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The Souls Between the Seams - An Elderspace Tale
Continued from The Wake of the Blood God
THE SOULS BETWEEN THE SEAMS
By J.m Barnes
Some say Kole is the oldest of worlds in the endless multiverse. Those who would actually know if this were true have been absent from existence since before the birth of sentient creatures. They were primal deities who fought one another ceaselessly often over little more than imagined affronts. The elder gods imprisoned, banished or slew those first deities after great tumult knowing no mortal being would be safe from their reckless shedding of power.
One thing was certain. There was an unmistakable corona of eldritch energy that emanated from Kole’s core. If one god or pantheon were to gain control of it they would have access to limitless power. They would be supreme over all.
The war had simply existed since the first elder god decided she deserved total possession of the ancient, enigmatic world. Now, the pantheons still battled over it using guile and vast spirit armies like pawns across a chess board. The elder gods were gone. Even Chthon was cast down when he showed less than impartiality upon the arrival of Gaea and her seven favored. Law, Chaos and Neutrality made their decisions and the role of All God had changed hands for the first time in a few million years. No longer was the creator of demon kind the master and adjudicator of Elderspace. Now was the era of a kinder and gentler goddess. Gaea had come from a distant universe and parallel dimension in order to cast Chthon down and restore order to the eldest of universes. There was much rejoicing among some while others felt the balance tip away from their favor for the first time in their memory.
One of the most telling things about the age of Elderspace was its lack of co-existing planes. Some argued that they yet existed but somehow their connection to the material plane had been severed. The truth was that the constant crossing through dimensions by warring deities and armies of servants and champions had finally thinned the barriers between dimensions. One day the barriers simply imploded and the dimensions within Elderspace were effectively erased. Those planes with resident deities received some protection and salvation as the various inhabitants were sent safely to the world of Kole. Their guardians had little choice. Every other world was tiny in comparison and they would never bear the massed refugees of several inhabited planes.
The battle for Kole was halted for a single day. With the influx of so many refugees even the gods must take notice and there was a call for Chthon to intercede. This was the day the borders had been expanded. Each deity or pantheon of deities held control over a continent sized area of land which they shaped as they saw fit. Each pantheon held a massive army of spirits gathered from their various worlds and chosen for particular traits. They were the poets and heroes or the guardians and mentors of the faithful. In some domains the gods lived among their people secretly, pretending to be no more than mortals themselves. Other domains presented no such illusion. There petitioners occupied massive divinely shaped cities spending their time preparing for the next great war. In some domains the gods reincarnated their followers over and over again, keeping the same heroic souls nearby for the inevitable attack from a neighboring pantheon.
Some pantheons were content in their domains and never attacked anyone. They simply defended themselves when needed. Many like these over the ages allowed themselves to become complacent only to lose their foothold on Kole entirely. An example of this fate was the pantheon led by Osiris. For so long they ruled from golden thrones only to be thrown down by a patchwork Norse pantheon. New Asgaard soon thrived where once vast deserts and teeming paradise oases reigned. Another example was where the pack had originated. Their domain had been ruled by a host of animal deities. With only the mad prophet as their go-between with mortal men these gods became lax and nearly fell to a massive onslaught from New Olympia. A vast organized army of phalanxes and war engines rolled across Mahasarpa’s endless grasslands and were overrun by the numberless hordes of wild beasts and their celestial masters. The slaughter had been incalculable and though they had won the beast pantheon had been forced to wipe the slate clean and begin anew. Thus the Righteous pack had hovered in limbo for a time as they were no more than a suspended thought given shape and form by the deities who had once loved them.
Chthon had created impassable barriers that day between the borders of the domains. There the refugees of the various planes found refuge and made a home for themselves. There now godlings and demi gods still vie for control of the vast numbers of souls and entities, hoping to lead them back to their own domain or in some cases to their sub-domain between borders. Many were the lesser divine beings left without a home after the planar implosion and without having any number of mortal followers they had no means of gaining a domain of their own on Kole. On the borders another sort of war began. A war for souls was the same as a war for power and it also had been waged without ceasing.
Whenever a great being made it through a Lyr’Mar for the Lake of Dreams they were gifted with full immersion in the lake. Once immersed, they were granted all of the benefits of the next step in divinity. A demi god would grow enough in power to be considered a true deity, or a mere godling would be granted demi godhood. However, a deity of high stature would receive no bonus from the blessed water. Zeus or even Ares would have no satisfaction from the lake but Hercules or Nike would benefit greatly. Mortals blessed by a particular deity, as was the Righteous Pack for instance, could be granted any level of godhood according to their deities’ willingness to sacrifice some of their own essence. Some of their own power must be severed forever, their ages of advancement forgotten and willfully given over. Needless to say the love a deity must have for a worshiper to commit to such an act would be incalculable to the mortal mind.
The single catch to the Lake of Dreams was that one must defeat its current guardian before reaping the benefits. Many a Lyr’Mar had been ended at this point. A guardian was a deity, a demi god at least and it would take like power to defeat them. This was why the search for the Lake of Dreams had fallen to myth and become the quest of only epically powerful adventurers or impossibly powerful sentient creatures. The trial did not end there, however. Once one was granted the gifts of the Lake of Dreams they were now beholden to it. One must remain to stand as the guardian until they were fairly defeated in combat. A band of adventurers would need to make a choice then. Who among them would remain? Those free to go and explore their new roles in the multiverse were inevitably drawn to the teeming borders where the souls were ripe for the picking. Thus were lost forever many a promising young deity, ruthlessly slaughtered by others of their ilk.
There was one advantage for the Righteous pack though. There were areas of the borders where they were known. There were souls who loved them and would rejoice at their coming and there were those who reviled them and would not cease in trying to destroy them. They already knew the game. They just had to play it better than everyone else.
Lyr’Mar Verse 3
Amid the godless borders, voices cry out from Kole
Awaiting mercy from the forsaken, they are the unguided souls
Convince them, cajole them, deceive them by whatever means
Lead them to a heartfelt place and lo…The Lake…of Dreams!
Deep on the eternally shadowed canyon floor that lay on the border between the Domains of Itzamna and The Spirit Lands sat a wheel shaped city known as Relfost, the Beacon of the Dismayed. Ages ago refugees had found the level, concealed area and decided to begin building upon it. In no time they created a wheel shaped city with six sectors along the wheel and a separate central sector that was essentially the hub of Relfost. There the highest of the otherplanar races convened and courted the various demi gods and godlings that had taken up occupancy of the hub sector. No one is sure how or when this happened. It seems that one night the divine petitioners had simply decided it was their place to take control of the hub of the city. It is also unknown if anyone protested but if they did they certainly haven’t been heard from in a very long time.
Various races of souls were represented as were the many versatile otherplanar beings who had been refugees saved by the gods so long ago. They who had once warred vehemently from across dimensional barriers now walked side by side. They entered the same meeting halls and they pondered their votes each year when the elections came around. Each with reason of their own the folk of Relfost chose their leaders for the coming year. The votes were tallied and the winner was proclaimed Pasha of the Moment. There were no rules against any specific race, only that they be tied to no specific religion. After all this was a city untied to any established deity. There was no need for organized religion for the only demi gods and godlings present acted little differently than the natives. They required no prayer and most didn’t actually require true worship, instead they sought only wealth and power.
It was the same there in the borders as it was in the many domains. The divine could sense the potential within Kole more keenly than others. They craved its power, they craved control over all. Nearly every decision they made was based on this singular motivation, just as the gods of the established domains made every choice with only the true and final goal in mind.
First they had found the soul of Akasha in huge gem form embedded in the crust of the Iron world. The Righteous pack had then found a way to turn back the infernally possessed Umbral Blot from tainting the colossal beasts of Ceaneada. They then managed to stop the forced heating of T’Quietus, the sun, and save the entire system from a superheated doom.
None of that will have prepared them though for the political discord of Relfost. It was capitalism at its most deadly as everyday citizens were sacrificed for the greater good of all. The truly good and compassionate souls of the pack would surely break before they could win an election in the Hub of Relfost. Not to mention what such an experience could potentially do to their telling moniker, the Righteous Pack.
Among those they will have to contend with there are the three Celestial Sirens. They were three exquisite fallen archangels who spent their time wailing at existence with epitaph after epitaph and hewing down all who drew their ire. It is said the only thing that equaled their beauty on the borders was their potential for vengeance. No male dared approach one of them for fear of invoking their wrath.
Equally feared and respected was the warlord of the Azure Halls. He was Pazuzu in the flesh and he and his army of fiends ruled the skies over the canyons. Swarms of avian creatures followed in his wake, often consuming one another in an orgy of chaos.
The barbarian Grov-el Khan was known for his uncanny guile and charisma. One often became so enchanted with the man they often remembered too late how mighty and deadly he was a warrior. His demi god status had been granted after he slew the then current guardian of the Lake of Dreams, Gevek Kas Zorum. He who…iiisss deeeaaaddd!
What’s that you ask? Who was Gevek Kas…ask me no more of your foolish questions! Do you hear? That is not a name to be repeated, know that and I shall say no more for fear of drawing his dread gaze.
Now…where was I? Ah…also among the deadly demi gods of the hub sector was an entire pantheon of misbegotten godlings who had literally stolen a trip to the Lake of Dreams from a mighty group of evil adventurer’s known as the Anti-Demonslayers. Perhaps stolen is too harsh. Let us just understand that the two came at a crossroads in their respective Lyr’Mar and it would be one, both or all of them going to the lake. When it all ended the godlings had won out leaving the Anti-Demonslayers writhing near death while they became demi gods. If one were to refer to these beings as arrogant they would be guilty of the most intense understatement ever made in the history of literary implementation! They could be found at any hour strutting through the streets complete with massive entourages and accompanying servants. Gaea forbid if they should cross one another’s path during one of these displays. The brawls stemming from these occasions were always legendary.
There were many more names and personalities they would have to contend with but their main concern would have to be winning the populace. They had to befriend no one but they did have to survive long enough to win an election. Somehow they needed to make the people of Relfost love them.
To be continued
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