The natural world and its ceaseless course of seasons is tended by Ash, the Lord of Cycles. While Ranute brings forth life from Gebís endless wellsprings, it is Ash who cares for the plants and animals which walk upon the earth. He is rarely accorded veneration, but he is propitiated with sacrifices for mild weather and good harvests. Practitioners of druidic arts might not worship Ash, but they acknowledge his hand at work in the natural world. When depicted with other gods, he is a grey iaret, dressed in a white kilt with a furtive posture. One of his eyes is silver or white and painted with a wadjet, and he carries a bare branch in one hand and a leafed and fruiting branch in the other.
Through the knowledge imparted by Apsu and their obedience to Gebís law civilized mortals can defy the cycles of nature and Ash has long been jealous of the other gods. He pursues Ranute across the sky endlessly and drives her into hiding each night. By turns he also dallies with and rejects the Wounded Lady and the pull of the tides shows the ebb and flow of their relationship. To mortals he is a trickster, making a mockery of their attempts to fight and forestall the inevitable turn of seasons.
Just as the year has its cycles, so do peoples and nations. This may be why the iaret try to ignore him among the other gods. He is a reminder that all things rise and fall, including the chosen of Geb.
The moonís phases are his symbols as the Eye of the Moon, for he is constant only in his changing. Though adherents of Ash among civilized mortals are uncommon, his shrines and altars are adorned in white and black to show he is both halves of a cycle all at once. Wrought silver pleases him as it shines with the light of the moon and stars. Despite his sly nature, Ash looks kindly upon nighttime, and delivers peaceful rest from the dayís labor.
While among iaret he does not receive much formal worship, he finds many followers among the beastkin. They are closer to the natural world, and seek to live in harmony with it. Moreover, they see Ash as a karmic balancer who lifts up the downtrodden and casts down the mighty in time. Indeed, transgressive artists in the Jewel Cities depict him as a grey-furred beastkin in a white kilt, sometimes wearing a mask to imitate an iaret.
The ozrut did not see Ash as a god at all but as the Tree Under the Moon. In their tales the forces he embodies are symbolized by a bare tree with the moon caught in its branches. It provided a bridge between solid, unchanging earth, and the ephemeral and unreal realms beyond. The Tree Under the Moon was a pathway for capricious creatures to enter the world and play tricks on the ozrut.
The Drowning Girl
The Drowning Girl waits at the end of every mortalís journey through life and so it is natural that such a variety of stories exist around her. The most common elements promulgated throughout the lands colonized by the iaret are that she sprang from the mind of Apsu and was drowned when Gebís body separated water from earth. She lurks beneath the waters that claimed her life and when a mortal dies their soul plunges into her realm to be judged. Souls heavy with wrongdoing sink forever into her tormenting grasp, but a soul without blame to weigh it down is clasped to her bosom in eternal, blissful rest. A greedy child, she must be tricked or begged to allow a soul to escape her clutches, and she despises those who denied the end of their lives and became mutu. She is described as a young white-scaled iaret child, with extremely long curling black hair, wearing only a shroud.
A great many permutations exist regarding her parentage and the details of her death, however. One tale holds that she was the result of an illicit union with Geb and was drowned by the Father of Serpents in favor of Neath. Another paints her as sired by Ash on the slumbering Apsu, perishing from the neglect of her parents. Perhaps it is this violence that makes her attention sinister, for she is a dark and vengeful goddess who seeks to gather all into her realm. Her depictions in the Jewel Cities usually assume murder and emphasize the gruesome details: strangulation marks or a broken neck from being held underwater, a ragged patchwork of decomposing scales, and the bloated distension of a surfaced corpse. Icons of grasping hands which usually refer to her covetousness might also represent her murderer.
Her frightening mien and the fears mortals have of death earn her few worshipers, but it is still wise to stay in her good graces through observance and sacrifice. Those who earn her favor are protected from baneful undead and can find undisturbed repose. To this end, funerals feature mourners beseeching her mercy, draped in black, dark blue, and dark green to avoid offending her eyes. Clothes are torn in grief, symbolizing the crude mortality being stripped from the soul.
The ozrut know this goddess as the White Daughter, a younger sibling to Neath. In their tales, she loved peace and quiet, and hated the chaos of the living world. She entreated Father Cloud to freeze the world with eternal winter and was only stopped by Mother Mountain drowning her in a lake. Before this act of murder, it is said, death did not yet exist. White is therefore the color of death according to the ozrut.
A set of curious traditions are practiced by the muruch to avoid the attention of the incarnation they call the Lost Child. When a member of a pod dies, the survivors will leave a trail of their few possessions leading to the corpse, and then depart in the opposite direction. In muruch mythology, the goddess of death was a child who was separated from (or abandoned by) her pod. Alone and completely without possessions she died of privation and now hunts the living or the souls of the dead to build a new family. When a pod suffers several deaths in quick succession, it is believed that she has their trail, and more and more extreme measures will be taken to try to divert her. This may culminate in each member splitting up and going separate directions. Molluscs are thought to be her harbingers, with the clouds of ink they jet mimicking the Lost Childís extremely long black hair. This belief may only date back to the falling of the star into Apsuís breast but confirmation is difficult due to the nature of muruch oral record-keeping.
The Horizon Walker
Even at the moment when Geb laid his body out as the earth, there was a stranger glimpsed on the edge of the world. Known to the iaret as the Horizon Walker, he is the god of hard choices, the god of misfortune. Like Apsu, he has always existed and he stalks outside the boundary reaches of the godsí laws. There, deeds are done in secret and never held to account. Misfortune trails in his wake, and he is strongest at the turning of the year, even as the other gods are celebrated. His name, for he has one, is never spoken for fear of attracting his attention.
He is sought by those with ambition above their station, and grants them power at ruinous price. Tales abound of the victims of his lures, who gained their desires and were thereby damned. Some say that the souls of those he tricks are held in his grip like shed skins and forced to serve him in death. For the desperate, however, this is no deterrent. Scraps of paper promising sacrifice to him are left in secret fanes as contracts for his blessing.
The representations of such a mysterious figure, at least in iaret worship, are equally ambiguous. On the rare occasion he is depicted, it is as the empty outline of a man in full stride, sometimes holding a staff. His only symbol is a short horizontal line.
The always-irreverent ptak speak more freely of this god, naming him the Bargainer. In popular stories the Bargainer can be tricked by the daring into granting wishes. If the hero of the tale is papuga, they usually escape consequences through clever wordplay or interpretation of the godís terms. Kruk heroes, on the other hand, either outrun the angry Bargainer, or wrestle him to the ground and sit on him until he releases them from the unequal deal. The Bargainer is described as a ptak of the opposite sort as the hero, dressed in mismatched clothes.
A certain strain of worship has found root among humans in the south. There, the Horizon Walker is believed to grant power outside the purview of the iaret. Before the Retreat these beliefs were actively persecuted but now they flourish like weeds in the garden of religion. Humans name him the Man at the Crossroads, and it is whispered that he may lurk in the guise of an old beggar wherever two paths meet. The deals the Man at the Crossroads offers are without strings, but only the wise are able to use what he offers safely. The foolish destroy themselves with what they are granted.
He is known as No-Color to the ozrut and is said to be an all-black stranger unknown even to the gods. Their myths hold that he once offered them a bargain in an age before history. While No-Color delivered what he promised, the ozrut reneged on their end of the deal. For this the god cursed them, cleaving the rumiany and markotny and creating enmity between them forever.