Drofor's Grotesquery is the title of this artwork. It features the great hero, Drofor, being torn apart by shadows which have coalesced into shapes like arms and claws and scary maws. It was painted three hundred years ago by the great artist Kala Kautuka, also known as the Ascarya. Like all of her paintings, it is hard to look away from.
KALA KAUTUKA, the Ascarya
Kala Kautuka was a Shahani elf, who devoted her life to her art. Her parents sent her from her home when she reached the age of one hundred and six. It was then that she made her way west, across the civilised countries, past their borders into the territories of giants (and this was before the war when humanity claimed that country of great, stone cities), and into the barbarian lands.
She settled herself down on the slopes of the White Crown Mountains, and there she found her god, Bo-Voormith, the king of dreams.
Bo-Voormith visited Kala every afternoon, descending from the steep cliffsides of the upper mountain to the valley where she set herself up, and he visited upon her the gift of oil paints and brushes and canvases. Then he would pose for her, and she devoted herself to him wholly for years.
For a single year, she aimed to perfect his eye. For another, she aimed to perfect his lips. Years and years, she devoted to his individual pieces. And when she was finished on a day, Bo-Voormith would kiss her forehead, and take the painting away. The acidity of his touch would push her into a comatose sleep, which she would not wake from until the sunrise. And that afternoon, Bo-Voormith would return with new materials.
In her dreams, Bo-Voormith showed her many things, each one more exciting than the last. And the dreams were so colourful. She felt blessed, and only wanted to paint these things. But Bo-Voormith insisted that she paint him and him alone.
For ten thousand days and ten thousand nights, Kala stayed on the slopes of the White Crown Mountains, painting Bo-Voormith, and Bo-Voormith alone.
Until the ten thousandth day, when he sat down across from her and spoke.
'Kala,' he said. 'I have asked you for a portrait of myself, but you've given me naught.'
'I have given you thousands,' she replied.
And Bo-Voormith pulled out a canvas from behind himself. 'It is your first painting I will show to you now,' he said.
He unfurled it, and her eyes widened. Her lips parted, her breath flowed strange and mingled with the wind.
She attained enlightenment there on the slopes of the White Crown Mountains. She travelled in heaven-on-earth for one hundred years, and when she returned, Bo-Voormith rolled up the painting.
'I think it is time for you to go,' he said. 'Go back to your civilised world. I'll wait here for the day you give me my portrait.'
Kala never told any what her first painting had been. But when she returned to the civilised world, she brought with her nine-thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine paintings, each more beautiful and strange than the last had been. Not a single one showed Bo-Voormith.
She told people how she had attained enlightenment on the slopes of the White Crown Mountains, and they believed her, because her eyes glowed and her hair flowed as though underwater, and her breath, when she exhaled, was as white as the sun's light. They called her The Ascarya, meaning 'the wonder'.
THE CULT OF ASCARYA
One of her paintings was a self-portrait. She never remembered painting it. She never remembered the specifics of any of them. It is rumoured that looking at the self-portrait directly will cause you to go into a lustful frenzy, and delve into an orgy with whomever you share the painting's gaze.
This was found by the parents of First Ascarya, the daughter of a collector of Kala's paintings and her husband. This woman owned fifteen of Kala's paintings. Though she was a very, VERY wealthy woman, this was all she could afford, with the price Kala asked of her.
Three nights after she received these paintings, she held a gala to show them off. One hundred people were in attendance, and they all saw the paintings when they were unfurled in the dance hall.
The self-portrait was the first which many of them saw, and in the centre of the ballroom there was a ravaging, raping mess of bodies. In the middle was the hostess herself. She gave birth to a baby girl, whom she named First Ascarya. Many other babies were born of this orgy, and they were named similarly: Second Ascarya, Third Ascarya, Fourth Ascarya, and so on. They became the paragons of the Cult of Ascarya when they came of age.
Others in the ballroom had many different effects. Some fell dead on the spot, while others vomited uncontrollably for hours until they were bleeding from their throats and sobbing into the floor. Others levitated above the floor and spouted nonsensical language. They never spoke Common again.
The paintings were rolled up and never viewed again. The Cult of Ascarya wants to keep them all safe, and, in the present year, has collected seven hundred and eighty of them.
Drofor's Grotesquery is possibly one of the strangest of Kala's paintings. In its centre is the hulking body of the world-renowned hero, Drofor. He is the avatar of The Wilted God, who famously inhabited the body of a tiny, petite girl who would have died of consumption, and she grew into a man. She became a he, and became a legend.
Drofor is nearly eight feet tall, with broad shoulders and rippling muscles. He is, for all intents and purposes, a human. However, he is also half a god, at least.
In the painting, Drofor is in the middle of a field of orange tulips being held aloft in the sky by arms of shadow, coalescing into claws which are trying to draw and quarter him.
Staring at the painting too long makes the shadows appear harder, and in motion.
The shadows are recognisable as being the arms of Voorm-Sotha, the shadow spider, who was an enemy of primitive humanity. It is believed that Voorm-Sotha was a fairytale, though his appearance in a painting by the Ascarya should cast suspicion on that.
The strangeness of this painting comes in when taking a look at history. Voorm-Sotha, if he existed at all, would have existed thousands and thousands of years ago. Drofor, however, is still alive. But Drofor was not yet alive when Kala painted this, three hundred years ago.
Is it a prophetic painting, nobody is sure?
And it is very hard to continue staring at this painting, as it will make you vomit violently upon seeing it.
INFORMATION FOR PLAY
Players should roll against their wisdom (Will Saves, or roll+WIS, or whatever the system calls for) when first looking at the painting. A success will still give them feelings of nausea. A middle failure will have them throwing up, and needing to eat, or else be weak of body (losing STR and CON until they eat). A low/critical failure will have them knocked out fully, seeing a vision of Death himself.
Those who view Death now have a bond with Death, and with The Wilted God. If they die, Death will offer them their life back if they can work in service of The Wilted God. Doing anything against The Wilted God's will will result in their mind being removed from their body, and their body being used to cut a swathe of destruction across the land as far as it can withstand whatever is thrown back at it.
The Cult of Ascarya will be very interested in this painting. This would be relatively common knowledge.
If this is appreciated, I'll do a '30 Paintings By Kala Kautuka' each with different effects.
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? Responses (7)-7
Cant wait for 30!
Haha, I'll get on it, then. :) Glad to see it was so well-received.
I really liked this, I thought the titular painting was well described and the ideas presented here are promising. The paintings are dangerous, unpredictable and not well understood (in world), that fact plus the tale described above is a great prologue for a personal adventure. However, the story itself works as an interesting anecdote without a need for expansion in as much as it gives the reader a new avenue of imagination. I also thought the world building was strong. You seem take a type of bronze age mythology (living with a god for a generation century) and mix it with late renaissance or enlightenment type sensibilities and material culture; Balls, Art Collection, Oil painting on canvas, Money Driven Economies. The theme of the tale has very dada-esque/surrealist quality, because there seem to be a clear distance between the the reality of the mind and reality. I enjoyed that as well. But in addition to the style of the world you unpack these painting with a lot of other interesting tid-bits regarding secret cults with orgy rituals, rivalries between ancient and newer gods and so on. Again, impressive and nicely executed.
The prose starts with higher mind style than it finishes with and there are few rough patches. Examples
'The self-portrait was the first which many of them saw, and in the centre of the ballroom there was a ravaging, raping mess of bodies. In the middle was the hostess herself. She gave birth to a baby girl...'
The shift of time from the orgy to the birth of the girl here is not clear between these two sentences. It becomes clear later but at this point you have the character in the middle of an orgy described as a 'raping mess' giving birth to a child.
'The shadows are recognisable as being the arms of Voorm-Sotha, the shadow spider, who was an enemy of primitive humanity. It is believed that Voorm-Sotha was a fairytale, though his appearance in a painting by the Ascarya should cast suspicion on that.
The strangeness of this painting comes in when taking a look at history. Voorm-Sotha, if he existed at all, would have existed thousands and thousands of years ago. Drofor, however, is still alive. But Drofor was not yet alive when Kala painted this, three hundred years ago.'
These two paragraphs run all over the place with regard to tense and perspective.
Thanks! I know I did get a little bit all over the place with regards to some of the tense and stuff with those paragraphs. My first draft was actually much more messy. I probably could have spent a little while longer refining it. I'm glad you liked it though.
I'll definitely be using a whole massive bit of your comment to build my world ('You seem take a type of bronze age mythology (living with a god for a generation century) and mix it with late renaissance or enlightenment type sensibilities and material culture; Balls, Art Collection, Oil painting on canvas, Money Driven Economies.'). I guess I've been doing that, but it'll be really nice to be able to look at it and say, 'This is what I need to accomplish.' I'll know whether stuff fits in.
And yeah, I'm getting a bit sick of doing greek/abrahamic style gods who live in the sky and watch over the world and there's the god of fire or the god of thunder and one of them is also the sun, and he's married to the moon.
So there's a bunch of different kinds of gods in this setting. The Wilted God is probably the closest to the 'classic' god type, but even then, he's more Asgardian in that he's just part of a race of celestial beings. Bo-Voormith and Voorm-Sotha are more deified, but they have domains of power, and I refuse to refer to them as gods.
This one really piques my imagination, cruc. Love it. Creepy and surreal...art, half-gods, orgies, cults, and the names!! A sense of the primeval/primordial mixed with an almost Renaissance feel. Would love to see the 30 paintings written up!
I'll do my best for the 30 then! I'll probably work on it in the background for a fairly long time. :) It's good to be back!
One of those subs that gives great insight into a new world. This is quite awesome!