Fungal Halo

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The Pantheon That Was

People still speak fondly of the pantheon that was.

It’s not yet been so long that it has passed out of memory, though each year more children are born without the warm assistance of Oriah and raised without the guiding light of Ralles.

To them the stories are just stories.

They will never feel the blessed touch of a Priestess of the Healing Light purging their body of disease, nor find their way safe at home after whispering a prayer to Kemm the Wandering One.

These days some of them must privately suspect us all to be fools.

Many of us still keep our small idols and amulets and trinkets and altars just as we always have, though I suppose it is a mercy that they lie inert these days.

Those of us who still pray do so mostly out of comfort-seeking habit rather than because we expect to be answered.

The thought of receiving an answer now, of course… I dare not contemplate it. The suggestion alone chills me to the bone. We are deeply fortunate that seems to be impossible.

Classic wisdom held that any object a god might recognize themself in could always channel them.

It is maybe ironic, then, that our goddess of wisdom was among the first to no longer recognize herself in our statues and altars. After she became sick, the rest of the gods quickly fell silent, one after another.

We wondered at first if humanity had been judged unworthy.

Perhaps the gods were withdrawing their presence because we failed them in some way, we thought. Some still think so. They seek to restore us to worthiness through renewed sacrifice and abasement.

It must be comforting to disbelieve the Last Message, I think.

The last to be lost was our beloved Ivri, Mad Goddess of visions and prophecy.

Who could forget when all the world’s oracles were gripped by the same vision, screaming until their voices died? Most gouged their own eyes out. Those that didn’t collapsed dead, crying blood.

The only differences between accounts of that vision are in how much each oracle chose to disclose. Some could not bear to speak a word of it without succumbing to tears or silence. Others were able to describe much with some disconnected distance.

No account is complete.

A river of tainted ichor, stained and dark, smelling of disease and decay, spewed from the entrance of the hallowed home of the gods. The pillars outside that once shining, clean marble had become festered with sores. The very path to those steps was rotting.

The air was choked with poisons. Even the shafts of light cascading from on high to illuminate the gods’ realm seemed to have gathered mold.

All this has been recorded, pieced together from what oracles have been able to speak.

A few were even able to share bits of what they saw of the gods, or what remained of them, within the last moments of that shared vision.

Need I remind you that all oracular vision comes from Ivri? It was through her eyes we know any of this. Praise her. Mourn for her.

We know something reached out from the tainted river, coiled around the Mad Goddess, and dragged her inside.

The Great Feasthall was utterly desecrated. None who shared the vision like to dwell on the details, but you must imagine something far worse than the outside was.

There was rot. And decay. And structures resembling giant wasps’ nests, filled with strange fleshy egg sacs, tended to by something crawling across the wall that might once have been Ralles.

The hall buzzed with activity. They were building something horrible.

Every member of the pantheon was there, warped nearly beyond recognition. Twisted and diseased figures occupied the hall. Some bearing too many limbs, or eyes, or what-have-you. Others not enough, crawling on their bellies like slugs. Some apparently melting into one another.

One thing they all had in common was the dark, viscous fluid oozing from their bodies. From empty orbs where eyes once were, from mouths, from bursting boils, this dark fluid stretched across the space and connected them as one.

But none of that was the worst part.

There is one significant detail that I do not believe any oracle has ever managed to speak of. That I am able to make the attempt now is a testament to my own discipline, efforts, and the many powerful elixirs I have imbibed today to loosen my mind and tongue.

It is the moment we all saw Her.

Their new Queen is a terrifying and beautiful inhuman nightmare. Let us leave it at that, or longing will grip me. She is the last thing I ever saw. She remains the only thing I see every day I’ve lived and in every night’s dreams since then.

I could not look away from her eyes. They captured me immediately. And then I heard it: the Song. The Queen’s Song, I understood at that moment, is one and the same as that dark fluid infecting the gods.

I blinded myself then rather than watch my goddess succumb.

That was…strangely easier to say than I thought it would be. The fear seems more distant than it has before. Perhaps it is simply the right time.

But now I hope you will be able to understand what it is I need to tell you next. It’s why I am revealing all this to you now.

I have begun to hear the song again. At first in my dreams, but now it is everywhere. My ears haven’t been failing me with age, it’s the Song filling them.

The Queen’s Song does not scare me any more, and that itself scares me.

I would ask you to pray for me, but…