23 November 2015

the Tomb of the God

The Twilights of the Gods. The Restless Death. The Dreaming Lands. They have many names, these places of languor for fallen powers.

This is the Tomb of the God, yet it is so much more… and less. Though there exist many places on Elyden that have been touched by the ancient Demiurges in one way or another, the Tomb of the God stands out in stark contrast.

Granted, the Prison Carceri is of a scope and age far greater than any other; Azora is both fearsome and brilliant without compare; the Tree of Agen is of a mysticism that erudites, in their millennia of searching, have failed to unravel; but no other place can claim without shadow of doubt to be the final resting place of a deity. The Tomb of the God is such a place, and no other part of Elyden is said to match its eerie hollowness.

The Grey Tombs are a cheerless place where sleep comes fitfully and dreams are troubled by the whispers of the dead god that lies buried there. It is fitting that such a place exists so far from civilisation, in the hinterlands of the Desolation of Astudan, a cold-sub tundra desert where cities have rightfully failed to take root, and only the toughest of plants and animals stand a chance of survival. The veneer of culture, that thin film of upbringing that separates man from beast is dormant in this realm; not unnoticed, yet subjugated by the harsh rule of nature.

It is here, over 500-miles west of Temur, amidst forgotten tombs and grey wadis that the memory of an ancient entity hangs with decrepitude in the air. Its memory is now tarnished warped into a  grotesque doppelg√§nger of what it once was. Once one of the legendary Two-and-Twenty, diptych this creator-deity was of two facets, a patriarch who cradled nobility in one hand while encouraging brutality with the other.

The aithar were his children; Seventeenth of the Two-and-Twenty mortal tribes. Like their father, the aithar were creatures of both nature and culture, fang and tome. They were strong, noble, learned, yet possessed of a ferocity that could not be denied. They were truly Malachai’s children.

While the tale of the Demiurges is told elsewhere, suffice it to say that the Two-and-Twenty creator deities were responsible for the Shaping of Elyden. They were beings of artifice, taking pleasure in the way they formed light and dark into rivers and mountains and clouds and rainbows. It was their vision that painted Elyden, that gave it life. Yet, when their work was done they never stopped, and continued altering the material realm, marring what should have been perfection.

The Two-and-Twenty tribes were born before their time into this imperfect world. The Demiurges were punished, the strength to shape worlds stripped of them, the mortal tribes ensorcelled to their aegis.

Leader of a tribe he did not want, Malachai grew laconic, his powers wasting to inaction, his land turning grey even as his siblings toiled to bring a semblance of beauty to their homes. He became possessed by a bitterness that slowly came to embody not only his every waking thought, but also that of his people, the aithar.

As the other tribes evolved, their Demiurge leaders teaching them, the aithar merely meandered alone, unaided. Where other tribes expanded, they remained insular; where other tribes learnt husbandry and farming, they subsisted on the basest levels imaginable. In place of art, music, culture, they seemed only to propagate an emptiness they could not understand. Their bodies echoed their hearts, growing dessicated and without life, grey like the unformed land around them. The only thing that fascinated them was death and the release from the pained existence it offered.

What culture they had revolved around preparing for the afterlife: repetitive rituals designed to train their spirit how to act beyond the veil of death. Temples dedicated to the afterlife and pagan deities that developed in the wake of their god and guardian outnumbered their simple mesa-dwellings. Necropoli rose like forests around their lands, drowning out the settlements in which the aimless aithar dwelt. Elyden became little more than a detour to them; a meek challenge to their spirits on the road to their true reward.

Malachai cared not to lead his children, but saw in them a dim reflection of himself, for wasn't he a child without a father? Their plight angered him, fed the bitterness that had dwelt in him since his banishment from heaven. He sought revenge on his creator for taking what was his, and saw it fit to use his children as a means to that end.

Where most other Demiurges had forsaken their creator, choosing to let their children live in ignorance as to his very being; Malachai done otherwise. He descended upon the aithar in the guise of a great prophet and told them their history, twisting events to his own ends. His creator became a reckless being, casting the aithar into the wilderness, denying them the perfection that should have been theirs. They renounced any ties to the creator and forsook him, worshipping instead their Demiurge. The attention strengthened Malachai, who for the first time since his banishment began to see the world in tint of colour, feeling the breeze of its wind on his face. Their pagan temples were toppled and, with the help of their new god, erected great monuments and totems in honour of their prophet – Malachai.

And so it was that, as other Demiurges began to weaken to languor, Malachai was born anew, benevolent leader to a misguided people. It was in this age that Allaishada the Compassionate, First amongst the Two-and-Twenty Demiurges, came to him in visitation, requesting that he attend a conclave with his siblings. Malachai, content for the first time since the sundering of his powers refused the offer, growing irritated with her insistence that he join them in counsel. Stubborn, driven by her own bitterness, eager to find a common ground on which the Demiurges could rebuild their strength, Allaishada harassed Malachai and his people, discovering finally his perversion of the aithar, how he had twisted them into his puppets. This angered her greatly, and begun sending missionaries into his lands, provoking finally her brother's wrath. The aithar, eager to defend their beliefs from this encroachment declared war on Allaishada and her tribe.

A short but bloody conflict was then fought between the children of Malachai and those of Allaishada. The Demiurge Rachanael secretly aided Malachai, seeing an opportunity to lessen his sister’s domains, which were greatest amongst the Two-and-Twenty. With his brother's aid, Malachai weakened his sister, who was forced to retreat, to her lands, where her attentions returned to unifying the more amiable Demiurges, an act that ultimately led to the construction of the Bridge of Worlds.

Malachai's corruption did not go unpunished, however, and the creator struck him down, removing forever his link from the Atramenta and the Firmament. Malachai was a Demiurge no more, the first amongst the Two-and-Twenty to succumb to mortality.

The athai cast him out of their lands, forsaking the day he had returned to them. But with their land dead, their hopes of redemption in the afterlife shattered by his deeds, they fell into barbarism, descending yet further into the mire fate it seemed had marked them out for. Where the other tribes slowly recuperated from that age of warring sibling, spreading, growing, forgetting the past; the aithar degenerated, forgetting their father and the history that had been so cruel to them. What chance they had of seeking the truth was missed and instead they let the world overtake them, where they became little more than a footnote.

Malachai wandered the grey mesas of his home, a broken being, embittered by the weight of his deeds and the greatness that could have been. It was during this time that Malachai was subjugated by his other yet more powerful siblings, becoming little more than a slave, his heritage a blemish and curse rather than a crown worn proudly.

Subdued, his body withered until it was his to command no longer, and finally, one day, when the last mortal who owed him fealty passed from one world to the next, he fell prone into the dirt of what is now Stolas. And there he sat for what might have been millennia. 

And it was there that, years later, Malachai’s story ends, not to the corruption and decay of ages, but to the blade of his own Scion. For Akachi, his first-born scion, had escaped the ignominious fate of Malachai's children and had witnessed the degradation and humiliation of his father. Akachi found Malachai, his body half-fossilised in the wastes of Skaros, and smote him, ending what fragments of life remained. Akachi in turn took it upon himself to lead the remnants of the athai, but theirs was a dying race, without prospect or nobility and they remained in their ancestral lands, a broken people who slowly consigned the memory of their failed Demiurge-father to dust, where his name became corrupted, his existence twisted into little more than a totemic idol - Merkabh.

This is where the memory of that fallen Demiurge now dwells, rotten, decrepit, maddened by the passing of aeons, in the ruin of ages long dead-and-buried. It is under the dark protection of this dead deity, in lands of whispers and murmurs, that his children’s children live, their bodies taken to many forms, all unholy and twisted, broken, in memory of their legacy.

Time marched on and those who found that land named it Stolas, after the byzantine monuments they found in the place – idols to a forgotten deity, their fetid splendour and the unimaginable scope of their scale inspiring a piety that penetrated their dreams, urging them to worship. They, bound by fate to be forever linked to the past they could not remember, became known as the al akhi ‘kin to birds’ - descendants of Malachai's children.

And so it was under the guise of Merkabh that Malachai returned to Elyden: as a hollow deity; worshipped by the al akhi; creatures he could not recognise as his descendants, worshipping a false idol they could not recognise as their father. Had Merkabh’s divinity not been fully exorcised by his newfound cults would have spurred his inert body to life, but Malachai was no-more, his life long-since extinguished, remaining on the material plane as a soul-pearl both monolithic and worthless, buried in the middle of Stolas – remaining in Elyden, no more than a frigid whisper on a dark night.

But a whisper is an infinity away from death, and the seers of the al akhi claim that on dark nights, when neither moon shines and neither solstice nor equinox is in flux, that whispers infiltrate the idol called Sephoria, speaking in hushed tones, calling them...

#Demiurge, #Aithar, #Malachai, #Elyden, #Worldbuilding

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