Freebie Mondays: Meet the Trickster

Freebie Mondays: Meet the Trickster

Many speak of Emorad and the various forms he takes…

They speak of him as handsome, charming and stylish. They speak of him as wild beneath stars and moon. They speak of his fluid ability to shift like the wind, taking form as beast or man – whichever suits his needs.

But the most defining characteristic of Emorad is his tongue, for none has ever been gifted with such a gilded knack for speech as the shifty shifter.

It helps, no doubt, that he can assume any form or face. Even the Celestial Mother, he can replicate with shocking precision – though the lady of creation denies it fervently.

None can say with certainty from where Emorad came – though many believe he was called into existence by the laughter of the first child. Others still say he was stray strand of magic that escaped the Celestial Mother’s working in order to take solid form. And some few even think he was born mortal and stole the secrets to immortality with his gift of gab.

But all agree that it matters not from whence Emorad came; it is more important to be aware of where he might go, lest ye fall into one of his expertly set snares.

Even the gods are not immune to the wiles of the shifty shifter, as evidenced by this, his most famous tale.

Once while she wandered the sacred groves of her most coveted forest, Tauldar, the Seed Matron stumbled upon an elk of purest white. It pranced among the fauna of her creations with little care, until her grand eyes fell upon it. Then the elk bent low, touching its antlers almost to the grass before addressing the mother of the forest.

“Have you heard the news, great lady?” spoke the elk.

To which the Seed Matron responded with wonder, “Whatever could you mean?”

“Why, there is to be a ritual of great power performed three days hence beneath the great fullness of the moon in the grove you set beneath eternal starlight. A grand celebration of your greatest creations. Your followers claim it will raise the sun in a sunless land in order to fully decorate your glory.”

“Is that so?” the Seed Matron preened, for she knew well of the moonlight garden of which the elk spoke.

“Indeed, indeed,” the elk cried as he resumed his prancing. “We here cannot hope to reach it, but surely you will go great lady, and tell us how the ritual proceeds?”

No sooner was the Seed Matron’s promise given than did she flit off beneath the trees of her grove. She did not linger enough to see the twinkle in the white elk’s eyes before it faded from the grove, nor did she hear the faint sound of vanishing laughter that escaped the trickster’s throat.

Only a few hours later in another portion of the celestial havens, strong solar winds coalesced into the form of a celestial that whispered on the breath of a breeze through the Celestial Mother’s starry gardens.

The Celestial Mother is the most confident of all the gods, for she believes her power to be unshakable and unapproachable in comparison to the rest of the pantheon, so she had no reason to fear intrusion. But when she heard the faint whisper of laughter straying among starlight, she turned from her ponderings to capture the celestial creature beneath the full scrutiny of her gaze.

“How then do you wander in this place, little one?” she demanded. “And what news do you bring?” For such messengers never traveled far without gossip on their lips.

At first it seemed like the celestial creature might laugh itself back into oblivion. But beneath the starry gaze of the Celestial Mother, it took more solid form and swirled into a bow. “Great Mother,” it murmured with utmost respect, “word travels about a grand ritual to be performed in your honor.”

“In my honor?” the Celestial Mother replied with amusement, for it seemed a foregone conclusion to her that all of the best rituals would be dedicated to her glory.

“Indeed, beneath the eternal starlight in the grove that forever blossoms. Some say it will fix the moon forever in the sky so that the full glory of your countenance forever blesses the land.”

“Indeed, that would be a glorious tribute,” the Celestial Mother agreed with a sage nod, though she had not until this moment been aware of any such plan. “Perhaps I should put in an appearance to make certain all goes according to plan.”

“Indeed, Great Mother, nothing would please the participants more,” the celestial elemental declared. And like the Seed Matron, the Celestial Mother departed before she saw an ethereal hand lift to an ethereal mouth to conceal a bit of celestial laughter, and almost did the trickster reveal his true form before the celestial being winked out of existence.

When the day of the ritual dawned, the trickster stashed himself in a tree using one of his most favored forms – that of a huge feline – and he pretended to be asleep as the two goddesses approached from opposite ends of the grove. With the Celestial Mother traveled Agos, great horned lord of war, and with the Seed Matron traveled Queach, her greatest rival, whom she hoped to upstage. Each spoke with excitement about the proceedings to come, and all were equally surprised to stumble into a clearing and find each other rather than their followers in attendance.

“Why come you to this sacred spot?” demanded the Celestial Mother with hands clenched into fists at her sides.

But undaunted, the Seed Matron folded her arms in front of her chest and retorted, “This is my grove, why should I not be here for festivities about to proceed?”

“I am afraid you will need to clear away,” the Celestial Mother insisted, “as I do not think my followers intend to celebrate anyone else on this fair evening.”

The looks exchanged between the Celestial Mother and the Seed Matron, at this point, might well have been composed as daggers. And each of the gods invited to serve as guests took a step backward so as not to be drawn into the confrontation.

“You cannot claim all mortals as your follower, Great Mother,” the Seed Matron retorted. “Not when they come with another deity’s name firmly on their lips, as mine shall this fine evening.”

The tension, at this point, became palpable as both Agos and Queach sincerely wished to be elsewhere. But high in his perch in the branches of his chosen tree, Emorad allowed a wicked smile to grace his feline lips, as this was exactly the outcome he hoped to achieve.

The Celestial Mother, who does not take kindly to even the smallest of perceived slights, called her celestial magic to her fingertips and her eyes flashed with starlight as wind whipped through her hair. “We shall not hear such talk from an upstart,” she declared, and snapped her fingers to summon the lord of war to her side.

Only reluctantly did Agos step forward. But as he was still bound as the Celestial Mother’s champion, duty demanded he allow her to direct her sword. With a look of pleading dismay, he presented the hilt of his sword to the Seed Matron and set her hand upon it.

“Surely there need not be war tonight,” Queach protested. “When the mortals arrive, the air will be clear as will be their purpose,” the lord of magic suggested.

And while the Celestial Mother is not easily or often appeased, she likes nothing more than to be proven right. So she motioned her champion back and allowed her magic to fade.

So began the long wait.

Many a being of less confidence and fortitude would have abandoned the scene at this juncture, merely allowing the two goddesses to wait long into the evening until they bored of staring at an empty field. But it is not in the nature of Emorad to abandon a fine prank when it has only just built to its fullest potential.

So he descended from his high perch and slunk into the shadows so that he might approach from a distance.

When the wait had grown long, but not so long that either goddess considered abandoning her resolve, a figure appeared on the horizon. They were dressed in a long cloak that bore a deep hood, and from the hood protrude the skull of some great, long-beaked bird. The figure moved slowly, but with great intent of purpose. When they reached the center of the clearing, they raised the gnarled wooden staff they carried high and began to chant.

But the words that flowed from the figure’s lips were not holy words recognized by either of the eager goddesses, and so they turned to each other in befuddled confusion. After only a moment of consideration, the two marched forward as one to confront the figure, demanding to know what they were doing and why they had come.

“Why,” cried Emorad in the voice of an aged wise shaman, “I have come to dedicate these grounds to the Reaper, most sacred and powerful of all the divine beings within the celestial heavens.”

Were it not for the great hood and wide mask that covered the trickster’s face, his laughter would have been evident as the two goddesses glanced at each other, then threw their arms into the air to stalk away. The Celestial Mother disappeared back to her great hall to fume and the Seed Matron stalked away with Queach grinning on her heals.

Only horned Agos remained. And once his patron vanished, a small smile danced playfully across his lips. He even went so far as to chuckle. “You should be careful, Emorad,” he murmured when the shaman ventured close to express curiosity. “For the Celestial Mother is not of such good humor that she would not cut off your tail, were she able to catch it in her grip.”

Removing mask and hood, the trickster revealed the full glory of his countenance to the horned lord of war and laughed uproariously. “But you must admit it was a fun evening,” he protested. “The celestial court will not soon stop talking about this.” Nor debating who could have set the two goddesses so close to the brink of war.

Though it was clear Agos did not share the cavalier nature of his new companion, his smile deepened never-the-less.

When Emorad finished thoroughly enjoying the memory of his own antics, he turned skeptical eyes in the direction of the lord of war, who lingered beneath the light of star and moon. “It is evident that you saw through my disguise,” Emorad pressed, eager to determine how the lord of war’s perception was so keen. “Yet you did not tip off either of the goddesses.”

“Why should I do that?” Agos protested.

“Is not the Celestial Mother your patron?” Emorad retorted. “Do you not owe her every loyalty?”

“What she cannot see for herself is not my concern,” Agos replied with great humor. “And besides, if I gave your game away, I should not be able to enjoy the fruits of your labors.”

The two exchanged a conspiratorial glance and, on that eve beneath the moon, a great friendship was forged.

Meet the Trickster!

Last – but certainly not least – of the core pantheon of Cryptonian gods is Emorad. Though officially he is known as ‘the Shifter,’ those who do not worship him often call him ‘the Shifty Shifter’ due to his reputation.

Emorad is a shapeshifter. Often he takes the form of a half-man, half-beast, though he can assume the shape of any creature – or person – he desires. It is said that he can even replicate the forms of his siblings with great accuracy. When he is not shifted, Emorad is often depicted as a handsome human or elf man with a short crop of fair hair. In beast form, he favors felines, though he is also sometimes depicted as a wolf in his temples. No matter what shape he assumes, Emorad makes certain it is pleasing to the eye.

Emorad is a trickster, known for causing trouble among gods and mortals alike. His nature is playful, rather than evil or harmful. But it is also true that he rarely considers the consequences of his actions, which does sometimes result in damage as a direct result of his pranks. Some stories claim Emorad tricked Agos into killing the Reaper in order to antagonize the Celestial Mother, but these are not popular tales. More often, Emorad is depicted as Agos’s companion. Some claim they were brothers, despite a general agreement that Emorad is of divine origin and Agos was not. Some even claim it was Emorad who made Agos immortal via blood ritual rather than the Celestial Mother, infusing the warrior with a piece of his own divine essence. These tales claim the horns which sprouted from Agos’s head during the transformation are a result of the Shifter’s blood taking root in his veins.

Most stories place Emorad firmly at Agos’s side during the struggle that followed the Reaper’s death. But it is difficult to trace Emorad’s actual loyalty. He spends much of his time pitting his siblings against each other. In fact, he often crops up in tales of Tauldar and Queach’s endless war, usually as an antagonist who re-ignites their anger whenever it cools. Because he splits his pranks equally among the divine, it is hard to say how he really feels about any of his siblings.

One should never match wits with Emorad. It is said he knows the answer to every riddle in existence and, thus, cannot be fooled or outsmarted. Some say Agos was able to tell him a riddle he never heard and, thus, Emorad granted him immortality. Other stories claim that Emorad spared Agos from his pranks due to the lord of war’s clever wit. Some stories claim that any mortal can gain divinity so long as they can best Emorad in a similar challenge.

As for Emorad’s primary domain – it is hard to pin down. Some consider him to be the god who actually granted magic to mortals, though it’s uncertain whether he holds magic’s true secrets or merely stole a page from Queach’s spell book to distribute among mortals. Emorad is generally considered to be the originator of any spell that involves taking of bestial shapes, making him the patron of many druids. And while he might not be the overall patron of arcane magic, especially the elemental domains, he is generally considered to be the keeper of any magic that involves sneaking or tricking others – such as scrying and illusory magic.

Emorad is the primary deity invoked by thieves and tricksters. But oddly enough, he is also considered to be a patron of the arts, especially visual arts such as painting, sculpture and even fashion. It is believed that Emorad will never allow himself to look bad or foolish in the eyes of mortals – hence anyone wishing to employ charm or look dashing will invoke his blessing.

. . .
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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