Augustus Cantus: The Tenders of the Stone

This article is a submission to the Augustus Cantus contest sponsored by Golden Goblin Press. Give it a read for when voting opens up, and go ahead and try your own entry!

In the remote mountains of Tarraconensis (Hispania / Spain) there exists a mysterious sect known as the Tenders of the Stone. The region they operate in encompasses about a dozen villages and towns, mostly pastoral in nature, although some trade in silver, olives, and wine. The Tenders are thought to be natives on these villages, although their specific identities are unknown. The cultists, usually a procession of thirty members, gather on the Vernal and Autumnal Equinox and visit a seemingly random village within their domain. They then demand the tribute of a single human being to be given up to their “God of Stone”, “The Provider of Prosperity”. In return all the villages in the region are ensured a prosperity.

Most villages keep a condemned prisoner, captured bandit, or disobedient slave on hand during the Equinox for this purpose. Failing that an elderly or sickly member of the community either volunteers or is forcibly handed over to be their village’s tribute. Very few communities refuse The Tenders, as those who do are punished severely “by their god”. Droughts, floods, grain blights, locust swarms, plagues, or other natural disasters (earthquakes, tornadoes) always strike communities who deny The Tenders their tribute. Of course, those given as tribute to the Tenders are never seen again.

The Cultists – The Tenders are members of the communities they demand tribute from and come from all walks of life. Very few cultists know who their fellow members of the cult are, as they always wear their robes and masks when gathering. Membership in the Tenders is hereditary, with parents passing their masks and membership onto children when their too old to fulfill their duties. Most lead completely normal lives, in spite of the fact that many are completely insane from the horrors they’ve witnessed and the dark knowledge they possesses.

Their ceremonial robes are dyed goatskin, with either painted or embroidered depictions of a reptilian creature’s head, a snake, lizard, or dragon of some sort. Their masks are made from leather and bone, usually a large animal skull. The cultists carry staves, long knives, axes and hammers for defenses, although few defy them. Each cultist knows 1D4 spells, and use their arcane powers to punish disobedient communities with spells such as Blight Crop, Bring Pestilence, Cause Disease, and Summon Plague. The Tenders do nothing to bring prosperity; the area is naturally fertile, with mild weather, and abundant mineral wealth.

The Tenders believe that unless they give their God a human sacrifice twice a year the region will become a barren wasteland. The Tenders see themselves as the protectors of this region but this is not the case. Their “God” has no power over the region’s prosperity. The root of its power comes from the twisted beliefs of its misguided human worshippers.

The God of Stone – The God of Stone, The Provider of Prosperity, is actually the Great Old One Zoth-Ommog. The entity manifests through any of the many statues of itself which are scattered across the globe. One such statue is found atop an inaccessible plateau in the mountains of Tarraconensis. This plateau is the center of The Tenders of the Stone religious practices and where they bring their sacrifices. When the moon reaches its highest point on the Vernal and Autumnal equinox Zoth-Ommog manifests through the statue and the Great Old One devours its human sacrifice. It does not harm the masked worshippers delivering it tribute and offering it prayers, as it knows that six months later they will deliver another. A steady supply of sacrifices is worth much than eating it’s worshippers.

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