As RuneQuest developed, several cults were written up. One of these was the cult of Yelmalio as written up in Cults of Prax. Since most games were set in Prax or Sartar, and later on in Balazar, all strongholds of the Yelmalio cult, Yelmalio became popular as a cult for PCs and a cult for NPCs. It became one of the most important core cults for role-playing purposes with a well-established mythos and history. Everyone knew the mythos and what the cult had done in the world. After all, it had been well documented in Cults of Prax, Griffin Mountain, the Prax series of supplements and even Troll Pack. What a shock was felt when Greg Stafford blew the cult apart in his "Many Suns" article and the view of Yelmalio and Elmal, with Yelmalio being created around a hundred years ago.
This rocked almost everyone with a Yelmalian PC or anyone who used the world of Glorantha. It meant that the established order was wrong and could not be trusted. It also meant that established histories were wrong. This seemed very unsatisfactory.
The new "truth" about Yelmalio was as follows:
In the God Time, Elmal was the Loyal Thane of Orlanth who stayed and guarded his homestead when Orlanth was away on the LightBringer Quest. Elmal was a foreigner from the Sky Tribe who married into the Storm Tribe and swore loyalty to Orlanth and his Household. Elmal was a god of Horses and Militia and was the Winter Sun. In the Dawn Ages, Elmali tribes filled the highlands and the Orlanthi areas. As they encountered the Dara Happans, they were influenced by the Solar Cults and took on some of their properties and myths. After many years, a Hero named Monrogh realised that Elmal was just another name for a Dara Happan god Yelmalio and he began Questing to prove this. He Quested to the other gods, asked the Elves about their god Yelmalio and faced many difficult truths. Finally, he founded a cult of Yelmalio and called it the cult of the Sun Dome. The Yelmalio cult soon gained converts from the Elmali tribes and quickly gained power. A Sun Dome Temple was founded in Sartar and in Prax around the time of the reign of Sartar's Son. It was spread around the outskirts of the Empire as a cult which was Solar and Theyalan, acceptable to both parties.
This was difficult to accept for several reasons. First, nothing had been said about this in the past and it was inconceivable that such a change would not have been documented. Second, this version of the truth differed and contradicted documented history in several points - temples to Yelmalio were mentioned in Troll Pack to have existed in the First Age, the Praxian Sun Dome Temple was founded and settled many years before Monrogh was said to have existed with a continuous record down the years, Yelmalio cultists were known amongst the Pure Horse Tribe and Ostrich Tribe before Monrogh's time. Third, modern histories of the Dara Happans do not mention Yelmalio at all, implying that he did not exist until relatively recently.
People tried to reconcile these facts by saying that the Sun Dome Temples worshipped another god, not Yelmalio or Elmal and died out only to be taken over by the Yelmalio Temple. Proof for this included the fact that the names of the Praxian Sun Domers Counts were sometimes obviously nomad or non-Yelmalian in nature. The opinion that the Sun Domers originally came with horses but now are infantry implied that the original cult was that of Hyalor or some similar god. Also, the lack of Historical records simply meant that the Yelmalians had rewritten history recently in order to hide their past. This all seemed rather contrived to me and did not convince me at all. The fact that Yelmalio was not mentioned in recent histories simply means that he was being written out in order to prove a point.
In my opinion, Gods and Cults may change and have changed, but the Elmal/Yelmalio change was far earlier than had been believed before. My version of the Yelmalio/Elmal history follows below.
Yelmalio was a son of Yelm and Ernalda, born in the Golden Age. He was a God of Fire and Truth, wielder of the Lightning Spear and defender of the Forests and generally manifested as the Sky Dome or the Mountain Sun and was favoured by the Highlanders. As Ernalda's Son he helped her kin and helped Aldrya, his sister, when she was attacked. He manifested to the Aldryami as the Forest Sun, the Golden Canopy. He first rode a bird as a mount, in the fashion of the early Sky Gods. When Orlanth stole Ernalda away from Yelm, Yelmalio swore revenge and began an intense rivalry.
When Yelm was slain by Orlanth, the world was plunged into the Lesser Darkness and Yelmalio fought the Darkness Gods and the Chaos Gods and the Storm Gods alongside the other Sky Gods. Even though he was their kin, many of them did not recognise him because Yelm had disowned Ernalda and her children. Only Yelorna, his sister, and Yamsur, his brother, remained true. At some stage here, Yelmalio tamed Hippogriff, Yamsur's steed, and gained the use of horses. This must have happened before the Hill of Gold since both Yelmalio and Elmal ride horses. The Ostrich Riders claim it happened later on and the elves know nothing of this.
Yelmalio went to a place in Saird called the Hill of Gold, although it was not called this at the time. Several Sky Gods had been here before to regain stolen treasures. It is not known why Yelmalio went to the Hill of Gold, but it was probably to regain Ernalda. Some say that the Hill of Gold is a site of Kingship and the conqueror would be the King of the area, hence many Sky Gods fought with Argan Argar who was said to have been the King of the Surface World, or fought with Orlanth who was trying to become King of the Gods. Whatever the reason, Yelmalio and his allies fought at the Hill of Gold with disastrous effect. First, he faced Orlanth and was disarmed, losing his Lightning Spear to the Storm God. Next he fought Inora and neither could defeat the other, Inora gained the ability to dazzle and blind others with her Glacial Whiteness and Yelmalio gained the acceptance of the Mountain Ice, becoming the Mountain Sun. Finally, he fought Zorak Zoran and was utterly defeated, losing all his fire powers and nearly being slain.
Here the accounts of the god differ. According to Yelmalio Lore, Yelmalio recovered and continued to fight the Darkness, protecting the Forests until the Dawn when he ruled the High Tribes. According to Elven Lore, Yelmalio protected the Forests and never used Fire powers. The Lore of the Ostrich Riders says that Yelmalio gave up using Fire after seeing Oakfed's destruction of the Forests and that Yelmalio protected the other forests and left Prax. The Elmali say that Elmal joined Orlanth and became a relative, marrying Ernalda's Daughter. Which is true?
The way I see it, many, if not all, are true. This is because the nature of truth in Glorantha can change and that mythically many things can be true which are possibly contradictory.
Elmali say that Elmal met Orlanth at the Hill of Gold and recognised his new Step Father. The two gods fought briefly and ended as friends. Elmal gave Orlanth his Lightning Spear and Orlanth swore Kinship with his step son. Elmal then fought Inora as above and faced Zorak Zoran, lost his fire powers and was saved from Death when Orlanth appeared again and drove Zorak Zoran away. Elmal and Orlanth went to Orlanth's Stead and Elmal married Ernalda's Daughter, his half-sister Vinga. When Orlanth went on the LightBringers' Quest, Elmal stayed behind and ruled in his stead as Orlanth's Loyal Thane. Few things are told of his deeds at this point.
The Elves deny all knowledge of this and say that Yelmalio continued to protect the Forests. The Ostrich Tribe simply say that Yelmalio went away and did not return to them, leaving them alone in the Darkness because Mother Ostrich had not helped defend the Forests against Oakfed. They have no more tales of Yelmalio beyond this point.
I think that originally, the Elmali version is probably most accurate, although I believe that Orlanth and Yelmalio fought with Yelmalio losing and Orlanth taking the Lightning Spear from him. Zorak Zoran fought Yelmalio and stole his fire powers, leaving before he killed Yelmalio. Whether this was because Orlanth drove him off or whether he was burned by Amanstan, who can say. Yelmalio struggled through the Darkness alone and without friends. His ally Arroin tried to heal him but failed. Finally, he came to Orlanth's Stead and was recognised by Ernalda his mother who made Orlanth accept him as it was Orlanth's fault that Yelmalio was weakened at the Hill of Gold. Yelmalio became a member of Orlanth's Household and was called Elmal from that time onwards. He had a relatively uneventful time until the Dawning, apart from siring a son, Monrogh.
After the Dawning, the Theyalans spread throughout the world, teaching others and telling them that the Darkness had ended. Amongst those they met were the Pelorian Nomads whom they defeated. The Elmali recognised some similar properties amongst the Nomads. Then the Theyalans met the Dara Happan Empire and underwent mythical reorganisation as they recognised that the Dara Happan god Yelm was their Evil Emperor and that the Dara Happan Rebel Leader was Orlanth. The Elmali were affected by this and saw many similarities between their god Elmal and the Dara Happan Pantheon. Monrogh went on many Quests and saw that the Elves, the Praxians, the Horse Riders of Pent and the Elmali had many similar stories. He realised that Elmal was Yelmalio and was Yelm's Son and founded a new Dara Happan cult.
At first, Dara Happan Yelmalio and Theyalan Elmal co-existed, but after a while the Dara Happan influences changed the nature of the cult and of the deity they worshipped. First, Yelm had divorced Ernalda and did not recognise her sons as his own. This had a profound affect on the cult as cultists tried to prove themselves to be thoroughly Dara Happan. Second, the Cult did not like the Hill of Gold Quest as it was, since Yelmalio and Orlanth were seen as friends. They Quested and changed this Quest so that Orlanth and Yelmalio fought during this Quest and never became friends. This meant that Zorak Zoran's victory was more complete and that Yelmalio could not join Orlanth's Stead. The Elmali countered by performing the Quest so that Orlanth and Elmal never fought but merely exchanged tokens, strengthening the kinship between them. This meant that the two aspects of the deity became sundered and became separate, forming two distinct deities.
The Yelmalio cult supported the Second Council and became more and more Dara Happan, spreading along the borders, not penetrating the interior because of Dara Happan suspicion. The Elmal cult opposed the Second Council and became victorious in the end. After Nysalor's defeat, the Yelmalio cult was weakened, especially amongst the Elves whose warriors were defeated by Arkat's armies. Over the years, Dara Happa prospered and the Yelmalio cult increased in strength. Most cultists thought of themselves as being Dara Happan through and through. Where they met the Elmali, they generally won out because of their military strength and cultural splendour. The Elmal cult retired to the Highlands and gave the Lowlands to Yelmalio. Amongst the Nomads, the cult of Yelmalio the Rider was always weak and often was connected with Hyalor's cult or Yelm the Rider. Where the cults of Yelmalio the Rider and Elmal met, there was little challenge and change as Elmal's teachings and ways did not suit the nomadic lifestyle and Yelmalio' the Rider's ways were not strong enough to tempt the Elmali away.
After Dara Happa fell, Sun Dome armies fought for the Carmanians and the Empire of the Wyrms' Friends and conquered some Elmali lands. After the EWF fell, both Yelmalio Sun Domer and Elmali horsemen armies attacked the remnants of the empire and were destroyed in the Dragonkill. With the advent of the Lunar Empire, the Yelmalio cult became strong again, being used as a spearhead into Elmali lands. Thus is was used to gain entry into Tarsh and also to gain power in Sartar. When humans repopulated Dragon Pass they ignored the ruined Sun Dome Temple and settled the surrounding hills. The Elmali tribes moved onwards and became strong in the north, amongst the Tarsh tribes and clans. Yelmalio was introduced into Tarsh by the Dara Happans and Lunar Empire. This cult attracted many Elmali to its banner. It moved South into Sartar and began to attract more converts. Finally, in the reign of Prince Saronil, his son Tarkalor fought the Dark Tribes of the South and sought allies against them. He offered the Sun Domers the chance to resettle their old Sun Dome Temple and to act as a convenient buffer state. The Yelmalio worshippers agreed and resanctified the Temple. A contingent also marched with Tarkalor's kinsman Dorasor to New Pavis and met with the Sun Domers of Prax. Over the following years, many Elmali joined the cult of Yelmalio, weakening their cults back in the hills.
So, now we have the situation of two major versions of the God - Elmal in the Orlanthi hills and The Yelmalio Sun Domers in the lowlands and valleys. There are other offshoots - the Elven Yelmalio is radically different as is the cult of Yelmalio the Rider as worshipped amongst the Horse-riding nomads and Yelmalio the Rider as worshipped amongst the Ostrich Riders. Yelmalio is worshipped in a slightly different way in Balazar and in Imther, but these are more regional differences to mainstream Yelmalio than radically different cults.
In many respects, the history of the cults is not important, nor is the fact that these were originally one cult and one deity. What is important today is that all these deities are different and are worshipped in their own way. Of course, the fact that deities may be radically changed through HeroQuesting is also important, as Yelmalio and Elmal are now well-established deities and have their own HeroPaths on the God Plane.
I have now written up full versions of the cults of Elven Yelmalio and Yelmalio the Bird Rider. I have a short form of Yelmalio the Mountain Sun and am working on producing a long form for this and also on Yelmalio the Rider. I may attempt the cult of Elmal, but there again I may not since many people have their own versions. I will also put my own version of Balazaring Yelmalio when I have properly formulated this. Hopefully, this will help people understand how Yelmalio has evolved and also give people a choice in how they want to worship Yelmalio. I cannot see how the Yelmalians of the Ostrich Tribe should worship in the same way as the Dara Happan Sun Domers or even the Yelmalians of the Horse Riders.