The Feral Gods of Apsada
(January 11, 2021)

Many people maintain that the gods depend on their worshippers for sustenance, and that a god whose cult dies out dies with it. This is a comforting fiction. It allows mortals to believe that they are, at least in aggregate, indispensable.

In truth, the gods endure regardless of whether they are worshipped or not. However, worship civilizes a god. The gods like to be worshipped; it flatters them, and the flavor of sacrifice is savory. In observing the antics of its followers, and in hearing their entreaties (whether or not it chooses to act on them), a god comes to have some empathy for mortal life, and thus typically acts in a fashion which is, if not beneficial to mortals, at least comprehensible.

A god whose cult has died, however, or who has never had worshippers at all, has no such empathy. Fortunately for mortal civilization, gods without followers frequently embark on pursuits beyond mortal understanding and beyond mortal perception; for this reason, a god whose followers have died out may be forgotten and believed to be dead. When a feral god pursues its ineffable ends on the mortal plane, however, it may unleash titanic chaos without even being aware of the consequences. The worshipped gods may be able to contain a feral god’s rampage, but such is not a trivial undertaking even for the gods; many gods will not intercede to protect their worshippers from a feral god’s wrath.

Thus, the sanctuary of Apsada was built. Apsada lies on a remote island far from civilized lands, but all civilized lands send it tribute. Its priests daily offer bountiful sacrifices to … no god in particular. Apsada is, in effect, a lure. The hope is that feral gods will be drawn to the offerings of Apsada, and that the priests there will be able to comprehend them and to worship them. In time, the priests who have built a relationship with a once-feral god will relocate to the mainland, evangelizing and growing the god’s cult.

It is a hard fate to be a priest of Apsada. One may spend one’s life pleading with gods one cannot comprehend or that may not even be listening. One may find oneself consecrated as high priest to a god of murder. From time to time, feral gods fight over the offerings, and Apsada has been obliterated on several occasions by the forces unleashed. Nonetheless, every generation offers up sufficient volunteers, who devote themselves to the task of Apsada so that their homelands may be kept safe from the threat of wild gods.

The Palace in Death
(August 24, 2015)

About 12 miles north of where the Cane Road crosses the river Malakha, a great earthen mound rises malignantly from the plain. Centuries ago, it was the Palace in Death of the Anmalakhan sorceror-kings, a monument clad in platinum and obsidian. Since then, its outer shell has been stripped, and time and nature have whittled its stone facade into earth and gravel. However, legend whispers of unnumbered treasures — and unspeakable perils — behind the Palace’s Six Gates and One. Deep in those silent chambers, too, the sorceror-kings’ most prized relics throb with arcane malice, casting a shadow of dark magic for miles in every direction. All the righteous kingdoms would pay dearly for the destruction of those instruments of evil; others would pay even more dearly for their possession.

The town of Ombridge, at the bridge across the Malakha, exists principally as a waypost for the traders that ply the Cane Road. Its second industry, however, is serving and supplying the adventurers who travel from all around to try their skill against the dangers within the Palace. Half the able-bodied adults in the town have traveled at least as far as the semi-permanent camp before the Silent Maw, the most commonly used of the Six Gates and One. Many of them know some of the Palace’s secrets, either from experience or from whispers gleaned from adventurers who survived at least one foray into its hazards. Or, some whisper, from hidden lore handed down to the celebrants of the forbidden cult of Anmalakhan, still unquelled after so many years.

The Palace is a very large dungeon complex, comprising the tombs and appurtenant chapels and treasuries of at least a dozen sorceror-kings. There are extensive, and extremely deadly, traps all through the complex. A frontal assault will probably be the death of all but the most potent adventuring parties. However, an equally important part of adventuring in the Palace is to engage with the people of Ombridge, become part of their lives and their politics, and tease out the myriad hints and clues to the Palace’s secrets that are known among the townsfolk.

Originally published on Google Plus

The Autarchs of Cephlen
(Nov. 13, 2003)

West of the Diadems, the only true absolute rulers to survive are the Autarchs of Cephlen. One by one, the other great tyrannies have all fallen to degeneracy, corruption, and incompetence. Cephlen alone has retained the vigor of its autocracy, by means of a single, simple check on the Autarch.

The Senate of Cephlen is all but meaningless now, no more than a social club for the factors of Cephlen. It retains only this one task of government; however, that one task suffices.

No Autarch goes to war without the Standard of Cephlen, that mighty relic forged from the bones of a god. By the command of the first Autarch, the Standard is kept in a magically sealed chamber; only the sitting Autarch may enter, and only when ceremonially cleansed. The ablutions begin with steam baths and anointing with rare oils, and end when the Autarch submits to be shaved by a member of the Senate, elected by secret ballot.

Thus, to take Cephlen into war, the Autarch must place his life at the disposal of the representative of the Senate, the factors, and the people of Cephlen. This tradition has ended the lives of a few Autarchs. And it has surely averted many wars.

In the City of Alago Dun
(August 21, 2003)

The city of Alago Dun was built to be a beacon of equity for all the world. For this reason, its builders began their work atop the grave of one of the Ancient Gods who loved justice, and that long-dead power granted the city a unique boon.

In Alago Dun, any person killed without cause returns from death. They return as revenants, not truly alive — dead gods do not work live miracles — but they get by as best they can.

Despite these noble beginnings, the prisons of Alago Dun are full and its courts empty. Its laws are not so harsh, nor its judges cruel, but almost every prisoner begs the inquisitors to be imprisoned without a trial.

For the judges of Alago Dun are men, not gods. And it has become the habit of the courts of Alago Dun, in those cases where the truth is cloudy, to turn the defendant over to the headsman and let heaven be the judge.

Those who return are acquitted, of course.