There is none among the many nations of man who cannot recall the Daemonomachy, Lu’s great and terrible triumph over demonkind, and the beginning of True Spring. There are few who do not remember the War of the Bull, the Sable Maiden’s sacrifice. These stories of victories over the Law of Swords and the Red Law, even those won at an awful cost, bring hope to future generations, and ease the sleep of children in the long nights of winter.
There are other stories. Stories without heroes, without triumph, without hope. Tales of woe, and failure, and degradation. This is one such tale, and it is true. This is the tale of the Nameless Men of Erd and the Order of the Broken Spear.
Once there was a god.
There are some arguments among the few historians willing to give this ancient tale the time of day as to the identity of this god. Some believe him the younger brother of Baba Tubalkhan, brash and strong and lacking his brother’s wisdom. They are wrong.
Some believe him a forgotten child of the pantheon, struck from the records for shame of his transgressions, and struck also from the hearts of parents and siblings both. They are also wrong.
Some even believe him to be the patriarch of an entirely different pantheon, long gone and buried by the sands of time and indifference. They are wrong, but not as much as the others.
Who the god was does not truly matter. Know only that he was.
This god was the god of triumph, and steel, and the victorious dead. As proud and powerful a god as any who lived and died beneath the sun. He was a solitary creature, far too conceited, too assured of his own superiority, to either bear the presence of other gods nor to be suffered by them in return. The world of man, the vast Lands of the Mare Interregnum, felt far too narrow for him and his ambitions. One night, as the god sulked in his mead hall surrounded by his slumbering warriors, he heard a voice, sweet and enticing, carried to him through an open window by the southern wind.
His heart’s desire! It seemed to the god that the voice was clearly that of destiny itself, and that the time had finally come for him to rise above the lesser gods he was forced to bow to. So he took his oaken spear, his winged helmet, his bejeweled sabatons. He spat a bitter few words at his divine fellows, and told them that he would take his followers, warriors one and all, past Red Point, to sail to furthest south. There he would build his golden kingdom, the Throne of Might, and the gods would weep at its glory and despair.
So he thought, at the very least. The gods cared not for him nor his arrogance nor his kingdom, and were glad to see the last of him. All but one. Pyrrus Gravidus, great of heart and of patience, pleaded with the god before he departed not to go. He smelled the acrid venom behind the god's vision, and wished to spare his foolish cousin, for the sake of his followers if not his own.
The god would not listen,
Seeing that the god would not be swayed, Pyrrus Garvidus spoke in secret to one of the god's warriors before they departed, and gave to him his ivory horn of war. If the warrior would blow it, Pyrrus would come, and help however he could. The warrior scoffed at the gift but took the horn, thinking it a lovely trinket if nothing else.
And so they left, god and men. South, and South once more.
For months the god and his warriors sailed, seeing nothing but waves and sky and a few desolate rocks. Others might have been cowed, but the god’s warriors were fanatics one and all, blinded by their patron’s gilded magnificence. Sustained by their faith they sailed on, past endless sweathes of empty seas, until, just as their supplies had dwindled to nothing, they saw a mountain, spearing the sky like a kingfisher spears a minnow. The god saw the mountain and knew that this was to be his throne, high above the world and the gods both.
Sailing their ships into a natural harbor, the warriors saw that they had reached paradise, and praised the name of their god and his divine wisdom. The strange trees were bent by the weight of aromatic fruit, the blue-leafed forests filled with game, the sapphire waters teeming with silvery fish and glittering with pearls. As they climbed further up, they saw a land seamed with precious ore and gems, a land of healing hot springs and cool glacial water. God and men, they climbed and climbed, and each new vista was more breathtaking than the last. With every step they grew more and more assured that this was to be the Throne of Might, and the envy of the entire world. The mountain island they named Manar Ser’Sol Erd - The Spear Which Pierces the Sun.
Climbed and climbed they did, some remaining behind to set up camp, until they reached the mountain’s peak, high above the clouds, and into the domain of night. Until they reached the cave, nestled like a resting viper at the mountain’s very summit.
Having grown tired and impatient by the long journey, the god ordered his chief of scouts to enter the cave with ten men and find him a proper place to rest. In went the scouts, and never returned. The god grew cross, and sent his high seneschal with a hundred stewards, to find the lazy scouts and prepare him a proper household. In went the hundred, and never returned. Now entirely furious, the god sent in his greatest general with a thousand of his seasoned elites, to bring him the heads of his errant servants. In went the warriors, and never returned. The god was left alone on the peak, the gaping maw of the cave taunting him, mocking him.
What else could he do but enter?
Dark was the cave, and silent except for the god’s thunderous footsteps. Of his men there was no sign, nor matter how deep the god ventured. The cave gave way into a maze of winding tunnels, and for how long did the god wander in them lost, he could not know. Eventually the tunnels ended, and the god was greeted by the sight of a great underground cavern. Even exhausted as he was, the god could not help but marvel at the sight of the peculiar waters of the cavern, which were lit by a soft, unearthly glow. The waters were undisturbed but for the *drip drip drip* of drops falling from invisible stalactites, hidden far in the darkness of the cavern’s roof. then-
The voice was soft, the murmur of calm waters, punctuated only by the *drip drip drip* coming from above. The god was drawn to it, just as before, though he could not see where it came from. He waded into the glowing water, his men and their fate were entirely forgotten.
The god, proud and suspicious though he was, nevertheless was compelled to trust this voice. It would deliver on its promise. And why not? Was he not the mightiest and finest of the gods? Should not all the creatures of the earth prostrate themselves before him and give him tribute? “____ am I, the shining blade, and my glory like a pyre. Come and face me, creature foul, give to me my heart’s desire!”
Speak it, and it is yours
“Greatest am I of all gods beneath the sun. But the other gods fear me and my company shun. Give to me Lu’s loving crowds, make me overgod above the clouds!”
As he uttered his wish, the god felt the water swirling around him, caressing him, before suddenly parting. Before him, bound to the pool’s floor in chains of crystal, were his men. Seeing their god their eyes lit with hope, and they beseeched him to release them, his devoted followers.
The god’s followers heard the voice, but no fear touched their faces. They knew their god was as devoted to them as they were to him. He would never do anything to harm them.
They would, thought the god. Each and every one of his men had sworn to give up their life in combat for the honor of their lord. Was this any different? Surely not. If anything it was nobler, for victory would be immediate and utter.
“Take their names, their lives, their breath,For their lord they’d gladly give. For true might and dominance All transgressions they’d forgive.”
The men did not even have the chance to scream before the waters took them. Thin, ethereal tendries emerged from the water, and struck the forehead of each and every man. As their god looked upon them dispassionately, the tendrils extracted from the men… something. A wiggling shape, like a silvery fish struggling in the talons of a hawk. As the shape was taken away from the men, the air of the cavern was filled with noise. The shapes cried out, each in the voice of the man they once belonged to. They cried out the men’s true names.
The waters parted again and where the god’s poor followers once laid was a great, golden throne, magnificent to behold and emanating raw power unrivaled by any the god has encountered. At long last his great prize was at hand - power, dominion, and above all, the recognition he deserved. No longer would he bow to lesser gods! The age of the Overgod was at hand!
He sat upon the throne, nearly shaking with unsuppressed desire. As he did, he could feel the throne's might coursing through his vains - overwhelming, intoxicating, numbing-
The god was awakened from his stupor, and found that his body would not obey him. Looking down he could see that the same tendrils which had taken his men were now binding him to the throne. He tried to summon godsfire to burn them away, but his power left him, leaving him as helpless as a babe.
It was the voice again, but it was… different. Gone was the honeyed allure and beguiling rhymes, replaced by cold iron and a razor-sharp edge of mockery. Then, the god saw-
Falling into a world of molten rock and broiling storms. Seeing the first of the dragons crawl out of the boiling oceans. The birth of the Folk, of the dolphins, of orca and of man, the birth of the gods. Desire is mixed with contempt, too intertwined to separate. It is without a name of its own, without a place in this world. So it would take everyone else's’.
From the water surrounding the throne rose a horror, towering over the bound god in his golden throne. Its body was translucent, gelatinous, and the god could see the silvery shapes which were taken from his warriors floating within it. Their true names, he supposed. From the horror's rotund, smooth core rose a storm of tendrils, some of which were holding the god in place with an unbreakable grip.
What is in a name? All that was born in this world is connected by their names, links in an unending chain of vows and blood. When a god takes a blood oath from a follower, they tie their names together, and with them their fates. An oath always goes both ways. What is in a name? Everything.
Tendrils by the thousands snaked their way toward the bound god’s terrified face. For a moment they disappeared from his line of sight, then a flash of terrible, unbearable pain made him realize where they were. Inside his ears. Inside his eyes. Inside his skull.
The gods think themselves powerful. Think themselves free. They are wrong. There is no freedom, no power, in kowtowing to those lesser than you. Strength that cannot exist without another is no strength at all. True strength does not seek permission or adoration. True strength…
The tendrils were taking something out of him. Something vital. Something that could never be replaced. He could feel something about the world… shift. Nothing about what he saw around him change, and yet he could no longer understand it. He was sitting on… something, and that was important for some reason, or so he thought. How did he get here? Why was he in pain? Why did that odd silver shape dangling from a tendril, screaming in agony, make him want to weep?
His words were gone, and the world was fading around him. At his last moment, only one word remained to the god. Shame.
When the followers the gods had left at the base of the mountains saw the emerald tide, it was already too late. At first they did not realize what it was that they were seeing - was there some great glacier atop the mountain, releasing its water after being melted by their divine lord’s power? Why would he do such a thing, and what were those figures, riding the waves like liquid destriers?
Then they were upon them. The men the god sacrificed at the cave were reborn as something new. Something more and so much less than human. Their skin was the color of seaweed, their eyes flashing, empty gems, and their strength was terrible to behold. Riding upon living waves they tore through their former comrades like a knife through rice paper, cutting and cleaving, maiming and butchering. Those who resisted died where they stood, those who tried to surrender were taken to the mountain cave, and suffered worse. The emerald tide swept across Manar Ser’Sol Erd and left not a stone unturned, not a tree still rooted. The boats they used to reach the island were transformed into weapons of war, a grim armada of silent, nameless men.
From Manar Ser’Sol Erd the Nameless Men swept upon the southern oceans, and all they found to the mountain they took, to feed to their new master in its watery lair. They plague the far south of the world to this day, ravaging both sea and land, man and dolphin, orca and god. The name of Erd is cursed and cursed once more, and when the Nameless Men appear, all wise men flee.
All but the Order of the Broken Spear.
For not all of the god’s men perished on the island. A hundred men, sent to draw water from a deep mountain well, hid when they saw the emerald tide take their fellows, and were spared. Among them was the man who received the war horn from Pyrrus Gravidus, and in his desperation, the horn he blew. Thus came before the hundred the god of scars, and wept with them for their lost kin. Upon his broad back he took the hundred, and in one great leap cleared the island and the sea, to land on a distant shore. There the hundred swore to Gravidus a new blood oath - to atone for their kin and their god, to prowl the south forever more in search of Manar Ser’Sol Erd, now hidden from all. To find their lost god, and take their vengeance upon his worthless carcass.
And in Manar Ser’Sol Erd, atop the mountain piercing the heavens, the creature still waits. For the day it would satisfy its hunger at last, and eat the name of the world whole.