Oceans of Gold
Dead God's Painting
This rather abstract work of art was found in the tomb of the Dead God, where the keeper of the inner sanctum warned the party to only take one of the three items that lay within. The Immortal Game, a suit of golden armor, and this simple gold-framed painting were the group’s choices, but Garret was fleet of hand and foot enough to make off with multiple treasures.
Despite initial high hopes about the painting’s value, later appraisals revealed that frankly, the portrait seems to have no real value, whether magical, monetary, or aesthetic. However, Garrit discovered an aged parchment hidden between the painting and the frame.
Reader, whether friend or foe, cast thine eyes upon this page and learn my story. My eternal rest you have disturbed, deep within a sunken tomb, hushed silences embracing an ancient enigma. Your choice was that of worldly power, a tainted soul, or my fading memories; the common tongue cannot express my felicity at your decision, and I shall endeavour to make an old man’s memoirs worth your tribulations.
My name in life was Tharoth, and I recall little more. I had power of the sort that mortals cherish, coins and servants. I remember war, a great game-board of troops and soldiers, and an immortal lord with pale, tattooed skin. I struck out his eye and he struck me down, and my kingdom was left in ruins.
For years I wandered and suffered; nothing as pedestrian as physical pain, but rather the cruel jab of impotent anger – the hunger for revenge. I dreamt of murder and blood. My reveries kept with warm in the frozen winters and forced my feet onward in the barren deserts. And it is there that I met the Worldsmith.
I remember a long rusty tongue that reached up from the desert and kissed the clear blue sky. Even through my delirium, I see the approach from miles away – a sliver of life out here in the wastes. Soon they are upon me; sun-scarred hands and the heavy scent of sweat and spices. Women speak to me in strange voices; in a language I do not understand. Their charms were visible through the gauze of their clothing, yet I knew beauty such as theirs delivered only death.
I look up and She is there; Her skin the rich copper of a thousand suns, Her long hair kissed by the earth. She Without Shadow. A ring of smoke slides from Her lips as She smiles at me. It is the first one I’ve seen in years. She offers me a flask, and the cool honeyed wine wraps me in its embrace. I take Her hand, and we dance until the fires die, and long into the light of the moon. She asks me want I want most in the world; I told her then, of my dark desires, and She nurtured and fed them. An eternity passed in a single night, a deepening hatred and a hypocrisy that forever damned my soul. The descent destroyed me.
I woke to the pain of a new existence, in a dank womb of darkness and decay, with the taste of honey on my lips, a white stone token clutched in my trembling palm, and the brand of the gods upon my soul. From the shards of tattered dreams, I rose – unwilling… Tossed upon tides of pain that flowed and ebbed and left me searingly awake. And more revoltingly – dead. Worms and maggots fed upon my festering skin, the scent of tainted blood seeping through the wounds.
I understood all things, then. The masks had fallen away, the strings of the puppets had become visible, and my mortal war no longer captivated me. The irony pierced me like a knife; this was the gift the Worldsmith had given me; more power than a single man ought ever to wield, a vision more acute than my sacrifice should ever have accorded me; and the last bitter taste of that terrible illusion: hope.
No longer was I Tharoth the Man, for I did witness the beginning and the end of the story for all living things. Rest unassured, the tale is crude and ill-conceived. My mortal shell had perished and my soul was bound to a trinket, the alabaster game-token which I used to cherish so long ago.
There were four of us. The Sun-Father, The Larethian, and the Traitorous One; it was he who rebelled against our creator. I saw the earth straining under a pestilence of parasitic magic, and I knew that fate had been preordained in an instant, by a solitary God. Unwilling to martyr Herself to restore balance, or strike down Traitorous One, the Worldsmith condemned the earth to the unravelling decay you see before you. Our tyrannous Maker abandoned us, and the War was lost. Though we were three gods against but one, the Traitorous Lich drew power from dark sources
I was laid to rest with my kingdom in the Temple of Shifting Sands, the Maru-Ket Logos, buried close to the surface with the catacombs of my people beneath my feet. The Larethian lies in Astrazalian, City of Starlight, where the frozen ocean meets the Feywild Sea. The Sun-Father sleeps in his Spire at the White River, and the Traitorous One has left this world in body, though not in spirit.
Mortal, you are doubtless distraught, but always remember that one’s life casts a shadow far beyond one’s own understanding. Within an alien vault you found a treasure whose existence has become entwined with your own destinies, and now only the Worldsmith knows how your stories shall end.
A final, parting word of warning. Fear not he who rules – rather, dread the servant and the scapegoat, for it is they who shall become thy adversaries.