The Windsong Testaments: On Family Bonds

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The bonds of family are strong and can blind even the gods to atrocity and awfulness. And no deity knows better the dangers of trusting one’s sibling than Shelyn, sister of Zon-Kuthon.

In the earliest days of mortal life on Golarion, there was no Zon-Kuthon. None suspected what dark fate awaited Shelyn’s brother Dou-Bral, and indeed the two deities were, in many societies, worshiped as a single faith, an inseparable pair devoted to the pursuit of song and joy. But even among the ranks of the divine, nothing is forever. The most dour and depressed take a lesson in this, alas, in that a mortal’s limited time on the world is a blessing. For the longer one lives, the more chances you’ll have of facing betrayal from those you once held most dear.

Arguments between siblings are part of the parcel, and both Shelyn and Dou-Bral had had their share of squabbles before, but the clash that would shatter their familial ties was something so overwhelming that it changed both deities forever. Whatever the cause of the great dissonance between the siblings, the results were undeniable. Dou-Bral abandoned his faithful and reality alike, leaving his sister to grieve and mourn as if he had perished. The prayers of Dou-Bral’s faithful went unheard, and those of the faith who survived this betrayal were welcomed into Shelyn’s church even as the goddess herself struggled with the results of that great sadness. It would be ages before anyone heard again of Shelyn’s brother, but when they did, they—Shelyn included—would have rather remained forever in mourning.

For when he returned, he was no longer Dou-Bral. He had become Zon-Kuthon. Unknown to the gods or the faithful, Dou-Bral had not only abandoned his family and followers, but reality itself. He had traveled to the very depths of the Outer Rifts, pushing beyond borders held in fear by the most ancient dwellers in those unknown Abyssal depths, to emerge into the Beyond Beyond. And what he found there destroyed him. And what he found there reincarnated him. A cycle of death and rebirth taken place outside of the auspices of Pharasma herself, Dou-Bral ended and Zon-Kuthon began.

Forever changed and transformed from the unimaginable ordeals and torments suffered during his absence, Zon-Kuthon did not immediately seek his family’s pardon upon his return, yet as different as he had become from what had been before, enough of Dou-Bral remained within the tormented frame of the new god of loss and pain for Shelyn to take notice.

Zon-Kuthon repaid Shelyn’s extended hand of forgiveness with trauma and agony, piercing the flesh of her hand with his razored nails. When she cried out in pain and again offered forgiveness, Zon-Kuthon responded by slaughtering their father, Thron. The mutilated god twisted and broke and reshaped Thron into his own enslaved herald, the Prince in Chains, an act that provoked Shelyn into something she had never before engaged in—battle.

Shelyn, the goddess of art, beauty, love, and music, confronts Zon-Kuthon, the god of envy, pain, darkness, and loss who was formerly her brother Dou-Bral.

Illustration by Yu Cheng Hong

The siblings’ combat shook the pillars of reality, and on worlds spread throughout the Material Plane, things of beauty withered and wept and bled and died. Zon-Kuthon had grown powerful indeed from his exposure to that which transformed him Beyond the Beyond, but Shelyn was empowered by her own righteousness. The battle ended in a draw as Shelyn wrested away Zon-Kuthon’s murderous glaive. She’d hoped that separating him from what she believed to be the source of his corruption would set him free, but in the time of horrors that followed, she realized that the glavie itself was not the source—that her brother was now forever a slave to loss. As news of Zon-Kuthon’s treatment of his father and sister spread among the gods, an unsettling schism began to form. Some took offense at the acts and called for Zon-Kuthon’s execution. Others expressed admiration for his cruelty and professed support in pursuit of a change to divine order.

Abadar, forever protector of society, be it among mortals or the divine, saw the rumblings of civil war among the gods and took action. He offered Zon-Kuthon a choice to accept banishment to the prison realm of Xovaikain on the Plane of Shadow for as long as the sun hung in the skies above Golarion, and in return offered the Midnight Lord a single item from the First Vault. Zon-Kuthon agreed and chose from the vault the First Shadow, and once again left the ranks of the divine.

There are those who say Zon-Kuthon knew of the promise of Earthfall, and even others who dared imply he had a hand in its engineering. Whatever the case, the Age of Darkness blotted out the sun above Golarion, and Zon-Kuthon was released from what should have been eternal imprisonment. In that time, though, tempers had cooled. Zon-Kuthon took his gift of the First Shadow and used it to transform his one-time prison into his planar realm and cemented his divine rule over the nation of Nidal, but he was careful to moderate his atrocities so as to avoid arousing the wrath of the other gods. And while his evil lingers in the literal shadow of greater dangers, much as the nation of Nidal’s cruelties are overshadowed by the more blatant mayhem and tyranny of neighboring Cheliax, Shelyn has not forgotten. Still she seeks a method of redeeming her lost brother. Still she seeks a way to save him from the horrors Beyond Beyond. And those who know and love the goddess of love can only pray themselves she finds a way, lest what transformed her brother so long ago find new despair to ripen within.

About the Author

James Jacobs is the Creative Director for Pathfinder. While he was there at the beginning of Golarion’s creation, many of the deities worshiped by that world’s heroes and villains had already existed for decades before. Goddesses and gods like Desna and Rovagug, Sarenrae and Abadar, Achaekek and Zon-Kuthon first established their faithful among PCs and NPCs alike in James’ home campaign in the late 80s and early 90s. Sharing them with the world as deities of the Pathfinder setting, seeing players and creators come to love and hate them (and in some cases cosplay as them), has been a career highlight.

About the Windsong Testaments

On the northern reaches of Varisia’s Lost Coast stands Windsong Abbey, a forum for interfaith discussion tended by priests of nearly twenty faiths and led by a legacy of Masked Abbesses. At the dawn of the Age of Lost Omens, Windsong Abbey suffered as its faithful fought and fled, but today it has begun to recover. A new Masked Abbess guides a new flock within, and the Windsong Testaments—parables about the gods themselves—are once again being recorded within the abbey’s walls. Some of these Testaments are presented here as Golarion’s myths and fables. Some parts may be true. Other parts are certainly false. Which ones are which is left to the faithful to decide.

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Yqatuba wrote:
What exactly did turn him evil? The text just says he turned evil from what he met in the "Beyond Beyond" (is that like a place outside the multiverse or what?) but doesn't say who or what it was. Is it just one of those things that will always be a mystery like The Gap?

It's not always going to be a mystery. At one point, I was spearheading a module called "Sanctum of the Shadow Giants" that would be a high level adventure that would have revealed quite a bit more about Zon-Kuthon, but that adventure never got off the ground for various reasons and a fair amount of that info instead ended up in the Nidal book.. but not all of it.

I can confirm that it was NOT the Lovecraftian deities (Outer Gods, Great Old Ones, etc.) who had anything to do with Zon-Kuthon's transformation from Dou-Bral. It was something else entirely and I hope some day to reveal more, but for now it'll remain a mystery.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

BAD! TRICKSY JACOBSES!


Is Zon-Kuthon even redeemable by now? It's hard to see after all the horrific torture he's inflicted on so many people (maybe even millions by this point.)


My guess is that he came to Earth. Earth certainly has madness enough.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Yqatuba wrote:
Is Zon-Kuthon even redeemable by now? It's hard to see after all the horrific torture he's inflicted on so many people (maybe even millions by this point.)

Everything is in theory redeemable, given the right circumstances. And vice-versa, everything can fall from grace, given the perfect storm of conditions.


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Depends on what you mean by "redeemable", I suspect. Anyone can change: stop doing evil things and start trying to do good instead. What it takes for a god to make that kind of a change is open to question of course.

But some considered redemption to require making up for all the wrong you've done. That's harder when you've millennia of atrocities under your belt.

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