Unthar, the Sun of the Dead
From beyond through veils sublime
Pass ghostly, o umbral shine
Illuminate in shadow, fade colors, so fallow
Dark dreaming does bidding thine
Rane, the father of stars, made love to Alivanah, the goddess of skies, and the heavnes were ablaze with their passion. Primordial creatures beheld the previously black velvet of perpetual night in awe, as fireworks of starfire accompanied the divine climax. Alivanah swelled with his godly seed, and gave birth to the suns, and for the first time, light touched the darkened world. The first-born fled into the depths, and made way for the world of man.
Three suns, Kita, Sana and Zanai, sprang from Alivanah’s loins in splendor and radiance, their rays caressing the reborn lands. Yet, the goddess was so weakened from the birth that she could not deliver the fourth sun in time; Unthar was stillborn.
In her grief, Alivanah strived to breathe life back into it, and indeed it stirred. Yet, the sun was flawed, its spirit twisted and alien, its rays chill and bane to all life, unhallowing all they touched, unraveling the Tapestry of creation, weakening the boundaries of space and time and emboldening the darkness.
In abhorred and terrified, Alivanah handed the cursed sun to Rukh, the keeper of souls. He locked it up in the Halls of Silence, where the dead sleep.
The deceased seem unbothered by its necrotic rays; some might even say the dark light invigorates them, washing away the dark memories of life. When it passes over over the Well of Souls, every seven dozen days, the dead can ride its pale rays to the world of the living, to haunt, commune and appear to their kin. Though the boundaries of the nether realm were weakened by Unthar’s presence, the gods were content, for it was contained, kept away from their precious creation.
Yet their confidence was hubris.
Azar, the Rager, the god of war, went insane – a small albeit crucial step it was. Finally, in his madness he slew Devi, the Children’s Warden, and perished himself in his fury as he assaulted the home of the gods. The world paused, and the deities stood in shock. The alien mind of Unthar perceived the weakening of the veil, and, fascinated, soared into the skies of the world that was denied to it for so long.
Despite being incarcerated again by the divine flock, Unthar cannot be fully contained – so it was proven by the Damnation War, when the celestials warred amongst each other, finally locking half of their number in the Abyss, so it was with the Elves when they rebelled against the gods and intentionally released Unthar to weaken the seal on the Abyss; the arrival of dragons likewise saw the dark sun rise.
Following great upheaval in the order of the world, Unthar’s escape is the harbinger of drastic changes. When it rises, it plunges the world into living shadow night and day, for it does not fade from the sky. The stars dance and strange constellations assemble in celebration of its arrival. The borders of dimensions fray, as if the rays themselves were punching holes into them. The half-light beckons to what is hidden, to creatures in darkness and those in hiding since the dawn of time; sigils weaken and wards tremble at Unthar’s presence, and bindings actually touched by the cursed light break. While the appearance of fell beasts is the most visible sign of the unlight, it also beckons to the hidden sides in men: contained madness finally surfaces, long-choked words are uttered at last, and unspoken truths surface. The natural order weakens, and wizards find their sorcery emboldened – reality is weakened, and readily accepts their suggestions about what it should be. Great sorcerous workings become possible, feats of epic enchantment – but also eldritch disasters and arcane catastrophe, when the mages’ meddling drives the Tapestry beyond its strained endurance. The dark sun’s presence even mimics the properties of several rare constellations, luring cultists from their hideouts with its chaotic glory and fell promise.
Those exposed to the fell light for long will find that their souls become more… themselves, gaining courage but losing inhibition, their will stronger but empathy in decline.
Raw creation is set loose, gaining form through intent, but also through half-conscious wish, dream and nightmare alike. Some awaken to find thelselves changed, in detail or significantly, with a significant effect of the subconscious; some discover their nightmares have come alive; others find a whole forest of impossible trees at their doorstep.
Those who die while under the black sun will believe themselves to have arrived in the Halls of Silence already, and not pass on, wandering the world of the living in undeath. In fact, the umbral light seems to heal the dead; sufficient to state that vampires become exceedingly difficult to destroy under the light of Unthar.
Most profound are the effects upon the yet unborn, who will inevitably bear a mark of the black sun’s passing – horrid changes and madness for the less fortunate, strange powers and alien senses for the lucky; any of these are accompanied by oddly beautiful markings that resemble old healed burn marks, as if they were a canvas to the mad sun. Collectively, they are called the Sunchildren; many consider them cursed, and all see them as strange.
Sometimes, the arrival of the dark sun is sudden – who can expect the death of a god? Though, when his doom is written in prophecy, the signs heralding his passing will also be the vanguard of the dark light. At other times, it can precisely be planned, as with the Elves’ blasphemy, and prepared for accordingly; it can even be brought about with sorcery sufficiently powerful, though to state that it annoys the gods would be an understatement of epic proportions. Also, when the stars stand as they were at the time of its birth, Unthar is set free, though this pattern of the stars comes around once per age. Be ready when the time is right.
While the first time Unthar went free, it took the gods a year to bind it again, should it be released now, they will most likely rein it in again within a dozen days – if at full power and undistracted. Still, that is enough time to wreak havoc.
As its prison is not perfect, and cannot be, it comes as little surprise that wherever the border to the realm of the dead is sufficiently thin, Unthar will shine though, creating witching sites of baneful power. When the tides of fate and magic shake its prison, some of the bleak light seeps through to suffuse the world, creating instances of sorcerous power. Finally, occurrences insufficient to release the black sun into the skies may still be enough to tear a hole the the Veil, enough to let Unthar peek through and bathe the stage of that disturbance in its ebon radiance; the manifestation of an elder demon, a furious battle with thousands of victims, or the betrayal of a loved one that the bards will sing about for ages, for example, may bring down the onyx sheen.
> To Slay the Beast: Belek’Hazar the vile has been imprisoned behind wards for a millenium – yet the heralded approach of the black sun will free him. Prepare, who while under the black light, your magic may be powerful enough to bring him down for good.
> Seventeen years after: The black sun has passed the skies, and all children born nine months hence are marked by its brand. One of their number, Harull, has the gift to command them all – and he is not letting it go to waste.
> The Dark One’s fall: long have the gods and their blessed people battled the Dark One, and victory is at hand. Yet, with his fall, the dark sun will go free, and the gods are weakened by the war. Will you be able to lead your people through a year of dark light, to emerge into a bright future?
> A different kind of sight: Velona is a Sunchild, and was born blind – or not? Her eyes simply see in a different way, see all marked by the dark light. The teen becomes an invaluable weapon against a cult of demon summoners.
> Lambs to the slaughter: the tyrants of Hazamm may be driven into the corner, and the legions of their fanatical followers are no match for your troops. Yet watch out, for their sinister plan is to send them to the field of battle at once, man woman and child, and send ten thousand death cries to the skies; once the battlefield is bathed in the onyx light, you will stand no chance against their sorcery!
> The Barrow Lantern: mad as they come, the necromancer Vlogord crafted a work of genius – a permanent small portal to the Halls of Silence, mounted within a lantern. He cannot be allowed to keep it. And, once it is yours, will such an object not tempt you to keep it, instead of throwing it into the bowels of Mount Doom?
Don't fear the Light!
Light elementals, Light Societies, Magical flashlights, lanterns that tell jokes, illuminated books and swords that shine like the sun.
Experience Points rewarded for every Light quest submission during the time frame with 150xp to the first place winner and 100xp going to second.
Let there be Light!!
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? Responses (27)
Hm - shall I add a passage describing the world under Unthar from the eyes of a denizen?
Good idea. 5/5
This I like, the sun of the dead. It is vast in scope, the appearances of Unthar are rare enough to be the stuff of legend rather than an astronomical fact. Visuals are nice, and one thing that did come to mind while I was reading this was the music video for Soundgarden's song Black Hole Sun.
Also check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qT_CtFMQouU
The lyrics 'that what never was shall always be' are quite fitting.
As for the visuals - yes, Unthar will be a disc of nothingness, surrounded by a swirling nimbus of chaos, undoing and mad possibility.
Very surreal and intriguing... I too thought of Soundgarden when first trying to visualize Unthar.
Awesome - this is something to hang a campaign about. It could be the sole source of undead and monsters in an otherwise 'normal' world.
Really well done sir!
I have typed several things trying to find an exclamation to do this justice. Alas, I succumb to pure explanation. I thoroughly enjoyed this submission. I really want to use it in one form or another. Excellent work.
I look forward to giving this an HOH.
Very nice Echo, I enjoyed reading this piece from top to bottom. I dont want to jinx it but this is my favorite for the light quest.
Stunning. Harull would make a great campaign Boss, especially if one of the PCs or someone close to them was a sunchild. Though the sunchildren are intriguing and compelling enough to provide several adventures' worth of material. Well done! 5/5
This should win the Quest, I think.
You have quite a way with words, Echo! I will second val's comment, and oh, the concept itself, the SUN OF THE DEAD, is brilliant! (no pun intended). Will use this in next weekend's table-top somehow.
I have given 5s to things I thought were cute or made me laugh, but this one seems deserving of much more than a 5. It is a wonderful thing to have in game world, a mark of strangness and horror but not evil. Excellent.
Congratulations on going Golden. Echo and Unthar. I absolutely love this piece and can't wait to use it.
Congratulations for winning the Quest.
I do wonder what this actually refers to (all stories refer to somethig mundane or are compelte fabrications.) Is there a actual 'darker, sickly, star' that is in a complet arrangement with it's solar system? (Like say two stars rotate around each other, each with a system of there own, the third star is some light years distant (say 2) and has the inhabited planet around it, and a fourth star is distant/dim and sufficently rare to be the only one in the planet's sky that it is indeed considered a 'bad omen'? (This fits with the 'the skies glow darkly, strange constellations are visible' bits.))
I guess I'm wonder the science behind this entry.
Or maybe it's fabrication and myth.. then why the plot hooks that involve the sun's apperance?
I'm just confused by this entry.. too much myth.. not enough backing it up.
EDITED - I did not know brackets around a string made a link here, edited.
This is a very odd comment. Why does the story have to have any mundane counter part? When you deal with Gods and the supernatural there are going to be ineffable concepts.
Also you use the word science incorrectly. Science is a description of the natural world through experimentation and analysis of data. If the natural world described in this post has different laws and different forces then our natural world then the conclusions science would reach would not suggest the existence of planets or stars (as you suggest, and the star may not be light years it way, it may be something a bird could reach). A scientist in this world maybe able to measure Unthar's power or describe the scenarios necessary for his appearence, but what if stars as we know them don't exist in this universe? What if the world was flat, what if the physics of the world was defined by the content of earth, fire, water and air in each substance?
There is no !space! reality behind this one. There indeed was a divine womb from which sentient 'suns' sprang forth, beings that happen to roam the sky, shed light for creation, and at night, they actually go home, dim, cool down and drink tea with dad.
This being a 'fantasy' sub, it is about a world where this is reality. There is no orbit, there is but the sky, and in it three suns. They fly because they are divine. They shed light for the same reason. You could measure the power of the sun, but the reading could be '317 milliJesus' or something like that. It's just that in that world they never heard of our savior, they have their own.
So. Unthar is an undead divine entity. Those do not fly in elliptic paths around anything. It is locked in a real sub-dimension that is the Houses of the Dead, where you could sneak in and chat up your dead grandpa. It has a mind.
So. Suspend disbelief, there's lots of stranger subs than this one inthe citadel.
Wait, so it's a demiplane of it's own connected to some 'world of the dead'? (With 'suns' moving on a 'sky' (merely a 'outer layer' of a demiplane?)
I just want to know the cosmology. (I have a setting that combines Scifi and Fantasy and it means I need* to know the 'explination' being things. It's made my view of things become more 'reality' affixed.)
What if the will of divine beings alters reality?
It can be a fold in space.
The N-th dimension above mundane reality.
The lint in the navel of the Vogon Lord of Poetry.
A computer simulation.
The inside of an effed-up bag of holding.
The biggest holo-deck ever built gone haywire.
An existence created by the eternal dream of Bakuki the Slime Prophet (you can enter it by getting stoned on a joint dipped into his mucus).
It could be a reality before our time, before the universe was remade into what it is now.
An alternate reality.
On the other side of a black hole.
Being open-minded does not make the brain fall out.
Also, the fact that a submission does not fit into one setting does not mean it requires a compatible explanation, nor is it a flaw of said submission if it comes without such a compatibility pack.
Oh, here's my vote too. *oops*
I like the sun. Everyone likes the sun. It'd be a pretty cool centerpiece for any campaign. Or dinner table.
I'm left wondering, though, at the nature of Unthar. He/It is a being of godlike power and sentience, but all of his ambitions? seem to resemble the motivations of a gerbil I used to have: escape my cage, run around for a bit, and then get caught and put back in.
I'm not bothered by it. Gods are supposed to be inscrutible, sometimes. But the sub leaves more room for development, which I am thankful for.
Maybe Unthar actually has the mind of a gerbil? Maybe he's friendly, naive, and just wants to hang out with his siblings? Or maybe he's plotting thier murder (I would like to see the suns fight in the sky, please)?
I did not give Unthar a motivation per se - it's a stillborn undead sun, an aberrant force of nature. But the room for an actual agenda is there - the dead sun may want something, and its escapes may have meaning (with the true horror being revealed once the consequences are understood).
Feel free to add an idea.
Have an xp for the 'mind of a gerbil' comment. A friendly, naive, gerbil-like deity whose mere presence causes untold catastrophe makes me laugh.
Just when you think you've read some of the most mind-bending material here, more are added.
Well done Echo :)