A gigantic post today. Will try to hide it behind the cut.
Setting info established: Korak’s Champion, aka The Warlord King aka Skoh chi Wahatenne, is born to that role, ala Heracles. There have been several over generations, the current one is kind of like Alexander the Great with some Darius – he is uniting the kingdoms with military genius. Each of Korak’s Champions is charged with a sacred quest of finding and killing Smith (when he is in mortal form) but that holy quest can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Meanwhile, Always’ Champion, The Most Beautiful Woman In The World (currently Yeqawa) is more like the pope – she is elected by her church for her faith, duty and piety, and becomes more beautiful upon taking on the holy role. Nothing is particularly special about the current one – yet.
Prologue: Skoh’s birth. We see a young male baby and the prophetess tells the father that he belongs to Korak. Later, as a young boy, his father drills him in defeating a dozen men twice his age. Before he can shave, he is leading great armies on the battlefield. And not long after, he sits on his iron throne and hears that he now leads five great tribes. “Good”, he says, “now we can begin”.
PANTHEON, EPISODE TWO: AS BELOW
We see Always as a young girl, impassive in the mirror, as her mother Ankar dresses her in finery, for today she is to be presented to her betrothed. Korak is just moments back from resucing Aristeia, the conquered Teyamaq at his feet, and while the parents seem enthused the young boy and girl find it all very awkward. Behind the two nervous kids, the two parents look on, planning a future, and behind them, sits the rescued Aristeia, ignored again.
In the modern day, wearing much the same expression, Ankar sits with Aristeia anew. She apologises that she’s never been much of a mother to her half-daughter, and wants to know if Aristeia is okay, if she has any concerns about the marriage and the rule. Aristeia says she thinks Korak is worthy, and if he is to rule, then so be it. Ankar asks about her feelings for Ix, whom Aristeia says “is also worthy”. Ankar suggest that she be more than friends to Ix, fulfilling her promise to Ix from last episode. However, Aristeia has no idea what Ankar is talking about, and leaves confused.
Meanwhile, Ix is in the Forest Infinite, teaching the young hare how to run. But Smith interrupts him, to tell him that things are moving forward, and they need to come up with a plan to stop Korak. Ix says he doesn’t plan, he is the wild! Smith holds back the insult and explains his plan: he wants to suggest to Korak that in order to prove himself worthy, Korak should go down to the mortal realm. Once in Smith’s territory (well, more Smith’s than anyone else) Smith can mess with him, and prove he is unworthy to rule. The problem is, Smith can’t suggest this idea to Korak because Korak hates and distrusts Smith, so Smith needs Ix to suggest it. Ix loves this idea, and wonders how it must be to have a head so full of plans. Smith smiles and wonders about strange bedfellows.
Cut to the Brass Palace. Always approaches Korak and they have their first proper talk about the marriage and the ruling. Always – as always – is very placid about it all, and is surprised that Korak is troubled. Korak wonders about the wildness of Ix, but then again, he is his brother, and will see reason through familial respect. Korak worries more about Smith. Always suggests they come up with a test to prove they are worthy that will surely get all the gods on side. She tells him she has a plan in this regard, and he wants to know what, but the plan isn’t finished yet and Always hates being pushed, so tells him no. Korak throws down and demands, as his wife to be, she not keep secrets. Always declines, but is quite insecure as a result. As a peace offering, she finally shows Korak her true face, but in the end it only highlights how little the two know each other.
Things are interrupted when Inikaya turns up and tells Korak that Ix has planned to summon the gods. Ix meanwhile, after telling Inikaya to do a general announcement, has gone looking for a pretext for summoning the gods. He’s gone down to the Pit itself, a huge cleft in the top of a lonely mountain, wherein Ix and Korak threw all the terrible beasts of the wild to make the world safe. At the top is a stone hut, home to Anehute Silent-Bear, who is a long-lived, god-touched mortal who serves as Master of the Pit, guarding it lest anything escape. Of course, Ix is hoping something might have escaped or there’s been a ripple or two to get his pretext but there has been none. So Ix decides if he can’t find a pretext he will make one – distracting Anehute so he can let something escape. That way, Korak will desperately need his advice and strength to fix the problem, and realise he cannot rule alone. However, despite trying his best, Anehute refuses to bow to anything which would take him from his post, and Ix becomes infuriated at uppity mortals who get in his way. His mood does not improve when warhorns blare to indicate his brother has arrived.
Ix: What brings you to see one of my servants?
Korak: Oh, no, I’m here to see you.
Ix: Oh, I’m HONOURED.
Korak wants to know why the gods have been summoned. Ix says well he left early at the last meeting and thinks things still need to be discussed about whether it’s actually a good idea and all. But Ix wants to talk about this AT THE MEETING not now.
Korak: I know it’s your way to be wild, and consider all possibilities, even those that might be considered unwise, but even you must acknowledge the right of our betters to determine the fate of our world. Do you challenge the wisdom of the Balance?
Ix: They declared you should be wed, but that your ruling was simply an obvious idea. But this is a new age, with new paths. And as I said, we will talk about this later.
Ix walks off, causing the forest to build around him so he can lose himself. Korak is enraged at being dismissed, especially when he was coming to take Ix down a peg, so he hews down the trees as fast as Ix can make them. In response, Ix rouses the forest at twice the speed and thickness. Korak yells “come back and face me, you’ve always been a COWARD!”. At that, Ix stops and
And asks him what is so damn important.
Korak: Why do you challenge my rightful place?
Ix: Because your rightful place is not cast in stone.
Korak: No, it is cast by my POWER.
Ix: So now we see the truth: you seek to rule through power, not through being WORTHY
Korak: I rule because of what I have done and can do. Need I remind you of my deeds?
Ix: Need I remind you of MY deeds? Of my responsibilities? If I wanted to, I could loose everything in this pit against you, and then where would your strength be?
Korak: THIS is why you must never rule – the only power you have is to sow disorder!
Ix: Oh disorder? Yes. Disorder IS my strength. But disorder is part of the balance, part of the world. And if you are so strong, disorder should be no threat to YOU. So I shall open this pit – and if you are strong enough, try and stop me, BROTHER. (Demand: Let me open the Pit)
Ix drives his heels down and the rocks shake and the Pit trembles. Korak is tempted to prove his brother is an idiot and have a jolly good scrap (and not back down in front of his brother), but just earlier was telling Always how much he likes the mortals and doesn’t want thousands of them to die, so challenges his glory to stop this. He swings his blade, Ix grabs it, and they scrap back and forth. Ix challenges justice because it’s never been fair that Korak was the favourite son and adds Savage as he becomes bestial, clawed and thorned. It’s not enough, and Korak wrenches the blade away and slams his brother with the flat of the blade, knocking him unconscious. Lifting his brother onto his shoulder, he walks off.
Elsewhere…on the Horns of Dusk, the massive western mountain range that stops the Volyani from moving west, Always walks. She has sought a high place to talk to Sky, and has come to the mortal earth to do so because that is the topic of discussion. She has explained to Aristeia her plan: to test beyond a shadow of a doubt that her match to Korak is well-made by bringing together each of their champions – to cause the Warlord King, Skoh, to fall in love with Yeqawa, the most beautiful woman in the world. Always wants Aristeia’s help because she sees all on the earth. Aristeia doesn’t think it will definitely work, but figures they can give it a try.
Korak takes Ix to the Forest Infinite, where he is intercepted by Aristeia – who is aghast at the bloodied body of Ix. Korak explains he was wild, but Aristeia says she will take charge. Korak says “be careful”, Aristeia responds “he would never hurt me”, and the GM pushes the FORESHADOWING BUTTON!
Later, Ix wakes up in the Sacred Pool, cradled by Aristeia. She asks him what’s going on, and he says it is none of her concern, which of course is NOT what he should have said. Ix is forced to explain that, having heard his brother admit that he will take the crown by force, he wanted to make his brother prove that – “My wounds are a testimony to his madness”. Aristeia asks him to promise he will not open the Pit again and Ix makes her roll for it before he promises. And then she tends to his wounds.
Korak returns to his Brass Palace to find Always waiting to explain her plan. At this point we establish that no gods are aware about the prophecy of Skoh – that if he knows Love, he will die (he cannot touch one part of Always without touching all parts of her). Korak and Always decide it is a good idea to try the experiment, and they will send their champions to the marketplaces of Yawe. They descend to the High Temples so Always can command Yeqawa to unite with Skoh. Yeqawa obeys without question but asks for something in return – to have issue, despite her barrenness.
The next target is Skoh – who is out fighting on the plains. The Gods visit him invisibly so Always can see his mind and know what he wants for a partner and what he wants as a partner for his God. Skoh sees Korak as the great source of order, unity and strength, taking his sense of truth and authority from Korak. This tells Always he wants to see what Korak would want, so she demands, for once, that Korak tell him actually what he wants to see in a lady. He dodges the question and just tells her to appear as a general. Korak says he must ally with Yeqawa, as well as unite with her, but at that Skoh blanches, because for him, allegiance makes his quest worthless. He asks if his God will release him from the burden of being the Warlord King if he obeys him regarding Yeqawa. Korak says “your destiny will always be as you make it”, and the two leave.
We have a flashback so the prophecy is clear to the audience – Skoh being told by the scryer that he will fall if he fails to deny the Inevitable. Skoh nods and says “I shall be great – and then I shall be greater”.
Back to the modern day, the two Gods walk out of Skoh’s tent only to be accosted by Smith, who, disguised as a God, heard the whole thing. He mocks their “experiment” but says he is …interested in seeing how it goes. Korak tells him he should stick around here at the battlefield to see REAL greatness. Smith laughs darkly. Then Inikaya appears to summon the Gods to Ix’s meeting (Inikaya secretly works for Korak so gave him the heads up long in advance).
Smith zooms over to the Forest Infinite to make sure Ix is still on track with the plan of bringing up the mortal form idea. Ix says its gone beyond that now; Korak is clearly a threat and it might be time instead to figure out how they can stand against him. Smith says we still need to throw down the gauntlet to them, and not show our colours or start a war. He asks Aristeia to stand with him (and Ix) in not supporting Korak until he can prove his worth. Aristeia, having heard of the experiment, thinks Smith makes sense. Ix says that then they don’t need him, wanting to sulk in his Forest, but the two remind him that without him, Always and Korak won’t be out-numbered. Ix bristles at being told what to do AGAIN and tells Smith he must face Korak in his own way. Smith’s rage at the world rises, so Aristeia tries another route, just asking quietly and we get our first hint that Ix is sweet on Aristeia as he complies quickly.
And so they go. “Clearly the reign of the five will be one of strife,” says Ix, sullenly. “That is our choice,” says Korak, but Always says “It is not Inevitable”. Smith points out that things with the Balance were very strife-stricken, and thus we need a new plan. Ix stumbles forth what Smith has tried to school him to say, that this is a new world, a world of the Five, not of the Two, and things are different now, so we need a new plan. Smith heartily agrees, which is interesting since the two rarely get along.
Always assures Ix they have taken steps to prove they are worthy, first by examining the union. The pantheon IS different and more reflective of humans, so Always does agree that things need to be tested. Everyone agrees, and Always says the bickering is wasting time. Smith says they need to also ask others beyond the Five and Always also agrees, saying that the other gods should make suggestions as to what Always and Korak could do to prove they are worthy for them. Ix likes the idea of challenges. Smith wants everyone to meet back after an interval, with all the gods in attendance – it’s like a committee meeting, boring the wilder gods. But again, Always says fine, whatever, send Inikaya to get challenges from the gods, and dismisses them, because she and Korak have to get back to the battlefield below.
After they go, Ix points out how agreeable Always is and how SHE would make a fine leader without Korak. Smith thinks that is even worse, of course. Ix says it’s important they prove themselves individually and prove the marriage, because Always might be fine to rule, but with a much better husband. Aristeia says “You mean like you?” cross that once again her younger sister seems to get everything. Smith finds that, although for different reasons, he agrees with Ix.
Ix says he is going to go and find a way to test Korak’s mettle, and runs back to his Forest and grabs some primal clay to shape a terrifying beast. Smith goes off to plan to get all the minor gods to suggest challenges which secretly favour Smith. Out loud, he says he has to go see his ex wife. Aristeia realise she is left to watch over the whole mess. She ascends to the sky and watches much more actively.
Back at the battlefield, Korak and Always chat. Always says the idea of trials are ridiculous, but they will pass them because they are obviously worthy. Smith may try to trick them, but that is his way, and it will not matter. Down on earth, Korak appears in his temple doorway and looks at the marketplaces, and Always’ temple opposite. As he leaves, Always appears in her doorway – and her arm is bumped to show the audience she is mortal. As she steps back, Yeqawa comes past out the door, heading to the marketplaces. We see Skoh walking quickly down the road back to Yawe. Then we see a man in armour much like Skoh’s walking through the marketplace, but his face is Smith’s…and then he raises his arm to adjust his helmet, and the face becomes Skoh’s…
Stinger: Anehute sits in his shack…still shocked at Ix’s actions. “He was going to open the Pit…what choice do I have? …. Do we still have our deal?” We pan across to his interlocutor, who nods – and it is Ulyuq, Lord of Cold, greatest of the Rimebloods, and most terrifying prisoner of the pit…