The Gods of Whiteleaf: Introduction

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willpell
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The Gods of Whiteleaf: Introduction

Whiteleaf is a world that was built to last; its gods are the last survivors of a previous creation which was unhealthy enough to be capable of destruction, and unstable enough to actually fulfill that potential. When they created their new home, the deities knew that they had to preserve the vitality of this world by allowing diversity to thrive within it, even though such radical differences among the world's forces would inevitably provoke the kind of conflict which could endanger the realm's survival. Put simply, a world of perfect safety is a world of stagnation and ennui, whose inhabitants will likely commit suicide out of sheer apathy, or simply waste away into feeble shadows of themselves. Thusly, to keep the world vibrantly alive, the gods had to give it the possibility of tearing itself apart; such paradoxes are common in the realm of the divine.

The number 4 is magically significant on Whiteleaf (in somewhat the way 7 is a recurrent motif throughout the Judeo-Christian tradition from which our modern civilization arose, expressing itself in everything from the days of the week to the number of colors claimed to comprise the rainbow). The maximum number of gods which can ever exist in the Whiteleaf cosmology is 4 raised to its perfect pyramidal extrapolation - (4 ^ 1) + (4 ^ 2) + (4 ^ 3) + (4 ^ 4), which is 4 + 16 + 64 + 256, or 330 in total. Some theologians have speculated that the true forms of the gods (who are known to operate mostly through avatars projected remotely, so that even in their celestial homes they may well not be truly present) are all gathered in some vast incomprehensible hall, where each one sits upon a throne wherefrom their power is truly granted; if so, then there are 330 such thrones in that hall. (The knowledge that a rare few mortal beings have achieved apotheosis seems to support this theory; some who have sought this goal simply failed, when there was no apparent reason why they should, and one possible explanation is that there simply wasn't a "seat" open on the "divinity council" at the time.) Of this potential number of gods, the actual number tends to fluctuate, as minor godlings slay each other or waste away from neglect, and new ones arise from either mortal origins or through the activities of new faiths. At any given time, there are probably about 300 actual gods, but the four supreme deities are largely uninvolved in world affairs, and the 200-some minor divinities tend to operate on small regional scales. So from a global perspective, most actual "god work" is done by the 80 entities which occupy the two middle layers of this pantheonic pyramid.

For each of the four ultimate gods, their four immediate underlings are each a reflection of some overarching aspect of themselves; each of these is further subdivided to produce its own subordinates, and those too have the potential to branch off into up to four final variations. (This is imprecise language and describes the matter only in terms of an organizational chart; a god which is "below" another god is not necessarily a particularly close relative, nor does it act as the other god's agent, or necessarily even like or agree with it. In some cases, it may be scheming to take the greater god's place by increasing its own power; in other scenarios, the two may ignore each other completely, and be only loosely tied together by symbolism.) The connection may be crucial or tenuous or anything in between, but ultimately the parallels are there for a reason, however arcane and insensible to human perception that reason may be. After all, constructing a universe to be sturdier than other universes generally are is no mean feat of engineering; certainly there are obscure sciences at work, which no layperson can fathom.

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Gods of Whiteleaf 1: The Omnicide

Although only the second-most powerful of the gods, the Omnicide is the most blatantly obvious in its identity, and thus makes a useful starting point for this discussion. Despite being an utterly secret being, a fundamental flaw in the cosmos whose revelation would spell certain doom, the Omnicide is also crucial to the underlying structure of that very reality; much as the Norse myths tell of the world being created from the body of a slain arch-monster before the dawn of time, so Whiteleaf too is effectively made of the bones of a defeated beast: the four primordial elements. Unlike other such protean titans, however, the Omnicide still lives, and resents its half-dead state, the imposition of an existence upon itself which is foreign to its true nature. Wishing to be nothing more than a boiling sea of un-substance which would unmake everything it touched, the Omnicide is forced into torturous bondage so that an existence for other beings can be built upon its shackled back, and thus it is a being of such intense, unrelenting hatred that even the knowledge of its existence must be suppressed, for simply recognizing its presence is the first step in falling under its awful thrall.

Four chief aspects comprise the Omnicide: an all-encompassing destructive urge, a constant state of gibbering madness, an unrelenting hatred for everything including itself, and a fundamentally alien nature which no other being can ever hope to totally understand. All of these negative aspects of its being are crucial to the overwhelming power it contains; it is the second-mightiest of all deities on Whiteleaf, and only the fact that one being exceeds it in strength allows existence to be possible. Thusly, that sole superior's identity is almost entirely defined by its opposition to the Omnicide, hence why we are discussing the latter first. If the Omnicide did not seek to destroy everything, then it would not contain the awesome potency which destruction unleashes; it is always easier to destroy than to create, because Entropy exists, and thus the Omnicide is Entropy incarnate, a being of absolute disorder. It is also a living Paradox, an engine of creation which wishes not to be one, and thus what passes for its mind is constantly rending itself asunder as it struggles to cope with a condition intolerable to its sensibilities, an identity automatically defined as its own opposite and thus incapable of ever functioning properly. As such, it is the ultimate contrarian, a being fueled by total Antipathy toward all of those who are co-conspirators in its oppression; so long as anything else exists, it is forced to exist as well, and thus cannot resolve the contradiction of its own intolerable nature. Lastly, being such a fundamentally absolute otherness and a source of such tremendous energy (it is in a very real sense the "nuclear chaos" which powers all of metaphysics for the entire Whiteleaf cosmology, in the same fashion that a constantly exploding ball of superheated gas called "the sun" can power an entire solar system with its radiation and its gravitational pull), the Omnicide is by necessity incredibly dangerous, not only to interact with but even to know about; its corruptive potential extends into dimensions most beings don't even know exist, despite ignorantly occupying them, and thus its fundamental Otherness can warp and infect anything which brushes up against it in even the faintest of conceptual ways.

Entropy, Paradox, Antipathy and Otherness - this is the Omnicide. Each of the four Intermediate gods underneath it best incarnates one of these four traits, but differs crucially from the Omnicide itself as well (since it is impossible for two separate gods to exist if they are both exactly the same in identity, nature, or divine essence; there can be two different war gods, but only if they represent two very different kinds of war, otherwise both would automatically be subsumed into a single being).

* Entropy is manifested in the person of The Violence, god of bloodshed, havoc, rage, butchery, and monsters. Although a pale reflection of the true horror of the Omnicide, this creature is pretty terrifying, a constantly-shifting quasi-humanoid form which boils with such malevolence that every drop of its own blood which spills instantly assumes a new monstrous form and becomes its own independent aggressor, all of which happily fight each other for dominance even while they also pursue the Violence's primary target, until eventually they either all kill each other or escape to maraud separate territories. While the Violence is certainly close to the Omnicide's fearsomeness in and of itself, the two have one fundamental difference in personality: the Violence is capable of feeling positive emotions, taking lunatic glee in the mayhem of combat and relishing the satisfaction of stalking its intended victims in elaborate, no-holds-barred wargames without rules. While the Omnicide genuinely desires obliviation, and simply isn't capable of attaining it while the universe exists, the Violence would refuse the opportunity to snuff out itself and all other beings if it was granted that chance; it lives for the chance to kill, and paradoxically enough, it considers life to be inherently a good thing, if only because it can end in so many interesting ways.

* Paradox is perhaps the ultimate source of all creation; how could Time ever begin, when there was no Time before it? Such impossible questions must have answers, however incomprehensible, because otherwise the cosmos could not exist. Thusly, one of the Omnicide's four "offspring" is a being which directly perpetrates the very act of creation which further imprisons the Omnicide with every passing second. Known as the Beholden, this monstrous overmother is the source of a particular aberration race who constantly strives to please her, and she genuinely loves all of her children, even as her fundamental insanity compels them all to annihilate each other in her name. Living in a state of constant sorrow and frustration as she watches the havoc her family wreaks upon itself, she is driven to act in ever more bizarrely Byzantine ways to attempt to solve the impossible puzzle of her contradictory desires. For all that she is every bit as batshit looney as the Omnicide, her strange sort of benevolence clearly distinguishes her from that arch-nightmare's omnipathic impulse.

* Death itself is at least partially incarnated in the person of several different gods, which to some extent arose from differing cultures with varying attitudes on the subject; of these perspectives, the oldest one would have to predate any cultural trappings whatsoever, and arise directly from the desire to simply snuff out the existence of something external to oneself, a purely malevolent drive which best resonates with the very force of annihilation (also known as Antipathy). This dreadful god is known as the Reaper, for it brings a bitter harvest with the inevitability of the seasons' turning; a coldly hateful creature which resents all the chaotic activity of the living, this incarnation of extinction is metal as fuck, but has no interest in anyone telling him so, since all voices are just more noise to shatter the silence of his eternal tomb. Distinguished from the Violence by a fundamental difference in attitude, the Reaper doesn't *enjoy* causing death, he simply *is* the act of murder itself, and thus is perfectly willing to embrace methods such as poison or suffocation that fail to scratch the Violence's itch for cacophonous bloodshed. The Reaper also largely governs the creation of the undead, although this portfolio has been partially torn from him by the aspirationally-apotheotic demon Orcus; in one of those weirdly paradoxical ways that gods in general, and the Omnicide's "brood" in particular, tend to function, Orcus stole something that the Reaper wasn't really using, and partially losing that thing made the Reaper make use of it far more than he ever previously had, like a wound which heals back as a scar that bulges out above the surface where the skin was previously gashed. Besides this habit of spawning more monsters, which all of the Omnicide's "children" do more often than it does itself, the Reaper differs from its overlord in being basically sane, a malignant but rational entity which largely divorces itself from the Chaotic bent of its predecessor. The Reaper holds a logically consistent worldview in which the condition of life is an inherently undesirable form of existence (given that alternatives, such as undeath or construct status or simply being a spirit of some kind, exist), and so it seeks to exterminate these verminous beings, simply to set its house in order and resume a state of quasi-contentment, with the Omnicide being utterly incapable of the latter state in even the most theoretical possible outcome.

* Of the four "spawn" of the Omnicide, the one which is least understood, even less than the Omnicide itself in fact, is the one which represents Otherness, the condition of being not only unknown but unknowable. Referred to in scholarly texts as The Extraneous, this being gathers putative names about itself and then systematically disproves any true connection to them, for spreading misinformation about its own identity is a crucial tactic of its mission (for example, the fallen Trogari civilization tried calling it the goddess Sn'krett, but later "discovered" that Sn'krett was actually one of the minor deities and was now dead, her apparent function having not truly been served in aeons, an aspect which the cult devoted to her entirely failed to carry forward). This truly-genderless entity values its privacy above all other priorities, in part because it is far more crucially important to the cosmos than anyone realizes and thus cannot ensure any significant amount of risk (one of the few truths concretely known about this creature is that it is effectively the "jailer" of the Omnicide itself, a role assigned to it by the supreme being in order to keep it out of trouble; though weaker than the Omnicide, the Extraneous is overspecialized in such a way as to be able to delay and frustrate that being's actions, at least long enough to sound a warning of some sort). Of the four "children" of the All-Destroyer, the Extraneous is the least overtly Evil of the bunch, although certainly it is capable of extreme behavior; among its other curiously contradictory aspects, it is a god capable of breaking the rules to which even the gods of Chaos are held stringently, and thus while Evil is a corruptive force and cannot ever be inconsequentially dabbled in, the Extraneous acts as a living exception clause to cosmic principles like that, potentially allowing certain fanatics to avoid normally-inevitable consequences to their morally dubious actions (in other words, one of the few ways in which a "templar" paladin can exist on Whiteleaf is through this deity's intercession, providing loopholes which allow a zealot to get away with deeds which normally would instantly cause their paladin abilities to void themselves). The fact that a being which is effectively purely Chaotic is this good at bending the cosmic Law, rather than simply breaking it through brute force and damning all consequences as a typical Chaos god would do, further speaks to the strange but crucial role that this entity plays in the architecture of this cosmology.

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Gods of Whiteleaf 2: The Monitarch

The definitional supreme being of Whiteleaf, insofar as it actually has one (rumor holds that there may be still higher "overgods", entirely beyond mortal ken, who rule over multiple universes), the Monitarch is almost entirely inaccessible, and serves as the likeliest illustration that Whiteleaf's deities do not strictly require human worship, or at least that their potency is not tied in any way to the size or vigor of their cult. Only a handful of clerics claim to represent this entity in any direct fashion, and their lack of a clear agenda is difficult to reconcile with the general conception of a "greatest of gods"; while the need to constantly and personally wrestle the Omnicide into submission certainly explains part of the Monitarch's remoteness from the mortal world, its isolation goes even beyond this, into a truly drastic degree of disinterest in humanoid affairs.

On the extremely rare occasions that the Monitarch has personally manifested itself, usually to put a stop to some arch-villain who actually managed to defeat all the assembled forces of Good and threatened to genuinely fulfill some apocalyptic plan, the supreme being appeared as a massive humanoid figure formed from dark nimbuses against lighter, sunlight-threaded clouds; speaking with a booming voice to condemn the target, and perhaps moving a single hand if necessary, the Monitarch casts down a summary judgment against whatever entity was foolish enough to gain its direct attention, by causing so severe a disruption of the status quo that it could no longer leave any lesser god to attend to the matter. In cases such as this, there is generally a great deal of collateral damage; the heroes on the scene are left awed, shamed, and humbled by the knowledge that their failure carries a terrible price. On the handful of happier occasions where the Monitarch puts in an appearance, it is to honor a truly legendary degree of individual competence and to directly uplift them into a more exalted theater of conflict, where their extraordinary prowess can be set to work on larger problems that were previously outside their scope, but usually this more pleasant task is still delegated to one of the overbeing's subordinates. Thusly, rare as the cultures which even know the Monitarch exists are, the ones who hold any sort of positive view of him are still rarer; he is usually perceived as a fearsome disciplinarian whose notice is best avoided, a savior of last resort for the hour when all other hope has failed.

As the four gods under the Omnicide are effectively every combination of "more chaotic", "less chaotic", "more evil" and "less evil" (respectively, the Violence is the most in both aspects, the Extraneous the least, and the Reaper is primary in Evil while the Beholden is so in Chaos), a similar structure outlines the four primary servants of the overdeity.
Most Lawful and most Good of these entities is The Authority, a god of knowledge and supremacy who is often conflated with the Monitarch itself; an ancient rival to the Enforcer who is said to have been a god even when that ascended saint still existed in mortal form, the Authority presents itself as a wizened old man with long white hair and beard, and claims to be the incarnation of learning and patience as the path to success, but is often feared as an inquisitor of "blinding light" rather than honored as a supreme scholar. Foremost in Law but largely devoid of Good, the patron of the quasi-mechanical servants of the Cosmic Clockworks is known as the Mathematarch, and is one of the most inhuman of the gods, entirely lacking in emotion or empathy for mortal concerns. Its counterpart is the sun god known as the Solitaire, perhaps the single most widely worshipped of deities, who is generally understood as the purest incarnation of Good, though some questions linger on this topic. Lastly, the "archmage of the deities" remains largely distant from the concerns of Good and Law, though certainly he is more nearly aligned to those qualities than to their opposite; governing the largely structured practice of wizardry, as well as its more recently documented alternative in the sorcerous arts, this ultimate arcanist cares nothing for saving the life or soul of the average idiot off the street, who lacks the mental capacities to better his or her own lot in life, but does believe in upholding the common good to a sufficient extent to ensure that aspiring mages survive long enough to complete their training.

If attempting to equate the Monitarch's cosmic role to four specific concepts, one might label these with the names of Arbitration or Judgment, Authority or Supremacy, Mercy or Forgiveness (although this one is seldom actually shown, as the kindest thing the Monitarch can usually do is refrain from showing itself), and Maintenance or Protection. These four qualities loosely equate to the chief natures of the Authority (who claims to be the most qualified to dictate terms in any matter of jurisprudence), the Mathematarch (whose remote position brooks no interference, and thus it expects to be obeyed without question), the Solitaire (who, although distant from mortal concerns, is as perennially felt in its presence as the daylight, and as reliable as the certainty that the sun will rise tomorrow), and the Archmage (whose objective is to do as little as is necessary to keep the cosmic order intact).

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Gods of Whiteleaf 3: The Amalthea

The third most powerful of the gods, but certainly the most benevolent of the Big Four, the Amalthea is the mother of all life, and possibly the incarnation of the actual planet Terrestra which is the center of Whiteleaf's cosmology, with a little bit of Lady Luck and similar forces thrown in. She regards all living things (and possibly undead ones, that's still something of a doctrinal schism) as being her children, and cannot take sides with one child over another, so she attempts to grant prosperity and thriving health to all beings within her ecosystem, without thinking too much about the inevitability of conflict among them.

The four deities who most directly represent aspects of the Amalthea don't bear much direct resemblance to her; other nature gods on Whiteleaf are far less powerful, in part because of how heavily civilized a planet Terrestra is, but for many other reasons as well. Instead, her essence echoes most directly into the person of the Lover, the goddess of sexuality, less directly into the Pugilist, god of strength and amiable competition, still less directly into the Wanderer, who watches over travelers to grant them both freedom and protection, and least directly into the person of Oggravant the Defiance, god of ultra-individualism, contrarianism, and general pigheadedness. Though each of these is a cumulative step away from the pure maternal love that the Amalthea incarnates, they are ultimately all reflections of an aspect of her persona; the free-spirited nature which presents in her tends to appear feminine when mixed with her other facets, but when isolated as Oggravant it becomes a hypermasculine presentation, and even in the Pugilist likewise appears overwhelmingly manly, despite ultimately arising from the urges of a father's love for his son and thus not being that different from a mother's love for her daughter.

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Gods of Whiteleaf 4: The Inevity

There are several dualistic faiths on Whiteleaf, and in some such cases both deities are worshipped together, but the rare adherents of the Inevity are perhaps the only clerics whose two gods are in fact the same entity; in addition to being the chief psychopomp, the god of Time and Fate and similar concepts, the Inevitor and Inevitrix are also collectively the god/dess of Duality, the incarnation of the very concept of every story having two sides. (In Deities and Demigods terms, the four highest-ranking gods on Whiteleaf are its only Rank 20, 19, 18 and 17 deities; the Inevity together is the 17, but its two separate forms could each be considered a 16, a ranking which is otherwise intentionally blank.)

The Inevity appears to those who have died for the final time, escorting their soul to whatever afterlife their Alignment and other crucial aspects predestine them to. In some cases, the question remains partially unsettled, and the two faces of the Inevity pose some form of trial or challenge to settle the ambiguity; in rare cases the decedent actually returns to life later (usually those who are going to be resurrected do not meet the Inevity until their actual final moment, but exceptions exist), and it is from the tales of these revenants that the common bardic trope of "playing dice with Death" has arisen, along with several other such motifs. In most cases, these matters are settled with a debate in which one of the two Inevitors takes the side of the "defense", arguing for the more lenient outcome, while the other argues in favor of stricter punishment; evidence is conjured from the memories of the deceased and played out before a "judge" who often appears as the dead person themself, their "higher self" as it were, who decides whether the actual person fulfilled enough of their potential to be deserving of eternal rest. Though it is clear that the Inevity does not decide these cases personally, it does set the parameters for the judgment to be as impartial as possible, erring somewhat more on the side of harsh justice, since the individual is always more willing to forgive themself than others would be to let their misdeeds go unanswered.

As the Inevity itself specifically incarnates *duality*, its subsidiary god known as The Seasoned One likewise represents *multiplicity*, having four phases rather than two, but likewise being a single unity among all of them. Other "clients" of the Inevity include The Foremost, the somewhat racist god of humanity itself (whose supremacist claims are perhaps somewhat justified, given that no other racial deity exceeds Lesser status), as well as The Enchantress, a deity who syncretically blends two portfolios that are also represented separately by very different entities, and finally The Big Idea, a paradoxical god of self-defeating ambition worshipped primarily by giants.

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Physical parameters and life-cycle

The gods as they are known on Whiteleaf have true physical forms, although these are not often encountered by mortals; they can disguise themselves in various false appearances which no mortal magic can penetrate, but when they choose not to do this, they are generally tall, four-armed beings with mask-like faces and eyes that blaze like brilliant stars.

The gods do not require mortal belief in order to survive, at least not exactly; it would be more accurate to say that, by surviving, the gods exert a kind of metaphysical gravity on the collective consciousness of their flock, creating a hole which the mortals' minds then fill with belief. Though the deities are not dependent upon the belief, they are influenced by it; slowly over time, it can even cause their identities to shift, and there is no evidence that they resent this effect.

Gods are known to be capable of reproducing, but the process appears to be more psychological than biological where they are concerned; a newly-appeared deity of death and magic may be suspected of being the child of the death-god and the magic-god (the Enchantress is ancient, so no record of her being connected thusly to the Reaper and the Archmage exists, but similar relationships also exist among newer and weaker gods, which may well actually fulfill this concept), but if this parentage is true, it doesn't necessarily mean the two existing gods copulated. Only in the very rare case of demigods being sired (or damed) upon mortals is actual coitus necessary, and the gods' half of this equation could easily be an artifice for the mortal's benefit.

Gods can and do die, and the astral plane objects which are considered to be their corpses do actually exist, but it remains unclear whether these gigantic stone cadavers are actually the true form of the deities, or if these congeries of astral matter somehow coalesce around the god's memories or the like. Records indicate the identity of a number of lost gods, helping to corroborate theories about the way in which the number of minor gods fluctuates over time; on occasion, inquiries into the history of a former god have actually seemed to resurrect it, but it is possible that in such cases the deity was not actually dead, just temporarily forgotten and perhaps rendered powerless as a result.

Some mortals have been elevated to godhood, ranging from recent "graduates" of Illumian ascension cabals, all the way up to the legendary Saint who became The Enforcer. But it remains unclear whether this results in them physically transforming into the same "species" as the gods, or if it merely gives them access to the same wellspring of divine power. There is also no strong evidence that ex-humanoid deities have any special loyalty to their former race; they seem to function no differently than the most obviously alien of the deities.