The Gods of Trollworld

DeathGoddess

When the great Wizard Wars ended, there remained 849 great wizards in Trollworld. Legends of their activities remained among their subject peoples, and over time, became the basis of many religions. Truly, those ancient magic-workers were of godlike power. Many of them could laugh at such mortal fears as death. Others brought whole new races of beings into existence, or snuffed some of the existing ones into oblivion.

Empires rose and fell, languages flourished and died, kindred ebbed and flowed across the surface of Trollworld. New wizards were born and rose to power; they had their deeds mythologized, and were known, in turn as gods.

In the Empire of Khazan, in the western part of Rrr’lff the Dragon continent, the wizardly heroes of the War of Liberation became deified. Priesthoods arose, created sometimes independently and sometimes deliberately by the wizards themselves, who took the older myths and transferred them to their own patrons. Over centuries, a syncretic religious pantheon was formed, a pantheon of deities continually at war with each other, the same kind of war that the peoples saw all around them in the violent lands of Trollworld.

Virtually all of the legendary names that are mentioned in the Historians’ Chronology of Trollworld are associated with some god or goddess. I am merely going to speak of the Seven: the greater gods of the west that are associated with the planets of the night skies of Trollworld and the great God of Day.

Greatest of the gods is Ohtariel, the God of the Sun (called Bhanu in Old High Elven). He brings life and warmth to the world, and frightens monsters and destroys them. In the morning, He rises to glory; in the afternoon, He sinks into defeat, and retires to an island in the west beyond the world we know where He sleeps, recovering His strength to fight the great battle again on the following day. Those well versed in the lore of the Sun associate Him with Khazan-Ohtariel-Khazan, the great elven wizard who united the Six Good Kindreds and formed the Empire of Khazan. For centuries (Ages) Khazan reigned in His city in the Dragon’s Mouth, bringing a golden age to the land while the monster kindreds hid in the wastelands. He overthrew the Ogres of Tharothar. He defended the land from the depredations of Zweetz, the evil bird-serpent god. He organized the wizards into a great Guild that systemized the working of magic. But there came a time when He was defeated by Lerotra’hh, Goddess of Death and Night, Patroness of the evil monster kindreds, the Uruks, the Trolls, the Ogres, the Dragons. Then Khazan withdrew into the hidden island in the sea where He now sleeps, leaving the land in spiritual darkness. One day He will rise again to bless the world with a new morning of hope. In the meantime He shows His power and love in the daily light of the sun, which fights many battles with darkness and storm, and always sets and leaves the world in shadow, yet always rises again to bring new hope in it. This is the legend of Ohtariel, also known as Khazan.

Lerotra’hh, once no more than an urukin (half-uruk) fugitive, rose through Her own efforts to unite the monster kindreds in a War of Liberation when all seemed bleakest for them. She learned dragon magic from Vvvarr, one of the great old dragons. (Indeed Vvvarr, Queen of Dragons, has her own mythic cycle of adventures that go back to the first coming of the dragons to Trollworld.) She brought the rock trolls from the depths of the world to fight on Her side. She cast off the pride and tyranny of the Elves, and brought the greatest elvish champions to death and disaster. (See the sad tale of Ellehra, for example.) So many died during Her 26 year struggle with Khazan that people began to call Her the Goddess of Death, and started associating Her with the dim planet of death. (Sanicar in Old High Elven, Saturn in the Common Tongue) She encouraged this belief, and indeed, Her magic became so strong that She could slay with a glance or return the dead to life by simply touching them. To consolidate her rule of the Empire of Khazan (officially renamed to the Empire of the Goddess, but the elves and humans retained the old name, and the monsters never cared about the names of empires), She let all know that She was indeed the veritable Death Goddess. One of Her first acts as Empress was to build a great shrine to Life and Death–the Arena of Khazan. In Her own way, She became the champion and protector of the land, for She, too, had to struggle with the insane serpent-bird known as Zweetz. She made it possible for uruks and men to associate side by side, for elves and ogres to meet in trade (both kindreds love jewels), for all the many kindreds to tolerate each other. (All kindreds are equal in death.) With the help of Khara Khang, he who once served Khazan but betrayed him to bring victory to Lerotra’hh, She created the western world where an uneasy peace prevailed among the many kindred peoples.

Of all the magical beings that live in Trollworld, none is more ancient, more powerful, or more feared than the Dragon. And of all dragons, Shangingshingshingingshang is the eldest and greatest. He is the ruler of clouds and storms. He roars and rages in the lightening; He brings life and death with the rains; He is the Master of Dragon Magic, the oldest and most powerful magic of all. Shangingshing is linked with the brightest planet in the night sky. (Mushtari in the Old High Elven, Venus in the Common Tongue) His power is not limited by day or night. His storms cover the sun and moons with equal ease. The Dragon is one of the great foes of Ohtariel. Prophecy has it that their final battle will herald the end of the world itself. He sleeps in the legendary east, and only wakes when all of Trollworld is in great peril, but even in His slumbers, He covers the world with His storms, and enriches it with His magics.

Dwarves revere a more immediate god, the being known as Gristlegrim. Scripture says that Gristlegrim grew envious of the elves and wanted His own people, and that to make His people stronger than elves, He carved them out of stone, breathing life into them through the power of His mystic rune. Thus, in His own image, with His own likes and dislikes, He created them. Gristlegrim lives in a great floating cube of stone, and He invites mortals to come visit Him if they dare. His great glowing fortress most often floats in the skies between the cities of Khosht and Khazan. He loves gold and gems and laughter and cunning dealing. He is a god that makes things. It was He who taught the meaning of toleration to the wizard Khazan. (Once when Khazan was a young elf, he joined a party of adventurers on a raid into Gristlegrim’s floating fortress. Things went poorly for the elves; some died, and the rest were captured. Gristlegrim released the survivors, but he kept Khazan as his prisoner for a hundred years, forcing him to associate with dwarves and humans and hobbs and other creatures until the proud elf learned that anyone could be his friend if he would allow it. That was not an easy lesson for Khazan to learn. When Khazan was finally released, only then did the true alliance of the Six Good Kindreds happen. [Note: the different mythologies of the gods are not always compatible. This story is not found in the elven mythology of Khazan-Ohtariel-Khazan. The stories of the gods sometimes treat the other gods as if they were only mortals.]) It was Gristlegrim who ended the wars between the elves and the dwarves and the dragons. It was Gristlegrim who created the tools and metals that can work stone: the pick, the mattock, the maul, the shovel, and the fiery furnace. (Some legends say that those tools, and indeed the whole science of mining, was created for Gristlegrim by the ancient dwarf wizard known only as Smith. Other legends say that Gristlegrim and Smith are the same person.)

Unlike the dwarves, who are considered to be creatures of both land and sky, the trolls are the veritable spirits of the planet (Ajalaa in Old High Elven, or Earth in the Common Tongue). They are the oldest inhabitants of the world, which was once all theirs, before the elves and dragons came and forced them into the depths. They had no concept of worship before the other kindreds taught it to them, but as they came to emulate the shape of men, elves, and dwarves, they also began to think like them, thus deciding they needed their own deity. The oldest known troll is G’rrrimtusk (Grimtooth in the Common Tongue), and he came to symbolize the enduring powers of the world itself. Humans, especially farmers and miners, began to leave gifts to win the favor of the trolls. Those who pleased them found protection from other monster kindreds, and some even learned to talk with them. Slowly the idea that Grimtooth was the protector of the earth became common among humans, and he became a kind of god to them. As for the trolls themselves, there is no evidence that they ever worshipped anyone or anything, but they have sometimes been heard to say that certain majestic places, especially deep caverns, have the essence of G’rrrimtusk in them.

In the years before the rise of Lerotra’hh, the uruks lived a very savage and difficult life in the waste places of the Dragon continent; those lands too harsh to support any other race were all that were left to them. Created by Loopo the Mad Mage during the Wizard Wars, the uruks had always been known for their savagery in battle. They were friends to none and foes to all, and they lived a life scarcely better than that of beasts.

Then a great shaman, Arahk Gnahk (read his name backwards to discover his true identity), came among them. He seemed to be an uruk like any other, but because he knew magic, he was so much greater than they were. Fearless, he defeated their greatest champions, yet let them live. He taught them how to befriend the other creatures of the wastelands, and he domesticated wolves and snollygosters. He taught them to unite against common perils, to use metal weapons, and to dig and smelt the ore they needed. He taught them simple sorceries: how to summon fire, find water, heal wounds. He taught them to use bows and arrows, to make poison, to use beasts and slaves to get more work done. He brought them up almost to a level with humans, elves, and dwarves. He took a dying race and gave it new life and strength. Is it any wonder then that He became a god to them, replacing the creator god, Loopo, in their hearts and loyalty? The uruks knew that Arahk Gnahk was no common uruk, for no common uruk could ever do the things He did, or know the things He knew; they thought Him a god who took uruk form to save them. And so, the people of the Mad Mage forgot their creator, and began to worship Arahk Gnahk instead, because He was the Savior, the culture bringer, the Master of Beasts and Magic. Lerotra’hh grew up worshipping Him, and learned more about Him when She united the uruk tribes in the War of Liberation; indeed, when Khara Khang came over to Her side in the battle, He took the form of Arahk Gnahk to persuade the savage and nearly unmanageable hordes to do Her bidding. In turn she fostered the divinity of Arahk Gnahk and brought His worship to all Her subject peoples. The bright planet that can only be seen at night, because it remains close to the sun at all times, (Utarid in the Old High Elven or Mercury in the Common Tongue) became Arahk Gnahk’s symbol in the sky.

The last of the great gods is Zweetz the bird-serpent, so called because His form is not even vaguely humanoid. He is a huge, winged, crimson serpent, with beady black eyes and a darting tongue dominating an angular head. Zweetz is not draconic in any way since he bears feathers all over his body instead of scales. The alien and implacable Zweetz came to Trollworld during the Wizard Wars with thousands of his kind, but most of the wizards allied to defeat them, slaying them one by one, until after centuries of fighting, only Zweetz was left–though little did the wizards dream that the power of each dying bird-serpent was absorbed by those that survived it. Zweetz still wants to dominate Trollworld, and from time to time, He tries. The invasions He has mounted against the Dragon continent have become legendary, and have been beaten back with only the greatest of efforts. Whenever Zweetz marshals His forces, the land is filled with war, sometimes for years at a time. For that reason He is associated with the red planet (Mirrikh in Old High Elven, or Mars in the Common Tongue), and Zweetz has become the God of War incarnate.

But what of the two moons, you ask? They also have their associated deities. The red moon is known as Sharane, the Goddess of Love and Pleasure. It is said that Her light can make an uruk look good to an elf and vice versa. The priests of Lerotra’hh claim that Sharane is but an aspect of the Death Goddess. However, the priests of Ohtariel claim that she was the consort of Khazan himself, long before the Death Goddess came into the world. The uruk shamans say that She is the daughter of Arahk Gnahk, and a protector of their people. The dwarves say She was a servant of Gristlegrim who was exiled from His presence for lack of respect. And there are many other stories about Her. She has no temples and no formal priesthood, but features in many a shrine inside the brothels of the Dragon continent.

The black moon is called Sar of the Shadows, and He is the patron deity of thieves and rogues. It was Sar who first stole gold from Gristlegrim, and gave it to men to use as money. It was Sar who stole magic from the trolls, and they have never had much since then. It was Sar who tricked the great Dragon, Shangingshingshingingshang, into spending most of His time sleeping, “for in that sleep what glorious dreams might come”. What else can truly tempt a god, but the essence of dream? It was Sar who founded the Rogues Guild, so that those who were cast out by the haughty wizards might have their own source of magic and companionship. Wherever there are wrongs to right, and loot to plunder, there are legends of Sar the Slippery, Sar the Secretive, Sar of the Shadows.

These are the chief deities of the western side of the Dragon Continent. There are others. Truly there are as many gods as there are grains of sand. Their legends duplicate and sometimes contradict each other. Some wise people think there are no gods at all in Trollworld, only godlike wizards. Believe what you wish, but take all tales of the gods with caution–they are more allegory than history, more imagination than truth.

–written by Khenn Arrrth, known as the trollgod in these later decadent times, though I know full well my powers are feeble compared to the great ones of whom I write.

–end

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