#RPGaDay2021 Day 8 "Stream"
Preface: Synergy for the Win
I've mentioned before that I don't write articles ahead. There are several reasons for this, but one of them is that sometimes situations come up that write my essay for me. This is one of those times. Today's work came from a completely unrelated conversation with my Trinity co-creator, last night. We were talking about our next worldbuilding projects, and got talking about the Old Gods of the world, and one god in particular. That conversation was instead of writing my daily essay. At the end, I said that I was heading off to bed, especially since I didn't have any ideas for "Stream" yet. Then I paused, and it turned out that I did in fact have a topic for this essay.
The River God
Modern Trinity is a land of the New Gods. The old gods were mostly elf lords with massive dream powers who warped reality around them. The most powerful and influential of those gods were killed by the Dwarves in a world-changing act of vengeance. Minor gods, who had oddly specific foci were sometimes spared. And there were some old gods who were different--they were Powers, and nobody told them they couldn't be gods. One of these was the River God, Alhud.
The River God is one of the oldest creatures alive today. His existence spans at least as far as First Chaos, when elves first began to populate the world. Whether he was there before that, he either doesn't know, care or tell. But as the city of Jadir became the first large settlement, it also was also the home of a dragon.
The fragmented tales from that time speak of the Bronze River Dragon, though they do not always describe him as Alhud. In fact, it's generally agreed that Alhud probably isn't even his proper name. It's known that he answers to many names, and that Alhud is a corruption of some much older and more formal name or even an idea. The important thing is that as far as anyone knows, there has always been a river dragon, and if you call him Alhud, he will answer to it, if he answers.
A River With A God
The Alhud River is protected; it is kept pure and intact, and always flows along its natural path. These things are true, but it's also known that the path of the river was changed by engineers during the age of the Dwarves, and there are only rumors about what deals may have been made to allow that to occur.
But this leads to some truths that surprise people about Alhud. He doesn't get upset about fishing. He doesn't protect people from drowning; he doesn't worry about ships going up or down, or if those ships get taken by river pirates. He doesn't even seem to care about the scuttling of boats, since beavers and carrion eaters tend to deal with those messes.
But he does have some rules. Farms cannot be closer than a bowshot distance from the river. Development is not allowed along the river itself, though he is okay if some water is diverted to farms or villages off the river.
He also has rules that involve his sleeping, and interrupting it annoys him: invasions of Jadir, supernatural influences, the sabotage or even impeding of the river's natural state fall under this heading. These are loud, they are disruptive, they affect his river unduly and they make him angry. He has Ascended Servants who deal with most problems, but occasionally he needs to get involved himself.
During the Age of King Brahim, a small Tyran lord sought to increase his influence in his native country by bringing a fleet, and blockading the river. Brahim was not a weak ruler, but he wasn't used to active invasion, and did not handle the situation well. The troops he could have handled, but the ships had advantages he wasn't ready for, and he was losing thousands of gold per day in taxes while the blockade existed.
As part of the fleet ventured up the river, the river itself dried up in the course of a few minutes. With the ships grounded, the water came back crushing the ships and drowning many within. The debris washed quickly and precisely into the lake, where it damaged some of the ships still waiting there. This engagement took less than two hours. Brahim's cleanup of the remaining soldiers and ships took another six months, but was ultimately successful.
Alhud is the God of the Alhud River. The river is his place of power, but it's also his constraint. He has travelled up it to it's origins, and repeats that trip occasionally to remind himself of its essence. He has also travelled to the end of the river, where it flows into the ocean. But that has little interest to him. Of course, he knows what water is his and can trace it, but he knows that at the Lake, the water stops being truly his, and by the time it reaches the Great Shore "his" water is no more interesting to him than knowing which piece of cotton is a particular thread in a tapestry.
This also means that while he is a very ancient dragon of awesome power, he doesn't venture outside the domain of his river. One story tells of a Power in the demiplane of Leng who was trying to manifest through a gate near the city. Nobody doubts that Alhud could have travelled to Leng and as an ancient dragon, defeated whatever planned to come through. But he could only have done so as a dragon, leaving his divine influence behind. He would have put himself at risk, and left his river unguarded. And most important, he didn't want to. Instead, he sent an Ascended Servant, with help, to close the gate before it ever became a problem. If the Power had made it through into this realm, Alhud could have dealt with it, but at a much higher cost to his river and also the city and inhabitants.
The Pool of Serenity
Perhaps his most obvious influence is the Pool of Serenity. This is a pond about a day and a half journey upstream from the city of Jadir. The pond is not significantly bigger than the river itself, though anyone coming upon it knows that it's special. Fish jump out of the river, river otters frolic, beautiful flowers grow all along its banks, and there is an aura of calmness over the whole place.
The pool wasn't created. Alhud didn't decide that there should be fish and flowers. Rather, it's said that at the end of a day of travel, he rested by his river, in the surety that he would enjoy its natural elements, and was pleased when a fish jumped just after he lay down to rest. His relationship with the river was such that his pleasure caused the river to respond. Fish jumped; flowers that he enjoyed grew there. Animals came and drank in peace and safety, or played at its shores, and predators that might disrupt the scene contented themselves with drinking alongside their prey.
Alhud isn't often at the Pool, and technically nothing keeps someone from fishing at its banks. There has never been a known case of Alhud punishing someone for violating the place. But people also know that they shouldn't, and as is the way of some gods, it's not that people fear defying him. Rather, they come to the conclusion on their own that they mustn't disrupt it. Whether that's his influence or their own decision is left as an exercise to others.
Alhud is still the River God, today. The New Gods have spheres of influence in the Great Cycles. But a few old gods still exist, guarding over their small and sometimes strange domains. Some are still worshiped; some even have servants who attend them or their needs. Alhud is still about, but is more reclusive of late, and much more likely to be asleep.
Sometimes, one will get a glimpse of his draconic form, and to do so is considered good luck. It is said that he spends a few years every decade or five as a humanoid, exploring the river, its towns and the people who live on or near it. Unlike some dragons, his form is rarely the same. He sees a mortal who catches his eye, and becomes him or her, or a variation of them. This does cause supposed Alhud sightings to be common and often amusing occurrences, especially when someone with a shock of green hair is seen walking about the city. (Those who spread such gossip are generally not the type to walk up to a would-be god and ask them for their identification papers.)
Those who truly wish to contact Alhud know how to do so. City elders know of his servants, and what to look for. Some people have ways of contacting him, which they do not reveal to others. Perhaps the most pure and easiest way is to go to the Pool of Serenity and ask for him. If he is awake, and cares to answer, he sometimes will. In fact, there are significantly more stories of him bringing a healing herb from the waters of the Great Forest to a grieving mother, than there are of him bringing righteous vengeance to the enemies of the state.
And even more common, stories of a stranger who attends a household at dinnertime, bringing a beautiful and exotic fish as a gift, offering to help cook it. He always brings a large bag of fine wine for his his host's enjoyment. For days or weeks after his visit, good fortune follows those who were hospitable, shared stories and joy with him, and enjoyed him for his company, not for who he might be.
About the Art
Today's work comes from Grimmla, aka Gish, who literally called it "The River God". So besides being beautiful, it's exactly what I was after. Gish is a professional digital artist, and their other works can be found on their Deviant Art page or as is more active, their Twitter Account.
I would also like to thank Painted Bees, who commissioned the work, and gave me permission for it's usage. She created the character the art was based on, and hold the rights to both the character and this piece. Her work can be found on her Twitter account, or her Patreon account.
The work has wonderful landscape elements, coloring and lighting. But the reason I picked it was because the dragon god comes across as approachable. To me, that means that the river and its many bounties are approachable, as well. That makes the river a treasure for those who live near it, or count on it to survive which in turn creates a synergy for why the river god chooses this place.