OF LIFE, LOVE & DEATH
This article sinks its teeth into one of the deepest legends of Naryan lore that is a cornerstone of the Naryan religiosphere and will serve as an introduction to five very important gods.
And yet, despite the faithful bond between Kleeona and Grimnir, she is not infallible. None even the gods are perfect. She has had an affair, not with one of countless suitors wishing to win the attention of a goddess and they are countless for her beauty is a terrible and wondrous sight to behold, but with the strangest of suitors; death itself.
Or rather, death himself.
No one is sure how Mort charmed Kleeona but some believe it was a matter of impressing her with a philosophical debate of some sort. Either way the two fell in love and the resulting union, temporary as it may have been, bore fruit.
But she knew she could not care for them for, not only did she fear the reprisal of Grimnir Blue-Cloak against her or even death itself, but she was shown a prophecy by Null the god of divination. He shared with her a prophecy that as long as the two dwelt in the Heavens neither would be safe. Furthermore, she was told Nergal would never survive long on the material plane as, in his state, he would die. Lastly, she was told a terrible prophecy: Nergal would kill Tammuz in a contest of love. Convinced of the danger, Kleeona asked Mort to take her sons away to separate planes where they would be safe to grow.
The Faceless work quickly.
As for Tammuz, he left the boy to be found by shepherds in the wild. The legend goes that the shepherds saw a flock of white doves stealing food and valuables from the village. They sent one of their kind to follow and, by a pristine lake and under a flowering tree, he found the doves were bringing the stolen items as gifts for an infant boy. The shepherd took the boy back to his village where he was raised as one of their own. He grew up to be a kind lad who had a supernatural way with animals; he used his harp and voice to soothe the animals, his flock seeming to follow the melody, and he never lost any of his sheep to predators. He was known to offer his services in helping anyone in the community, with little in the way of repayment, and always faced adversity with courage, a skip in his step and a song in his heart. His fair visage, his kindness and his talents earned him the title of the Shepherd Prince.
It also attracted a very special admirer.
Unfortunately, Korona was terribly clever and convinced the twin gods of the sun and moon to let her see and smell the new flowers of the season that shared her name. Reluctantly, they agreed. After all, who would dare or could even manage to steal a girl under the guardianship of gods as mighty as themselves. They took her to a secluded field and let her enjoy herself. They expected they might need to scare off a potential suitor and so Aurelian stood nearby, bow ready, and Fiona roused the animals of the woods. They could not have predicted what would come next.
A beautiful song was carried by the air. Combined with the warmth of the sun and the refreshing breeze, Aurelian and Fiona fell into a stupor, and he became lost in music that could only be described as divine. The power of the harmony also calmed the beasts that Fiona had stirred so that, when Corona approached the hill, they did not attempt to stop her.
At the top of the hill, she found Tammuz and he found her. It was love at first sight and sound, as their eyes met and so did their voices, harmonizing and creating a song so powerful that even the dead could hear it. And their king was listening.
When a person dies, Mord, or one of the other Thousand Death Gods, guide mortals to their rightful place in the afterlife. The journey is different for each soul, some are taken through a vast plane of whiteness and others take a short carriage ride, but the destinations are more limited. While many souls are claimed by their respective deities, by outsiders who have made a contract with a mortal, such as devils, and faithless souls wind up in the Paradox City, most evil souls are guided through the Gate of Murgahn and into Nergal's personal kingdom of Kur in the center of Hades. There he plays king in his Court of Lions at the Castle of Kurnug. Nergal serves and plays the role of judge and jury of the unclaimed evil dead. There he takes his time, playing games with his subjects, instantly banishing some and keeping others around for entertainment or servitude.
Those he does banish have the following fates: the lawful evil can bargain their way to servitude of a devil or will find themselves sold to devils at auction; in the latter option, they will be inevitably be tortured and turned into the lowliest of devilkind. Chaotic evil souls are often kept around for sport by Nergal but eventually wind up transported to the Abyss either by invasion by demons or by Nergal losing interest in them. Neutral evil are eventually banished out of the kingdom of Kur to wander the endless gray wastes of Hades until they lose all hope and turn into grub-like larvae that are a valuable commodity among fiends.
But few are as fiendish as Nergal.
The impetuous king took Korona to his court and played the part of a far-away and lonely soul in need of a worthy queen. She refused his proposal, bravely, and demanded he return her at once to her mother's side. The king refused, showing himself a spoiled brat, and locked her away. Each day he flipped between tormenting her and courting her, trying to break her will and, most importantly, trying to win her heart. But she resisted as long as she could.
Meanwhile, in the land of the living, this crime had serious repercussions.
The twins were helpless and ashamed when Terra returned. They could not bare to tell her the truth of their failure. Instead, Tammuz stepped forward, told Korona's mother of her kidnapping and once again offered his services. Terra fell into a fury and sadness that rocked the world, crops spoiled and even burned, and the natural order began to break down. The gods held a council on the hill where Tammuz had played and the crime was committed. Tammuz was in awe of their majesty, kneeling before them, but a fair hand lifted him to his feet.
It was Kleeona and something about her sad smile seemed so familiar and reassuring to the shepherd that he found new courage.
The gods bickered and argued about responsibility, action and more but none were sure if they could venture into the Underworld without great risk. Such places can corrupt even the gods and losing another god to the darkness would result in even more evil. They even suggested bargaining with the Lords of Hell or even the Yugoloths to overthrow Nergal. Desperation hung in their air as they tried to come up with a solution.
That was when Mort stepped in.
Mort chose Tammuz as his champion in this quest. He told the lad that he was destined to face Nergal, some day, and said it was he, with true love in his heart, that should venture into the realm of the dead. The gods gave him gifts: They cloaked him in their vestments to protect him from evil and remind him of their support. They also gave him a pair of sturdy boots for the long journey ahead. And last of all, they gave him a beautiful harp with strings made from hair of Aether, the Primordial god of light.
Mort then took his hand and led him straight into a portal to the Gates of Murghan. From there, Tammuz passed through the Gates, playing his harp all the while and singing a song for Korona, as he marched. Never before had any song so potent been played. It cowed demons, devils and yugoloths alike that stepped into his path. Eventually, after marching through First-Flower, Sun-Meet, Leaf-Fall and Long-Night, he found the Kingdom of Kur and, much to his surprise, the walls opened. And there, in the Court of Lions, he found Nergal smiling like a cat with Korona at her side.
It seemed, hearing of his journey, Nergal told her that he planned to meet this foolish mortal on the road to his kingdom and strike him down. Korona begged and pleaded for mercy and, eventually, a deal was struck. She would be the Queen of the Dead but, in exchange, he would allow Tammuz safe passage. Tammuz's heart was heavy and he began playing a song with such sorrow, such beauty and such longing that it terrified Nergal. The prince of death reacted with panic, rushing the shepherd where he stood and decapitating him in a single swing of his arm.
He pointed out that Nergal had technically broken his promise to Korona. He also explained that the shepherd was his brother, much to Nergal's horror, disgust and maybe a little regret. After all, at some point, he had wished he had siblings. And yet, Nergal relished in his victory over this unknown rival even more. The whole thing was ridiculous he broke into laughter as Korona wept over the broken body of his brother. And Mort sat there and began tapping a boney finger on the arm of the throne.
There was nothing death could do to his son. He could not force him to keep his promises or undo the marriage. Korona, on the other hand, could alter the deal. After all, with the promise broken, she felt free to divorce him and take half of the Underworld as her own property. When she came to this conclusion and threatened to take half of Nergal's power, the laughter stopped and was quickly replaced by fear. Could she really do that?
Korona made a counter offer, using Mort as an intermediary: she would remain in Kur as Nergal's queen for a quarter of every year. In exchange, Nergal would renew his contract not to harm Tammuz and Mort would resurrect Tammuz. Nergal reluctantly agreed, as his father stared at him dully but with a hint of pleasure that only death's son could detect, and asked his father to allow Tammuz to be resurrected.
The damage was undone and Tammuz was brought back to life. His body was a glow with light and radiance, his heart beat created a rhythm in the air that was pure and inspiring, and his eyes sent chills through his brother. In his rebirth, Tammuz had claimed his birthright and became a god.
As he arose, he seemed to understand what had happened and there was a bitter-sweet look on his face knowing he had been granted a small victory from the clutches of defeat. He took one look at his brother, then his father, and took Korona's hand. Long-Night was coming to an end and he intended to make the most of it.
It is said that Long-Night's grew colder that first year of their marriage than ever before. After all, when the ground trembles during the season or a freezing rain falls, it is said to be from the fury and despair of Terra. And as for the silence over fresh snow? That's the longing of Tammuz's heart for his lost love.
KLEEONA THE ALL-MOTHERAll-Mother, The Embracer, The Mistress, Queen of the Gods, The Tenderheart
Power LevelGreater Deity
A cow with a hear spot on its flank with a calf in tow or a peacock with hearts on its feathers. Often accompanied with roses.
PortfolioThe home, true love, motherly love, charity, orphans and widows
DomainsLife, Light, Protection
Mothers, wives, orphans, widows, caretakers,
Favored WeaponThe mace
Holy Day(s)Clean-Heart- A festival in which participants clean their own homes and attend to long over due projects, extending to community efforts to fix the town, and lastly involving cleaning of the self from guilt or grudges for small indiscretions through apologies and forgiveness.
MORT, THE LORD OF DEATHThe Faceless God, Death Incarnate, The One of Many Names, Death, The Grim Reaper, The Friendly Stranger
Power LevelGreater Deity
An eyeless skull
PortfolioDeath, destruction of undead,
Morticians, crypt-keepers, grave-diggers, funeral managers, coffin builders
Favored WeaponThe scythe
Holy Day(s)The Festival of the Dead- This holiday is used to pay respect to the dead, especially loved ones and those in the community who have recently died, by leaving small offerings at grave sites, as well as general graveyard upkeep, and by holding costumed balls and events with the spirits of beloved dead invited to enjoy the festivities.
NERGAL, KING OF THE DEADKing/Lord of the Dead/Underworld, The Dark Judge, The Grey Lion, The Cuckold,
Power LevelIntermediary Deity
A grey lion with the wing of a red rooster
PortfolioDeath, undead, the underworld, unfair contracts, sibling jealousy
Youth, artists, farmers, glassmakers, bards
Favored WeaponThe rapier
Holy Day(s)Mischief Night- An illegal holiday celebrated by criminals, anarchists and worse at the end of Leaf-Fall since such activities, for pleasure and not survival of lazy, will be difficult during a hard winter.
TAMMUZ, THE SHEPHERD OF LIGHTThe Shepherd Prince, The Lord of Light, The Bard
Power LevelIntermediary Deity
Two white doves, white and gold harp and/or a shepherd's staff
PortfolioLight, music, shepherding, faithfulness and determination to do good
DomainsLife, Light, Protection
Farmers, shepherds, would-be heroes, peacemakers, pacifists
Favored WeaponMusical instruments
Holy Day(s)Snow-Melt- When the spring sun arrives to melt the snow, the people hold small get-together and make special arrangements to care for the elderly and sick, usually with visiting priests, and give thanks for the coming season.
GODDESS OF SPRING & QUEEN OF THE DEAD
Power LevelLesser Deity
A red-skull surrounded in wild-flowers and fruit or a red-heart pierced by a dagger
PortfolioYoung love, spring, flowers, death, marriage and divorce decisions
DomainsLife, Grave, Nature
Young lovers, forbidden lovers, divorcees, abused women and spouses
Favored WeaponThe dagger
Holy Day(s)Snow-Melt- During Snow-Melt, lovers are said to be blessed in making declarations of love by Korona and the traditional gift given are wild flowers.
Heart-Break- Half-way through the last moon of Long-Night, Heart-Break is a holiday in which relationship come to an end: lovers break up and spouses petition for divorce.