Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Ballad of the Pigeon God #64: The God-King Is Upon Us!

On the last day of NonDec, in the year 1072, tens of thousands of beings had flocked to a large lake in the eastern part of the Kingdom of Crosedes.  Legends and prophecy foretold of a "God of Goodness and Light" from eons past who would make his presence known, unite the tribes and lands, and usher back the glory days of the great Empire of Feraso.

Or so that was the story told by the Cult of Apotheosis, also called the Cult of Light, guarding some ancient burial chambers of long-dead Ferasean kings while they waited for the 1st of DecDec to arrive.

Most pilgrims and curious on-lookers of every race and social class (including goblins, orcs, trolls, ogres, and even a number of giants) had arrived around the site at Lake Apotheosis and had oddly co-existed without much effort.

A few more concerned citizens had just arrived from the nearby village of Eding:

Echelon Reimann: A simple eccentric cleric of the eastern god of the sea, Tshang Kai Ching, turned Baron of Eding, turned resurrected man wanted from treason by the new king.   He had organized the resistance against the king, gotten killed in some foreign land, but was brought back to life by his god to aid his friends in obtaining ancient relics necessary to stop the apocalypse, the return of the God-King, or perhaps just the King of Crosedes (Prophecies can be a bit vague).   He wields Wave, a trident of unusual power. 

General Sir Norm Dingleberry: A failed dwarven mushroom farmer who some how managed to travel to far-off worlds, slay fantastic creatures, and upon his return to Crosedes, sway the current king for a knighthood and a command of an army, an army he more than competently used to curtail aggression by the dwarves of Skyforge.  He wields Overwhelm, a dwarven battleaxe of immense power.

Kane: A Eastern monk with elemental control of water. After seeing the world (and at least one other world or dimension), the humble priest decided to retire from adventuring, but his friends interfering with political machinations and the end of the world brought him back out.

Thorrin Slatebelt: A simple, no-nonsense dwarven blacksmith from Nuxom Keep. He fell into the party by meeting the heroic General Dingleberry.  He's never quite sure what the others are doing in this strange mess, but at least he knows he's pulling his own weight.

Sigard of the Slate Gap: A paladin of Akana, Sigard had become disillusioned with the new king and an apathetic church hierarchy, so he traveled to the lake to the the return of the God-King.  But first he ran into "Baron Felix" who expressed doubts and worries about the occasion.  He's fallen om with Echelon and his lot more out of convenience, but so far, they have not steered him the wrong way.

Beourn:  A ranger from Ras-Prythax might be a black mark for some, but with the word of Thorrin, he offered to stand with our heroes.

1st of DecDec 1072 - Lake Apotheosis
Early before dawn, Echelon and company bid everyone farewell.  Our heroes listed above would make one final visit to Eding, to ensure defenses were completed, and lead the front of Norm's army, as everyone marched toward Lake Apotheosis.

Before noon, the army arrived at the Cult's encampment.  Despite orcs on the far shore of the river, and people of all walks of life working their excitement to a fever pitch, Norm ordered his troops to drive a wedge through the throngs to reach near the center.

Beourn was the nimblest by far, and was able to scramble up the side of a makeshift guard tower thirty foot off the ground for a better view.

On the other side of the lake were the sheer cliff walls that housed the ancient Ferasean kings, but above them stood sheer hordes of goblins, trolls, orcs, ogres, and even giants.  A few winged dragon-looking creature would fly out of the crowds do a few twirls and come back down.

On his side of the lake stood the motley assortment of humanity.  First were the thousands of converts to the Cult of Apotheosis in their white costumes.  What had started as a few dozen individuals guarding the lake had turned into the largest force on the soil of Crosedes, even if they weren't as well armed as the army.
Lake Apotheosis, near where the God-King would arrive.
An even larger contingent of common folk surrounded them.  Pilgrims or curiosity seekers, it did not matter.  Whether they arrived months earlier or just a few minutes like Beourn, they had been welcomed by the gladfull flock of Apotheosis.  Even a few barbarians from the distant plains of Galmar had arrived, although their dealings with the others were far more formal and far less congenial.

Outside of these dirty commoners, finding whatever high ground their rank could afford them, stood the wealthy, the famous and the noblemen.

It was tough to make out the occupants of carriages and inside tents that had been erected, but Beourn saw a few notable figures keeping a safe distance.  He relayed this information to Echelon & Company.

First was the King of Crosedes himself, Cervinal.  Known in these parts as "The Dread Lord," a nickname earned from his pre-royalty exploits, the sovereign of Crosedes was dressed in full battle gear, mounted upon his horse, surrounded by his heavy horse Lifeguard.  A few of his assassins and mages probably milled about the lesser people, scoping out trouble.

In another spot was the banner for the Kingdom of Aragain.  A lone figure in half-plate stood at his meager camp, staring towards the lake, his compatriots lounging on some tree stumps.  King William had actually been acting Baron of Eding for a spell before he returned for his royal coronation.  Echelon's half-brother Talis had had an supposed tryst with his wife, the Queen of Aragain, but luckily for everyone, Talis had died, so Echelon hoped there was no bad blood between them.

There were numerous religious orders throughout the crowd, some martial, some purely scholarly, but none shone brighter than some holy warriors for the Ispatlia, displaying their colors for Akana.  Velandro, pious devotee to Akana, friend to the peaceful kobold, and friend of our heroes, had finally returned.  And to Beourn's eyes, he brought a LOT of allies with him.

Finally, to the south of this site lay the southern swamps and marshes.  Hiding within the edges of the swamp were lizardmen, more orcs, and even some intrigued gnomes from Masgoth.

Sometime during the afternoon, with the sun descending towards the west, Brother Zaccharius, High Priest of the Cult, began a ritual to ensure the God of Goodness and Light's return.

Starting in the center of the site, Zaccharius' chants spread out through the masses, man and humanoid, until most in attendance were repeating it in unison.

Echelon & Company tried to avoid participating in the chat, averting their eyes away from the lake, keeping a close watch for any changes to the nearby crowd.  There were none.

After an hour of chanting, a four lights emerged from the four main tomb entrances across the water.  The lights moved twenty foot out onto the lake and began to rise together.  They reached as high as the top of the cliffs when they merged into a blinding white light.

Out of this light, the God-King, the God of Goodness and Light, and King Come to Reclaim the Throne of His Peoples, emerged.  He was a huge figure, standing atop the water, but reaching a height of forty, nay fifty foot tall.   He wore gleaming armor, a sheathed sword, but he held a shield
whose front undulated with arcane electric blue energy.

The being raised his free hand, and in a voice that rattled windows in Omsjik and Eding said, "Bow down before me, my loyal subjects.  I have returned to bring you peace and order you need."

Some threw themselves prostrate on the ground. Most, even most humanoids, decided to take a knee with their heads bowed.  Those that didn't bow, like the party, were slightly grateful that they weren't  immediately smote.  Rather they viewed the god surveying the scene of absolute silence with a sense of smug satisfaction. 

If the God of Goodness and Light wasn't pre-occupied with the showing of faith by his devoted, he may have noticed a commotion atop the cliffs behind him, specifically were the native Nightwood Goblins had staked a claim.  Echelon and company only noticed the end of a the fracas, where a lone figure, armored and carrying a two-handed sword, burst out of the goblin horde and jumped off the cliff.  He plunged his sword into the back of the god at mid-shoulder, and like a swashbuckler using a tapestry to slow his fall, ran his weapon right along the spine of the deity.

The god wailed in pain, as his followers rose to their feet in disbelief.

Echelon could only smile, a smile so big it hurt his face.

"Zabty, you old dog..." 

The half-orc was dangling by his sword at the small of the god's back, but no one noticed him.  Rather, the pure cleansing light of the god was changing into one of orange, with a smell of brimstone.   With a shockwave, knocking down hundreds close by, the entity shed the armor and skin like a rubber suit.  A new dark visage, accompanied by eight huge arms (or legs?) stretched out the length of the tombs.

There was never any God of Goodness and Light, just the arachnoid form of Baraxus the Destroyer....
DM Notes:  For those late to the party, Baraxus the Destroyer is a Spider-God from an alternate dimension the party fought (and defeated!?!?) early in their careers.  He may or may not be responsible for the Spider-People Dopplegangers terrorizing the kingdom, but it makes logical sense.  Using some vague texts about returning kings/gods/etc that plague most religions, he helped build up the Cult of Apotheosis from simple keepers of ancient crypts, to a full blown phenomenon stretching multiple kingdoms, and attracting all types of races. 

Despite the true (but manipulated) intentions of the Cult and their many leaders (25 sacrificed their life essence to Baraxus, in alphabetical order) some people like good ol' Count Zabty, half-orc paladin, knew something was up, and when the time was right, revealed the shocking truth to everyone.  

Now let's see if the thousands in attendance, and the millions more at home can survive the Spider-God's next move.

NEXT:  #65 The Chaos of Goodness and Light

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