Divinity on Morus
This document is preserved only as a reference. When it has been converted into history, it will be deleted.
In the modern day on Morus, the gods are well-established. In Leng, the relatively new Order of Leng reigns supreme, yet a multitude of old gods are still worshiped in the "heathen" countries or amongst superstitious peasants. In Kyujitai, Githas, Nordmaar, and Zakhara, the details are different - but the story remains the same, because they share common roots. The path that Morus has taken to its current state is a long one, however. Wrapped up in it is a series of conflicts. The primal forces of nature gave way to the mortal soul. The freedom of mortals gave way to the rulership of gods. The rulership of ancient gods gave way to the animism and primal honesty of the old gods that came later. And now, the animism of the old gods gives way to the demands for faith and obedience that is found in the new gods, the gods of civilisation.
All of these themes are essential to the eventual fate of Morus - but how will it end? This document is a high-level history both of Morus itself, and the metaphysics of divinity upon Morus. Note that the information here is hinted at in the "Tales of Creation" in the history section; this is an objective accounting of the history of the gods on Morus and of the planet itself, and is thus full of spoilers. Yes, this does mean that the Tale of Firebirth held by the Cult of the Phoenix is (mostly) wrong.
The True Tale of Firebirth
In a time before time, there were no gods or mortal men on Morus: it was not even part of the Prime Material. It was a Semi-Elemental Plane; a candidate for joining the Material, equally distant from all the Elemental Planes. What it was missing, however, were the souls. The worlds of the multiverse were not formed all at the same time; many other material planes existed long before Morus. Each came to be in its own way, and the Tale of Firebirth describes how it happened on Morus.
No mortal souls came to Morus, and it was still a part of the infinite and unbounded elemental planes. Below Morus, there was an endless Underdark that extended into Earth. Above it, an endless sky extended into Air. In the west and east, an endless ocean extended into Water. In the south, vast plains of magma extended into Fire. It was broken by a vast continent, larger than every known landmass of today combined (though not infinite). Far from being barren, it was lush and verdant with life: in hospitable places such as this, the fey and elemental spirits make merry, and they bring the bounty of nature with them. From scorching desert to raging ocean to towering jungle, it was a place of great extremes. Fey spirits and elementals roamed the wilds alongside magnificent beasts the like of which are not seen today.
It was inhabited, also, by dwarves and gnomes from the Plane of Earth. They named the region Morus, after Moradin. There came a time when these peoples made war with the Ancient Masters, stone monsters from outside of time, cruel and tyrannical. The Ancient Masters were infinite and their power was vast; against such foes, little could be done to resist. It seemed as though the very presence of the dwarves had brought the avatars of changelessness and reaction itself to crush them. Though mortal, they were outsiders in this place which was actively resisting finity.
The dwarves grew desperate, and most fled Morus in the wake of Ancient Masters. The Ancestor Forges, highest of dwarven crafts, were built to preserve the remaining dwarves from their wrath. Every living dwarf on what would become Morus was destroyed or driven out, save those that hid in the Forges - the war was lost. Something happened in the wake of the war, however: something that bounded Morus and made it a Material Plane.
Soon after the last dwarves fled or descended into the Ancestor Forges, Morus broke away from the Elemental. Sky, earth, and ocean were bounded into a vast sphere, cut off from the infinity of the elemental planes and plunged into the darkness of Wildspace. More dramatic than any of the other three elements, though, was the bounding of fire. The great plains of magma in the south rose up and swept over the sky, raining fire down upon Morus. The great continent was split and scattered across the globe, and the fire finally settled on the southern continent. There, it became a globe of light the size of a city, and it scorched everything around it for 100 miles. This was the Firebirth, when the Great Soul came to Morus.
The Ancient Masters were fearful of the Great Soul. On the newly-reborn world of Morus, bounded and finite, they saw themselves for what they now were: the linnorms, primeval dragons. Desiring to return Morus to an infinite realm, they flocked to the Great Soul to destroy it, but they found it guarded. For when it had come to be, its heat and light destroyed all living things nearby. But some were able to withstand its radiance: the elemental spirits. Taking on parts of the Great Soul, they diminished its radiance. Now a combination of soul and spirit, they assumed physical forms and became the First Gods. It was these that the linnorms found, whom they fought - bitterly - before being defeated and scattered across Morus.
From the stone bodies of the linnorms, the First Gods constructed Altea, the first city. While they were building, the wild beasts that had shied from the light when it was brighter now approached and took smaller souls from the diminished orb. Like the First Gods, they transcended and became the First Mortals: the beast-people. These would be the progenitors of the humans, the orcs, and all other mortal humanoids that carry souls in their chests - besides those who, like the gnomes and dwarves, came to Morus from other planes.
For a time, there was peace and order in the kingdom of the First Gods. The wilds, filled with terrors, were a dangerous place for mere mortals, and in those days the nights were far longer. But the First Gods, fuelled by great souls and the devotion of their disciples, protected them. They were benevolent rulers, who built great cities and empires so that their subjects could live in peace. And when they saw that the mortals' bestial forms were inadequate for their sharp minds, they reshaped them in their own image as an act of divine mercy. Occasionally, some great danger from the wilderness would threaten their charges - but when this happened, they needed only to draw a little more power from the Great Soul to put it to rest.
After many thousands of years, the First Gods became concerned. Every time the Great Soul was drawn from, it diminished. In the early days, this was scarcely noticeable, but now it had been tapped many hundreds of times. There were scores of gods, and some were so powerful that they stood as tall as giants. Some took great pride in appearing as the fearsome linnorms did, and frequently made great displays of their power to remind the mortals of their strength.
As a consequence of all this, the Great Soul had shrunk so small that some of the larger gods could reach their arms around it and clasp their hands together. In the years to come, some of the more altruistic gods would sacrifice bits and pieces of their power to sustain it - but it soon became clear that this was not sustainable.. The remaining gods were loth to give up any more power, for fear that their followers would realise that they had grown weaker. The Selfless One gave herself up to the Soul entirely, and her death - the first death of a god - solved the problem for a time. But after a scant thousand years, the situation was more dire than ever.
The mortal servants of the First Gods felt the weakness in their protectors, even if they did not know the cause. The light did not extend quite far enough; the time between purges of the wilderness was just a little too long; resources were just a little too scarce. Just a little - in the beginning. What had once been shining suburbs eventually scrabbled and fought for sustenance, unable to protect themselves or provide for their families. In desperation, mortals sought out other protectors. Black arts were practiced and deals with the fey were made. Those mortals who were descended from the more predatory beasts had never been far from devolving into wildness, and now nothing held them back: brigandry and banditry arose, and crime came to exist on Morus.
The War of the Gods
The Gods became desperate. They had become learned in Sorcery, and particularly the knowledge of the soul, in their millennia of experimentation. They had long since realised a fact of the new world: like attracts like. Before the Great Soul came, there were no souls on Morus that belonged. But now that there were mortals with souls on Morus, they could bear children - creating souls seemingly from nothing. The obedience and faith of their followers had always been enough for the First Gods, but now they became greedy. Looking into their cities, they saw only a mass of souls, waiting to be plundered. Just as one does not lament for the beast that provides for your table, the gods thought it better for a mortal to join with a god than live a meagre, sorry life as a lesser being.
An atrocity was committed. Rituals were conducted in the secret chambers of Altea, city of the First Gods. Thousands of lives were snuffed out in an instant, and the Great Soul swelled. The Second Gods rose up against the First, decrying this abuse of their subjects. The gods went to war for the first time in millennia: fire rained from the sky once more on the southern continent, fragmenting it. Seeing that this war could only end in sorrow, the Second Gods used trickery to steal the Great Soul from Altea and fled the continent to escape their former brethren. They made for the north with their human followers, but the First Gods caught up with them and a great battle ensued over the waters of Morus. The attackers were driven back, but many died in the process, and the Great Soul plunged into the depths of the ocean and was lost.
The Second Gods, with their human followers, came to the southern shores of Leng and built the Citadel of Penance, which still stands today. Their mortal followers called them the Custodians from that point onwards. More waves of refugees came from the south, but they were scattered across Morus as the Great Soul dissolved into the sea, and the Boiling Ocean came to be. So it came to pass that mortals came to Leng, and the other continents of Morus.
Exodus to Leng
In the aftermath of the War of the Gods, the ancient continent on which the First Gods built Altea was sundered by hellfire, and the Great Soul turned the oceans into a boiling, seething cauldron as it dissolved. These impassable waters, which nothing can pass and survive, completely cut the northern hemisphere of Morus off from whatever may have become of the First Gods and their charges.
All that was left were the stragglers and refugees that fled before the cataclysm was complete. The first of these were the Second Gods, who would become the Custodians. They brought their human charges with them. The Great Soul had only just fallen into the ocean, and what remained of their ships made their way easily to the south shores of Leng - the land now known as Khazath.
Filled with sorrow at what they had become, the Custodians built the Citadel of Penance in great vaults beneath the earth of Khazath. It was said to be a mirror copy of Altea, the city of the First Gods, to serve as a reminder of the sins committed by their kind. The only entrance to the citadel was a single great door of burnished bronze, which they sealed with powerful Sorcery, interring themselves within. Their folly had been to rule as kings and walk amongst mortal men; the Custodians knew that their duty was to be protectors, not masters. Before they sealed themselves within, they made a pact with the people of Khazath: honor us and protect the entrance to the Citadel of Penance. Do this, and we will protect you always. To this very day, thousands of years later, the Citadel of Penance stands closed, and the city of Tael Leilan has grown around its entrance. The Shedoleth, or "Honor of the Custodians" is the oldest religion in Leng.
The People of Khazath
The people of Khazath kept to their pact, protecting the entrance to the Citadel of Penance. Yet without the gods to steer them and open the path before them, they were a weak people. They spread throughout Khazath in tribes; though many revered and continued to honor the Custodians, particularly in Khazath, others did not. Those who ventured into the vast jungles that are now called Blackreach, or into the verdant fields that are now the Plains of Dust, found new gods. The memory of the First Gods and their treachery made the wilderness - once so dangerous and hostile - seem like a refuge. The primal capriciousness of fire, the fury of the boar, and cunning of the wolf - all these things were predictable and natural. They did not seek to build kingdoms, or capture souls. The fire cares only for fuel; the wolf, for its next meal.
The Custodians fell by the wayside, and were venerated only by the tribes that lived near the Citadel of Penance. For most, reverence was held for the primal spirits of the elements and the wilderness, a form of animistic shamanism. The Druids are the only tradition that survive these traditions today - the practice of revering Animal-Gods and the Elemental Spirits is no longer common on Leng. For now, though, the humans of the south trusted in their spirit-gods, and lived a pleasant and easy life in the vibrant jungles and crystal shores of southern Leng.
The disciples of the Custodians were the first to arrive on Leng, but not the last. The next group came when the oceans were beginning to boil, and strange winds threw them far off course. They landed in the northeast, in what is now the gnomish kingdom of Tamora. From these inhospitable mountain lands, the migrated into the lush fields and rolling hills of Nevermoor - right into the heart of Leng. Their people has lived there ever since. It is not clear whether they were halflings when they left the mysterious homeland of mortals, or if centuries of hiding from dangerous monsters and consorting with the fey made them so. Either way, the halflings of Nevermoor have always been closer to the fey than all other mortal races.
The halflings were the second great wave to come from the south. After this, only stragglers and refugees came, in dribs and drabs. Those who waited latest of all were those were the most hardy, the most accustomed to bloodshed and misery. These were the monstrous humanoids, changed for the worse by the War of the Gods. When they came, the Boiling Ocean was nearly impassable, and few survived the journey at all. Those who did were thrown furthest off-course of all - they came in small numbers to the area now known as the Uncharted Lands, or the Monstrous Lands. They did not share the fear and reverence for the fey that humans did, and spread defiantly across nothern Leng. Though hopelessly outmatched by the incomprehensible and unknowable magic of the fey, they were numerous and tenacious. It was their presence and their murderous nature that prompted the first retreat of the Grey Elves - the first of many to come.
The Empire of the South
In the ancient times before the Plains of Dust were created and humanity scattered across Leng, the lands that are now Lorknir, Vingaard and the rest of Leng were untamed wilderness. The dwarves were still sleeping in the Ancestor Forges, and fey and elvish forests spread across what is today the Vintas. Humanity lived in the south - in the cradle of mankind. To them, the north, was the home of elves and fairies, and the realm of the gods. It was certainly not a place that normal men could venture to and hope to return. In the south, however, mankind flourished.
In the jungles of Blackreach, a civilisation existed in stepped pyramids and riverside villages that has been so thoroughly forgotten that even its name is now unknown; they are the Forgotten People. The tropical forests that are now known as the Untamed Lands, as well as land that is today called Khazath, were home to a people called the Eriadhne - a people of fierce, free tribes, individualistic and independent. It was the Eriadhne who preserved and maintained the ancient religion of the Custodians, which the people of the north had discarded in favor of newer gods. Remnants of their culture still lives on in the Khazath of the modern day.
Most powerful of all, however, was the Empire of the South. Living in lush, fertile plains, they were a deeply religious and theocratic people. They built great pyramids to house their dead and pay homage to their gods. If their historical records can be trusted, their gods lived and dwelt amongst them in physical form. As has been mentioned before, the people of this time believed that the north was a land of the gods - and with good reason. The gods of the south were fairies, elementals and spirits of the natural world. They came from the wild and, through the belief of the people, were transformed into divine beings that ruled the people of the Empire of the South as kings.
The Empire of the South is gone today. No one knows what scorched the land and created the Plains of Dust, but the legends of Khazath state that the Custodians have emerged from the Citadel of Penance once, and only once, since they were interred. What the Empire of the South could have done to invoke their wrath may never be known, however. When the land was sundered, the fertile valleys transformed into harsh desert, and humans were set migrating once again in search of a place where they would be safe. The reaches of the north, which fear had kept them from, were now opened by necessity. The Kingdom of Alta was formed, and the expansion north continued ever-onwards to meet the demands of the millions of people now landless.
Only the people of Khazath never emigrated from the south, and their gods - the Custodians - remain a mix of the original protector-gods that came with them from the south, as well as a variety of fairy kings and elemental deities picked up over time. If their legends are true, some of those gods are even still present in physical form: sealed away by the most powerful magic in Tael Leilan and guarded by a legion of devoted clerics. Whether they are still sealed beneath the earth, however, may never be known. Besides the Custodians, the religions of the ancient peoples of the south survive in the gods that came after them: the so-called "old gods" of modern times. Gods of primal and essential forces abound in the old customs - Boreas, the North Wind; Myrkul, Who Sits In Fire; Ahti, Under The Waves; U-Bastis, Queen of Cats. These gods are the children of the ancient religions.
The Old Gods
Many hundreds of years after the sundering of the south and the creation of the Plains of Dust, humans have spread all across Leng. In Khazath, and to a lesser extent in Warden and the Vintas, people still worship the Custodians. Elsewhere, a multitude of individual gods represent primal and basic forces. There is Myrkul, God of Fire. Azuth the Eye-God, master of sorcerors. In deep caves, Molyb the Gibberer sends forth the primal energies of insanity and misrule. In the harsh cities, teeming with injustice, The Rat God appeals to those who must throw their humanity away to skulk and slink in the filth, subjugated under great lords. These are the gods that, in modern times, are known as the "old gods". They represent the primal and essential forces that men revere.
History has decidedly turned - the age of spirits is over, and it is now the age of mortals. The Custodians are sealed away in their vaults; the gods that have replaced them represent the subconscious yearnings of the human mind. The dwarves have woken from the Ancestor Forges, and trade wondrous marvels with those on the surface. The great forests have shrunk to Murthrid and Lurkmoor, and the Grey Elves have fled Morus once and for all.
At this time, the Vintas is a fractious land of tiny and ancient kingdoms, where druidism is rampant and men offers sacrifices to their ancient deities. Those who live near the forests are friends to elves and worship the old gods. Lorknir is a place of constant change and turmoil: it is fertile and rich, but also wild. Despite its small size, it was an attractive prospect to the multitude that came from the south. The ancient empire of Alta, on the northern border of the Plains of Dust, has risen and fallen, perishing for the folly of expanding beyond its ability to maintain itself. Its ruins litter the Borderlands and the Plains of Qolor.
The New Order
A little more than 300 years before the present day, a shift began to take place. An imbalance appeared in the order of the old gods. The old gods demanded obedience, but not conformity. Myrkul is the god of fire: he represents the flame, pure and simple. To understand the flame and all it represents is to embrace Myrkul. To embrace him is to accept him, and to serve him. But those that came to replace the old gods are different. They have tenets. They impose order as the elvish and dwarven gods do. Law and Good, as primal forces in the multiverse, are the key behind this imbalance. Some of the old gods are Good, and some are Evil, but more are Neutral. They represent concepts that are too pure to be sullied by good or evil. They were not a part of the cosmic game played out along the Great Wheel.
The catalyst for this change is the arrival of Belzor on Morus. When Belzor came to Morus, he was not a god, but neither was he a mortal. For a demigod to become a god, they must have a source of belief: to become truly powerful, it must be one that has not been tapped by any before them. Morus represented this kind of belief. The gods of Morus were like the men of Morus: they represented the unconscious will of its inhabitants. The kind of belief that Belzor brought with him, however, was an entirely alien belief. It is a belief in something entirely separate and higher than yourself. When one worships Myrkul, they worship a being of power, but they know the source of that power: it is fire. With the gods of Law and Good, the source of their power is abstract and unknowable. It flows from the heavens and gives the right of lordship to those who wield it: the moral imperative.
A vacuum wants to be filled; once Belzor arrived on Morus, the paradigm shift was inevitable. Yet he could not simply assume godhood himself; to gain primacy on Leng, he would need to become one with the land. In the years to come, certain deities would recognise the inevitable, and threw in their lot with Belzor. Enod was the first to join him: one of the few truly aligned with Good amongst the old gods, he had nothing to lose by joining Belzor. The new pantheon would elevate him from a minor god of healing into a position of greater power, where he could do more good than ever before.
More reluctant to join was Myrkul, one of the most powerful of the old gods. He did not join Belzor, but he knew that he could not resist the winds of change entirely. As an aspect of flame, he would always persist, but if he ignored the new order he knew that it would overtake him. So it was that his daughter Ravi came to be - a neutral buffer between the powers of fire and sunlight and the forces of civilisation and high ideals. Ravi as an aspect of Myrkul is everything about fire he is not: if Myrkul is wildfire, she is the warmth of the hearth. Only when facing the undead, which she hates above all else, is the wildfire of Myrkul unleashed in her. She simultaneously weakens Myrkul by sharing his portfolio, and protects him from the encroachment of the Trinity.
These three gods came together to form the Trinity of Leng. Ravi, a god of burning passion for good and seething hatred of the undead, is as primal as one of the new order could be. Enod, unchanged in the transition from old to new, is an old god through and through. Belzor, on the other hand, is not an old god. He came from outside, to marshal the gods and forge a new order for a new era of mankind: the era of cities, kingdoms and empires. Between the three of them, they formed a coalition that would fill a void that now existed in the hearts of men. This new order represented an age where cities, kingdoms and empires reign supreme over the forces of the natural world; one where ideals like chivalry and compassion are more powerful than life and the changing of seasons.
Just as there was a place on Morus for Good, there was now a place for Evil. With Belzor - whether by agreement or coincidence - there came a counterpart to the Good members of the Order of Leng. This was Cyric of the Forgotten Realms, who created the City of Cyric to trap the old god Nasir and took his place - entrenching himself on Leng for good by mixing his own divinity with that of a native god of Morus.
Belzor did not have this option available to him, so he opted for a more devious and ambitious plan. He formed his coalition. The Trinity were the first, but others joined the Order of Leng later; those canny enough to know that what was coming was inevitable, and all joined for their own reasons:
- Jaeril the luck-god, sensed the winds of fortune and saw the truth of Belzor's claims.
- Nirrin the secret-keeper, who knew that the new order would restore the balance and further her schemes.
- Tempus the battle-master, welcoming the fruits of civilisation and rulership for the bounty of blood it would bring.
- Cyric the oath-breaker, who had little choice - he and Belzor are counterpoints; they need each other to exist.
So it came to be that the Order of Leng was formed. Healing the sick, slaying undead, protecting the weak - these are human concerns. The concerns of the gods are far loftier than this. At every moment, there is a war between the spirit and the soul. The old gods represent the innate, primal spirit of humanity, while the new order vies for their very souls. It is the ultimate representation of high ideals over individual urges; with the new order of Leng, Morus was drawn permanenlty into the Great Wheel and the schemes of its deities.