History 02: The Torch of Truth and Freedom, Part 2

In the wake of Vrin gih Dha’s death or disappearance, her children and followers fled into the city beyond the amphitheater.  Their ogre masters, blinded, were in too much of a disarray to have them pursued swiftly, and so they managed to go to ground among other slaves and servants sympathetic to their plight.

Word—and rumor—spread quickly about what had occurred at the amphitheater and what Vrin gih Dha had prophesized in her last moments.  With the permanently-blinded ogrish lords and ladies as proof, a sense of unease and excitement grew among the humans.  There had always been some who advocated breaking away from the decadent dominance of the ogres, but in the past they had all been dispersed by the police force or else fled to eke out their living in the wild-lands.

Now, though, the disgruntled humans had something concrete to rally around: a martyred prophet.  Her children—two half-ogres and a human—encouraged the growing cult, and along with the servants who had worked with Vrin gih Dha, they recounted all that she had previously foreseen.

Soon, others started having visions.

They never came as dreams.  Consciousness and lucidity seemed to be required, and sometimes a follower of Vrin gih Dha would fall into a sudden trance, wherein they saw or heard a fragment of a possible future.  While most incidents were minor, some visions came at surprisingly opportune times, allowing their recipients to avoid injurious accidents or capture by ogre-loyalist forces.

As whispers of these prophetic events got around, people began believing that the spirit of Vrin gih Dha was still with them.  After all, no one knew what happened to humans when they died; they had souls, and no parent spirit to claim them.  Some humans had dedicated themselves to a spirit—some even to Oega, the ogres’ patron—but most made no obeisance to any power.  The thought that Vrin gih Dha still lingered in some form to aid her followers caused people to start worshiping her as an active power, not just revering her prophecies.

And the more who worshiped her, the stronger the visions became.

Emboldened by what they were seeing, the human resistance expanded throughout the Danarine westlands, with small sects extending into the Heartlands to the east and the desert folk to the south.  The visions kept them largely safe.  They were not perfect in accuracy or timeliness—especially when resistance-groups in more than one place were in danger—but as an addition to the precautions already being taken, they helped most sects stay hidden despite increased scrutiny by the ogres.

By the time the physical part of the uprising began, the followers of the Torch—as they had nicknamed Vrin gih Dha—had infiltrated nearly every human organization in the westlands, as well as gathering sympathizers among ogre-bloods and even some full ogres.  Several of the lords and ladies who had been blinded by the Torch’s vanishing had been experiencing visions as well, and dedicated their money and their staff toward helping the humans.  Though many of the Torch’s followers doubted the ogres’ loyalty to the cause, not one of them turncoated during the course of the ensuing wars—nor did anyone who had received a vision.  The Torch seemed able to tell the true from the false.

Real upheaval began in the city of Unkhere, which housed the amphitheater where Vrin gih Dha had died.  Mobs of humans wielding torches and tools marched upon the houses of the ogrish lords, recruiting what sympathizers they could and incapacitating the police-force and guards sent to stop them.  Some of the rebels, in the aftermath, reported that though they had wanted to kill their oppressors, a sense of shame stopped them before they could strike a killing blow—as if they sensed a deep disapproval being turned upon them.  While many on both sides were injured, surprisingly few died—almost none killed outright—and despite the torches, no structures or people were burned.

Persuasion and overwhelming numbers let the rebels take Unkhere; most of the ogrish nobles had been blinded and many threw their own political weight behind the humans to keep their sighted fellows from acting against them.  However, in other cities the fighting became vicious—particularly in Ghezidun, where Vrin gih Dha’s master lived.

Since his blinding, the master had retreated into paranoia and spent all his money on hiring guards, mercenaries, even shamans of the lizard-spirit to aid him against the humans.  Ghezidun was already restive from his increasingly tyrannical behavior, and when he preemptively attacked the human section of the city upon hearing about Unkhere, the ensuing fight quickly became a firestorm.

Visions of the fire had plagued the rebels for days, and many had left the city or smuggled their families out ahead of time, but none could quite tell what would trigger the disaster or how to stop it.  To this day, some followers of the Torch believe it was sabotage: that during the clash between the rebels and the master’s mercenaries, some third party started the fires that would destroy Ghezidun and all its granaries and storehouses, and drive all of its surviving residents toward the other cities for shelter.

While it could have been Kuthrallan, the wraith had shown no interest in participating further, only in watching what he had wrought.  His proto-sorcerers were still on the loose, fumbling with their half-learned magics, and could have sparked the conflagration on their own.  But the most-debated option is whether the Torch’s antithesis was already active before the Torch herself had fully reached apotheosis.  Whether the Lady of Ruin was trying to prevent her future rival from ever being born.

Beyond the speculation, though, the fall of Ghezidun was a kick in the teeth to the Torch-bearers.  The visions and emotional impressions they received all tried to nudge them toward nonviolence and compromise, even though the inevitable end they were shown was the total dissolution of the ogrish empire.  While Ghezidun burned, the visions in all other parts of the empire ceased, while those who struggled to escape the burning city later reported seeing paths to safety open up before them as if the flames drew aside like curtains.

Despite that, the entirety of the city burned, and few of its occupants escaped.  Those who did were taken in by the Torch’s followers no matter whether they had been friends or foes, and all involved recalled feeling a great emotional pressure to behave, to care, to help.

Most of the non-Torch survivors converted after the blaze, including—on his deathbed—Vrin gih Dha’s former master.  At the moment he spoke the vow, the Torch manifested at his bedside in the form of a woman made of flame, and set a hand to his brow, which seemed to erase his pain even as it dissolved him to ash.

The Torch proceeded to walk the rows of fire-scarred victims, alternately banishing their pain and weeping fiery tears, until she came to the very edge of the encampment.  The bulk of the people had gathered behind her, and when she faced them, none could meet the brilliance of her gaze.  This time, she did not vanish but seemed to sublimate into the air until everything had been touched with her radiance and she could no longer be seen.

After that, the visions became clearer and more direct, concentrating on a few specific people who seemed most able to interpret them correctly, and it was decided that the event had been Vrin gih Dha’s apotheosis.  She was not a ghost or a spirit or a channel for another power; she was a goddess in her own right.

And she had commandments, the first of which was Mercy.

Immediately this caused a schism within the rebellion.  While the uprising in Unkhere had been largely peaceful, the example of Ghezidun and other conflicts made many rebels want to fight force with force.  The Torch might have had a following but she did not yet have a religion; those she had chosen to receive her visions were all blind.  She still sent premonitions of danger to anyone in need, but her seers received all the greater visions, and with many of them old or female or ogrish and incapable of joining the fight, they found themselves marginalized by the revolution.

Her faith still swept the westlands, and she manifested many times in refugee camps and makeshift infirmaries to bless the devoted and mend the injured, but her commandments were not heeded on the front lines.  As she had foreseen, the ogres of the westlands were progressively exiled from their lands and forced northward by the rising tide of humanity, until they passed through the Pinch that separated the Khaeleokiel Mountains from the Thundercloaks.

There, the free tribesfolk who would eventually become Gejarans chose to shelter the ogres rather than slay them, and stymied the enraged human forces in their attempts to finish the ogrish extermination.  The humans tried for years, and even attempted to conquer the Gejaran lands, but the winter spirits that dwelt beyond the Pinch had no interest in sharing their realm with interlopers.  The Torch’s followers refused to come to the aid of the invading force, and so eventually the humans withdrew, leaving the broken ogres in the Gejarans’ hands.

With no ogres to rule them, the humans might have fallen upon each other immediately, or attacked the still-ogrish Heartlands, but Vrin gih Dha’s manifestations and her seers succeeded in convincing most of the newly-minted human warlords to withdraw from the field and consolidate their new holdings.

It was in these disparate enclaves that new cults soon began cropping up: cults not of the Torch or the spirits, but to new gods, who claimed to have been awakened by Vrin gih Dha’s ascension.

 

Next: The Awakening of the Gods

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About H. Anthe Davis

Worldbuilder. Self-published writer.
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