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By Lonnie Bricker
This generic scenario is taken from a tale about an ancient Russian sun god named Dazhdbog. First, the actual myth is briefly retold to give credit where credit is due. After the myth is my own adaptation, including a history of the people involved and the location. Finally, I've included a few story ideas that I hope make this a scenario worth playing.
Dazhdbog in Russian mythology or His story by (c) Sergei Naumov, 1994. Based on Russian folklore and personal research. An Internet version adopted for the WWW server "Dazhdbog's Grandchildren.
Dazhdbog is the name of a pagan sun god who is mentioned in at least one epic Russian poem (the "Tale of Igor's Campaign") dating to the 12th century. He has been called the god of blessings and son of Svarog. He is also mentioned in various folk tales and legends.
This is one of these tales. It tells of the time the pagan god Dazhdbog was traveling through the mountains of Armenia and met young warrior woman by the name of Zlatogorka. The god challenged the warrior to a fight and was soundly beaten for his arrogance. To add insult to injury, Dazhdbog was placed on her horse and forced to marry Zlatogorka.
Unfortunately (or maybe understandably), the couple's happiness didn't last; but not for any of the innumerable reasons you might have guessed. They were riding through the mountains of Armenia when they came across a tomb.
The following words were inscribed on the face of the small tomb: "The one who lays in here will stay there by a will of the Fate".
Zlatogorka asked Dazhdbog to give it a try. He tried but the tomb was too small. Then his wife tried and the tomb was just the right size. She asked Dazhdbog to put the cover on so she could lie there and look around.
He replaced it and as you may have guessed; it could not be removed. Dazhdbog hit it with his cudgel and his sword but he couldn't force the tomb open. Zlatogorka asked him to go to her father and ask him to forgive her.
Dazhdbog did as he was asked and went to her father. At first her father thought Dazhdbog had slain his daughter but Dazhdbog proved his innocence and the couple was forgiven by her father.
The Real Story
The Dazhdbog in this story lived in a time when pagan gods ruled and heroes like Beowolf walked the earth. His home might now be with his fellow gods if not for the events in this tale. However, it should be stated that the Dazhdbog referred to could have been a wizard who used a form of magic predating Hermetic theory. It has also been said that Dazhdbog could have been an Old One - a powerful race of beings Hermetic Seekers believe were the originators of Hermetic magic.
What is known about Dazhdbog is where he made his home - the mountains of Armenia. After long absences he would return to the mountains where he would remain for years at a time. The mountains offered him solitude of a sort not often found. Few mundanes would dare bother a god, fewer still if the god is somewhere in a range of mountains.
As it turned out, Dazhdbog's magical nature provided him with another measure of seclusion. His magic suffused the mountains he frequented, creating a magical aura of immense proportions. Magic of that scale intensified mother nature's inherent beauty and danger. Mundane beasts became magical creatures and plants move around as if they were beasts. Nobody but the insane would enter such a place.
This is not to say that Dazhdbog spent all his time in this area in hiding. He did move around the area often and many tales were written of his adventures.
Dazhdbog met many women in his travels and had innumerable dalliances. However, it wasn't until he met Zlatogorka that he met a woman robust enough to hold his interest. Zlatogorka was, by all accounts, a beautiful warrior woman who lived in a valley near one of Dazhdbog's less frequented mountains.
She had been raised as the heir to a small kingdom where it was customary for the ruler to choose a male heir from among his children or from the other males in the kingdom. Her father, Vij, had asked special permission from the people to raise Zlatogorka, his only child, as his heir. Permission was given only after the people added a clause allowing them to withdraw the permission, and his crown, after a period of 12 years - if they didn't like her potential.
The 12 years passed and the people agreed unanimously to allow Zlatogorka to continue as the heir. She showed all the potential of her father and even more intelligence. The small kingdom had done nothing but prosper under the rule of father and daughter.
As the kingdom thrived a bond grew between Zlatogorka and her father. Born of mutual admiration and trust, this bond was more than just the bond between parent and child. It was as if they were two people sharing one mind.
Vij was a proud and respected ruler that had done great things with the people he ruled. Vij was also an energetic leader that wanted more for his people and his family. In short, he wanted to expand his kingdom and leave his daughter a suitable inheritance.
Vij wanted to peacefully absorb neighboring communities and kingdoms that were also prospering. He believed that violence would lead to deaths and destruction that would hurt everyone in the long run. He wanted to convince the people in neighboring valleys that the best choice for everyone was to accept his rule.
Into this life entered a daughter, Zlatogorka. Not exactly the son Vij was hoping for but nobody could convince him of that.
How They Met
Dazhdbog and Zlatogorka met one sunny spring day when Zlatogorka was riding through a valley near the mountain Dazhdbog was calling home that day. She was hunting a beast that had killed some cattle and had followed the tracks to the mountain. It was odd enough to see someone riding that close to his home - let alone a beautiful woman - that Dazhdbog went out to meet her.
Zlatogorka knew enough of Dazhdbog to recognize him but she didn't show the humility he'd come to recognize in mundanes. Instead she proudly looked into his eyes and asked him if the beast that she was following belonged to him. Dazhdbog was so amused by this proud maiden that he answered her question by offering to hunt the beast down. To this Zlatogorka agreed and the two started off in search of the creature.
They soon found the magical beast and slew it but Dazhdbog was still amused by this young woman. So, he asked if she would come back to his mountain. Zlatogorka readily agreed and offered to meet him at the mountain the day after the next moon.
When Zlatogorka got home and told Vij, he was happy but cautious. He knew of Dazhdbog as a god that lived in the mountains. What better life for his daughter than if a god fell in love with her? Gods though, were infamous for their whimsical natures. Would this god just play with his daughter for a while then leave her to suffer the agony of a lost life?
Zlatogorka could feel her father's hesitation and told him she would be careful. She promised that when she next met Dazhdbog she would ask him to meet with her father before she met him again.
The moon passed with Dazhdbog thinking constantly of the young woman who was not afraid of a god. He had never seen so much courage and pride in a mundane. When the day finally came and Zlatogorka arrived at the foot of the mountain, Dazhdbog could barely refrain from flying down the mountain to meet with her.
For her part, Zlatogorka was so excited to see Dazhdbog; she almost forgot her promise to Vij. That task wasn't remembered until the next day when Zlatogorka was leaving for home. Dazhdbog quickly agreed to the meeting - he would have done anything to be with Zlatogorka.
So, Vij and Dazhdbog met with results that can be guessed. Dazhdbog's presence so thoroughly overwhelmed Vij that the proud father was willing to give his daughter's hand to the god immediately.
This was an offer the couple couldn't refuse. The two became husband and wife before the sun set that night. Vij welcomed Dazhdbog like the son he never had and the couple's wedding night was spent celebrating with the entire valley.
The next day Dazhdbog took Zlatogorka to see their new home. The young woman was thoroughly enchanted by the magical land and Dazhdbog spent many happy weeks showing his new bride around. Then came the fateful day when Zlatogorka asked to go visit her family. As enchanted as she was by her new home, she was missing her family.
Dazhdbog gladly agreed to travel with her and they set out for Vij's home the next week. Dazhdbog had preparations to make before he left his home but the delay caused Zlatogorka's homesickness to grow. The young bride was becoming increasingly depressed.
The week passed slowly for Zlatogorka but it did pass and the journey was completed. Zlatogorka's depression eased the moment they arrived. Everyone enjoyed the few days together and by the time the couple left Zlatogorka was once again the happy young bride. The only other occurrence during the visit worth mentioning was Vij asked Dazhdbog to help his people's crops that season. Dazhdbog agreed and even went beyond what was asked by causing the crops to be bountiful for a generation.
The Troubles Begin
Married life was a happy life for Dazhdbog and Zlatogorka. The couple spent time alone at their home, rode in the mountains, and traveled to exotic places. Whatever the couple did though, Zlatogorka would always grow homesick and they would return to visit with her family. During the visits Vij would always ask Dazhdbog a favor: help the livestock, end a drought, aid a barren woman, and so on.
Dazhdbog cheerfully helped his new father and always did more than what was asked. That is until Vij asked him to do harm to a neighboring village. Well, not the village, just the leader of the village. Vij asked Dazhdbog to cause the leader's death.
Dazhdbog asked for time to think and refused to do anything until after he got home. Zlatogorka was confused by this but said nothing. Vij accepted the decision but was much more subdued toward his new son-in-law. The visit passed stressfully for the family; easing only when the final good-byes were said.
Once in the seclusion of their mountain residence, Dazhdbog asked Zlatogorka what she thought he should do. Zlatogorka told him the other village needed Vij. The people of the village had seen nothing but poverty and loss for years but were terrified of their leader. Zlatogorka could not see anything wrong with killing such a man.
Dazhdbog, however, did not like what his father-in-law was turning into. He told Zlatogorka that he was finished doing favors for her father. Vij was abusing his status and using a god to do what he should be doing himself.
Zlatogorka felt Dazhdbog was turning against her father and she was not going to stand by idly while he did so. She finally threatened to leave if Dazhdbog did not do as Vij had asked.
Dazhdbog told his wife he would never allow her to leave him. When Zlatogorka moved to leave, Dazhdbog responded with magic and barred her exit. His exact words are not known but it is believed he told his wife she swore to spend her life with him and she would.
At the home of Vij, months went by with no word from Dazhdbog or Zlatogorka. This was not an unnatural occurrence, so at first there was little concern . Also, Vij had a lot of extra work ahead of him. The man he had asked Dazhdbog to slay had died of natural causes, allowing Vij to gain control of the village.
When Vij did start to worry, he sent twenty of his most trusted men into the mountains. Their mission was twofold; to see how the couple was faring and to let Dazhdbog know his decision was no longer a concern.
One of the men came back three weeks later - all the others had been killed either on the way to Dazhdbog's home or on the return trip. He told of battling with magical creatures from the moment they entered the mountains. He also reported that they had managed to reach Dazhdbog's home only to find it gone and in its place a massive stone door set in the side of mountain. Inscribed on the door was the phrase: "Those who lay in here will stay by a will of the Fate."
Although Vij tried with numerous expeditions to break into the tomb; only a few even made it to the tomb and none managed to open it.
While not the highest in the world, the mountains are respectable and require some knowledge or ability to climb. The beautiful valleys and plateaus in the area were once home to small villages and farms, but presently Mother Nature oversees their growth. Only the mighty or brave visit the area now; sane people avoid it.
Over the centuries, the aura surrounding Dazhdbog's tomb has warped Mother Nature to an amazing degree. Mundane animals, insects, plants and even the earth itself have been mutated into vile and extremely dangerous forms. Wolves possessing the ability to freeze their prey with blood-curdling howls, spider webs stronger than steel, birds of prey with the intelligence of humans, and solid rock shifting of its own volition are only a few examples of the oddities populating the mountains.
The magical aura that altered the mountains had another effect on the wildlife; it has added to the already bizarre population. Over the centuries a veritable host of magical creatures have flocked to the mountains. While different species of creatures come and go, a few have taken up permanent residence within in the mountains. Unicorns, wyverns, and even a dragon all live alongside - albeit far from peacefully - the altered creatures.
In fact, some of the magical creatures have become altered creatures. The magical aura has warped some of the magical residents of the mountain into unrecognizable parodies of their former selves. A creature that looks like a wyvern might have powers far beyond what might be expected, and technically not even be a wyvern anymore.
However, death is not alone in the mountains and this varied landscape of the extraordinary can heal as quickly as kill. Interlaced with stories of terror and violence are tales of trees with healing powers, rodents that lead people safely through treacherous trails, and birds that bring food to the hungry.
Dazhdbog's presence not only kept the more dangerous creatures at bay, but he was able use them to protect his home. They made the perfect guards; seeming to not only know when Dazhdbog was in residence, but also who was to be allowed entrance. Those few privileged enough to be granted an audience with Dazhdbog were allowed entrance to the mountains; unwanted guests were dealt with in a manner better suited for horror stories. Since Dazhdbog's disappearance, the creatures continue to perform their duties but have assumed everyone is an unwanted guest.
Although they have remained loyal to their duties; it's been centuries since Dazhdbog was last seen and the animals are becoming more audacious. They have started venturing beyond the boundaries of the magical aura, and are becoming more dangerous to the locals that live near the mountains. As time passes with no sign of Dazhdbog, the creatures could continue their behavior and abandon the aura completely. Although the locals believe the creatures either can't - or won't - abandon the aura completely until Dazhdbog is truly dead.
As if the creatures weren't bad enough, the mountains themselves can quickly turn into an enemy. Natural hazards like rockslides, and snowstorms sweeping in with no notice, have been compounded by magic. The mountains react like sentient beings that abhor the living creatures scurrying over their rocky slopes. Natural hazards striking at the most untimely moments can turn the timeless beauty of Mother Nature deadly in an instant.
The survivors of Vij's expeditions described the tomb entrance as a large stone door set high on the side of a mountain. Reaching the door required navigating up the mountain along a dangerously small trail. The trail was made even more hazardous by the magical nature of the mountain. What looked like immovable stone might not be so immovable, or even stone.
As it approaches the door, the trail widens into a space large enough to hold a wagon. The mountain plummets one thousand feet straight down from this small platform, creating an impressive terrace for the tomb entrance. The valley below and the mountains around are spread before it in a grand vista.
The men compared this entrance to the gates of a mighty fortress. Stone doors twice as tall as a large man prevent entrance to the tomb beyond. Excluding the inscription, no markings mar the perfection of their smooth stone surfaces. The strongest of men were unable to scratch the surface of these magical doors.
Some of the men who made it to the tomb claimed they heard voices coming from inside - to be specific, a woman's screams and a man's angry shouting. This led to the belief that Dazhdbog and Zlatogorka were alive within the tomb.
The tomb has become a place of mystery and a sign of what magic is capable of. It's more like a large house than a tomb - in fact, it is a large house. Dazhdbog created his tomb from his house. Behind the massive stone doors are two stories of room, stairs and halls.
Vij wants Dazhdbog and Zlatogorka to resume their former lives. He doesn't care how, or why, they were imprisoned, he wants the favors of the god to continue - and to have his daughter back. The last two decades of Vij's life have been spent trying to discover a means of entrance to the tomb - to the extent of attempting to contact other gods. So far, despite all of his efforts, nobody has succeeded in entering the tomb. However, a surprising event in the last year has given Vij reason to believe that his endeavors might finally be rewarded. The god Svarog (who many believe to be Dazhdbog's father) has given Vij a staff that should be able to open the tomb.
With all the magical beasts roaming around, Vij won't be able to get the staff to the tomb entrance alone. He still needs the right group of adventurers to aid in his quest. Gaining the favor of Dazhdbog again is worth vast amounts of whatever is asked.
Dazhdbog and Zlatogorka, however, don't want to leave the tomb. During their two decades of solitude, they've fallen in love all over again. Now more than ever, the couple want nothing more than to spend eternity with each other. Vij, of course, isn't going to pay unless Dazhdbog and Zlatogorka leave the tomb and resume their former lives.
Convincing the couple to leave is going to be hard enough but the problems won't end there. Because of the amount of time Zlatogorka has spent in the magical aura, she can't survive outside of it. When, and if, she leaves the magical aura, she will quickly begin to die. Going back into the magical aura will not heal her, once she's outside she will die. Needless to say, Dazhdbog will not be pleased when his wife dies.
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