Freebie Mondays: Meet the Horned God of War

Freebie Mondays: Meet the Horned God of War

Not all the gods were born divine…

The Reaper is fascinated by all mortal life. This is why, eventually, they add all living things to their collection.

This practice causes no end of despair to the Celestial Mother, whose love for all her creations is enormous. But there are those among her creations that Aleonath treasures above all the rest, the crowning jewels of her creation, the mortals whom other mortals make into legends.

For many long eons the Celestial Mother searched for a way to preserve her greatest creations, for she was only able to secure immortality for one mortal creature – and that did not work according to plan. She searched far and wide and, at last, discovered a hunter worthy of her attention.

Descending from her celestial throne, Aleonath extended her hand to the hunter and offered him a place at her side. If he would serve as her champion, she would carry him back to her celestial dwelling. There he would have the freedom to roam so long as he served her will among the mortal plane.

The hunter agreed, for no greater glory had ever been bestowed upon a mortal man. Aleonath pricked her finger and allowed a drop of her celestial essence to flow onto the hunter’s tongue, and he found his abilities transformed by this offering.

For many hundreds of years, the Celestial Mother’s champion stood beside her throne, wandering the divine realm and descending whenever there was need of him on the mortal plane. But as Aleonath monitored her champion’s progress through the ages, she took note that his appearance gradually changed. Grey tinged his hair and wrinkles marred his face.

At last, the Reaper strode directly into the Celestial Mother’s hall and set a hand on the great warrior’s shoulder, leading him from Aleonath’s divine realm into her own.

Furious with outrage, the Celestial Mother stormed into the Reaper’s grand hall and demanded the return of her champion. “Choose your own mortal,” she snarled. “This one is mine.”

But when she attempted to seize her champion and take him back with her from whence she came, she found his frame thin and frail. He wilted beneath her touch, and she recoiled. This was not the strong warrior she called into her service, and she no longer recognized him.

“Still your anger and cease your rampage,” the Reaper told their sister calmly. “For though the blood you granted to your champion extended his life far beyond reckoning, no mortal can be granted immortality without my involvement. Long has your champion devoted himself to your causes and now, at last, the time has come for him to rest. Return to your hall and choose another, for none should be bound in eternal servitude.”

Angry still, the Celestial Mother never-the-less returned in disappointment to her hall for she had no use of a champion who could no longer serve. She began her search anew, scouring the worlds of her creation for one worthy of ascension. When again she found a warrior of great still and devotion, she offered a drop of her blood to bind them and once again drew the warrior to her grand hall. Still desperate to bestow immortality, however, she tried a new tact – when the warrior accepted their new mantle, they were also granted the name Agos, immortalizing her former champion.

For thousands of years, an Agos stood sentinel in the Celestial Mother’s hall, always ready to act at her beck and call. And for all those many eons the champions distinguished themselves – but they were not always the same Agos. And when twilight fell upon each of her champions, no matter the length of their servitude, the Reaper slipped on silent wings to their side and bore their souls away.

This intrusion drove Aleonath to distraction. For she deserved to have one that was hers and could not be touched or manipulated by any of her siblings. Her search resumed. But it was no longer enough to have merely an Agos. She needed an Agos that might endure.

For many long centuries, without a champion at her side, the Celestial Mother tested mortal warriors, until at last a hunter overcame the first of her challenges. Descending from her high throne, she approached the man as she had the first and said, “Speak your name, Warrior, that I might know my new champion.”

The warrior answered without delay, for he recognized the Celestial Mother’s divine countenance. “My name is Agos,” he said and dropped to one knee.

“You are no Agos,” Aleonath retorted, aghast that a mortal would be so bold as to claim a title that was rightfully hers to give.

“Never-the-less, it is the name my parents gave me,” the warrior replied humbly, still bent on one knee. “My parents named me after the divine champion who inspired their adventures in their youth.”

This warmed the Celestial Mother’s heart, for she had chosen her champions at least partly to serve this purpose. She set a hand on the warrior’s shoulder and said, “Rise, Agos, for this must be the hand of fate at work. I wish to make you my ultimate champion, a champion for the ages. To do this, I must know for certain you are worthy. I will set to you nine challenges. If you pass them all, you will ascend to stand forever at my side. Do you accept?”

Again, the warrior bowed his head with humility and said, “Anything you wish of me, Great Mother, shall be done.”

Nine beasts the Celestial Mother sent to test her champion, each larger, cleverer and more powerful than the last. And each of the beasts Agos slew with zeal. When he finished his grim work, he would cut the pelts from the creatures and present them at Aleonath’s temple as proof of his exploits.

So pleased was Aleonath with this new champion that she resolved he must be hers for all of time. When the moment came to draw him into her divine hall, she did not offer him the singular drop of blood that transformed every Agos that came before him. Instead, she split open his wrist and emptied his mortal blood from his body. This she replaced with the divine fire that surged through her own veins, lighting and invigorating his figure with the divine spark.

As a mark of her touch, antlers sprung from Agos’s head and the spark of a thousand stars glimmered in his eyes. He arose from near death stronger, faster and hardier than ever he had been before.

To ensure his divinity could not be denied, Aleonath constructed a grand hall and set inside it a massive throne, and these she gifted to her eternal champion that he might take his place forever among the divine.

Meet the Horned Lord of War!

The Horned Warrior has many names, but “Agos” is the most common. Unlike the rest of his divine siblings, it is believed “Agos was born mortal and entered the Celestial Mother’s service at some point during his adult life. According to historical fragments, many men (and some women) have borne the name Agos throughout history. Many were distinguished warriors or generals before they caught the Celestial Mother’s attention. It is difficult to say whether the name “Agos” potentially predates the god, or indeed if these distinguished warriors were named for the Celestial Mother’s champion. It does seem certain not all historical references to “Agos” describe the same person.

Religious stories agree that when Aleonath chose Agos as her champion, his physical appearance changed to mark the distinction. He is described as a tall man with dark skin and dark hair. When the Celestial Mother named him her champion, a pair of stag antler’s sprung from his forehead and his eyes took on the appearance of the star-studded void. Agos is usually depicted wearing heavy armor and wielding a sword – though legends often place other weapons in his hand.

According to his followers, Agos was and is the greatest warrior ever to have lived. He is skilled with every form of weapon and known to be a master of tactics. He is primarly worshiped as the god of war; even today military personnel whisper his name before entering battle. But he is also invoked by weary travelers who seek protection on the road. Because he was born mortal, Agos is believed to look upon mortals more often and more kindly than the rest of the divine pantheon.

Despite his so-called crime of murdering the Reaper, Agos remains one of the most popular gods in modern day Ashvaleryan. Perhaps because he is so popular, there are many stories about other gods desiring his company. Many believe he and the Celestial Mother had a romantic affair. Stories also indicate the Seed Matron may have once coveted Agos’s company, but he rebuffed her. There are even tales that place Nith and Agos as lovers and claim Agos slew the Reaper because they proved unfaithful.

Worshipers of Agos claim the Horned Warrior slew the Reaper because the Reaper had become a danger to mortal life. Stories make it unclear why the Reaper became dangerous. Some say that it was Nith who went mad with power rather than Agos. Others say the Reaper had decided to end all mortal life. Still more claim that the Celestial Mother ordered Agos to slay the Reaper to preserve her creations, but she was still forced to punish him afterward for the crime of slaying a divine being.

Whatever the case, it is generally agreed that Agos did kill the Reaper and this is why necromantic magic ceased to function. What happened after is up for debate, even among followers of Agos. It is generally agreed there was a celestial war. The Celestial Mother cast her former champion into exile, though she did not revoke his divinity. Legends say Queach – the Dragon Lord – opposed Agos’s exile and fought for him to maintain his rank among the divine council. Others say Tauldar – the Seed Matron – sided with Agos because his actions saved all life within the universe (though she may have just been trying to win his favor). Either way, the war among the gods was devastating and some believe it was ultimately the reason for Crytponia’s fall.

The Horned Warrior’s Rise According to Agos

Here is how Agos’s rise to power is told in the earliest of his holy books…

In the beginning came the hunt. For there is always a hunt, whether it be to eat, to protect the innocent or to take revenge on those who have wrongfully struck those meant to be protected. And once, there was no glory save the victory of completing the hunt.

Until the day the Celestial Mother melted from the mists to behold the work of the warrior.

“Is this your kill?” she asked, motioning to the corpse of the great beast.

The warrior bowed his head to indicate agreement.

“And you felled it on your own?” the Celestial Mother pressed, beginning to sound impressed.

“For the good of the village,” the warrior replied, for this hunt was not just to feed the mouths of his hungry kin but also to protect those who had been hurt by the creature’s former attacks.

“You fight well, Warrior,” the Celestial Mother praised. Then with a grin she asked, “What is your name?”

But no sooner did the warrior try to speak in answer to her question than did the Celestial Mother flick her wrist to indicate dismissal. “It matters not,” she mused, discarding the answer offered her. “From this moment forward, your name is Agos and I wish to make you most distinguished among mortal warriors.”

“What need have I of glory?” the warrior – now called Agos – demanded. “Those who hunt without purpose have forgotten the reason they fight.”

“You think that I would act without purpose?” the Celestial Mother demanded, offended. “There is much beyond your small world that you do not know or understand. But you will see, Agos, that your hand is needed on a scale far larger than you can possibly imagine.” And she vanished before Agos could offer a reply.

With great effort, the warrior dragged the corpse of the beast back to his village so that it could be harvested for use. He put the encounter out of his mind and spoke nothing of the name the Celestial Mother had given him.

But the next time he departed on a hunt, the warrior was stalked by a great beast the likes of which he had never seen before. The beast was large and clever, and it came perilously close to striking the warrior dead.

His skills were great, however, far more than worthy of the name the goddess granted him, and he was able to slay the beast before it got the best of him.

Again, the Celestial Mother melted from the mist with a grin on her face. “I am well pleased,” she said, “for I knew that you could rise to this challenge.”

“This was your work?” the warrior demanded, outraged at the danger to his village should he have failed his task. When the Celestial Mother nodded, he frowned and said, “Play no more games with me. Merely leave me in peace.”

But again, the Celestial Mother vanished without heeding his words. He harvested the pelt of the creature and delivered it unto her temple, hoping the offer of sacrifice would placate her. But when he left to hunt again, a second beast hounded his steps – larger and cleverer than the last.

Nine times did the warrior, who still did not call himself Agos, slay the beasts the Celestial Mother sent to stalk his steps. Nine times did he cut free the pelts and deliver them to the divine mother’s temple in hopes that she would cease her torment of him. And eight times did she ignore his earnest pleas.

Until, at last, when the ninth beast lay cold and dead, the Celestial Mother descended from her high throne to speak once again with her chosen champion. “Come with me,” she said simply, “and I will show you the true worth of your skill.”

The warrior was angry, driven half-mad by the Celestial Mother’s endless meddling. But he agreed to go in hopes that he might at last win his freedom from this divine brutality. He took the hand extended to him by the Celestial Mother and she took him to her divine hall from which he could view the greater measure of her creation.

And though he remained reluctant – for he was devoted to his cause – he quickly understood why the Celestial Mother desired his skill. There were those who were hungry and without warriors to feed them. There were those who suffered attacks without a warrior to protect them. And there were those who laughed instead of paying for the wrongs that they wrought since there were no warriors available to strike revenge against them.

Heart heavy with the truth that now sat upon his shoulders, the warrior turned to the goddess and lifted his head. “I will be your champion,” he said at last. “I will assume the mantle of Agos that I might serve those in need of a true warrior’s hand. I ask only that I be able to serve those who rely on me in return, for they would suffer greatly for my absence.”
The Celestial Mother smiled, pleased at last with the warrior who stood in front of her. She took his arm in her divine hands. But before the rest of the bargain could be struck, she pierced the new Agos with his eyes, forcing him to look upon the infinity that occupied her gaze.

“And do you swear to bear this burden for the rest of all eternity?” she demanded, her voice suddenly seeming like the ages themselves. “Will you sacrifice all that you are in order to serve the greater good for as long as the stars burn in their heavens?”

But for this, the warrior needed no time to think. “I will serve so long as service is required,” Agos declared.

And so, the Celestial Mother opened the warrior’s veins and from him poured the essence of his mortal life. Into the gap flowed the blood of the Celestial Mother, choked with the fire of creation. And as it flowed into the empty space within Agos’s mortal figure, it transformed him into her eternal champion and lit within him the spark of the divine. Antlers sprung from his head and the whole of celestial creation reflected in his eyes.

Thus did the chains of eternal servitude settle over him. They remained heavy even after the Celestial Mother presented Agos with his own hall and adorned it with a throne to ease the sting of her heavy lash.

But as he sat upon the throne and gazed down at the Celestial Mother’s grand creation, voices drifted into Agos’s ears. Agos realized he could hear the pleas of those who needed his skills – and thus he could answer without having to wait for the divine mother to pass orders into his ears.

So when Aleonath said, “Remember always who you serve,” he shook his head and offered as reply, “As a champion, I must serve the will of my patron, it is true. But as a god, I must also serve the needs of those who worship me.”

And thus did he sever the first of the chains binding him to the Celestial Mother’s service.

. . .
This is part of a new series developing lore for my Tales of Cryptonia homebrew D&D campaign. (Which you can learn more about here.)

Incidentally, I streamed the creation of this post in case you want to watch it come together!

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