The pantheon of divinity in Mortalissar covers a whole gamut of Gods, Goddesses, Sentient Beings, Beasts, Demonlords, Ascended Demigods and even some Unknown Ones. Until today, there is no one god who rules over all, leaving much of their existence and devotion to their regions of worshipers in Mortalissar. (Reference image is from the Guan Yin Dunhuang series by Chinese painter Zeng Hao)
This is a continuation of our previous Part 1 on Religions, Gods & Mythologies in Mortalissar. In this second-parter, we'll cover some of the other divinities and their roles in the shaping and transformation of their worshipers and lands. Despite what many would have thought, there exists pockets of Mortalissari who do not worship a divine being, believing in more earthly pursuits and fortunes rather than devote time and place to someone or something they have no control over. These regions are indicated as Pagan in the religion world map. We'll cover those bits in greater detail in time.
This map of the world helps you navigate and find the nations/continents to cross-correspond with the deities they worship in the divinity map guide above.
The Gods are a fickle bunch, always bickering and comparing the abilities of their people among themselves. If they are not lording over their subjects, building altars to fill the skies and fester underground, and temples of worship to grow their congregations as a demonstration of their prowess, they will be waging wars and hatching schemes with their kind, to convince the rest that they deserve to be worshipped and remembered for all eternity. Such were the nature and vanity of the Gods, much to the detriment of their people and the demesne they preside.
Goddess Aryssanthia (Humility)
Before the time of the Mortal Isle, old folk songs sung the story of the Goddess Aryssanthia being more of an amalgamation of three different God-sisters, who swore a blood oath to always stick together through time, tragedy and turmoil. The sisters were then known as the Goddesses Aryss, Santhia and Ryssanth, with Ryssanth the oldest and Aryss the youngest. The God-sisters had a turbulent relationship with their brother, the immortal Warlord Assanthar, over issues like the right seasons to harvest and the festivals to honor him and his sisters, especially when it came to how these were decided and passed on down to their mortal worshipers at the time.
Eventually, when the feudal peasantry rose up against the might of Assanthar's rule, the sisters sided with the peasants, leading an invasion into Assanthar's fields to compel him to accede to their requests and agree to a peaceful settlement. Assanthar however objected to the peasants' wish for greater rights to harvest the land, preferring to bestow them to the families who were honoring him at the time. The three sisters then devised a plan for their peasantry to worship Assanthar instead, bestowing him with greater honor than the families who worshipped him. When the families felt betrayed, they turned to the sisters for guidance, setting altars in the three sisters' names instead of Assanthar. The Warlord soon realized he was losing his prowess in the battlefield due to this. He returned to his sisters but instead of honoring them, he chose to dishonor himself instead. He cut off their heads, torsos, arms and legs, and created a freakish monster of different heads, torsos, arms and legs of his sisters, turning them into a singular monstrosity so that they will learn their lesson and become a reminder of his dishonorable ways.
Fearing their warlord, the families returned their prayers to Assanthar, and the peasants, realizing the errors of their ways, returned to their fields (most of which are part of Ramyssan today) and chose to worship the three sisters as one, calling her Aryssanthia the Humble One. It is said that Aryssanthia would sometimes either appear as a beautiful three-headed Goddess or a mangled monstrosity if anguished and scorned. Anyway, a few of the honor families who once worshiped the three sisters migrated to the Oeren lands, settling in the regions that are now mostly Palmyllion, partially Talony and Forestine.
The Warlord Assanthar (Honor) & the Dragon-God Essura/Goddess Maeyari (Pride)
The great Warlord known as Assanthar is a great believer of honor. In the lands where he thrived, families would worship him by sending their firstborn sons to his court to learn and study under him. There, Assanthar would teach them the great art of weapons-mastery, blind-folded archery, mounted combat, manipulation of the elements to hide, surprise and become one with them, and mind-mastery over all other distracting emotions. Assanthar's greatest teaching was the duty-bound honor, to respect their eldest, their families, and bring reputation in their families' names.
So it was that when Assanthar was waging war against the great Dragon Essura to the north of his lands, he fell in love with a woman named Maeyari. Little did he know that Maeyari was actually Essura in disguise and their romance was destined for tragedy in the end. When Assanthar's three sisters betrayed him while he was in the battlefield, he was equally dishonored by Maeyari when she revealed that she was Essura his enemy. Ridiculed and betrayed, he fought Essura in a great battle with his army of firstborn sons, only to stay his weapon at the last moment because he truly loved her. Essura then stole Assanthar's heart, ripping it out of his armored chest and swallowed it whole, leaving Assanthar a heartless warrior who could no longer feel love or pain. Against Assanthar's anguished cry, Essura disappeared and was never seen again.
The story of course unfolded in folk tales and songs that Assanthar no longer felt love for his sisters and in his anguish, tormented them by turning them into a singular monstrosity that later became Aryssanthia the Goddess. Essura on the other hand, upon devouring Assanthar's heart, felt extreme emotions of love, pain, loss, betrayal, envy and many more, falling grievously ill with a burning heart for years. Through that time, Essura's devotees, the warrior-priest-like Maeyas and monk-like Essuri, nursed the dragon-god to learn to control those emotions and rediscover his wisdom which was lost in the turmoils that befell their land. He found himself through Maeyari, devoting much time in reconciling his anger with her contempt. In the end, it was his pride that saw him reviving himself back to health, becoming the great dragon that he once was.
As part of their proud pilgrimage, a number of Essura's Maeya warrior-priests set sail from the shores of his lands (now known as partial Beissan and Essan), crossed the great Eastern and then Western Iosean seas to land on the shores of what are today the dynasties of Hrothai and Wasaeki. They conquered the land in the name of Maeyari and over time, became worshippers of Maeyari, the Goddess of Pride. Through the centuries, many believed that Essura and Maeyari are two separate deities, both champions of Pride, but the folk songs, though confusing to modern translations, seem to suggest otherwise, and only the few who knew kept these secrets to their graves.
Essura the Dragon-God was known to be wise until his battle with the Warlord Assanthar, becoming the Heart Devourer. Asleep and in pain through the ages, he had to learn the ways of Maeyari the Goddess of Pride, to ultimately become himself once again. Reference image source: https://www.deviantart.com/elxi-ameyn/art/Water-Snake-347769023
Ice Dragon Dassura (Frost) & the Storm-Gods - Kaeos (Chaos) and Kraksis (Runes) & the Wind-God Oenyr (Wisdom)
It was said that in the beginning of time, there were two great dragon-gods who ruled over the other dragons. One was Essura, the God of Pride, and the other was Dassura, the Ice Dragon-God of Frost. The two were once inseparable, illuminating the space beyond time and the ephemeral with displays of their wisdom, magic, powers and benevolence, but when the Storm-Gods began to encroach into Dassura's domain, it was there that the two dragon-gods had to separate.
The Storm-Gods consisted of two great God-brothers - the Thunder God Kaeos and the Lightning God Kraksis and their old-father, the Wise Wind-God Oenyr. Kaeos was known for his mischief and turbulent character, Kraksis was known for his writing, poetry, symbolism and riddles, while Oenyr was known for his wisdom and prophecies. The Storm-Gods Kaeos and Kraksis were responsible for controlling storms, cyclones, lightning and thunder in all forms and shapes. However, they were missing the element of ice and water in their powers, as their powers could only control storms and tempests to indirectly manipulate the weather, but not directly summon frost, tsunami or earthquakes. Which meant they were forbidden to travel too far from their domains; a restriction that their father, Oenyr, was far too glad to accept.
When the brothers saw the close friendship Dassura had with Essura, they became jealous and envious. Kaeos disguised himself as a mortal and joined the armies in Dassura's domain and stirred jealousy and mistrust among them. At first, Dassura mistook this as Essura's doing, for he saw pride in his army's rebellion and thought they were sown by Essura. The battle between Essura and Dassura was devastating and they parted ways never to speak to each other again. In his anguish, Dassura destroyed his own people out of anger and spite, and as he was on the verge of being willed out of existence, he saw the truth in the remaining Dassuran still alive - the mischievous Kaeos in mortal form. Before Kaeos could transform back to his immortal form, Dassura quickly froze Kaeos deep in the icy caverns deep beneath the sea now known as The Kaeosis Span.
Seething with anger, Dassura awaited for Kaeosis' brother Kraksis. When Kraksis appeared, a fierce magical battle ensued, where Dassura and Kraksis fought. It was said that the battle lasted for many centuries, as Kraksis had Oenyr's prophecies to guide him and his runes to protect him. Alas, out of the ice caverns and frigid cold waters of the north, and with Oenyr's wisdom, Kraksis summoned a great rune of magic to counter Dassura's powers. However, much to Oenyr's regret, the rune took a life of its own and spawned a sentient creature neither mortal nor immortal, but powerful and deceiving unlike anything the gods had ever seen. It usually appeared as a giant serpentine creature calling itself Orimanth, and it was able to counter both Dassura's and Kraksis' powers. With Orimanth's power ever increasing, Dassura set Kaeos free and together with Kraksis and Oenyr, rallied their forces and powers to defeat Orimanth.
Towards the end, the Gods learned that the only way to stay Orimanth's power was to put forth a holy sacrifice in blood. The heat and warmth from the blood sacrifice will satiate Orimanth from devouring their people and the lands it conquered. Oenyr, in all his wisdom, gave his right eye as a blood sacrifice to Orimanth, becoming a one-eyed God; the godly essence of his sacrificed eye transformed into the shape of an unbreakable blood-red crystal, embedded into Orimanth's thorny head and linked to its heart, many eyes and mind. With the crystal in place, Orimanth gained the all-seeing wisdom of Oenyr, the symbolic powers of Kraksis, the deception of Kaeos and the tempered icy warmth of Dassura.
Many of Oenyr's, Kraksis', Kaeos' and Dassura's worshipers turned their prayers to Orimanth when they learned of its powers, only to soon learn that the tradition of blood sacrifices remain active till today. Most of these happen near the kingdom of Mortarsis in the region of Serpentriss today, where Orimanth is rumored to still live in secret and rule as a deadly serpent-demigod. The rest of Oenyr's, Kraksis' and Kaeos' worshipers dispersed and populated many of the western and southern lands we now know as the warring kingdoms of Inyxxia, Xenthis and Nethulsis (Kaeos), the sage-lands of Fogborne, Kressmoor and Varandar (Oenyr) and the emblematic sorcery kingdoms of Messathia and Arksis (Kraksis).
Dassura's worshipers remained mostly in the land we now know as Dassentry, with some of Kaeos' worshipers in Forgessa worshipping the Frost-Dragon God as well. Dassura also made amends with Essura - they met one final time after the blood pact and created an island in memory of their forgotten friendship near The Kaeosis Span, calling it the Island of Dessan. The islanders prayed to neither Dassura or Essura, and chose to remain pagan till this day.
But the story of Orimanth doesn't end here...it continues...
The great stories of the Serpentriss and Oeren High regions are full of mischief, thunder, lightning, wars, magic and frostiness. From the great battle between the Storm-Gods and the Dragon Frost God Dassura, was spawned one of the greatest serpent-demigods of all time - Orimanth the Blood Serpent. (Reference image source: https://meninfantasyart.tumblr.com/post/138664513844/serpents-keeper-by-kassandra-vasquez-artstation)
After Orimanth the Blood-Serpent was tamed, the denizens of Mortarsis built gigantic altars from the sides of ice-mountains in honor of its glory. Every year, an annual event is held where a chosen one is sacrificed on an altar to appease Orimanth. No one has ever seen Orimanth from the ancient days of the Gods, but they know it lives, for the ground shakes whenever there is anguish, and blizzards shroud the land whenever it is hungry.
There is however a cavernous subterranean network of tunnels beneath Mortarsis where Orimanth is reputed to slither and linger. The tunnels are called The Nails of Tarsis as they stretch for miles beneath the icy wastes and extends far out undersea into The Kaeosis Span. Some believe that the tunnels emerge out onto the Northriss Isles, where the Apocalyptic monsters of forgotten times sleep in magical icy prisons.
Every few years, a band of brave adventurers would set forth for the Nails of Tarsis and try to hunt down Orimanth. It is reputed that Orimanth has a blood-red ruby encrusted into its head and whoever who can pry it off and wield it worthily, will have the power to resurrect a long lost loved one back to life. The ruby is called the Orimanthus Stone, or the Devil's Heart. Till today, no one has succeeded and all who entered the Nails of Tarsis never returned.
One warrior-king however did return. His name was Arion the Elder-King. Despite his old age and weak limbs, Arion was wise beyond his years and ruled over a land we now know as Elderan, in the Oeren Lowlands region. Having lost his beloved wife, Queen Eyvetta, King Arion assembled a brave army of warriors, wizards, priests and thieves to journey into The Nails of Tarsis and bring back the Orimanthus Stone, in a bid to revive his wife - but with one condition, he will have to travel with them.
Despite the protestations from his advisors, Arion journeyed with them, often becoming more of a burden than a boon to the party. No one knew exactly what happened in The Nails of Tarsis or how Arion survived the encounter. When they found him, a frail broken man on the side of the road near the Mortarsis border with Ironbane, he no longer had the ability to speak and his mind was lost. But in the palm of his right hand was the indentation of a giant stone, stretching from one end to the other, sunk deep into flesh and bone. Many believed it was the imprint of the Orimanthus Stone and Arion had actually grasped it and burned his palm through it.
Days before Arion's death in his home in Elderan, Verathgar the First Mage paid him a visit. He was putting together a calendar of sorts to set times and dates for Mer Taelysae at the time. The mage somehow found a way to look into Arion's mind and turned back time, seeing what Arion did in The Nails of Tarsis. Some said Verathgar wept after seeing what he saw. Shortly after, Arion died. So it was on that day of the week, that Verathgar decided to name that day Arion's Day and on every first Arion's Day in the month of Jomalry, it was a day called Arion's Death Remembrance Day, a holiday most often celebrated in Elderan. It is also the only kingdom, outside of Mortarsis, where Orimanth is reverred as a God.
This ends Part 2 of 4 of our anthology on Religions, Gods and Mythologies in Mortalissar. We're halfway there. To continue to Part 3, hit the link here.
LATEST STORIES ON MORTALISSAR:
About the World
This section highlights the world of Mortalissar in greater detail, especially her territories, countries, races, magic, calendar and belief systems. Occasionally, I will write short fiction stories relevant to a particular realm to define its unique characteristics set against a larger canvas. Hopefully, over time, the collection gives you, the reader, a greater appreciation of the uniqueness of this world, and her many qualities and flaws.