Elder Gods

"Jova, you know that each morning we praise the Emperor and each night we praise the Gods. Now you are old enough to learn the secret of the family. Do you think you are brave enough for the trial?" The girl looked up at her father. Eyes large and wide in her dark face as she clutched the rag doll. She nodded solemly. "Good. It is easy, you must sleep in the box as we have taught you. The box is closed and we are outside watching. You will meet the family spirit. That is all. But remember, this is our secret. Family only and no others. Always. Promise?" The girl nods again. "Say it."
  "I Promise."
  She took the offered hand and followed out the door and down the corridor, down the stone steps to the lowest levels. Keys and unlocked doors. A wall, where a brick here and there were pushed and a Click sound made as a part of the wall pushed back. She put on the brave face of the Noble Lady she will be, in the dark room, smelling of wet and mold. She was lifted into the box and settled with the blanket, pillow and skin. As the lid went on, and the wedges set.
  It is dark inside with just small holes, just big enough for her fingers. Nothing bad like a rat could get in. Just bugs. They are small. She is bigger. The box is lifted and lowered to a soft squish sound. Her resolve weakens and she whimpers. The top makes a sound like rain. She practiced all this. She will make the Ancestors and momma and papa proud. She imagines the faces from the paintings in the great hall. Family from olden days. It is now totally dark with the rain falling on the top of the box so hard like so many fingers tapping but getting fainter. Listens as the rain gets lighter with some thumping sounds. She pulls the blanket around and sleeps.
  Jova awakens to a sound. a grating grinding sound. Something cold and wet touches her foot. She screams and kicks, pulling her legs up. But there is nowhere to go. She is in the box and the wedges lock it until father says. The grating sound again on the sides and suddenly the box is full of wet, cold snakes biting and stinging her. She screams. She thrashes and fights, ripping at them. And there are more, biting stings all over that soon go numb. She can't move. She tries and she feels her leg quiver. Her arm shakes. The numbness is warm as it moves up her legs and arms. The snakes, like fingers move through her hair and touch her head, her brow. The sides of her face and where they touch is a sting, and them numbness and warm. Soon she is floating in the warm darkness. There is a light. She is rushing towards it and emerges into a glittering cavern of gems and sparkling stones. Foggy shapes like people are moving around, turning to move in her direction. They crowd around. Slowly become clear. Withered flesh. Grinning skulls. Empty eye sockets. Bone instead of limbs and hands. She screams and faints.
She awkens.  The glittering cavern is there.  The people turn to look at her.  No longer bones and bits of skin.  Now they are the people. The ancestors from the paintings. Dressed in fine and fancy clothes. Great great grandfather Horl smiles. " We have waited long to meet you." "Where am I?  Where is this?" "This is the God's Realm. The Home of the Elder God and all the family back to the beginning. The God is our God. Our secret. Yes?"
Jova nods.  "Yes Great great grandfather Horl."
The old man held out a ring, old and corroded bronze with a gemstone and ivory setting. "This is my gift. You may speak to us when you want by whispering to the ring. This is the seal of our secret. Ok?"
The girl nods, taking the ring.
"Now sleep and we will send you home."
The words made Jova sleepy and she suddenly awoke with a loud thump noise.  She heard the wedges taken from her box, the lid lifted and her father stood there.  "Did you meet The God?" a head shake from his daughter.  "The ancestors?"
Jova looked at the ring clutched in her hand, then looked up and nodded.

Summary

The Elder Gods of the Golam, Beastmen and Skinchangers are a primordial first race of myconoid beings. Said to live underground, in caves and such. Offerings lo them were left out or buried. The dead if buried go to Old God’s realm underworld where the body is incorporated into the God and souls continue in peace, with wealth with buried goods and honor overseeing their families. Ball shrines of bodies and debris lay in shrines until they were burned by Imperials in the purge of the heathen worship. Meat, blood and even other garbage and debris were the offerings. The Imperials stressed the blood and bodies and feeding the dead to the Elder Gods.

Historical Basis

Long ago the Golam people worshipped the Elder Gods. Beings of fungal mass that live in vast networks under the soils of the western provinces. They control Dragon Line Magic and offer services and help for offerings of garbage and bodies. Each Elder God was associated with a specific territory and clan and practice was individualized and idiosyncratic. The Empire mistook the offerings as sacrifices, and saw the Elder Gods as threat to the official Church, their view of the proper order and the power of the Empire. The Empire forbid the worship in 357. The stories of blood sacrifice, and the worship by Beastmen and Skinchangers helped make the Elder Gods anathema to civilized Imperials. Much worship shifted from private to secret, with recrimination and outright hostility between worshippers of different Elder Gods who sought to curry Imperial Favor and status. Indeed the different Elder Gods of different families and places compete against and are rivals to others. This too prevented a unified Priesthood and religion as each Elder God defended and aided it's domain and food sources while trying to block others.

To be able to reach the followers they become infected with a small part of the fungus or carry a symbol seeded with the fungus. Open carrying of the bone or wood objects would lead to Imperial Inquisitions and burning at the stake. Some families abandoned the Elder Gods completely while most or many commoners followed the Imperial stories of demons, undead monsters and human sacrifice by worshippers. Only a few families had risked sharing the power of the Gods with the common people of their domains.
Some Frontier folk have found Elder Gods and established worship and offerings. Imperial agents still hunt and destroy pagan heathan worshippers.

Cultural Reception

The Imperial lore is that the Elder Gods live underground ( they do), feeding on living flesh. (They actually feed on dead flesh just fine). They make Monstrous zombies that roam the countryside killing and taking the dead back to feed upon in the underground lairs. The Elder Gods also eat the souls and control the dead. This is partially true - they command spirits - including the Po (see Ghosts and the soul ) and may make amalgam zombies composed of bodies of several creatures. Some of the early Imperials who took up the local religion sought Arcane Crystal and the corruption affected the Elder Gods of their Houses, causing the Elder Gods to form Corrupted Dark Gods that did perform many of the acts attributed to the Elder Gods. ( See. Crystal and Corruption ). The Elder Gods are said to have given wealth and power to those who sell their souls to them. In fact they will sometimes answer prayers from followers so long as they are fed regularly. They do not quite understand human reason and desires and will act to carry out the letter of requests, if not the meaning. As such they may present lost or buried treasures, grave goods or ore on requests for wealth. They might just as easily present a pile of pretty rocks of limited value. They may send spirits or an amalgam zombie on requests for aid. Or they may perform magics of the Dragon Line style as if the most powerful and highly trained wizard.
The Imperial position is that the dead possessed by an Elder God are undead monsters, flesh eating ghouls and mindless zombies. The Old Golam tradition was that the dead dwell in the Elder God's realm as ghosts in a happy afterlife receiving honor and memorial from family. Only on special rare requests could they be given temporary flesh and walk in the living world again for a night.


Cover image: https://azgaar.github.io/Fantasy-Map-Generator/ by mutterwolf

Comments

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9 Dec, 2020 21:53

The elder gods sound terrifying. D: I like the difference between what the Imperials believe and what the Old Golam believe(d).