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Created On 15 February 2001
Last Updated On 15 February 2001
Copyright © 2001 Simon E. Phipp

The Four Contests

The Myth

During the Age of Tyranny that the Solars call the Golden Age Orlanth fought against the Emperor who was an Evil Tyrant. According to the customs of the day, Orlanth challenged the Emperor [1] to different contests to see who was better. These three contests were the Contest of Music, the Contest of Dancing, and the Contest of Magic [2]. Each was fought under fixed rules and each time Orlanth was judged to be the loser [3]. These defeats spurred Orlanth onward and he gained the power of Death and won the Fourth Contest by using Death against Yelm, but that tale is told elsewhere.

The Contest of Music saw Yelm play the Divine Harp and Orlanth push his wind through bagpipes made from a sheep's stomach. The Judges from Yelm's Court judged in favour of Yelm the Skilful.

The Contest of Dancing saw Yelm perform a graceful ballet and Orlanth perform a peasant war dance and the Judges from Yelm's Court judged in favour of Yelm the Handsome.

The Contest of Magic saw Orlanth create a Wind, a Storm and a Thunderstorm and Yelm create a break in the clouds, a rainbow and clear golden sky. Once again the Judges from Yelm's Court judged in favour of Yelm the Powerful.

The Contest of Weapons was the fourth contest, a contest to see who could make the best weapon. Yelm made the Invisible Arrow that flew so far that it could not be seen. Orlanth made a Sword but this was the Sword of Death stolen from Humakt and he used it to slay Yelm the Martyr. Even the Judges from Yelm's Court could not judge against Orlanth this time but it mattered not for this was the end of the Golden Age.

The HeroQuest

There are four stations in this HeroQuest:

Contest of Music

Orlanth comes to Yelm's Court and challenges him to a Contest. Since he is in Yelm's Court he must abide by the Rule of Yelm. Yelm suggests that because of his braying voice a Contest of Songs is unfair so why not a Contest of Music? Orlanth laughs and farts a note indicating his acceptance. [4]

The participants take to the field and begin to play. Yelm uses the Divine Harp and plays a song of tranquility and harmony. Orlanth uses the bagpipes and plays a Folk Song from the highlands.

Each participant must make a Play (Instrument) roll and is allowed to use whatever magic he wishes. Unless Yelm fumbles his roll he will be judged the winner. If Orlanth fails or fumbles the roll then Yelm will be judged the winner. If Yelm's harp breaks then it is possible that Orlanth will be declared the winner and it is possible to cheat in this way.

If the participants cannot play a musical instrument then they can sacrifice personal Magic Points to give them a skill = Magic Points used x 5%. This can also be used to increase the Play Instrument skill.

The winner will be given a gift, spell or ability:

If the challenge was made to prove a point then that point will be accepted or denied according to the result. For instance, an Orlanthi wishing to complain about the tax burden on his farm would have the burden confirmed if he lost but would have it reduced if he won.

This Station may be Invoked to allow the Play (Instrument) skill to be increased by 5% per personal Magic Point expended.

Contest of Dance

Orlanth challenges Yelm to another contest, once again under Yelm's rules. Yelm suggests a Contest of Dance as Music clearly wasn't to Orlanth's taste. Orlanth makes an obscene gesture in response.

The participants each perform a dance, entailing the use of the Dance skill. Normally Yelm performs a ballet and Orlanth performs a war dance. Once again, Yelm will be judged the winner unless he fumbles and automatically if Orlanth fumbles or fails. If Yelm stumbles or falls then it is possible for Orlanth to be declared the winner and he can cheat in this way if required.

If the participants cannot dance then they can sacrifice personal Magic Points to give them a skill = Magic Points used x 5%. This can also be used to increase the Dance skill.

The winner will be given a gift, spell or ability:

This Station may be Invoked to allow the Dance skill to be increased by 5% per personal Magic Point expended.

Contest of Magic

Orlanth comes to Yelm's Court and challenges him once again. Yelm has not yet tired of this little game and agrees to a Contest of Magic. Orlanth swirls around and leaves.

The participants call on their powers and show what they can do. Orlanth uses Wind Warp and Raise Wind to summon a Wind, Cloud Call to summon a Storm and makes the Storm Thunder. Yelm uses Sun Spear to make a break in the clouds, Call Rainbow to summon a rainbow and Cloud Clear to clear the clouds away.

Each participant may Heroically Cast the spells mentioned here. If they do not have the spells then the spells cost permanent POW, with Call Rainbow costing 2 POW to create a visible rainbow.

If each participant succeeds in each task then Yelm will be judged the winner. If Yelm succeeds in more tasks than Orlanth or succeeds in only one task less then he will be judged the winner. If Orlanth succeeds in 2 more tasks than Yelm then he will be judged the winner.

The winner may gain a special skill or ability:

This Station may be Invoked to cast the spells used in the Contest. These spells may be cast Heroically but if opposed by the normal opponent then the contest will have the standard result. So, an Orlanthi using the Contest of Magic to cause a Storm will find that a Yelmite using the Contest of Magic to clear the Storm will automatically succeed.

Contest of Weapons

There is a fuller version of this Contest that has more stations. This is a cut-down version tailored to fit the format of the Four Contests. This is typical of HeroQuests that can be found in several threads, for instance the Contest of Weapons is a Station in both the Four Contests and the Story of Death, both of which are made up of full HeroQuests in their own right.

Orlanth challenges Yelm to a fourth contest in Yelm's Court. Yelm is tiring of this now and chooses a Contest of Weapons as he knows that defeat here would mean that Orlanth will not be taken seriously afterwards.

On the field, Yelm appears in purely ceremonial armour, treat this as 1 point armour everywhere. He prepares his Invisible Arrow and gets ready to fire. Orlanth comes naked, clad in Woad and brings an Iron Sword, usually a Bastard Sword or Greatsword. As challenger, Orlanth has first blow and may be parried by Yelm with his 1 point shield. If he survives, Yelm may use his Invisible Arrow against Orlanth.

Orlanth may use any sword enhancing magic he requires, this Quest gives him the ability to cast the Truesword at a POW cost if he does not know the spell. Normally he will cast Bladesharp in addition to the Truesword. He may also expend Personal Magic Points in order to increase his Sword Attack by MPx5%.

Yelm may use Arrow Trance and may cast Speedart or any other missile enhancing spell he knows in this contest. He may not use Shield, Protection, Great Parry or other protective magics.

If Yelm is struck down then Orlanth is declared the winner. If Orlanth is struck down then Yelm is declared the winner. It is highly unlikely that Yelm will not be struck down in this contest.

The winner will be granted a special ability:

This Station may be Invoked by Orlanthi to increase his Sword Attack skill by PMPs expended x 5% for 15 minutes. It may be Invoked by Yelmites to increase Bow Attack by PMPs expended x 5%.


1. People say they do not understand how Yelm could allow a barbarian upstart such as Orlanth to challenge him like this, but under Yelmic Law he not only could allow the challenge but he had to allow the challenge. This is because Orlanth had a claim to the Imperial Throne being the grandson of an Emperor, he was Orlanth Umathsson, Umath was Umath Aethersson and Aether was the First Emperor. Under Yelmic law a challenger had to be descended within three generations of an Emperor. Also, a challenge had to be accepted because if it was Just then the challenger would prevail and if it was Unjust the challenger would fail. Of course, the Yelmites and Theyalans do not readily broadcast this as it does not fit their mythical purposes.

2. There were more contests than these between Orlanth and Yelm and sometimes one or more of the other contests are used. Examples are the Contest of Animals where Orlanth created a sheep, a deer, a mountain tiger and Thunder Bird and Yelm created Sun Hawk, a winged horse, an osprey and a chicken, but Raven judged in favour of Orlanth as this was the only contest not held in Yelm's Court (this story is found in the Gloranthan Digest); The Contest of Thought where the two young gods had to throw a thought the farthest and Yelm's flew straight like an arrow but Orlanth's flew in a spiral and ended up nearby even though it had flown a longer distance, the Judges gave this to Yelm; The Contest of Women where both struggled for the hand of an Earth Goddess but she spurned both (this is a precursor to the contest for Ernalda's Hand).

3. The Orlanthi always claim that the Judges from Yelm's Court were biased in favour of Yelm and this is partly borne out by the fact that the Contest of Animals was given in Orlanth's favour as it was held outside Yelm's Court and the Contest of Women was given to neither as it was held in another Goddess' realm. Of course, the Yelmites say this is sour grapes by the Orlanthi as it proved that Orlanth was not worthy of being Emperor and only won the Contest of Weapons by cheating.

4. A thread throughout these is the boorish behaviour of Orlanth as a counterpoint to the noble behaviour of Yelm. It is appropriate behaviour to play the part of Orlanth as a peasant lout.