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Author Topic: Savage Age: Argyrian Empire  (Read 106311 times)
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« Reply #165 on: June 17, 2014, 11:32:02 AM »

The Underworld

The Underworld of Argyrian mythology is a dreary facet of the spirit realms. It is the home of the chthonic deities and also the place wherein souls of mortal men are drawn after death. The Underworld overlaps with the world of the living, touching it in various locations that permit passage between the twain. Such entrancies are most often found within natural caves, but the subterranean crypts and catacombs of old necropoleis may also contain passageways. Another way to reach the Underworld is to sail to the shores of the Twilight Lands, a fabled place at the edge of the world.

The Underworld is described as a grim and barren wasteland, engulfed in perpetual darkness and devoid of color and warmth. The air there is stale and reeks of decay, while a bitter coldness assails one relentlessly, chilling the blood and sapping strength. Time itself seems to grind to a halt, stalled in an eternal standstill. Three forbidding rivers, of blood, pitch and venom, meander sluggishly through the desolate expanse. The umbral milieu defies rational conceptions of space: in the Underworld distance and direction are haphazard measures at best, landmarks may change their positions or orientation when one is looking away, passages wind and loop in impossible ways, and doorways when revisited lead to different places than they did before. It is very easy to get lost in this perilous otherworld.

Locations and Denizens

Neleus' Palace
In the heart of the Underworld is the palatial house of it's sovereign lord, the ill-tempered god Neleus. Built from massive blocks of granite, this gargantuan structure looms imposingly, akin to a fortress. The interior is dimly lit by festooned oil lamps, and centers round a great reception hall where the mirthless lord holds his court. Few are those who seek his audience willingly, for while the sullen host is generous with wine and entertainments there remains an unshakeable, oppressive atmosphere that quickly diminishes the spirits of the most cheerful of guests.

The Phantom Wind
A dread wind that blows from the pitch-black depths, occasionally reaching even the surface of the overworld. It reeks of the putric stench of an open grave and carries forth the cacophonous lamentations of wailing ghosts.

Amazon's Rest
A fortress of wrought iron walls stands upon a blood-soaked plain smattered with bleached bones, broken weapons and rusted pieces of armour, reminiscent of a battlefield. It is the abode of the dread war-goddess Amazon and her retinue of furies. Anyone that dares approach it will be torn limb from limb by the furies.

The Rock of Colosseus
When the golden arrow shot by Argyros slew his monstrous brother Colosseus, the very earth split and parted underneath where the giant fell, his corpse descending directly into the Underworld. There he was shackled and bound, at the command of Neleus, to an immense boulder with an unbreakable chain forged by cyclopses. Colosseus remains thusly imprisoned and bitterly curses the day of his defeat. The arrow that broke his ravenous heart remains impaled on his chest still, the wound bleeding an outpour of bitter blood that fills one of the Underworld's three rivers. From time to time Colosseus tests the strength of his bounds, his formidable but futile struggles causing destructive earthquakes up on the world of mortal men. His enraged wails reverberate across the Underworld, so loud and terrible that they strike fear in the hearts of all who hear them.

The Valley of the Dead
An ash-gray plain broken by jagged boulders and perpetually obscured in a haze of freezing mist. Listlessly wandering about this scarred lanscape are throngs of the dead: dour, apathetic shades that barely remember the lives they once lived. Consigned to an eternity of languid torpor, they know only bitter resentment and envy toward the living. Somewhere atop a mound of bones a great drum is beaten, it's dull and monotonous rhythm a beacon guiding the recently deceased on their way to the afterlife. Entrance to the valley is through a gate of brass guarded by the deity Aphrastus the Gatekeeper, who alone decides which souls are permitted to pass.

Enerthys
The grisly figure of the lictor-god Enerthys frequently makes forays into the Valley of the Dead to hunt down oathbreakers at his leisure. He decapitates them and tosses their heads on the steadily growing heap outside his abode.

Grotto of the Unborn
When a child is stillborn it's parents will kill a rooster and bury it, unplucked, sealed within a ceramic vase along with the remains of the fetus. A ritual incantation is inked on the jar to summon a daemon that will spirit away the lost child's soul, which would be unable to travel into the afterlife on it's own. Such souls are destined for a hidden grotto somewhere in the Underworld. The cave's entrance is guarded by a pair of simian monsters, one of them blind and the other one deaf.

The Twilight Coast
Located on the edge of the world of Men is a forlorn strand of gray sand and weathered rocks locked in perpetual twilight, a liminal space betwixt the Underworld and the vastness of oceanic waters. It is said that those who drown in the sea may be washed ashore here and thence be able to complete their journey to the Valley of the Dead, but many such souls are less fortunate and end up haunting the world as terrifying sea-ghosts. Mariners who sail too far into the open sea may reach this ominous coast. Those foolhardy enough to beach and venture inland will enter the Underworld, and may never find their way back. A necromantic ritual may be performed on the shore to summon shades from the Valley of the Dead, allowing one to make contact with the deceaced in person.

The Gate of Destiny
The mysteries of the cecropian serpent-priests speak of secret pathways, revealed to the initiates of the cult, that lead to the Gate of Destiny and through it to one's next incarnation in the cycle of life and death. The final obstacle on this journey is a bridge that arcs over a deep chasm wherein dwells the ravenous twelve-headed Erebean Hydra. Initiates are taught a formulaic meter which they should recount to cross safely. Those who lack knowledge of these secret words are devoured by the beast.

Having reached the gate the supplicant prostrates himself before the Gatekeeper and is presented with three trials - ordeals where he must reconcile with the shadows of his past, prove himself to be worthy in the present, and embrace the unknown that is the future. The trials are different for every supplicant, for they reflect upon their personal flaws and vices. Those who pass these tests are bid to drink from a cup filled with the bitter black waters of forgetfulness, wiping their memories of past life. Only then may they step through the gate which leads to their being reincarnated into the next life, the trials determining their destiny therein. Those who proved unworthy to pass are cast into the slavering jaws of the hydra.

The Shimmering Mountain
A fabulous mountain of the purest gold and silver, of lustrous pearl and amber and jade, rises beyond a forbidding moat of boiling tar, tantalizingly always just mere inches too far away for one to make the leap across. On the summit of this prodigious mound an opulent pavillion gleams with the brilliance of a thousand upon thousand diamonds and rubies and emeralds decorating it's exterior. Muffled sensual rhythms of the harp and flute, and glimpses of shadows and silhouettes cast by the supple figures of dancer-girls hint at the luxuriant delights to be found within. A faint scent of myrrh and frankincense mixed with the fragrant aroma of spiced delicacies somehow issues past the stench of the steaming tar, teasing and tempting. This is the empyreal lair of the many-faced goddess Alphaia. A parliament of nefarious harpies roosts on the pavilion's ivory-plated roof.

Caliginosa, the Dreamscape
In this strange quarter of the Underworld originate dreams, phantasms and illusions. The Dreamscape is ephemereal and untractable even moreso than the rest of the Underworld; a nebulous landscape of shifting and blending vistas equally captivating and dreadful in their otherworldly majesty, a warped space wherein nothing is fixed or constant. It's erratic ruler is Oneiria, the Goddess Impalpable, who drifts through her domain singing an eternal song. Caliginosa borders the Valley of the Dead, and can only be accessed through that realm.

The Tower of Riddles
Lair of the sinister Chthonian Sphinges -- twisted hybrid beasts that delight in tormenting Men with their uncanny riddles, almost as much as they delight in devouring the hapless fools that fail to unravel these enigmas. Each sphinx will confront an intruder with a single question, all of which must be answered to reach the pinnacle. Kept on the top of the tower is a puzzle-box said to contain the secret of immortality, a prize to be claimed by whoever proves able to open it.

The Terrors Beneath
Belching smoke and foul odors, the nethermost chasms of the Underworld yawn wide and open like outstreched maws of some enormous beasts. Obscured in unpenetrable darkness, they are said to extend so deep that an anvil dropped from the edge of one would fall for ten thousand years before reaching the bottom. These awful pits reverberate with echoing groans and howls of unseen monstrosities; primordial horrors cast into those unfathomable depths during aeons immemorable even to the eldest of gods. In one of these abysms slumbers the formless behemoth and devourer-of-worlds that is Amorphis, tangled among the roots of the World Tree, lulled by the feverish drumming and piping of degenerate cyclopses.
« Last Edit: June 17, 2014, 11:43:47 AM by Ghostman » Logged

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« Reply #166 on: July 21, 2014, 12:15:36 PM »

So the underworld is my favorite part of the setting thus far!

Another way to reach the Underworld is to sail to the shores of the Twilight Lands, a fabled place at the edge of the world. I like the multiple entryways: very Mictlan-ish. I love the three rivers of blood, pitch, and venom. The wind is also cool; I like how you describe it's feel, its sound, and its smell.

Neleus' Palace: You paint a good ambience to the place, but the site seems lacking somehow. For example, what might draw someone there (willingly). What wonders and guardians (besides Neleus) are therein?

Amazon's Rest: To me, Amazon, by itself, seems a bland name, overused by modern society. That said, what do the war-goddess and furies do down there?

The Rock of Colosseus: Maybe my favorite. Echoes multiple mythologies, but in a good way. The description and past of the place is poetic and evocative.

The Valley of the Dead: I like the freezing mist, listless shades, and gates. The drum is really cool as well. Does the Gatekeeper beat it?

Enerthys: A lictor-god who leisurely hunts down deceased betrayers? I love it. The decapitation seems a bit bland though, honestly as a punishment from a god to a dead shade. I'm not saying it needs to be gruesome, just a bit more supernatural -like maybe he wenches the heads of the shades, so they always face backwards and pluck their tongues to make his standard?

Grotto of the Unborn: Cool ritual, cool place. Simian guardians are really intriguing as well.

The Twilight Coast: Elegant, plot-rich concept.

The Gate of Destiny: Cool site. It does make me wonder though. The tests sound tough, and failure means being eaten by the hydra and presumably not being reincarnated. Consequently, does that mean that the race is slowly dying away as more and more fail the tests and aren't reincarnated?

The Shimmering Mountain: Love the place, especially the juxtaposition of the boiling tar, mineral riches, and sensual shadows. The name is okay, but doesn't quite rise to the level of coolness that the area does, in my humble opinion. Alternates: Mount Lucre, The Gilded Cornucopia?

Caliginosa, the Dreamscape: So dreams originate in the underworld? That's a distinct cosmology. Do the dead here dream? Regardless, I love the names Caliginosa and Goddess Impalpable.

The Tower of Riddles: Chthonian Sphinges: cool name. I also love the puzzle-box allegedly contained immortality.

The Terrors Beneath: I like the name. The dropping anvil line is good too.
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« Reply #167 on: July 21, 2014, 02:39:02 PM »

Thank you for your feedback Rose-of-Vellum! Glad to read that you're finding this part of the setting to your liking smile

Rose-of-Vellum

Neleus' Palace: You paint a good ambience to the place, but the site seems lacking somehow. For example, what might draw someone there (willingly). What wonders and guardians (besides Neleus) are therein?
I agree about there being something lacking. I struggled quite a bit writing up the palace and never felt 100% satisfied with it myself. Any visit to the palace should be a reluctant undertaking (beyond the borderline lunacy of intensionally entering the Underworld in the first place) warranted by plot devices. Presumably one needs really badly something that only Neleus may grant, be that information or specific divine favours.


Rose-of-Vellum

Amazon's Rest: To me, Amazon, by itself, seems a bland name, overused by modern society. That said, what do the war-goddess and furies do down there?
Ah, the thing with Amazon is that she is a dead goddess -- but one that returns to life whenever a major battle is taking place. Thus she has to stay in the Underworld much of the time, and chooses to spend it in her fortress. What she's actually doing is anyone's guess. It might be that she's simply resting.


Rose-of-Vellum

The Valley of the Dead: I like the freezing mist, listless shades, and gates. The drum is really cool as well. Does the Gatekeeper beat it?

Enerthys: A lictor-god who leisurely hunts down deceased betrayers? I love it. The decapitation seems a bit bland though, honestly as a punishment from a god to a dead shade. I'm not saying it needs to be gruesome, just a bit more supernatural -like maybe he wenches the heads of the shades, so they always face backwards and pluck their tongues to make his standard?
There's a minor deity responsible for the drumming. As for Enerthys, his decapitations are less a matter of punishment and more a matter of collecting trophies. It's much like bored aristocrats going on hunts as their favoured pastime. I'm also trying to avoid making the Underworld too gruesome, as it's not really supposed to be HELL so much as a frightening otherworld that reflects the harshness and brutal inevitabilities of life in an iron age civilization.


Rose-of-Vellum

The Gate of Destiny: Cool site. It does make me wonder though. The tests sound tough, and failure means being eaten by the hydra and presumably not being reincarnated. Consequently, does that mean that the race is slowly dying away as more and more fail the tests and aren't reincarnated?
This gate didn't become part of the mythology until after the Cecropian mystery cult was adopted into the corpus of lore and traditions of the Argyrians. Their original concept of afterlife was limited to an eternity spent wasting away in the Valley of the Dead, so naturally there was an implication that new souls were created as people were born. The novel concept of reincarnation (transmigration of souls) did not challenge this, it merely added the possibility of a living person having lived past lives. Not that the cult has become universally accepted, and many Argyrians stick to the older perception of their cosmology.


Rose-of-Vellum

Caliginosa, the Dreamscape: So dreams originate in the underworld? That's a distinct cosmology. Do the dead here dream? Regardless, I love the names Caliginosa and Goddess Impalpable.
It's actually inspired by classical mythology - what with Hypnos being the twin brother of Thanatos and living in the Underworld.

Now, whether or not the dead dream is an interesting question to ponder! Death and slumber are likened to each other and connected in mystic ways. Dreams might be regarded as visions from beyond the veil of mortality. The dead that have passed on and become shades in the Underworld are stripped of most of the qualities that they possessed while alive, being incapable of most emotions and ambitions. Stuck in endless tedium, they probably cannot fall asleep, but it's questionable if they truly are 'awake' in the same sense as the living. Perhaps they do dream but are unable to tell the difference? Doubtlessly philosophers and theologicians could have the most fascinating debates over the matter. Ordinary people OTOH wouldn't be as interested, and probably prefer not to think too often and hard about the fine details of what awaits them beyond the end of their lives.
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« Reply #168 on: July 21, 2014, 03:12:11 PM »

Re Neleus: I likely don't know enough about the god to know what might belong or could be added.

Re Amazon: That's a really, really cool concept of a war-goddess being dead, but resurrecting during war (and dying again when peace resumes). Very cool. Still 'meh' about her name, but the concept is golden.
 
Re Enerthys: That's fair enough. Does he have hounds or other things with him on said hunts? Do the dead know and fear him -or do they shuffle like half-sensile prey? Do the decapitated shades continue to 'live'?

Re Reincarnation: Ah, that makes sense. I wasn't aware of the Cecroprian mystery cult info.

Re Caliginosa: Oh, I don't mind it being there; it was just unexpected (to clarify, I was seeing a distinction between sleep and dreams). So, for example, Hypnos -the Personification of sleep- was indeed the brother of death and 'lived' in the underworld. However, his sons, including Morpheus the personification of dreams- did not; they lived in ocean-shore cave in the 'west'. However, by tying dreams and death more closely in your setting, it does offer some interesting possibilities. For instance, when people dream, do they believe that that were walking in the lands of the dead? That in going to sleep, one dies a bit, then is born upon waking, a minor reincarnation of sorts?
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« Reply #169 on: July 21, 2014, 03:55:47 PM »

I prefer to reserve hounds for other gods (there's -lots- of them, yet to be detailed and posted), as Enerthys is not quite as strongly associated with hunting as some others. The shades definitely fear him. Indeed, many of the lesser gods and denizens of the Underworld probably fear him -- he's not someone to pick a fight with. Decapitated shades are somehow 'deader' than dead, the exact meaning of which is beyond mortal comprehension. It's one of those things that, if you ask ten priests about it, you'll prolly get ten different explanations.

Dreams do originate in the Underworld, but Caliginosa is still merely adjacent to the Valley of the Dead (whatever 'adjacent' means in a cosmos that defies mundane concepts of geometry...), not the same place exactly. There's a belief that people drift closer to the spirit realms in general, and the afterworld of the shades in particular, when asleep. It's not regarded as dying though.
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« Reply #170 on: April 19, 2015, 09:52:55 AM »

The Poetess Himeria


Born under brilliant stars, Himeria was a daughter of a flax-merchant. Blessed she was with eyes of alluring beauty and a voice of sublime euphony, and endowed with a natural gift for poetry, which she came to practice and love with passion.

Scores of suitors came to her bearing offerings of scented oils and kohl and honeyed wine, but she refused them all and married instead a poor farmer who tended a meagre field. Her life as the farmer's wife was simple and austere, but she worked hard and felt content with this fate. On every day of toil her voice lifted in joyous poems.

One day an affluent lord came passing by the road with his entourage, and by chance he caught a glimpse of Himeria sowing an oat-field, and he heard her sonorous verses. So thoroughly was the lord captivated by her beauty and the melody of her voice and the eloquence of her poem, that he at once ordered his men to seize her and bring her to him. He had her taken to the palace where she was bathed and perfumed and adorned with expensive silks and jewelry, and he made her one of his concubines. She quickly became the center of attention in the court, the object of deep adoration and envy.

Yet amidst this luxury her heart was heavy with sadness, as she longed for her loving farmer-husband. She began pouring her sorrows into her poetry. The poems she composed were of such tragic grace that even the gods wept when she sung them, and a great downpour of rain fell from the heavens, threatening to flood the earth.

Parthenia, the maiden dusk-goddess, took pity upon Himeria, and appeared to her in a dream holding forth an incandescent weft of many-colored thread, and spake thus: "Take this weft and weave it on the loom and fashion the cloth into a peplos. Wear this dress on the day of the Koraia, the maiden festival." When she awoke from the dream, Himeria found the miraculous weft placed by her mattress. She did as instructed; for a hundred nights she worked on the loom, until at last the peplos was finished.

The day of the Koraia came, and Himeria did clothe herself in the many-colored peplos, and she proceeded to the sacred orchard with the people of the palace, and everyone was awed by the wondrous lustre of her dress. In the orchard she sung a poem in praise of the dusk-goddess, and soon as she'd uttered the final verse did Parthenia appear; and the goddess lifted her up, and on wings of golden feathers spirited her away, up to the sky where she placed her among the clouds.

On the heavenly dome she remains to this day, looking down upon the earth - so it is said, still searching for her husband. On rainy days the hem of her many-colored peplos may be glimpsed arcing across the sky, it's radiant beauty ever captivating and inspiring the souls of poets.


Baskets of oat seeds are dedicated as offerings to deified Himeria on the Koraia festifal, in remembrance of her diligence and humble contentment during her rustic life. The act of offering is often complemented with reverent poetry.

« Last Edit: April 19, 2015, 10:12:03 AM by Ghostman » Logged

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