I’ve always found the concept of religion and gods fascinating. Whether you consider yourself religious or not, you’ll have to admit that the lore surrounding real-world religions touches upon the fantastical. Some of our Earthly religions include divine entities of various guises, demons and monsters, prophecies and miracles. Much of these concepts appear in fantasy storytelling. Most would rightly dismiss fantasy as fantasy, yet religion still exists in modern times, despite their fantastical origins. That’s what attracts me to studying religion and gods, both real and made up; it’s a form of fantasy brought to life in the real world.
My background comes from a strict Christian upbringing, but I’ve studied various religions over the years. Religion was one of my best subjects in school! Today, I am a staunch atheist, and when I write my fantasy religions and gods do bear in mind that these share no relation to real religions or gods. My gods perform horrible deeds, but this does not mean I endorse them or believe them to be real. It’s fantasy, after all.
Throughout many fantasy worlds, there are minor and major gods. Gods with the power to give boons to their followers or gods who possess powers which can reshape and destroy worlds. Gods who watch humanity from the clouds, vaguely amused by the antics of mortals, and gods who prefer to take a hands-on approach with humanity’s destiny, whether for good or for ill. Gods come in various shapes and sizes across the full alignment spectrum of good vs evil and lawful vs chaotic. This variety is what makes them so much fun!
While I explore the relationship between humans and gods within the lore of my Young Adult fantasy series, Sand Dancer, and will continue to throughout the series, I truly got to grips with my fantasy gods in The Cruel Gods series. As the name would imply, this is a world dominated by gods who aren’t considered kind.
Gods of The Thirteenth Hour
In the world of The Thirteenth Hour, book one of The Cruel Gods series, there are twelve gods who rule over their own dimension or domain. I took inspiration from The Elder Scrolls RPG series and the Daedric princes who rule over their own planes of Oblivion, a dimension separate from ours. Daedric princes are god-like beings who range in temperament and often like to interfere with the lives of mortals. My gods are much the same.
Unlike most gods who give boons in exchange for worship, the gods of The Thirteenth Hour create and own the souls of their mortal subjects. This means that a mortal is beholden to their patron god, who could snap them out of existence with a single thought if they wished. The gods cannot leave their own domains, thus they live through the memories and experiences of their mortals, who can leave. Sadly, mortals have no choice in which god owns their soul, nor can they change, and to even consider desiring or worshipping another god is one of the unforgivable sins. While mortals have no power over their gods, the Wardens who serve the gods created a Covenant to ensure all mortals of the twelve gods would be granted free will and other freedoms in exchange for continual worship.
Of course, the gods don’t always care for the needs of their mortals, and some are more cruel than others.
The twelve domains of the gods.
The gods created the twelve domains as they desired, and mortals are made in their image, or at least with their characteristics and magical powers. For the god of sunlight, Gildola, their mortals are golden-skinned and also possess the ability to summon sunlight. In exchange for their existence, Gildola demands absolute worship from her mortals and they are the most pious of the lot. Other gods demand tributes or tithes, and failure to pay up can result in exile, torture, or worse.
For Lionheart, the three-headed god of the lion-based Leander, nothing is more important than proving one’s strength, thus he demands his mortals engage in trials and challenges to prove their worth. Those who fail these challenges have their souls tossed back into the cosmic aether. Gods like Lionheart want their mortals to earn their existence.
Some gods enjoy learning through their mortals, such as Anima, the jellyfish god who likes to take mortal memories for themself, or Mesmorpheus, the god who enters dreams and nightmares to explore a mortal’s subconscious.
And other gods, such as Edana, the god of fire and pleasure, simply want to enjoy the company of their own mortals, though this isn’t necessarily a good thing! Attracting a god’s attention can be dangerous, especially if they grow bored with you.
Many mortals view their gods as loving parents, though some regard them as cruel masters to be avoided at all costs. The story of The Thirteenth Hour focuses on a group of heathens who oppose the rule of the gods and try to help those mortals suffering under their gods’ whims.
Throughout The Cruel Gods series, we’ll travel to all twelve domains and meet these gods for ourselves!
What are your favorite gods from fantasy books?