Myths and Legends of the Caltaran Empire

Myths and Legends of the Caltaran Empire

Now here is the tale of how the world was made…

In the beginning of days, the Gods lived alone. For only Chendryn, the god of earth, possessed the secrets of creation. His brothers and sisters, the gods and goddesses of fire, air and water, could create only by his grace. What they built, Chendryn destroyed on whim. He believed that all things living fell under his domain. So, when his brothers and sisters displeased him, he destroyed what he built for them without remorse.

Finally, the gods went to war, plunging the world into turmoil. Chendryn’s siblings defeated him only after a long and violent campaign. When it was over, the ancient world lay in ruins. Together, Chendryn’s siblings bound their violent brother in a deep and eternal sleep. The fire god, Litaio, set the sun in the sky to watch over him by day, and the water goddess, Milara, set the moon in the sky to watch him by night. Only then did the air goddess, Vispera, use her vast magical powers to reach deep into her brother’s heart and pull free the secrets of mortal life.

And thus were Caltarans born!

Building a World

When I wrote my epic high fantasy re-imagining of Dante’s Inferno, Dreamers Do Lie, I decided to go all out. I developed my own setting from scratch and jotted notes about each section so that I would know what I was doing when I wrote the book. It was my first time building a world from scratch, and I leaned a lot on things that already exist. My Hell, for example, was heavily inspired by both Dante and Greek mythology. I even tried to preserve the magical properties of each of the hell rivers mentioned in Greek mythology to ground my story in its source material. The empire of Onroth was heavily inspired by Rome. Irynt drew from ancient Persia, and the warriors of Vesald were pretty much Vikings.

Which is all well and good – originality is the art of hiding your source material after all. But I wasn’t exactly subtle with a lot of my creations. When I started working on the Celestial Serenade, one of my first decisions was to go deeper down the world creation well. I wanted to create something that felt completely new. And I wanted to know every inch of my creation, from the their ancestors’ religious beliefs to the deeply rooted morals of their culture.

That meant one of my first world building steps was to write my own mythology – which is a lot more complicated than it initially sounds. Because it’s easy to create a series of stories and say, this is what absolutely everyone believes. But that doesn’t feel realistic. Real world mythologies aren’t like that. Since they’re actually an amalgamation of many smaller regional beliefs, they often contradict each other, or attribute certain acts to several different gods. I wanted to recreate that effect.

Building a Foundation

The first thing I did was set my ground rules. In order to keep things simple, I decided to create only 4 gods. Each god would correspond with one element that is easily observed in the ancient world – earth, air, fire and water. But to make things interesting, I also decided that each god would have two aspects – a male and a female.

Each aspect of this pantheon would have specific attributes assigned to it. So technically, I was working with 8 gods at this point. But to create that organic mismatch I mentioned, I assigned similar attributes to more than one deity.

Once I had my basics established, I started considering relationships. It was easy to determine that the god and goddess of each aspect might often be considered siblings. But some might also be considered lovers. Zues had sex with pretty much all of his siblings, after all. That made the elemental connections simple, so I really only had to come up with cross-elemental relationships (and contradictions for them).

It would be easy to get carried away at this point and write an entire book of mythology. So I employed one last hack: I really only came up with one or two myths for reach deity’s aspect. But this still gave me more than enough references to sprinkle throughout the novel and make the mythology feel more robust than it really was. And it meant I didn’t waste a ton of extra world building details that couldn’t be crammed in the novel. Overall, I’m happy with the results!

Earth Mythology: Chendryn and Herimel

Some of my deity pairs have a dominant aspect and a ‘forgotten’ aspect. So it is with the earth deities. Chendryn is by far the more famous. He is stubborn and cares only for himself. Though capable of creating great wonders by shaping the world’s rock, he seems to prefer destroying. He embodies the elements of chaos and destruction, and is usually blamed for natural disasters such as earthquakes and storms. When he is awake, such disasters plague the world. But while he sleeps, the world remains calm. Some believe that the other gods’ protections will one day fail, and Chendryn will reawaken to destroy the world.

Chendryn’s story is the creation myth shared above. He represents a young world filled with strife and chaos, later tamed by forces of knowledge and developing civilization. But even in a society that has largely abandoned the idea of myth, Chendryn looms large over the shoulder, the traditional boogey man who will sweep all of civilization away if people are not vigilant.

Herimel, the earth goddess, isn’t mentioned often. She was once considered to be Chendryn’s wife, mother of the three elemental deities that eventually locked Chendryn away. In many ways, she is Chendryn’s opposite, representing stability and consistency. She is the embodiment of the planet’s ability to withstand time and change. Perhaps she, like her male counterpart, has gone to sleep to awaken in some distant future.

Water Mythology: Milara and Agaram

The dominant member of this pair is the female aspect, Milara, but there are actually just as many stories of the male aspect, Agaram.

Milara is one of the most invoked goddesses in the modern Caltaran empire. She is heavily associated with the ocean and is generally considered to be a motherly figure. In fact, she is often considered to be the mother of the Caltaran race, even though it was Vispera who stole the secret of life from Chendryn. Milara is the patron of family, the household, and Altaris – the Caltaran capital. Some say that Milara set the moon in the sky to guard her sleeping brothers. Others believe because the ocean tides are governed by the moon, Milara is actually in love with it (more on that in a bit).

Agaram, water’s male aspect, is generally considered Milara’s brother. He is most strongly associated with protection (though Caltarans often invoke Milara’s name for such). Some say that Agaram sleeps within the depths of the ocean, but will awaken whenever Caltarans are in need of aid (thus explaining why the water is often calm but sometimes becomes angry and violent).

Fire Mythology: Litaio and Osaria

This pair is my favorite. Litaio is the god of war, often depicted as a warrior wearing golden armor and wielding a flaming sword. Kantis – the name given to the greatest Caltaran warrior of a generation – is generally said to be touched by Litaio, which is how Caltarans are able to recognize them. But although Litaio is considered the god of war and flames, he is not known for having a temper. Litaio dictates the warrior’s code – a set of rules which true warriors must follow in order to receive Litaio’s blessing.

Though the story of creation claims that Litaio set the sun in the sky, he is more often associated with the moon. Remember Milara’s love affair? Well, there are those who say Litaio takes the form of the moon in order to participate in an illicit love affair with the goddess of the ocean. Eventually, however, his sister-lover Osaria catches wise and calls him home, which is why the moon waxes and wanes. This story represents romantic love, tragic love and, ofen, unrequited love.

Osaria, the female aspect of fire, is the goddess of passion, fertility and jealousy. She is a warrior herself, equal in skill to Litaio – which is how she holds his heart. Her armor is similar to her brother’s, and she carries a quiver that never runs out of arrows. She has a temper, which makes her angry and vengeful if roused. It is said that Osaria’s jealousy eventually calls all great warriors to her hall in the sun – just as she calls Litaio back from the moon and his tryst with Milara. Though Miliara is considered the mother protector, those wishing to conceive often invoke Osaria’s name, and she is said to watch over women while they give birth.

Air Mythology: Vispera and Rashmal

The god mentioned most often in the actual novels is Vispera – which is ironic, since she’s supposed to be dead. Vispera is the goddess of wind and magic. She is the most mysterious, secretive of all the gods and is associated with anything even remotely ‘mystical.’ She is also the goddess of fate and oracle. After she stole the secrets of life from her sleeping brother, she bestowed the gift of Second-Sight to a select group of her followers, thus founding the order of Oracles.

Some stories claim that Chendryn lashed out from his slumber, striking Vispera dead shortly after she granted Caltarans her final gift. Others claim that she perished in the war to lock the earth god away. Foreseeing her demise, she touched several of her mortal children on the forehead and, where her magic touched, they grew a third eye. Many believe that Vispera may one day be reborn among the Oracles.

Like Herimel, not much is known about Rashmal, the male aspect of air. Some believe that he may have been the one to perish in the war against Chendryn, allowing Vespera to live long enough to create the Oracles. In recent days, he has become the patron of scientists and rational thought – in direct opposition to Vispera’s most prominent aspects.

And there you have it! This foundation allowed me to sprinkle little hints about Caltaran mythology into the narrative and hint at a deeper depth to the setting. The hardest part is remembering how to spell all the made up names!

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