OT: On A Hill

on June 25, 2010 in Other Tales

When people construct a temple, for almost any value of “people” and “temple”, they often perform rituals to sanctify the ground first. The mere act of worshipping and working with divine energy again and again in the same space will eventually accomplish this task, but it’s typical to ensure the temple is on holy ground (or within holy water, or air, or rock, or space) beforehand.

There are multiple reasons for this. Having a sacred space facilitates those future worshippings and workings. It provides the right environment for further divine energy to take root and flourish. It protects the temple from certain hostile forces that might otherwise attack it. It also just seems right. The oldest and biggest temples in the world were all built on holy ground, after all, and smaller and newer temples are often built after their example.

There are scholars who believe that some… or many, or even most… of those ancient exemplars were built on land that was already holy, that had divinity as an inherent property of it the way that darkness or elemental energy is known to cling to some wild places in the world. Perhaps a god touched these places, or the wall between them and a divine realm is particularly thin for some reason. Certainly many of the more impressive edifices of the ancient world were constructed as shrines to a saint or avatar who performed some great feat at their site… quite often this feat involved dying, but that was certainly an impressive thing for those who were a literal embodiment of a deity to pull off.

Death was to be expected when it came to saints, but they tended to make up for that by dying in impressive ways.

The truth was that there were places in the world that were sanctified by nature or by happenstance, and that temples had been built on most of these places. The very idea of temples… of places of worship… had arisen because of this phenomenon, and as a result there were very few of them left unclaimed.

That isn’t to say that none existed in the wild. Simply that those that existed in the wild were claimed.

There are places in the world that have never been fully explored by any mortal folk. A lot of these are given over to fae creatures or haunted by the undead, but some of them belong to other powers. There is such a place, a primeval forest with trees that grow much larger than the mortal plane can normally support. From the midst of this forest rises a hill, green and rolling and immense, mountainous in size if not nature. One who climbs the hill ascends in more than one way: the top of it is very close to the heavens.

It is a sacred place.

Upon this hill stands a woman. She is a goddess, but she is a woman, too. It’s not a metaphor or an abstraction or a personification. The gods are people, too… at least, these gods are. They are a people, in the way that elves and dwarves and humans are people. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that elves and dwarves and humans are people in the way that these gods are, since after all they were made in the gods’ images.

This is her place, if it’s anybody’s. She did not make it sacred, not directly, but it’s her place in the way that a soaring cathedral might belong to one of her brothers or sisters. Different mortal races know her by different names, but by the same title. Though she is responsible for none of them, she is called Mother by them all.

The people she did make come together in this sacred place. They are a bit more unruly than their brothers and sisters in more civilized lands. They along with the other wild beasts of the forest are among the reasons the forest has never been explored. She does not need to speak to them to convey her wishes. They wouldn’t understand her if she did. Language is not a part of their natures, these primal nymphs and proto-satyrs.

At her bidding they bring fruit and greens from the forest, and meat, and fresh water… all things taken from the sloping sides of the hill, all things touched by the divine. They lay them down on a long mat of woven fronds, a picnic blanket of sorts.

They have not finished when the first guest arrives… or by the time he had arrived. She’s never sure if he actually does show up. Every time she notices him somewhere, he seems to have already been there for some time. It always seems as though he manages to get where he’s going a moment or two ahead of himself, so that by the time she notices him…

The others think he’s lazy. He’s never in a hurry when they see him. They never notice him doing much of anything. How do they not worry about him? Not that she was worried by him, but she didn’t play the same games the others did.

“Owain,” she says, nodding at the diminutive figure who is already helping himself to some grapes. Her form is large, in the way that people reckon such things. It doesn’t matter which people are reckoning… she’ll be large to them. She towers over ogres and minotaurs as she towers over dwarves and goblins, being just over twice the height of any of them.

Owain is small, in a much more fixed way. Anything twice one’s size is large, but something half the size of an ogre doesn’t necessarily look very small to the ogre in any way that counts, after all.

“Good morning,” he says. “I’m afraid the others couldn’t come… unavoidable, heavenly duties, things like that.” He shrugged. “You know how it is.”

“They sent word to you?” she asks. She’s not offended, but is mildly surprised.

“Told me themselves,” he says. “They’d be here if they could. You won’t mind if I bag up a bit of food for them?”

“Oh,” she says, realizing her mistake. He’s not talking about the rest of the guests. “You’re talking about your… pantheon.”

“More like family, really,” Owain says.

“I look forward to the day when it’s your turn to host our conclave,” Khaele says. “So I can meet them.”

“Oh, you’ve met some of the lot, haven’t you?”

“I meant all at once.”

“Well, that could happen… though, you know, I probably wouldn’t hold a conclave back at the family home. It’s crowded enough as it is. And then there are the ceilings… nah, it’s a bad idea all around.”

“Of course,” Khaele says.

“I see that this one has started the feast ahead of schedule,” a lion-headed man says, striding out of the blindingly brilliant sun. He reaches up around the back of his neck and lifts, and the lion’s head becomes a golden helmet, lion-shaped but much less realistically detailed or flexible.

“Good morning, Carl,” Owain says, hefting a haunch of venison. “This is the feast? I thought it was hors de combat, as they say in your part of the world.”

“It’s Kharolinus,” the lion-god says.

“Oh, come off it,” Owain says. “You know I can never get that blasted Kh right. I remember when it was Kromax or Krovache or whatever.”

“I was never called ‘Kromax’,” Kharolinus says.

“Then I don’t remember it,” Owain says. “I don’t suppose you have any cheese, have you? I recall your people are good at that sort of thing. In fact, I heard so much about Merovians and their cheese before I found time to, er, send my son that I thought you’d taken over a tribe of minotaurs.”

“Are minotaurs known for their cheese?” the Merovian god asks, his nose wrinkling in distaste.

“Not so far as I know,” Owain replies. “But they are known for their milk. In any case, you’d have been wiser domesticating a couple of herds of beastmen than poaching on His Lordship’s territory like that.”

“I did not poach on anyone’s territory,” Kharolinus says. “I simply offered guidance and protection to a nation of men. I did not turn them away from the service of our brother. They worship him alongside me, as an equal.”

“Sure and he loves that,” Owain says.

“If he disapproves of the arrangement, he has yet to say one word about it to me.”

“Are you sure you didn’t miss the word among the scads and scads of others he’s had for you since you set up your temples?”

“Look, the trickster… the compact precludes me or any of the others who were more cautious in our approach to the young world from adding our own races to this overcrowded sphere,” Kharolinus says. “At the same time, Khersis’s children are numerous and widespread, contributing to his somewhat discorporate and nebulous approach to dealing with them. For those of us who lack our own creations to take it upon ourselves to act as more direct intercessionary agents for smaller divisions… well, it isn’t as though I’m the only one who thought of it.”

“No, but the others all went in with his approval, and they don’t present themselves as his equal,” Owain says.

“Why shouldn’t I? I’m no demigod,” Kharolinus says. “I’m his brother, not his nephew or his child. The fact that he made humanity and I didn’t is a matter of differing opportunity, not power.”

“Well, I’m not saying you shouldn’t be equal to him… just that I can’t imagine it sits well with him,” Owain says. He looked at a spot behind the Lion of Merovia. “Though maybe instead of making assumptions, we should just settle this the easy way… isn’t that him now?”

The hilltop brightens very briefly. Cresting the hill just behind the spot where Kharolinus had been standing before he vanished is a goddess in the form of a plump young woman.

“Oh, Ana!” Owain says, waving at her. “I’m afraid I took you for your father… I’ll have to apologize to Kromax when he gets back. If he comes back.”

“To whom?” she says.

“You know, Karl,” he says.

“I believe our little brother has been playing tricks, my daughter,” the young divinity’s mother, a tall, slender blind goddess says.

“Not very good ones,” the plump goddess says. “You know Father never comes to these.”

“He has in the past,” Owain says. “I think he should come more often. After all, look at what happened the last time he was here.”

“What happened?”

“Never you mind,” Khelaine says, blushing as much as a goddess of justice might prudently do so.

The others are arriving now: Veiled Arkhanos, Patros and his raucous court of lesser elven gods and greater sidhe who begin to mingle with Khaele’s wild children, and the rest, including both full gods and the children of gods and mortals. The mortal races, who love to categorize and analyze and dissect, would divide them up and rank them in various ways. Some of the gods share that predilection, but few of them would share the same conclusions about who lorded over whom.

At some point, a quorum of sort is reached… Khersis had not deigned to attend, nor had Kharolinus returned, and not every one of Khaele’s other siblings or their children were present, but she judges that all who will attend are present.

“My dear family,” she says. “Welcome to our latest conclave.”

“Seventy-seventh,” Owain says around a mouthful of cheese he’s got from somewhere. “Seven elevens. Very auspicious.”

“It must be if you say it is,” Khaele says. “Lady Khelaine? I believe you had something you wanted to bring before the conclave.”

“Yes, my sister,” Khelaine says. “Something of great import. Some of the other powers, knowing that the time was drawing near for us to meet…”

Murmurs and even shrieks of outrage greet this piece of news. Some of the gods are very quick to think of such things as espionage and treachery and ambushes. These same gods are also prone to suspect it from others.

“…they approached me with a proposal for a truly global conclave, a summit of all the greater powers,” she finishes, ignoring the response. “Not every representative of each of them would be interested in such a thing, of course, nor would I expect all of us to be…”

“In treating with dragons and archfiends?”

“Certainly not!”

“Are we going to invite the giants back next, I suppose?”

“Very well, I can see that this item is not worth pursuing,” Khelaine says. “Therefore I shall abandon it and move to the next item on the agenda: some of the other greater powers have decided to hold a summit where they will no doubt discuss strategic alliances and their plans for the future. We may, if we so choose, elect to send a delegation. Anyone who wishes to attend to represent, ah, our interests should meet with me at the end of the conclave. Thank you.”

“Thank you, Khelaine,” Khaele says. “Moving on…”

The conclave continues from there, of course, but the matters involved become increasingly esoteric and we dare not linger too long on the business of the gods.


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23 Responses to “OT: On A Hill”

  1. carson says:

    A pan hellenic meeting indeed.

    Current score: 0
  2. GB says:

    Hmmm…. Just hmmmm.

    Current score: 0
  3. Adele says:

    Several interesting things there…
    1) it looks to me like Owain is a single god, faking at being several (an alternative reading being that he IS several god, but can only incarnate as one at any given time).
    2) Khersis is the true god of humans; or, at least, their creator, and holds himself pretty aloof from the other gods.
    3) Kharolinus is more wary of Khersis than he likes to admit.
    From (2) and (3), Khersis may be unusually powerful for a god; this might be part of why humans have become the most powerful race of mortals.
    4) the gods were tricked (or that is at least a possibly-contentious view held by some gods) into signing the compact; I’m now very curious as to who wrote it (a god? a demon?)
    5) that’s a nice piece of work by Khelaine there. Global concave? No way! …Oh, but if they’re having a summit anyway, and we’re invited…
    6) hehe, last time Khersis came to a conclave, I’m guessing Ana wasn’t… in fact, I’m
    guessing she wasn’t born yet…

    Current score: 3
    • Les says:

      Re: (2) and (3) and the conclusions therein.

      Khersis Dei did spend some time ‘walking the earth’ with his people, it’s conceivable he may have ‘leveled-up’ as a result of that experience.

      Current score: 1
      • Rey d`Tutto says:

        an Alternative explanation:
        Khersis Dei’s power now may have to do more with the number of his people, rather than humanity growing due to his power.

        Current score: 3
    • amber indikaze says:

      “From (2) and (3), Khersis may be unusually powerful for a god; this might be part of why humans have become the most powerful race of mortals.”

      Or vice versa; if worship empowers gods (don’t know for sure, but it’s a common enough theme), then perhaps Khersis has become more powerful as a result of humanity becoming more widespread.

      Current score: 2
  4. Schulze says:

    Interesting to see how the system of deities for the MU-world is built.

    Current score: 0
  5. cnic says:

    Part of me had been thinking this was Jillian’s trip and the whole God of Pain ritual was a sanctification of those grounds. She has killed a god and proven herself to be quite powerful, and has likely commited enough epic acts to sanctify a few places.us As far as I see she just needs some followers before we have Khallahan goddess of pain.

    Current score: 3
    • athsryk6l says:

      Hmm thats a very interesting take on it. Im going to agree with you on that one even if it might be wrong. Thats a cool idea.

      Current score: 0
    • Bernie says:

      So you’re saying Callahan is trying to become a God?

      Current score: 0
      • Lulu says:

        I doubt she’s trying. She’d probably hate the bureaucracy. But I agree that she’s epic and powerful enough that it just might happen.

        Current score: 2
  6. Potatohead says:

    I dunno, I’d chalk it up as ‘exceedingly unlikely’ that a deicider would be freely permitted to attend a conclave of gods.

    Current score: 0
    • VoiceInTheWind says:

      Well, it doesn’t necessarily have to be this conclave that Jillian was attending, it did mention the other collection of forces that was hinted to include dragons and demons. While she hasn’t been seen on totally friendly terms with either, she could very well be a respected part of such a gathering if she had the power to kill a god.

      Current score: 1
  7. Dj Gilcrease says:

    I am willing to bet this is where Callahan is sauntering off to for the week. Not this meeting specifically but the meeting of the greater powers. Though I wouldn’t put it past her to be at this meeting.

    Current score: 0
    • Glenn says:

      “Veiled Arkhanos” attended the conclave, and some of the deities who attended are described as being adept at espionage and assassination. If Jillian, who is strong enough to kill Gods and Dragons, attended the Conclave, I’d wonder if the real reason why Arkhanos hides behind a veil is so she use her “Jillian” persona to kill her rival deities without anyone knowing that Arkhanos was involved. The fact that Jillian likes Steff, who is a worshiper of Arkhanos, might not be a coincidence, if Arkhanos and Jillian are one and the same.

      Current score: 3
  8. Zathras IX says:

    The Great Powers, both
    Divine and Infernal, seek
    A New World Order

    Current score: 0
  9. Krey says:

    I doubt the whole Arkhanos theory personally, but as for Callahan being deified… well it’s already been suggested in story (was it by Mack-Daddy? I think that’s right) that the only thing that really makes a “God” is that they’re powerful enough to call themselves that and “take care” of anyone who disagrees… If she’s slaying Gods and Dragons, I’d certainly say Callahan’s capable of that, though it doesn’t really seem to be something that would interest her.

    Current score: 2
  10. LlubNek says:

    “At some point, a quorum of sort is reached…”

    should be either

    “At some point, a quorum of a sort is reached…”

    or

    “At some point, a quorum of sorts is reached…”

    Current score: 0
  11. Khavren says:

    I could see Jillian going as Master of Arms or just for the choice hunting grounds. Owain and Carl also remind of a web comic based on the concept that a passenger liner gets caught in a trans-dimensional thingy and the passengers become gods over a new world.

    link to comic – http://www.rmcomics.com/

    Current score: 0
  12. Marguerite Mingorance says:

    “Seventy-seventh,” Owain says around a mouthful of cheese he’s got from somewhere. “Seven elevens. Very auspicious.”

    Eleven sevens, too. Also very auspicious.

    Current score: 2
    • Ryzndmon says:

      *ahem*
      “Oh, thank Heaven, for 7-Elevens.”

      Current score: 1
  13. Anthony says:

    Very amusing how, even among the gods, the gnome(s) are remarkably inconspicuous…

    Current score: 1