One of a series of lore articles concerning the world of Aradane – setting of the Legacy Trilogy. By no means vital for reading the books, these articles give further context for those who want to delve a little deeper into Legacy of Steel.
By tradition, this world of ours is watched over – or, more accurately, meddled with – by a pantheon of divine beings. Though stories vary from realm to realm, there is a small amount of truth to be gleaned as to their names and natures, if one knows where to look. The below should be considered a starting point for those who seek understanding, rather than a record of absolute truth.
Where gods are concerned, truth is scarcely more dependable than humility.
Also known as Astarra (in the Hadari Empire), Solaire (in Thrakkia) & the Radiant (Brathna’s Undawning Deep)
Every religion has its own tale of creation, but all place Lumestra at the heart of events: she who called forth Light from the eternal Dark, and so brought about everything that is. Beyond that, however, Lumestra’s nature is poorly understood – a distant figure, dimly seen, for all her radiance. Her daughters, the angelic serathi, are accounted heralds of salvation or destruction – healers or thieves of souls – according to the tale-teller’s prevailing faith. It may be that their mother is much the same, her aspect wondrous or terrifying according to perception. In my experience, the powerful concern themselves little as to how they are perceived, save for when it serves them.
In Tressia, Lumestra is held to be a supreme deity – a greater goddess than all her siblings. How much of this is true remains to be seen. The Lumestran priesthood doubtless acclaim her thus in order to bask in her reflected might and wisdom – the grace of the goddess reflected through her mortal servants. Predictable, as priests often are.
Of course, Lumestra is also held to be dead… at least by heretics and untrustworthy outcasts. Who can say what that bodes for the future? Especially in Tressia.
Also known as Malgyn (in archaic tradition), Athanas (in Itharoc) & Death (by unimaginative simpletons)
The Keeper of the Dead is a constant in many legends, by turns aloof, companionable or cruel. He doesn’t tend to attract much in the way of direct worship – at least, not from reputable types – but he is certainly feared… which I suppose is natural enough.
Many tales claim he is the eldest of the gods. Indeed, certain Lumestran texts that I’ve been privileged to… borrow… claim he is the only god remaining of the original seven – those otherwise being Lumestra, Ashana, Astor, Tzal, Endala and Jack. If that’s true, he’s surely borne witness to countless millennia… which perhaps explains his characteristic weariness when dealing with ephemerals. When one has seen it all, everything grows a trifle dull. Or so I assume. Personally, I imagine it also makes events more predictable, which is well worth the trade.
Myth doesn’t make it entirely clear what the Raven’s duties actually entail as Keeper of the Dead. Lumestran scripture suggests that Otherworld was of his making, though Thrakkian sagas insist he’s but a squatter, preying on souls as they pass from dreary life to the eternal feast in Skanandra’s mirrored halls. Certainly the Raven has the greatest reach of any of his siblings, save perhaps Jack, with whom he shares a fierce rivalry, as might be expected from the divine embodiments of life and death.
Also known as Lunastra (in Tressia), Selenia (in Itharoc) & the Blessed Lady (Brathna’s Undawning Deep)
Ashana is mistress of the twin realms of Eventide and Evermoon, the dark moon and the light. Traditionally portrayed as Lumestra’s younger sister – though sometimes as her twin – she was Hadar Saran’s patron during his unification of the petty realms that rose out of the Tressian Kingdom’s fall. She has remained his Empire’s chief deity ever since, though she also draws not-insignificant worship from persecuted sects across the Tressian Republic.
Ashana more than any is said to be a goddess of many faces. She who stood beside Lumestra at the dawn of creation is certainly not the Ashana who bears that name today… and it may be there have been many others in-between. This is not entirely unusual among the divine, most of whom have claimed names, thrones and worshippers from previous incumbents and thus become those they deposed.
The Ashana of the present takes a more active interest in ephemeral affairs than her siblings, and is even said to walk the world in mortal guise. She is believed to have many daughters, both divine and ephemeral. No small feat for one who is often (inaccurately) portrayed as a maiden, even if most of her offspring are held to be daughters of the heart rather than shared blood.
A small aside should probably be made to discuss Ashana’s Huntsman. While not a full divine power himself – and certainly not one accorded a throne – the Huntsman appears in tales concerning the Goddess Ashana, variously as confident, equerry and foe. Indeed, there are so many varied stories linking them that it becomes impossible to untangle what their relationship truly is.
In some of the stories the Huntsman is an ephemeral man, drawn into the intrigues of the twin moons. In others, he is a mighty demon, riding at the head of the Court of Eventide’s spectral hunt. The truth, I suspect, lies somewhere in between, as it ever does where magic is involved.
Jack o’ Fellhallow
Also known as Jerack (in archaic tradition), Livasdr (in Thrakkia) & Thorn (Brathna’s Undawning Deep)
Jack is the Lord of the Living Lands and the king of the ancient forest of Fellhallow. Yet as with the Raven, it’s difficult to say precisely whether Jack is a force of nature unto himself, or merely one who has claimed the reins of a realm not his own.
He appears in most tales as tempter and deceiver, and his gangling, nightmarish figure is certainly unpleasant to behold. Nevertheless, Jack’s often portrayed as an almost childlike figure, his malice more directionless than calculated. For Jack, the bargain – and not its outcome – is everything.
This may go some way to explain why Jack is venerated in the villages around Fellhallow. Entire folk traditions have sprung up around seeking his favour at harvest time, and for appeasing the forest demons that roam the nearby lands. Not all such traditions are entirely wholesome, but that’s only to be expected. After all, the Lumestran church sets great store by burning heretics alive, claiming such cruelty to be their goddess’ will. Why then would we hold Jack and his worshippers to different standards?
Also known as Tzadarin (in Tressia), Tchernog (in Thrakkia) & the Endless Flame (Brathna’s Undawning Deep)
There are few places where the name of Tzal is uttered without fear. A forlorn and forsaken deity, in many traditions he is said to have stared too long into the Dark at the birth of all things, and taken into himself more than he should. His bitterness is of the Dark, as is his jealously of all other things. Where Tzal’s siblings rejoice in the splendour and variety of the world, he yearns for a totality over which he has supreme control.
But just as bitterness rots the ephemeral soul, so too is it true of the divine. Tzal has worn many faces across the aeons, and is known by many names across creation’s worlds. But where the other deities wear new faces because their thrones and titles pass to successors, Tzal’s will is a constant force – his successors become his hosts, all but extinguished as he seizes control.
Tzal’s name is seldom conjured within these lands, but there are rumours of vast temples dedicated to his name further south and east. It might be worth a small expedition.
Also known as Cyrina (in Itharoc), Vylgi (in Thrakkia) & the Divine Amyradris (The Edda of Awakening)
Endala is by tradition the mistress of wind and waves, generous to those who worship her and receptive to their prayers. But just as the wind and waves are cruel, so too is she, when roused. She is a bringer of life and death, a giver of gifts and a thief of purpose.
It was not always so, according to tradition. Endala was once a kindly, merciful spirit, and in some retellings Lumestra’s companion in fashioning humankind from the cold clay of the Dark. The bleakness came later, when the bountiful river over which she held dominion turned bitter and black with spite. The cause of the change is much argued over by scholars, as is its deeper theological meaning, but thereafter Endala was colder and withdrawn, and attracted more by prayers seeking vengeance than vibrancy.
And then there comes a point in scripture when Endala simply… vanishes, and no other comes forth to take her throne. Why that may be, and what it portends, remains to be seen. Assuming, of course, that priests have not simply erased her for their own dubious reasons. Endala was, after all, Tressia’s patron long before Lumestran worship usurped her. Even in its early days, the Tressian Kingdom was a mercantile, sea-faring nation and would have had good reason to entreat a mistress of wind and waves…
Also known as Brogash (in the eastern Hadari Empire), The Burning Lord (by deluded morons) & Forgann (The Edda of Awakening)
The god of fire and forge, Astor dwells within the feast hall of Skanandra, watching the world through smoke and the glittering reflections of mirrors. He holds that a soul should be as well-smithed as anything fashioned from steel, and accords six virtues – fidelity, rigour, fortitude, generosity, justice and courage – to be the pillars of an honourable life.
In Thrakkia, in particular, these tenets form the principle of law. Should one break them, then Astor will be called upon to judge the transgressor. Said judgement is generally laid down as a trial by combat, though skalds have no shortage of stories where the god himself has stirred from Skanandra’s fireside to set right a particularly egregious wrong.
Such occasions are few and far between, for Astor – like his towering offspring – has grown somnolent as creation grows cold. It is said that when the gods meet, he alone is little given to quarrel. Not merely because discord sits poorly with his treasured virtues, but because he finds argument wearying. It may be that another will soon ascend to take his place…
The Nameless Lady
The divine presence known as the Nameless Lady is a relative newcomer to our rigid pantheon, her presence recorded only in a handful of books rescued from the Great Library of distant Hanadra. Indeed, there seems to be no certainty that she is divine, not in the sense that we normally consider. Despite intensive search, I have uncovered no temples dedicated to the Nameless Lady that were not usurped from others… which makes her either an upstart due for an unpleasant awakening, or something very powerful indeed.
Beyond that, there is little I can say of the Nameless Lady with confidence. In most stories, she has strong ties to the legendary Black River. In almost all, her name is invoked in the pursuit of vengeance – generally by women. Yet unlike her elder sisters of the pantheon, the Nameless Lady is never associated with fertility and growth. Her interests apparently concern themselves solely with life’s end, and not its beginning.
The Wanderer King
The Wanderer King is another deity whose stories seem to little touch this world. Indeed, in all the realms I’ve travelled, I’ve yet to find a single house of worship dedicated to his name, or more than a handful of stories that relate to him. In most of these, he plays the role of antagonist to – of all beings – the Huntsman of Eventide, though never so much to cast them as irreconcilable foes. He’s also a very minor character in a handful of Ashanan stories – though given the age of these tales, it’s impossible to know if they relate to the current Ashana, or one that came before.
As to character? The Wanderer King appears to be a sort of trickster figure – if one more wholesome than Jack o’ Fellhallow – bound not so much by law, as by a personal sense of justice. Perhaps it’s for the best that he continues his travels and little concerns himself with this world of ours. Justice delivered at the hands of the divine is seldom justice in more than name.
That, I think is sufficient for now. One can blather about gods for as long as daylight shines and remain none the wiser.
Better to focus on mortal concerns. Tend the garden.
LEGACY OF ASH (available now)
A shadow has fallen over the Tressian Republic.
Ruling families plot against one another with sharp words and sharper knives, heedless of the threat posed by the invading armies of the Hadari Empire.
The Republic faces its darkest hour. Yet as Tressia falls, heroes rise.
‘A hugely entertaining debut’ John Gwynne
LEGACY OF STEEL (pre-order)
A year has passed since an unlikely alliance saved the Tressian Republic from fire and darkness – at great cost. Thousands perished, and Viktor Akadra – the Republic’s champion – has disappeared.
While the ruling council struggles to mend old wounds, other factions sense opportunity. The insidious Parliament of Crows schemes in the shadows, while to the east the Hadari Emperor gathers his armies. As turmoil spreads across the Republic, its ripples are felt in the realms of the divine.
War is coming… and this time the gods themselves will take sides