Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Fractured Deity

The players in my 4e campaign have returned from exploring an alien planet to the rainy season in the jungle. One of their first orders of business was checking up on various local friends and informants to see what had happened in their absence.  One of the interesting bits of news was that several new religious cults had sprung up along the banks of the Zamonas worshiping the river god.  This was not particularly surprising to the party as they had long known of the prophecy that a specially prepared temple maiden was going to give birth to a new river god at the time of the eclipse.  In fact, the party had even traveled back in time/journeyed to an alternate reality in order to prevent the temple maiden Akili from abandoning her post and committing sacrilege with Old Man Gooty after encountering Akili and Gooty's ungodly child Slotek, so they were pleased to hear that the river god was making a comeback and assumed that their interference with the natural order of things had resulted in the prophecy being fulfilled.  The PCs had also left some precious living spirit beetles (this post explains a little about the spirit beetles) with Akili when they dropped her off back in time thousands of years ago and hoped that they would spend the intervening eons feeding off the magical energies of the temple chamber and multiply.  Tilia had set up some magical circuitry to keep the environment inside the temple perfect for optimal spirit beetle breeding and the party was really looking forward to collecting a handsome harvest of spirit beetle.

Luckily, the world does what I say it does because I play the DM so everything did not go as planned...  When the temple magics were activated by the eclipse and the spirit of the river was invited into the sacred chamber, the mating ritual was augmented by the incredible stored energy of all those spirit beetles.   The temple circuitry was overloaded and Akili and the river spirit, rather than giving birth to a new god, were fused together in a burst of psychic energy that washed out over the flooded landscape and inspired visions in a legion of receptive dreaming minds.  The cultists of the river god awoke with a new purpose in life.

The party learned that the river god had been manifesting in many different physical forms and had been taking a very active interest in affairs along the river.  One terrifying aspect of the new god was an insubstantial waterfall of energy that "fell" horizontally and washed away anything in its path.  This was the form the river took when it broke the magical bonds that had held its main channel from meandering away from the coastal city of Siss-Anor, and the form that destroyed the great navy of that city state.  More benevolently, the river had taken on giant (25' tall) human forms, a comely man or woman, depending on the manifestation, and assisted travelers and riverbank communities in various fashions.  An androgynous humanoid form, even taller (50') had been seen but its activities remained mysterious.  An awesome water dragon was the other most commonly reported form that the party heard about.

When the song people told the party that there was a well established camp of cultists not far up stream, the party jumped in their new hovercraft (created from alien materials with an artificial gas cloud intelligence over the last few sessions on the alien planet) and paid the cultists a visit.

Beautiful Bob did his usual psychic detective work and soon the party learned that the charismatic leader of this group of cultists, Satalio, was actually a clay golem animated with a spark of the divine essence of the river.  Satalio, in short, was a tiny fragment of the river god, although he did not seem to be aware of this fact.  Bob and Tilia soon learned (with a bunch of mucking around in other people's minds and peering through the shadow world and some very fortuitous rolls) that in the moment of conjugal union between Akili and the river spirit, the tremendous energy explosion fueled by the spirit beetles actually resulted in the river god fusing with many of the stronger and more receptive minds within a rather large area.  This resulted in a fractured or fragmented deity, with many different aspects that seemingly operated independently of each other.  Indeed, slavers from another river cult raided Satalio's encampment during a feast that night, and Tilia was deeply repulsed to learn that these slavers utilized the blood tattoo magic of the city state but had a river dragon tattoo form.  For some reason this combination of human sacrificial magic (the blood tattoos) and natural river magic really repulsed Tilia.  

Despite this, Bob managed to convince Tilia that it was in the party's best interest to NOT make an enemy of the blood tattoo river cult without at least meeting with them first to learn more about their goals.  After thwarting the slaver's mission (they seemed to be after several of Satalio's young cultists that came from royal families back in Siss-Anor, probably for ransom), the party allowed the tattooed river cultists to escape and secured a guarantee of safe passage into their camp for the purpose of parlaying with their leader (Ruskus, a former captain of the royal guard who led many of his men in revolt after receiving visions from the river).

The next several sessions are setting up to be mostly investigative, which I like, as the party tries to learn more about the different forms of the fractured deity, the cults that worship each form, and what the goals of these various factions are.  I am hoping to make a post about the blood tattoo cultists soon, if the party follows through and actually meets with them.

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