Quote from GM Haliste:
Beneath the abandoned seas, the fiery face of the landscape was ever-changing. Lava bubbled up from beneath the crust, pushing and shoving earth and rock and stone into massive seamounts studded with flared vents. These sculpted fissures released pillars of scalding, mineral-infused steam that roiled toward the surface of the water. Amidst the vents, where the water was hottest, resided a tempestuous spirit born of flame. Having emerged from the magma that churned just beneath the sea floor's surface, it found itself a prisoner of a watery cage.
Too far away from the vents and the sea stole its warmth, caused its flame to wane, and so it was forced to linger where it had spawned. This was a limited existence at best and a torturous one at worst -- alone at the bottom of the sea, unable to move, unable to flee. It was merely stuck in the unrelenting crush of the ocean. But, as time toiled onward, the spirit evolved, becoming lord of his murky domain. It took a name for itself -- himself -- and developed a will and a consciousness that stood outside the realm of fire as he did. Ghezresh was the name he came to call himself.
While most creatures of the sea never ventured so far as he, there were some that craved the dark and the warmth. Beds of eels made their home in the silts collected in the hollows and divots formed by cooling lava. These lesser beings, he came to find, craved his attention, for when he would draw near, their mass would swarm. Hundreds of anguillid forms moving as one being, coiling around his heat. And so, he learned that these creatures, in exchange for his "blessing" would perform tasks for him. From elsewhere, they would bring him bits and pieces of carcasses, dead and dying things on which he could feed.
He developed a taste for flesh this way as well as a craving for adulation. For years beyond reckoning, he and throngs of eels existed in this manner. Though, as generations passed, the eels began to change. Not only were Ghezresh's spawning grounds the warmest and best protected, they were rich with deep earth minerals and the spirit's own influence. The creatures' murky skins shifted with this exposure from dour shades of black and green to silvered indigo. It became harder for them to blend along the seabed, and as a result, they became more and more dependent on their "beneficent" god.
They won his bounty with food and curiosities, providing for him, as he in turn protected them and bathed them in his warmth. When they displeased, they suffered his wrath as well. With the passage of time however, it became harder and harder to please Ghezresh. Eons had passed while he languished in his prison of circumstance, and he longed for nothing so much as to escape it. He had attempted once to pass through the depths in search of more shallow waters by shielding himself in a mass of writhing eels. Their warmth failed him before he reached even a depth where light could reach, and he was forced to retreat.
Those eels that survived the attempt suffered his wrath for their failure, and the fire of his temper turned inward, burning away all other thoughts from his mind. He would escape, and his every waking moment would be spent toward achieving that goal. As each endeavor failed, his nature darkened, twisting his fire first into rage then into loathing before it settled into a dark well of desolation. It dampened his fire, leaving his form a cool shade of its former self. No longer having that benefit to dangle over his captive followers, he turned to other means. Deceit and duplicity were currencies he traded in then. But, he knew that would only sustain him for so long.
Just when he was on the cusp of being unable to retain control of his little kingdom, salvation was brought to him in the guise of a meal. A veritable horde of eels swarmed through the sea, carrying within their mass something he could not quite make out. He saw a flash of iridescent fins and silvery hair, and he felt a distinct pang of hunger. Amidst the fluted vents framing the black coral that had grown into his throne, the eels dispersed and allowed their offering to drift to the sea floor. Before him lay a creature unlike any he'd seen; the lower half of its body was like a fish, scaled and flared with a wispy tail, and the upper half was covered in pale skin and had hair as silver as the light shed by the luminescent squid that occasionally invaded his realm.
Unsure of what to make of the creature, he disguised himself, taking on the form of a massive eel -- a larger version of those that had brought it here. As he drew close, he realized that whatever it was, it was wounded, but still alive. He circled about the body, stirring currents of warmth from the vents into a cyclone around it. Gradually, as it warmed, a flush fell over its skin, and its eyes fluttered open. They were lustrous green, like its scales, and he studied it for a moment. When he asked of its nature, it answered that it was a sea nymph, a daughter of Niima. He recoiled at the mention, but hid it well as he circled the nymph. She was injured, he told her, quite gravely. She had replied that her lady would save her.
The sound he made rang hollow through the cold deep of the sea. Not here, he assured her. Her kind never ventured this far, and he had dwelled here for eons with none ever hearing his pleas. Doubt clouded her delicate features. Ever slithering through the water around her, drawing warmth to her, he whispered to her that if she were to help him, he would in turn help her. Together, he and his eels could convey her to more shallow waters, sharing their warmth in the depths to preserve her, if she would only direct him to the surface, to land. He withdrew then in the guise of allowing her to think over his offer, and as the deep sea chill began to settle upon her, she began to shiver. It wasn't long before she acquiesced to his plan.
He fought to keep his overwhelming satisfaction at her subtle surrender from showing as he summoned up the masses of eels from their beds. Together, his warmth and hers and that of the eels formed a cocoon of safety that bore them through the deepest reaches of the sea to a middling place where the light could be seen falling through the dappled surface above. He was intoxicated by his success, so close to his goal. And, as she had promised, the nymph directed him toward an island, largely uninhabited, but more than ample for his needs. With exaggerated praise he thanked her, but when she began to depart, the swarm of eels barred her exit. Confused by the detainment, she begged his leave. The surge of his body as he shed the form of an eel to become himself again buffeted her with a wave of pure maleficence.
He explained that he had fulfilled his obligation, brought her through the depths safely to more shallow waters, but that the journey had sapped his strength. And, even as the eels began to nip at her, tearing open her wounds anew and consuming her before his eyes, he continued to describe how her sacrifice would serve him. Betrayal was the last glimmer he saw in her eyes before those were lost as well beneath the writhing mass of eels. Once he was filled and sated, he turned toward the solitary island she had indicated and, with his followers in tow, began his journey to conquer his own sliver of the surface world.
A huge thank you to GM Thandiwe and GM Xayle who really brought this story to life -- and to GM Mariath for getting it ready for publishing. And, I would be remiss if I didn't thank all the GMs who helped feed Ghezresh along the way. Hours of discussions brought this from just light chatter to an official deity. I thank you all. <3
~ Haliste ~ SGM, Events Auntie H, Forever