The Earth-Mother's Gift

From Merahilani, they came. A beautiful stranger clad in gentle robes, their face hidden away behind a mask. They beseeched us for succor, and we offered it gladly.   Only when they left the next day did we learn what happened to those who had refused.
— Kirinuian merchant
  The Earth-Mother's Gift is a legendary Takawaokan artifact that has traversed the hands and faces of many great warriors, scholars, and politicians through the long history of the southern continent. It is one of many artifacts created to protect a given people, now repurposed in each reappearance to defend against whatever rising threat is next.  

History


Warrior of the Gift by Hanhula (via Midjourney)

Its known history is rather a short one, owing to the mask's usually-subtle nature - the remnants of its true history are almost certainly lost to time.   The current well-known iteration of the mask appeared only in the past century, after a group of Tzoltecah raiders carved a bloody swathe north through Merahilani to obtain land necessary for growing the crops that could not grow in Xotlan's ashswept plains. Not an uncommon occurrence, with Rhaead often preventing more peaceful solutions.   The tribe that had held the mask were wary of its power and refused to wear it, and though the Tzoltecah took the mask from the sacred pool they had trapped it within, they were cautious. They left it well-covered and secured, and kept it with them in secrecy.   It was not later until they had returned to their own lands that the mask came under study and experimentation. The first to wear it was a brave warrior, and the moment it cleaved to his face, it shifted to represent his bold personality and brightly-coloured armour. At first, its powers seemed limited - nothing much seemed to happen.
  And then over time, he changed. His belongings were handed away to others as gifts and promises of protection and safety. His clothes were handed to the cold, and his money to the poor. A researcher attempted to intervene, and her blood soon coated his blade - a blade that he could no longer part with. His intelligence never faded, but it soon became apparent that it was no longer his intelligence - it was that of the masked beast he had become.   He was a fearsome warrior still, and defended Tzoltekan until his dying breath, changing further in every battle. Extra blades, terrifying sets of wings, hundreds of eyes that fanned out around the blank mask: he was a horror to behold.   When he was killed in a skirmish with Nahazan, the mask went with him. And so its trail of blood continued to the west, a tale repeated time and time again...  

Powers

The abilities possessed by the Gift are largely unknown in scope. It has been pinned as the likely cause of Gaia's Lament, a strange conflict arising from a haunting sound - though the exact date of this sound, or indeed the exact duration of the Lament, is also unknown.   If it is the cause, then the Gift is capable of large-scale warding magic potent enough to hold off multiple demigods from being able to return to their planes, and additionally potent enough to prevent all magics involving the creation of food or water for the purpose of either directly consuming or aiding consuption from functioning.
The Earth-Mother's Gift by Hanhula (via Midjourney)
  Aside from the implications of the Lament, though, the Mask exhibits terrifying properties of transformation, yet with a bizarrely protection-focused twist. Those wearing the mask do not seek to sow misfortune as the Unbroken March did, nor do they spur war like the Spiritblade. Instead, they seek to protect those they love, and wreak unholy fury on those threatening their peace.   The mask does also seem to possess some connection to water; each of the times it has been found away from an individual, it is always located in some form of water. Shiari scholars aware of the artifact suspect a connection to the Sea of Souls due to this and the odd way it seems to corrupt an individual's soul for its own purposes; those rare few aware of the Shards of the Void seek to prevent knowledge of the Gift becoming widespread at all costs.
Twin Masks by Hanhula (via Midjourney)
Item type
Unique Artifact
Current Location
Subtype / Model
Rarity
Unique
Weight
Varies; ~100g - 5kg+

The Power of a Shard

If the Gift is truly the cause of Gaia's Lament, the Lament's presence across the entire continent cannot be attributed to a single individual wearing it unless that individual is of truly incredible power.   The knowledge that it is a likely Shard does not assist this hypothesis - even those well aware of the Shards, such as the Eagle's Shadows, have no reason to believe a sudden spike in power with a total lack of forewarning should be possible or probable.   There are various theories on what may have happened; the destruction of the Unbroken March, the merging of the Spiritblade and the Gemstone of Life, and sudden disappearance of the Harp of Virtue may well have caused a chain reaction, or the Gift may have claimed the power lost in each encounter.   Takawaoku is also currently home to an unprecedented number of demigods who had set foot on its surface prior to the Lament; as not all are accounted for, it is likely that one may have encountered the Gift - or that the Gift triggered the Lament in reaction to their presence.   Currently, demigods from the Abyss, Abaddon, Hell, Elysium, Nirvana, Heaven, and the Boneyard are all present upon Takawaoku on the Material Plane - leaving only two of the outer planes, Axis and Nirvana, without representation.   Divine Queen Asfiya is additionally considered a demigoddess, and worshipped throughout Shiar as one.   Perhaps the most worrying theory concerns the Gift's name: Gaia, the Earth-Mother, is a figure appearing in numerous mythologies across Istralar - one who invariably depicts the world herself as an avatar.   Should avatars and ley magic be involved, no ordinary mortal can hope to fight the Gift's threat. Such would be the realm of only the visiting demigods and the world's pittance of Champion.


Cover image: The Earth-Mother's Gift Cover by Hanhula (via Midjourney)

Comments

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26 Jul, 2022 22:22

I love how this is considered a threat, and yet it's got such lovely protective qualities. There's so many who would consider it a blessing. It's a lovely take- and a wonderful item <3

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