“This was not how it was supposed to go.”
“The priests, they lied to us.”
“Priests are always lying. Can you honestly say you were surprised?”
“Well, no, not if you put it that way.”
“Then what's the problem?”
“I was good, damnit! Good overall, at least. I always figured that I would get the chance to explain myself to the judge, perhaps get a pass on some of the minor stuff.”
“Heh. How many faces did your die have?”
“That's beside the point!”
“Then what is the point?”
“The point is that I deserved better than this! I should have passed on already – not been repeatedly subjected to the whims of some glorified die!”
When Mathom, the God of Delays, was cursed by the gods and deposed from his throne, he demanded a fair trial. Now, several millenia later, the High Court has finally gotten around to it. By ancient custom all deities must attend a full trial, and so Vegma, Judge of the Dead, was presented with a small problem.
Mortals do not simply stop dying because you are away on jury duty. If left unchecked, the spirits of the dead would pile up in his office, clogging his inbox and creating an awful mess for him to sort through when he got back.
To prevent this, Vegma (like many of the other gods) fashioned for himself a short-term replacement to handle his duties while he was away. At the time, it seemed the only logical choice. Vegma molded his auto-responder from the raw stuff of creation, breathed life into it, and named her Slys. He then responded to the summons for Mathom's trial with clear conscious, leaving Slys in charge of his affairs.
Several centuries later, Mathom's trial is still going.
And Slys is still judging the dead.
Slys, Die of the Damned
Slys – Doorbell of the Afterlife, She-Who-Laughs-At-Fate, the Great Die and Lady Luck – presents herself as a lopsided die of many faces. Literally. If a mortal comes to her after leading a perfectly good life (and very few do), she will simply appear as a benevolent white face, like a theatre mask with a fixed smile. Those who have sinned find that more faces have been added – all the faces of their victims, in fact, sewn together along the edges like some sort of macabre quilt.
Slys will roll for each of the dead, to see if they will be allowed to pass on. If Slys comes up with the benevolent face – the White Mask – then their spirit is admitted to the afterlife immediately. Even the most violent murderer can still luck out and make it in one roll.
Over the centuries, as Slys has gained the worship of certain mortal sects, she has developed a sort of crude consciousness. Those who worshiped her in life may find that “Lady Luck” answers their prayers after death, granting them more favorable odds by removing several faces randomly. Other than that, though, there is no way to “game the system”. Once you die, you roll.
Slys is capricious, child-like and prone to bouts of laughter. You can try to argue with her, but it is usually futile. She speaks with the faces of your die, either singularly or in groups, using whatever voices please her. The white face is special – she never speaks through it. Perhaps it reminds her too much of her original purpose, or of her missing master. Perhaps the White Mask is a binding of some sort, for she has never been able to remove it from someone's die (no matter how much they've annoyed her). Regardless, Slys dislikes the Mask, for when it appears her games of chance must come to an end.
How long had he been pushing that boulder uphill for? A year? A decade? Time seemed to work differently when you were dead. All Theron knew is that he was finally done – and that meant it was time for another roll. Sure enough, the endless hill below him vanished and he was back before the gods' idea of an insane joke.
Balloons popped, kazoos sounded and streamers fell from nowhere.
“Oh, well done! That was your fastest time yet.” Slys spun lazily in the air, giving Theron a good look at the dozens of people he had betrayed while alive.
Rivals, all of them, or so he had told himself. There was Lord Byron, face frozen in a grimace of surprise; Theron had framed him for treason after losing a lucrative arms contract to his family. And the consort who had once threatened to blackmail him – Theron had paid good money for the nigh-untraceable poison used to stop her heart.
Slys slid to a stop, regarding him with a familiar pair of sea-green eyes. Theron felt a familiar pang of genuine remorse. His wife's visage was beautiful, even when the words issuing from her lips were not her own.
“Let's play again! I roll, and we'll see if you get the acid lake this time!”
Theron sighed wearily. “I have already endured the lake of acid four times, Slys. Perhaps you could remove that face and let me try for something else? Old Ponthos has surely had his fill of justice by now.”
Slys tsked. “Now, now Theron. You know the rules. And I don't like you enough yet to let you cheat!”
Hovering just inches above the ground, Slys executed another graceful spin and her voice dropped to a deep baritone, choosing Lord Byron's likeness to continue the conversation. “You are always so serious, Theron. It's just a game!”
Theron was not in the mood to humor her. “Just roll already, she-demon, and let it be done!”
Slys pouted, the expression at odds with Lord Byron's dignified mustache. “You should be more excited,” she intoned, “you might get something new this time!”
“All I want is for that white face to come up and deliver me from your clutches, Slys. Now roll and be done with it.”
Mercifully, Slys complied this time. As Theron watched her roll, faster and faster before him, he muttered a silent prayer to an uncaring god that he wouldn't get his wife's face again.
While it seems unlikely that Mathom's fate will be decided any time soon, Slys has decided that she no longer wants to risk giving up her place when Vegma returns. She has been in communication with several of her colleagues – other replacement deities – and they've decided to attempt a coup. If they can become more widely worshiped than their creators, they would have the power to depose them (in theory).
The fledgling church of Lady Luck has therefore begun to wage a silent war against the powerful church of Vegma The Just. Little more than a scattered group of cults, they are in sore need of competent individuals to carry out any number of tasks. From converting the non-believers and running a sophisticated smear campaign against the Vegmites, to assassinating rival priests (both within and without the church), there is bound to be work for the morally ambiguous.
The party can be hired on the other side as well. Perhaps they are under contract to escort a holy relic of Vegma from one city to another. Or perhaps they are paid to root out the “cultists” and dispatch them with extreme prejudice.
One way or another, a religious war of frightening proportions is brewing. New churches will rise as the old fall, and the pantheon will never be the same.