A simple escort job; bring a merchant from point A to point B with his person and cargo intact.... in spite of having to travel through the badlands of the ancient, moonless and dying world of Rue, which revolves around its red and flickering sun.
Once, this world was thriving, alive, the home of a thousand different empires peopled by species and tribes from all over the multiverse. Once, its cities shone in the night. Once, ships crossed its oceans, and caravans the land. Once, wars raged, the blood of the slain enriching the earth.
Once, this world had a different name, but who can remember that now? Time has moved on. Wind and water have ground down the mountains into dust. The tunnels that hollowed out the world's guts have collapsed, forcing dark creatures to the surface. Metal is running out, the last great bars kept in the temples of Kebal as backing for the ceramic coins currently in use, and weapons are likewise made of ceramics instead of steel. Everyone under the moonless sky knows that this sad old world is breathing its last under the light of a red and fitful sun. Still, the last gasps of a dying world may still take centuries, and it could be ages yet before the sun goes out.
Everyone knows that this world's true name, now and for the rest of its days, is Rue
While worlds and stars take so much time to die, mortal creatures die far more easily. They can die of exposure, of hunger, of bone-deep sorrow, of hideous boredom. In order to stave off all such maladies, you have accepted the inglorious job of escorting a miserly merchant from the crumbling port city of Theviss to the even more weathered city of Ulak, deep in what was once prime Farmland, but is now mostly weeds surrounding the last farms keeping Ulak alive.
There is a week's worth of travel between Theviss and Ulak. A week in the weird and warped badlands that separate the last settlements clinging to a semblance of civilization. Old storytellers say the world's death has poisoned the minds of the wild creatures. You don't know whether that is true, but everyone knows the badlands are home to aggressive animals, monstrous beasts, and foul magic. You may well have your jobs cut out for you .... if you dare to go.
The gods of Rue:
Athelgarde The Only Queen
Ruthless, mirthless and relentless, Athelgarde is the last deity watching over the continuation of civilization. Her sole interest and purpose; to perpetuate city-based life in spite of all the forces of decay worrying at her territory. Consequently, her edicts are harsh and the actions of her black-robed clergy and the nobility sponsored by her church are .... equally uncompromising.
Portfolio: Cities, civilization, crafts, industry, sea-faring
Cleric alignments: LE, LN, NE
Domains: Artifice, Community, Evil, Law, Protection, Water
Subdomains: Defense, Home, Oceans, Purity, Toil, Tyranny
Favoured weapon: Heavy mace
Appearance/symbol: A beautiful woman wearing a toga, cast entirely of black iron
Kebal The lord of Fate, the Doom of Rue.
Kebal is the deity of predestination, fate and entropy. His grey monasteries stand in most of the remaining cities, and his faith is everywhere. The grey-robed priests of Kebal remind people daily of the fact that their god is mightiest and his hand is upon Rue. Make your peace with the Doom, for fighting him is pointless and only hastens your end.
Portfolio: Doom, fate, predestination
Cleric alignments: LE, LN, N
Domains: Darkness, Death, Destruction, Law, Luck
Subdomains: Catastrophe, Curse, Fate, Loss
Favoured weapon: Ranseur
Appearance/symbol: A giant wrapped in stone armour, a horned helmet with lowered visor hiding his face
Laelae The Dead Dancer, the Luminous
Laelae is the little sister and herald of Kebal, the princess of death and release. Where Kebal looms and threatens, Laelae passes through the lives of mortals as light as air, releasing them from pain and fear, ending their suffering.
Portfolio: Death, freedom, mercy
Cleric alignments: CN, LN, N, NG
Domains: Air, Charm, Liberation, Repose
Subdomains: Freedom, Love, Souls, Wind
Favoured weapon: Dagger
Appearance/symbol: A waif-like humanoid of no particular species, her skin blue, her eyes and hair white, clothed only in a dark shroud.
Nevy-Nee Charging Through Dreams
Nevy-Nee is the lady of dreams, both the source of grand fantasies and nightmares, each in fair measure to whichever mind is visited by her creations. She is also the elder sister of Petty-Boon.
While she may once have been a true guardian of the living, the same despair that lies upon the rest of Rue has also touched her. Nevy-Nee has retreated into dreams and refuses to leave them, spending the last days of Rue here, where her power is greatest still, so that when the end comes, it will at least not find her awake and aware.
Her smiling clergy will give visitors to the Lady's temples an opportunity to lose themselves in beautiful dreams, courtesy of the opium and other drugs they sell. And if you pay enough, they will usher you into dreams from which you will never awaken.... just like their Lady.
Portfolio: Dreams, drugs, omens, soothsaying
Cleric alignments: CN, LN, N, NE, NG
Domains: Chaos, Darkness, Madness, Trickery
Subdomains: Deception, Night, Nightmare
Favoured weapon: Rapier
Appearance/symbol: A great nightmare with mane and tail of blue smoke, trailing off into infinity
Petty-Boon Bard of the Impossible, Singer of Insanities
Petty-Boon, little brother of Nevy-Nee and lover of Vexat, is a stubborn holdover of the green and verdant days, considered naive by mortals and gods alike, and often ignored. His is a single voice crying out for mortals to hold on to hope and not give in to the cruelties of fate, whispering to fools and dreamers that the end may be approaching, but it is not unavoidable. Consequently, he and his church are considered to be anathema by the church of Kebal, and they are few and far between. In remarkable contrast, both the churches of Athelgarde and Vexat welcome the clergy of Petty-Boon, whose uplifting message helps keep people from falling into despair and madness.
Portfolio: Dance, Fauns, fertility, hope, Ponies, Satyrs, song, thought, travel
Cleric alignments: CG, LG, N, NG
Domains: Charm, Good, Knowledge, Travel
Subdomains: Exploration, Friendship, Love, Lust, Memory, Thought, Trade
Favoured weapon: Unarmed strike
Appearance: Petty-Boon is a known shapeshifter, and can appear in any of a Thousand guises. He is known to favour the shapes of Fauns and Satyrs, but is just as likely to appear as a goatherd or a wandering goat.
Symbol: Pan flute
Vexat Mother of Chaos, Mother of Madness, Mother of Magic, Mother Vixen
Vexat, the undisputed queen of magic and chaos, is an ancient power, easily older than her eternal enemies Athelgarde and Kebal. Her following takes the form of shadowy cults who meet in stone circles in the wild or in catacombs and cellars, rather than official temples and churches, and her followers are few and far between -- and yet her faith has never weakened in all the ages of Rue. She was as strong in the distant stone age, as in the green and verdant days, as now in the dying days of the world. Her faithful say that when Rue dies, Vexat will be the one to give birth to a new world, and that she gave birth to Rue as well. Regardless whether this is true or not, it is a certainty that her followers continue to fight the oppressive forces of Kebal and Athelgarde as they have always done, seeking out youngsters to instruct in the secrets of magic and preserving ancient knowledge.
Portfolio: Art, chaos, creativity, foxes, Kitsune, magic
Cleric alignments: CE, CG, CN, N
Domains: Animal, Chaos, Charm, Knowledge, Magic
Subdomains: Arcane, Fur, Lust, Memory
Favoured weapon: Sword cane
Appearance: Like her lover Petty-Boon, Vexat is a known shapeshifter. She favours the shape of great foxes and shapely Kitsune, but can appear in any guise, anywhere.
Symbol: A nine-armed spiral, turning clockwise
Dead gods of Rue:
Fuash Blazing Man, King of the Blaze
Brother of Nevy-Nee and Sibilan, Fuash was born at the beginning of the Verdant Age to embody fire, light and the sun. Unlike his brother, he was carefree, playful and selfish. He helped no one, opposed no one, he simply chased his own tail around the world and amused himself.
When Sibilan was murdered at the Celestial Gathering, Fuash was horrified. He was doubly horrified when his sister started to retreat into dreams instead of helping him fill their brother's place. His greatest shock, however, came when he realized that no matter how hard he tried, he was incapable of replacing his brother. In the end, Fuash did not die under the hands of another deity; his worship waned as he tried - and kept failing - to fill the void left by Sibilan and the sun of Rue started to weaken and fail. One day, the King of the Blaze woke up, looked around, looked at himself -- and snuffed out his own flame.
Portfolio: Light, fire, sun
Cleric alignments: CG, CN, NG
Domains: Chaos, Fire, Liberation, Plant, Sun
Subdomains: Day, Freedom, Growth, Light
Favoured weapon: Scimitar
Appearance/symbol: Fuash appeared as a tall, muscular man with flames for hair, beard and moustache, and the sun blazing out of his eyes and mouth. In his good time, he was constantly smiling or laughing, and he looked healthy and happy.
Ild All Evil, the Loving Son
Ild, deity of Evil, was born alongside Vexat the Younger at the end of the Age of Glorious Barbarism, when Otom raped Vexat the Elder. As Ild beheld his mother and sister fuse into one entire Vexat, driving Otom-Gharne into despair and madness, he was overwhelmed by her smooth counterstrike against his father, tried to force himself upon her.
In all the ages that followed, Ild laid waste to the innocent and seduced the virtuous, eventually founding the Evil Empires in his own name -- and always presenting his achievements to Vexat in an effort to impress and seduce her. Unfortunately for him, Vexat held Ild in just as much disdain as he focused his wicked desires on her.
When Kebal struck down Six-Armed Sikka, Ild's little sister, Ild's cry of pain mingled with Vexat's cry of rage. But when Kebal struck down Ild at the Celestial Gathering and he cried out for his mother/sister, she was silent and turned away from him. And into silence, Ild passed.
Portfolio: Evil, , malice, perversion, politics, torture
Cleric alignments: CE, LE, N, NE
Domains: Charm, Death, Destruction, Evil, Trickery
Subdomains: Catastrophe, Deception, Lust, Murder
Favoured weapon: Dagger
Appearance/symbol: Ild was a known shape-shifter, but he favoured the forms of giant jackals and Jackalweres in informal settings, and the shape of a tall, handsome, muscular human man in black clothing and a top hat when trying to leave a positive impression
Jannis-Mort Bard of Animation, Queen of the Undead
The little sister of Vakal, Jannis-Mort was called into existence by her older sister for the express purpose of being her counter opposite in the name of the Balance. As a result, Jannis-Mort was loud, energetic, overly fond of alcohol and celebrations, and playful - in a sinister way. In spite of their opposing roles and personalities, she did hold her older sister in sincere respect.
Kebal lured Jannis-Mort into a trap by abusing her respect for Vakal, his sister; he released a rumour that someone had forged a weapon to slay Vakal, and when Jannis-Mort investigated, his legions cut her off from her own support and he struck her down from behind, absorbing her mastery over the Death domain for his own use.
Portfolio: Undeath, alcohol, poison, snakes, unethical science
Cleric alignments: CE, CN, NE
Domains: Chaos, Death, Evil, Liberation
Subdomains: Murder, Revolution, Undead
Favoured weapon: Handaxe
Appearance/symbol: A dark-skinned woman, wearing only a skirt, a greatcoat and a tophat, with a skeleton painted onto her skin
Otom was one of the original quartet of deities to preside over the world of Rue when it was newly formed. His duty was to stand opposite Vakal by guiding life while she ministered to the dead. Unfortunately, Otom neglected his duties due to his lustful fascination with Vexat, one of the other four primal deities to oversee the world. Because of his lack of attention, life did arise, but it became more varied than it should have been, leading to much strife and conflict all throughout the Age of Glorious Barbarism.
As Vexat continued to ignore Otom's crude attempts at seduction, he finally snapped, and forced himself on her. To his astonishment, she immediately gave birth to two children; the malicious Ild and a younger version of herself. To his horror, the two versions of Vexat, old and young, fused into a whole entity - which he could not distinguish from the original. Gripped by uncertainty as to whether he had violated his own blood or simply been tricked, Otom descended into madness and passed into silence, his essence spawning the triplets Fuash, Nevy-Nee and Sibilan. His death signalled the end of the Age of Glorious Barbarism and began the Verdant Age.
Portfolio: Life, endurance, power, strength
Cleric alignments: CE, CG, CN
Domains: Animal, Chaos, Strength, Weather
Subdomains: Feather, Ferocity, Fur, Resolve, Seasons, Storms
Favoured weapon: Greatclub
Appearance/symbol: Otom's symbol and appearance were both the form of a hulking Cave Giant, dragging a greatclub as large as he was, his belt festooned with the skulls of every living creature ever to have lit a fire or shaped a tool.
Sibilan The Fair Magistrate, the Honest Judge
Born at the dawn of the Verdant Age, Sibilan was by far the most fair-minded and honest of all the gods. He was certainly a better person than his sister Nevy-Nee or his brother Fuash, and he was well-beloved by a great number of mortals from many different species and tribes. It is Sibilan's influence which encouraged Petty-Boon to depart the dream realm sponsored by his big sister Nevy-Nee and help spread hope among mortals. He is also the one who countered most of Ild's evils during the Verdant Age, and who inspired most of the insurrections against the Evil Empires.
Alas, Sibilan died at the Celestial Gathering, struck down at the same time as the hateful Ild. Their blood mingled, and as Ild passed into silence, so did noble Sibilan....
Portfolio: Fairness, honesty, jurisprudence, justice, kindness, mercy
Cleric alignments: LG, LN, NG
Domains: Good, Healing, Law, Leadership
Subdomains: Leadership, Restoration, Resurrection
Favoured weapon: Longsword
Appearance/symbol: A tall man in a judge's robes, both hands leaning on the pommel of a golden longsword. The species of the male varied per owner or the person Sibilan was speaking to, but his features are always calm, dignified, and project an understated beauty.
Sikka Six-Armed Sikka
The little sister of Ild, god of evil, Sikka was the patron of sin. No matter which form she assumed, she always had three faces, representing sin of opportunity, sin of necessity, and sin of cold calculation, and six arms. Like her elder brother, Sikka spent her existence tempting and corrupting mortals, but unlike him she had a decent relationship with her aunt/grandmother Vexat; both Sikka and Vexat understood the power of random events in life and existence at large.
When Kebal lured Sikka into a trap, using clues about the identity of the murderer of her best friend Jannis-Mort as breadcrumbs so he could isolate and murder her, Vexat rose in wrath and battled the Doom of Rue to avenge her.
Portfolio: Sin, cruelty, misanthropy, poverty, starvation, temptation
Cleric alignments: CE, N, NE
Domains: Evil, Liberation, Madness, Trickery
Subdomains: Deception, Freedom, Insanity, Thievery
Favoured weapon: Gauntlet
Appearance/symbol: Sikka appeared mostly as a beautiful hybrid of Human, Elf and one other species, the latter changing depending on who she was talking to. Each of her faces reflected the person she was addressing or, in the case of her symbols, the owner. Her manifestations and symbols were usually dressed in a beautiful sari.
Vakal Guardian at the Final Gate, Keeper of the Netherworld
Vakal, one of the four deities who oversaw the birthing pangs of the world that would become Rue and elder sister of Jannis-Mort, was always known as the most even-tempered of the original quartet of deities. While Vexat and Kebal quarreled over the course their creation should take and Otom let his desire for Vexat distact him from his duties, Vakal tended her duties and nothing else.
Vakal never let any of her peers distract her from the work of ferrying the newly dead away from the world of the living and to their deserved destination in the afterlife - not even when it would have been wise for her to do so. She never realized Kebal was scheming to kill her, and when the Doom of Rue struck down her little sister, she was caught completely off-guard. While she was still reeling from the loss, Kebal attacked her, his armies overwhelming hers, and died upon her throne.
Portfolio: Death, balance, order, psychopomps
Cleric alignments: LE, LG, LN, N
Domains: Law, Nobility, Protection, Repose
Subdomains: Ancestors, Defence, Leadership, Martyr, Purity, Souls
Favoured weapon: Scythe
Appearance/symbol: A pale woman with dark hair, dressed in a grey toga; her eyes are closed and her hands are folded at her waist like a mourner