Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Faiths of Sublanarya: Mal-Dorig the Dread Conqueror

Among the gods, there are mortals who rose to prominence and challenge the dynasty of Grimnir Blue-Cloak for dominion of Narya itself. The story of one such god, a god whose name and story inspires ambition, cruelty and tyranny, began in the Wyrd Wars of the First Epoch.

Not much is known from the first epoch, as much of the history and lore were lost and the gods that reigned are either dead or do not linger on the memory of it, but the final era is known to have been a time of endless war. Empires rose and fell, conquering and destroying each other, mortals became gods and even immortal gods met their demise, the landscape was torn apart by magic and the bones of men littered the and, eventually, human civilization was left in cinders. The greatest conqueror was Mal-Dorig.

Mal-Dorig was born a slave of an old serpent empire that once covered southern Sublanarya.

His people, the Mal, were enslaved long before he was born and trained as foot soldiers for the reptillian's endless conquest. The reptillians usually preferred their slaves docile and transformed, but Mal-Dorig's people were valued for their ferocity and cleverness and were resistant to transformation. Mal-Dorig was the result of generations of breeding to create the perfect warrior but the yuan-ti created their own end. Mal-Dorig noticed his masters, naturally cold and calculating, had become fat, decadent and lazy, and, when a slave of Mal-Dorig's caliber notices that those who wield the whip and lash have grown weak they make their move. The serpents were recovering from the celebration of Mal-Dorig's latest victory when he led the Mal to raze the imperial capital and slay their old masters.

Mal-Dorig then led his army of slaves, of the Mal and all the others freed from the serpents, across the realm. He conquered most of Sublanarya and beyond, freeing slaves from their inhuman monsters but also enslaving/slaying all who resisted, razing cities to the ground. Many temples and libraries were annihilated.  It was the latter act that destroyed many records of this age. In place of the worship of the old gods and histories, great monuments were built to the conqueror. His arrogance grew and his designs on the world did too. He gathered power, conquering enemies, and sought to conquer the world. Eventually, he came to blows against enemies he could not surmount and was wounded in battle. He lay dying on the battlefield and feared an end to his conquest.

That was when he was visited by the worse half of the trickster god Puck, his beautiful and terrible shadow, Darkheart. Darkheart schemed, endlessly, to defeat the gods and bring about the end of the world. It was to this end that he helped Mal-Dorig to achieve godhood and to repay him as a general in some divine war to come or in the end-times.

He led Mal-Dorig to a dark forge in the bleakness of Hades, where he had taken Brigid the Smith hostage, forcing her to pour her talents into building a helm and suit of armor the likes of which the world had never seen. It was made from the void shadows itself. Mal-Dorig donned the armor and was changed. His cruelty, malice, cunning and strength multiplied.

He became a god.

With monuments already built in his name and legions of warriors at his beck and call, his return was given divine recognition by his armies and they followed him without question. His armies redoubled their efforts and the last of his enemies fell before him. It seemed none could touch the conqueror as his army swelled with new followers, picking up demons, devils, giants, elementals and all evil beings who wished to follow his conquest over the forces of good. Thanks to the armor built by Brigid the Smith, it seemed that Mal-Dorig was unstoppable, and his forces overwhelmed countless heroes and gods alike. He was unstoppable.

Eventually, Mal-Dorig led his army to the gates of heaven itself and laid siege to the home of the gods. It seemed all was lost but, even in darkest times, there is hope. A light in the dark. For as Mal-Dorig and Darkheart concerned themselves with conquering Heaven, they left their dark forge in the underworld unguarded.

A young hero, Zyghardt, mentored by the hero god and the godling sons of the fire goddess Pyrra, Strata and Nimb, made their way to the dark forge. There they freed Brigid the Smith, the sister of the twins, and she set to making weapons that could harm Mal-Dorig. For her brothers, she finally crafted for them great bolts of lightning to smite their foe and the brothers became the new masters of the storm. And, for the young hero, Brigid the Smith forged a sword called "Dawnbreaker".

The storm twins first set out against Mal-Dorig. Nimb threw lightning bolt after lightning bolt and Strata shook the dark Armin with his thunderous voice. Their onslaught set the army into disarray and forced Mal-Dorig to enter the fray. He tore the brothers down from the sky and would have slain them a moment later if not for the intervention of the Zyghardt wielding Dawnbreaker.

The hero swung his blade, the light reflected from it shining in Mal-Dorig's eyes, causing him to stagger back for a moment before turning his attentions to the hero. The two fought, brutally, before Mal-Dorig knocked Zyghardt to the ground, placing his foot upon him, and demanding his submission. He offered the hero a place in his court after he conquered heaven.

In defiance, Zyghardt struck Mal-Dorig's foot, piercing his armor, even as the dread lord crushed him beneath his boot. Mal-Dorig was crippled by the blade, his armor pierced, and for a moment he was vulnerable. The brothers renewed their attack and their blows tore his armor apart.

The battle recommenced for seven days and seven nights, but eventually the forces of good won the day and the Mal-Dorig was defeated.

Before they could take him prisoner, Darkheart whisked the injured villain away and Mal-Dorig vowed that the next time he lay siege to heaven that it would fall.

As long as there are those wishing to rule their world, Mal-Dorig will inspire cults and temples across Narya. They pray to him for guile to outsmart their rivals and strength to defeat/conquer their enemies.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Faiths of Sublanarya: Tyr Grimjaw the One-Handed God and the Fenrir the Wolf, Devourer of the Sun

Long ago, perhaps in the Age of Wonders or perhaps before, Tyr Grimjaw was a mortal man.

This was in a Narya incomparable to the world today: demons and devils walked in out of the world as if through a curtain, the gods fought alongside men in wars against villainous threats and magic was a song taught to all. In these dangerous times, it is said that great heroes rose to meet the danger and, among these heroes, the Wolf Clan was renowned for their courage. They faced off against armies of giants, angled great sea serpents out of the seas, and faced off against the Old Ones without blinking an eye. Their leader was man named Tyr. He was not just an impressive warrior and commander of men, he was known to be a merciful and even-handed judge who demanded appropriate adjudication in all things. His seriousness is what earned him the title of "Tyr Grimjaw".

Eventually, their paths crossed with the gods themselves and Grimnir Blue-Cloak himself. The god came to them in his guise as an old man, accompanied by his son Puck as a lame and dull boy, on the eve of a blizzard. Grimnir offered counsel and guidance of an elder in exchange for shelter against the cold and a good meal for him and his lame son, and while another Wolf Clan member would've chased the beggars off, Tyr was magnanimous. Grimnir spoke cryptically, as he tried to give them aid in a coming battle against the Old Ones, and the other Wolf Clan members scoffed. But Tyr was grateful. Tyr Grimjaw took Grimnir's advice and, on the next battle, though many of his clansmen lay dead, he was victorious. Grimnir was so impressed by the courage, wisdom and strength of Tyr Grimjaw that he made him his blood brother from that day forward.

But the son of Grimnir was jealous of his father's new compatriot. Puck Darkheart, also known as Robin Goodfellow, was known for his trickery. It is said he had some hand in the theft of fire by Prometheus. He might have overlooked Tyr Grimjaw but, when his father began comparing the grave and serious leader to his son's frivolous behavior, he decided to try to put the god in his place. Puck gathered up all of the bodies of the deceased Wolf Clan and brought them to the Witch of the Ironwood. Using her dark magics she created from their broken bodies a great wolf called Fenrir and set the wolf upon the world.

Fenrir was said to be such a great beast that even the gods feared him.

The wolf was so fast that none could outrun him and his senses so keen that none could. His howls shook mountains and instilled fear in even the Old Ones. He hunted giants, tearing down the walls of their fortresses, and savaging their armies. He preyed upon dragons, tearing off their wings, and feasting upon them scales and all. His ceaseless hunger was only topped by his pride and cruelty, taking pleasure in instilling fear in all, as he challenged mortal and god alike to dare cross his path. After all, it was easier if his meals came to him.

The gods tried traps, they tried great chains and spells, and even tried to trick him into leaving the world but the child of Puck Darkheart and the Witch of the Ironwood was impervious to all their attempts to stop him. He took pleasure in escaping their traps, breaking their chains and runes, and using brute strength to return from whatever realm they attempted to banish him.

Eventually, Grimnir and Brigid the Smith worked together to create a simple scheme. Brigid fashioned a golden ribbon Gleipnir. Brigid herself, along with Grimnir and Tyr, invited the great wolf to a feast in his honor. They told him they would induct him into godhood, admitting their defeat, and pledged to cease their attempts to stop him. Vainly, the great wolf came, gloating and smiling, speaking with the voices of all the fallen he had devoured, as he fed and drunk into a stupor. It was then that Brigid presented the ribbon to Grimnir as he latest triumph. She claimed that it may look like a pretty thing but, in fact, it was stronger than any chain. In fact, it was so strong, only Fenrir could break it. The wolf could sense some trickery as the gods suggested they test it on their powerful guest. She explained she had tested all manner of magic and weapon it and all had failed. When Fenrir feigned disinterest, she teased "if Lord Fenrir is afraid of my pretty ribbon, why should we be afraid of Lord Fenrir?"

The wolf agreed to let them bind him in it but that, in good faith, one of them must agree to place their hand in his maw. They all knew this meant sacrificing their hand. It was the goodly mortal Tyr Grimjaw that stepped forward and offered his hand. The beast took it in his maw and allowed them bind him. He laughed, biting off Tyr's hand and tried to leap forward to finish him, but instead tumbled. The binds worked and, with Grimnir and the other's work, they were able to protect the world from the beast. They banished him and, for his sacrifice, Tyr was granted godhood.

This is the tale of Tyr Grimjaw become the One-Handed God and of one crime of Puck Darkheart.

It is said that, when the world ends, Fenrir will escape his binds and devour the sun, ending the world, before he and Grimnir will slay each other. It is said that Fenrir's son, Garm, will be the one to kill Tyr Grimjaw.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Nation Building: The Free Kingdoms of Thule



Thule is the largest continent of Sublanarya and takes up the majority of the northern realm. Unlike the paradise of old Saesun, Thule has been in a constant state of political upheaval for thousands of years. Between invasions by all manner of monsters, colonization from across the sea, and the proclivity of the natives toward war created a constant landscape of change.

It is believed that the first human inhabitants of Thule have either been native to the land or migrated there by navigating a bridge of ice across the polar ice cap from an undiscovered native land (theories among academia vary wildly). The indisputable facts are that when the iaurdin first "discovered" old Thule, there were tribes of primitive humans from the hills of modern Albyon, hunting primitive halfings, to the frost-bitten coast along the Dead Sea where the battled great white walruses. During these primitive years, elves avoided much contact with them but there is evidence of dwarf tribes trading with early humans and, less nobly, using them for slave labor. This all changed when the Dark Age sent catastrophe after catastrophe into motion.

The Giants of the Hold enslaved the civilized races of Thule, the iaurdin colonizers and the native dwarves and hulderfolk, but treated humans as they had since time memorium: as targets for rock throwing contests, prey for wild hunts, and food for their giant hounds. With the giants more preoccupied with trying to build a small, burgeoning empire, humans were forced to migrate away from the east but avoided much of the conflict. It was during this time that the earliest villages and towns began to sprout up, some of which still stand today, though they have been razed and raised back up many times over the centuries. But, as the giants were overthrown and the humans of Thule's society began to thrive in their own iron age, a threat nearly wiped them off the map.

A witch-cult to the hag goddess Skoraxia led by her son the reborn god Kalibos led a horde of cruel and barbaric raiders that attacked settlements all throughout the land. The peoples of Thule were forced to fight off this new threat and forced it back into the lands to the east. As part of some final plan or perhaps in desperation, the witch cult transformed their horde into horrible and dangerous beastmen. The fecundity of this new race allowed its numbers to swell and when let loose across Thule razed every settlement across the continent. The old Hamutian Empire and the Zafarians were only able to stave off the beastmen by their command of the seas and control of impenetrable fortifications. Thule became an abattoir with the beast-men hunting men for food and sport and the witch-cult rounding up victims for mass sacrifices to their monstrous gods. Many Thule peoples in the western lands escaped by seeking amnesty in Saesun and elsewhere. It was only the arrival of the Holy Imperium that the tide turned. The results left the eastern land, called the Hold, unlivable but Kalibos and his horde were defeated. Humans of Thule returned to reclaim their ancestral lands and used their knowledge gained from abroad to create kingdoms of their own.

By the Age of Restoration, it was called "the Land of a Thousand Kingdoms" by scoffing elves. The territory map was a complex map of over-lapping lines, color-coding and shading that would leave any cartographer or historian either drooling or in tears at the task set before them. Between the many wars and complicated monarchical lines of succession, the land became embroiled in many civil wars between neighboring lords. And yet, when the elves conquered the western most lands of Thule, a push for unification changed the landscape to something far more stable than that of the Land of a Thousand Kingdoms. Today, there are seven kingdoms that make up the league of small nation states called the Free Kingdoms of Thule.

The Free Kingdoms of Thule are made up of seven nation states, from west to east, Fenberry, Hausberg, Phillipsdom, Thessia, the Lakelands, Azuria and the Hulderlands.