Dark Sun: Gulg
The Oba of Gulg
“You think you act in secret, but the forest ghosts see all that occurs beneath their boughs. There are no secrets from the Oba. She has sent me to show you the truth of this.”
Many of the sorcerer-kings claim to be gods upon Athas. In Gulg, that assertion is made not by the sorcerer-queen of the city-state but by its residents. Ask any Gulgian, and he or she will tell you: Lalali-Puy, Queen of Gulg, is the Oba, the Forest Goddess, the Mother of Trees and Beasts, and a dozen more epithets besides. This declaration is no empty platitude mouthed to avert the baleful eye of the Nganga—the people of Gulg sincerely believe that their ruler is divine.
Gulg is a city only in the loosest definition of the term; it consists of a cluster of forest villages enclosed by a single wall. Most buildings are made of thatch or mud, and roads are little more than trampled earth, worn down by the feet of generations. Gulg is roughly divided into small communities called Dagadas, each of which comprises five to fifty huts. A dagada is enclosed by a wall or fence (wooden, stone, plant, or mud) and is built around a well shared by the dagada’s residents. Each well is monitored by one (or more) of the Queen’s Scribes.
Lalali-Puy is an absolute monarch in the purest sense: All property inside the Mopti Wall is hers, and she holds the ultimate power of life and death over all citizens, from the lowest slave to the greatest Judaga warrior.
While the Oba is not Divine in fact, she comes very close to it in power. The PC’s in this campaign should have some motivation for worshiping her, as they are currently unable to distinguish the difference between divinity, and very powerful people. The following are examples of motivations the characters have to worship the Oba: admiration, friendship, belief, respect, fear, love and/or loyalty.
Most simply call her “The Oba.” Lalali-Puy is her name, and there is no law against using it, but a few Nganga have executed those who use her name “inappropriately.”
It is well know that the Oba uses arcane magic, primal magic and psionics. She allows her Nganga to defile, but only in dire need. She maintains the Mopti Wall with her magic, which keeps the forest Spirits out of Gulg, summons rain, diverts powerful storms and makes plants grow (or diminish) as needed.
Although Lalali-Puy is not truly a goddess, surely she is the nearest example of divinity Athas has to offer. Her knowledge of rituals is unparalleled, even among the sorcerer kings. She is said to be capable of performing arcane and primal rituals known nowhere else on Athas
Lalali-Puy, Goddess of Forests, Oba of Gulg
The Oba has achieved what most Sorcerers of Athas can only dream of: she is a Goddess in the hearts of her people. As such, she may be the only Athasian monarch with the genuine support and admiration of her subjects. She peacably accepted the leadership of Gulg upon the passing of the previous matriach perhaps three thousand seasons ago. Since that time, her impressive lifespan and examplary command of the Athasian Sciences elevated her status, in the eyes of her people, from matron to deity.
Lalali-Puy seems to uphold an almost druidic sense of reverence for nature. She is very strict about environmentally sustainable practices to support her city. Further, there are no defilers to be found in Gulg, save the Goddess herself. She forbids farming, her templars maintain strict control of herd grazing to prevent destroying scrub land, and her slaves are constantly busy breeding and planting trees and shrubbery in an effort to expand the Crescent Forest within which her city resides. This, of course, puts her explicitly at odds with Nibenay’s emphasis on a lumber based economy for his city. As the Shadow King decimates the forest from the North, The Oba expands it from the South. This conflict may, ultimately, be the truest basis of the Oba’s status among her people: they believe, rightfully so, that the vast powers of their Oba are all that preserves their lives in the face of the threat of destruction and enslavement at the hands of [[Nibenay’s Shadow King]]
CHAMPION OF THE WARBRINGER
Inenek was a Champion of Rajaat, the Warbringer. She was known as the Scourge, and specifically the Scourge of Drow. While she did not actually eliminate every last Drow on Athas, she did slaughter most, and left the race without a single female to continue its species. Afterwards, she was charged to become the Scourge of Eladrin, but like other Champions, she did not complete this task. The reason she stopped this Cleansing is unknown.
What is known is that Inenek arrived in the Cresent Moon Forest 800 years ago. While most Gulgian’s believe the Oba was a goddess who took human form, the Oba was in fact something else. Inenek somehow bound the Oba to her, and then took the form of a mortal named Lalali-Puy. This has resulted in the Queen of Gulg demonstrating three personalities.
MYTH-CURRENT LORE EXAMPLE
I’ve fleshed out the myth of the Oba of Gulg. I present it here as a myth and then an analysis on it’s passages. I’m looking for ways to make it more polished if anyone has any ideas.
Athas was not always dying. There was a period long ago called the Green Age, when a small, comforting, yellow sun rested atop a cerulean sky. Athas was young and lush and rivers of water flowed through it’s valleys, while forests and green grass covered the mountains and flatlands. In this time, the pale, yellow sun gave life instead of burning it away.
During Athas’s Green Age, life was so abundant that it sprang unwilled from the world. Many beasts, people, and plants were birthed in this time. Beasts great and terrible, peoples noble and savage, plants tall and stout. But before all, the first to spring forth was the golor’ndale, a beast of great ferocity and power. It is said the golor’ndale’s mandibled head was covered in chitinous plates, it’s tail in scales like a serpent, with feathered wings. It’s body was covered in coarse fur, it’s underbelly bristling with teats.
It was not long before the golor’ndale began to birth more life, each different than the last. A few progeny became dozens. Dozens became hundreds. Hundreds became thousands. When she could nurse no more, she fell into a deep sleep, continuing to suckle her children while she slumbered. While she slept, her sons and daughters developed into the strong, swift, beautiful creatures that litter the Tablelands today. And these then birthed more of their own kind, populating Green Athas from one end to the other.
This great abundance did not go unnoticed. Spirits from beyond the Gray looked upon Athas with jealousy. They began coming to our world, a few at first; then in hordes. They found the great and the terrible, they found the noble and the savage, they found the tall and the stout; the spirits began to whisper lies to them. They told them of other places, beyond the Gray. Places more fantastic and wondrous than any on Athas. The children of Athas trusted their deceivers, allowing the spirits to possess them in exchange for knowledge.
None fell to the corruption of these spirits more quickly or as with as much zeal as the halflings. The spirits shared much with their close allies, teaching them to bend and twist life to their own designs, to make mockery of the golor’ndale’s children. While the great beast mother slept, the halflings began sneaking their abominations into the great mother’s lair to suckle.
For a time, the machinations of the spirits and the halflings went unnoticed. It was not long before the golor’ndale began to waste away, sucked dry by the abominations. The great beast mother knew instinctively when her progeny neared such numbers as she could not nurture. And so she slept. And when the halfling’s abominations began to nurse, the golor’ndale could provide for her children and herself no longer. Slowly the world began to die. And the great beast mother slept.
Not far from where the golor’ndale slumbered in her lair, stood a great afafari tree called the obata. The obata was tall and strong, having been one of the first of the children of Athas to come into existence. She cared deeply for her mother and so rooted herself near to where the golor’ndale slept. And within the obata’s womb rested her own daughter, the oba. The oba was one of the most beautiful of creature’s to spring forth from Green Athas. She was contented with living in her mother’s womb her whole life. She had no need or wont, but for the love of the obata and the closeness of the golor’ndale.
From her vantage, the oba was witness to the halflings and their abominations, but she did not at first understand. But she was the first to notice the wasting sickness coming over the golor’ndale. The oba became very concerned for her grandmother. In time, she began to understand the corruption in the halflings. She saw the abominations did not share in the great beast mother’s life, but stole from it. And it was the oba who first understood Athas was dying because of the halfling’s transgressions.
No longer content to reside in her mother’s womb, the oba sprang forth into the world for the first time. She squinted her eyes at the yellow sun shining through the agafari branches and felt the waters of the rivers between her toes. She at once became more powerful in the sun’s giving rays, more beautiful, but melancholy for the corruption of Athas. The oba was a great and terrible force; she was the only daughter to the obata, one of the first children of Athas. As the oba stormed through the forest in what would become a great hunt, she cursed the spirits and their halfling thralls.
The spirits could not stand before the wrath of the oba. Even in large groups, the spirits were no match for her. Most went into hiding in the deepest, most remote places of Athas. Many perished before the oba’s wrath, or were imprisoned, tortured, and executed. A few would bend to the oba’s will and become her slaves. But even in her magnificence, the oba could not eradicate them all. There were too many spirits and they were skilled at hiding, at running, at spreading lies.
The oba called upon her brothers and sisters to join her in cleansing Athas. But the spirits were insidious. Most of her brothers and sisters had fallen into depravity and corruption, deluded and misled by the spirits’ lies. There were some who heeded her call, though.
First came word from the mekillots to the east. The mekillots had always been fickle, but they would make powerful allies against the halflings. The spirits had great difficulty influencing the unruly beasts. The oba sent a missive to the mekillots, telling them wait and to prepare for war. The mekillots pledged their loyalty to the golor’ndale and to the oba and told her of a great army of spirits and halflings massing beyond their lands. The oba knew the time for war was near, but she needed more allies before she could meet them on the battlefield.
As the oba contemplated where to turn next, she was met by her sister Hesper. Hesper was of greater stature than the oba, but was less cunning and less beautiful. Hesper could use her giant feathered wings to fly through the sky and perceive all that happened beneath her. The oba was met her sister with pleasure. Her keen eyes would be useful to her in the coming battle.
Finally came the kreen, traveling in great numbers out of the hinterlands. This was the last time the kreen were ever united as one, their army arriving in wave after wave. The kreen traveled great distance over vast tracts of land. Their ways brought them over many routes. They brought word of all that was happening between the lair of the great beast mother and the hinterlands. Their tidings were dark. Most of the Tablelands had fallen into chaos. No others would answer the oba’s call.
Drawing upon all of her considerable wisdom and power, the oba tried to wake the great beast mother. The oba poked and prodded and screamed at her mother’s mother to awaken, but the great beast mother slumbered. She tried directing sunlight into the lair, but the great beast mother slumbered. Finally, she called on the mekillots to send one of their own to her. When the mekillot arrived, the oba thanked the gigantic lizard and then ended it’s life. The oba took a giant piece of shell from the mekillot’s back and stretched the mekillot’s skin over the hollow inside, creating a great drum.
And she began to beat the drum. And the golor’ndale began to stir.
When the great beast mother woke and learned of the spirits’ corruptions, she charged off with fire in her eyes and a taste for blood. The oba sent Hesper to the mekillots to tell them the time for battle was upon them. The oba and the kreen then chased after the great beast mother into the east.
The battle that was fought then on the plains past the mekillot home was bloody and terrible. The spirits and their halfling allies and their corrupted life shapes slew many mekillots, slew many kreen. But the golor’ndale unleashed a terrible fury upon the halflings. She skewered them upon her talons, crushed them underfoot, tore them in half with her mandibles, chewing and tearing and smashing them into the ground. The oba herself took great joy in this great hunt. She darted through the battlefield, destroying the spirits with an uttered word.
Then, in the pitch of battle, the halflings brought forth a weapon of their own creation, more terrible than any atrocity that had befallen Athas before or since. The halflings activated the weapon, training it on the golor’ndale. The terrible weapon wreaked havoc in ways even the halflings didn’t understand. The weapon caused the great beast mother terrible pain and inflicted upon her a fatal wound as their spirit masters had promised the halflings it would. But the weapon did this by corrupting the power of the sun. And so the sun itself was burnt, changing to a dark crimson. This talongalag – darkening of the sun – caused Athas to crack and smolder under the heat of the new crimson orb.
In the end, the battle was hard-fought, and hard-won. And so it was that the great beast mother was slain. The first child of Athas and mother to most of it’s children. Her teats could no longer provide for her children and Athas began turning into the land we know today.
In mourning, the oba retreated back to the obata. She prepared herself to depart from the dying world she once held as beautiful by returning to the Cresecent Forest – one of the last forests of Athas. There she was beseeched by free people, no longer thralls to the spirits. They wished for the oba to stay. They knew some spirits lingered in the remote places, and they knew too that they could not stand against them alone. In her pity, the oba granted them their wish. She would stay watch over the people of her mother’s land.
And you well know where this story leads. The oba became our queen and protector. Since the time of Green Athas, she has been given many names. The Oba of Gulg, the Forest Goddess, Lalali-Puy. It is by her grace the Crescent Forest stands. And through her glory, we live in lands not unlike those found in Green Athas. Lands like nowhere else since on this blasted, dying world.
THE VIEW OF AN NGANGA: Aukan