd, Twice-Crowned King
- Influence – Ancestry, Destiny, Providence
- Appearance – A cadaverous bearded man draped in furs, bejeweled chains and pendants, wearing a ponderous crown, and holding a large goat-horned staff. He is often depicted behind a herd of man-eating goats.
- Symbol – Bearded skull and goat-horned crown
- Focus – Goat-horned staff
- Color(s) – Red and White
- Element – Blood, Ice
- Animal – Goat
- Center of Worship – Neth-Zirak and Tiki Ikittir
- Scriptures –
- Leader – Moer Tzal Gnirak II
- Priesthood – Horns of Zirak
- Orders –
- Aspects –
- Touched –
- Holy Days –
- Friends – Dwürden Gemürjordok
- Enemies – Jorn
- Sayings –
Zirak is one of the most ancient gods named by the Mortal races of Teréth End. The legends that survive are woefully incomplete but hint at a long and terrible reign washed in the blood of races and civilizations, long since purged from the history of the world. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Hoary King’s legacy is a question of identity. The Yrūn claim that he was a ruler of the First Age, who rose from the frozen wastes of Lyrast and led his barbarian armies across the whole of the continent, carving kingdoms from the lands of nameless races. The Dwürden records suggest that Zirak was not Yrūn at all, but rather an Ikítikírittìk warlord who sought to seize lands claimed by both the Dwürden and the Eylfāe. Eylfāe songs and histories of the time are unavailable. All agree that Zirak’s awful power and influence changed the face of the Ancient Land forever. Not until Solornra’s Children of Jorn and others, rose against Zirak’s progeny an Age later, was peace introduced to the blood-drenched lands. Because of this dual identity as an Yrūn and Ikítikírittìk progenitor, he carries the epithet Twice-Crowned King.
The Hoary King is the patriarch of most northern Lyrasti cults. Although he is no longer revered as the head of the Yrūn pantheons, he is distinguished as the progenitor of all that followed. The tales of King Zirak are washed in the blood of nameless civilizations, trampled beneath the hooves of his war chariot and monstrous team of man-eating goats.
Zirak rose to power in a time when the Land of Lyrast was populated and ruled by many races. His birth may have occurred during a formative period, after the Concordance and before the building of the Veils. All legends of his rise are bound to Neð-Zirak, famous for the mysterious Pillars of the Neðèrim. It is believed that these formations were instrumental in building the Veils, and that Zirak may have witnessed, participated in, and been shaped during this ancient period. One legend, that is unbound to any particular time, relates how Zirak was captured by the Neðèrim but managed to escape from the Nether. He emerged from the Darkness a changed man, corrupted by the devouring void. The legends of Zirak are silent on the matter of his parentage.
The Dwürden Records of Gemürjordok are believed to hold the earliest authoritative accounts of Zirak. While the history makes no mention of his race, Dwürden scholarship and tradition holds that Zirak was an Ikítikírittìk warlord. This is supported by later records from the late Second Age that detail the emergence of Yrūn on the southern shores of Lyrast. No specific mention of the race appears in the Records of Gemürjordok before that time. The tales of Zirak are recorded in the Records an Age before the Yrūn first appeared. His insectoid origins are supported by the ideas that his progeny settled in the Great Steppe and that the primeval Ikítikírittìk revere him as a progenitor of their race. Yrūn claims, while widespread throughout Yrūn Lyrast, would question the authority of the Gemürjordok Record and elevate Yrūn claims to ancient rule over contested lands. As usual, the Eylfāe have been silent on the matter.
The first Dwürden records that mention Zirak explicitly, describe the gift of goats to the warlord in exchange for service against the Eylfāe. Henceforth, tales of a savage warlord with a war chariot drawn by monstrous goats circulated. The warlord and his barbarian horde pushed the Eylfāe into the eastern mountains and then began turning inward to conquer the many races and people who had struggled so long and hard to survive in war-torn Lyrast. Cities and kingdoms fell beneath the warrior onslaught, led always by the fearsome king and his bladed flail screaming through the air. There are few details of these battles and the unfortunate and nameless numbers that fell before him. The ease with which Zirak’s forces carved through Lyrast, supports the idea that he and his army were Ikítikírittìk warriors, for few weapons of that age could penetrate their hard carapaces. The Yrūn version of the legends, claim that Zirak found god-like powers during his time within the Nether and that all that fought beside him had no fear nor risk of death.
Despite the ferocity of his campaigns, Zirak earned the title Red Shepherd due to the bloodied man-eating goats that drew his chariot. A Dwürden observer detailed one of the King’s terrible charges:
“When dawn broke across the city walls, the camp was gathered and the soldiers congregated on the open ground. The warlord arrived soon after and inspected the army, silently walking up and down the ranks of those assembled. When he was satisfied that his warriors were ready, he called for his chariot. The carriage arrived, drawn by six massive white goats, their muzzles and woolly necks caked in dried meat and blood. Leaping into the chariot, the king directed his driver forward and the whole army lurched as one, toward the city wall. Each soldier was careful not to be left far behind the warlord’s chariot, for his great presence protected those that marched with him. As they neared the walls, the skies grew dark with arrows and strange fires, but the horde’s pace did not slack. Though many screamed from the injuries they suffered, none died, and not one stumbled to the ground. To be left behind was to be left to die. The goats leapt at the walls, tearing at the stones with their terrible hooves, and snatching sentries from the fortifications with their teeth. Ropes and hooks sailed through the air, catching hold of the walls and rocking them from their foundations. Defenders poured through the breaches and were slaughtered every one. Soon the grim chariot climbed over the ruined wall and plunged into the melee beyond. The screaming of Zirak’s flail stripped chimneys from houses, roofs from walls, and heads from all that stood in its awesome path.”
It seems impossible to stack the legends of Zirak in a chronological order. The tales of Mazzàlas state that the Dwürden goats could not be tamed until the prince reached adulthood. The tale of Mazzàlas’ mother state that Zirak was already King before the first son was born. Yet the Dwürden records tell that Zirak used the goats during early campaigns (see above), long before his kingdom was established. While these inconsistencies frustrate historians, they do nothing to confound the Cults.
Kingship and Decline
As Zirak grew older and wiser, and his surviving enemies became vanishingly few, the Red Shepherd decided to settle-down and commence to ruling the lands he’d conquered. Combining jewels from each of the captured crowns, he commissioned the Dwürden to craft a new crown worthy of the Conqueror of Lyrast. His coronation is best retold in the legend of Erlankha, his First Queen. It should be noted that at this juncture in the legend of Zirak, the Yrūn and Ikítikírittìk stories deviate. The Yrūn tales expand upon his later conquests, his wives, and his children. The Ikítikírittìk tales claim that Zirak elevated his race from bestiality and ruled long and well into his senescence. They also tell how when the Yrūn rose in southern Lyrast, the Dwürden forsook the Ikítikírittìk and allied themselves with the fledgling race (rf. First Battle of Urzar), breaking the ancient Oaths of their fathers. The Dwürdèni Records make no mention of these Oaths but do affirm a Dwürden presence among the Yrūn at Urzar. The March of the Ikítikírittìk, according to mantidae legends, occurred after the Reign of Zirak had ended.
The Yrūn tell a different a story. Their version of events portray a powerful barbarian king, who having emerged from the Time Before, cared nothing for civilization. He was the last of a breed not unlike the Bloodlings, encumbered with great magic and powers once common in the formative days. Zirak however had outlived his time, and through strength, stubbornness, and force-of-will had survived well into the First Age. By the beginning of the Third Age, every ruling family of northern Lyrast claimed divine rights by lineage to the legendary king. But his story was not over. According to the Legend of Erlànkha, the ancient king was poisoned and imprisoned deep beneath the earth, living out eternity in solitude and madness.
During his reign, King Zirak took numerous wives. Different traditions place the number at six or hundreds. Of all these unions, only children by the First Queen were deemed legitimate. The fate of the others are lost to history. Of these six children, three were killed by their mother, and the others conspired with the Queen to poison and imprison their father. The three surviving chlidren were Szar Lok, Szarha Arha, and Mazzàlas. Upon their father’s capture, the great kingdom was divided between his children. Though their descendants were not detailed, some Lyrasti Houses have made extraordinary claims of lineage. The most famous of these is that of Jorn, patriarch of the Cults of Solorn, believed to be the Blood Prince’s son.
King Zirak is still worshiped by the Yrūn in remote military monasteries throughout Lyrast.
Holy Days and Rituals
Places of Worship
Circular ruins throughout central Lyrast are believed to be the ancient remnants of Ziráki temples.
Nomenclature: Zirak Dekàlic: Zirak (god), Ziráki (pertaining to), Zirákyn (follower), Zirákyr (followers), Pryn Zirak (priest), Pryr Zirak (priests)