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Payton, also known as the Flame-bearer, is a Talgur deity of righteous war, nobility and chivalry. He also acts as the patron god of the Realm's snakes and their kin. 

Holy symbol: a bronze snake, coiled around a torch

Worshippers: leaders, nobles, duellists, knights, snakes

Portrayal: a cavalier in a snake-scaled armour, riding a flaming steed. His weapon of choice is the spear Blyskaw, with which he felled a vile storm giant, that terrorised the early people of Thessea. 

Church: one of the most dogmatic and organised cults of the Realm, its Thessean arm is headquartered in Blaustadt, under the vigilant watch of numerous cardinals. Its leader is an elected High Cardinal, who makes most key decisions on the cult's military engagements. A chain of command within the church goes as follows: shield-bearer - fang-bearer - exemplar - chaplain (regional leader) - cardinal - high cardinal. 

Associated domains (5e): Light, War



Legend: Payton and the Snakes

When the mortals first came to the Realm, it was vast and wild and untamed, and mighty beasts roamed its forests and ravines. Such was their ferocity and bloodlust, that even for a god it was a feat to hunt them alone. Thus Payton, renown for his martial prowess and bravery and asked by Galador to protect the young mortal races from harm, sought a fellow god to aid him during hunts.

At first, old Saad Ishtar came to Payton and offered him help, for he was fascinated with beasts of old and wished to know more of them and to learn of their strength. Yet Payton was mistrustful of Saad Ishtar, for he was a brute and a tyrant, capable of the deeds most base in his lust for wealth and power. Instead, Payton called his old friend Strevnir, the god of death, to arms and Saad Ishtar took a great offence at that.

And it is known that Payton slew Strevnir by mistake during a fencing match and was devastated by it. He called on Leandra, the Twin Queen, to help bring him back from the Evening Lake - which saw noble and kind-hearted Strevnir become wicked Axxerarat, the twisted demon-king and lord of the Undead.

And Payton was ashamed and deemed himself a base failure, for so horrified he was of his former friend's visage that he was the first to run away from the rite, not giving the least of thought to understanding or helping Axxerarat. And for this he eternally blamed himself.

And such was Payton's wish to atone for his momentary cowardice, that he traveled the Realm and realms beneath and above, high and low, to find a way to restore Axxerarat. In so doing he showed courage, strength and chivalry previously unimagined - and demanded such from those who later followed him, so that they never repeat his mistakes.

And he braved the icy waters of countless frozen seas and found the door to the Evening Lake and beseeched Leandra again - "Are you not the mistress of all that was and all that will be, is it not in your power to make a wrong right?". Yet Leandra but shook her head, for Axxerarat was no more of the Evening Lake and would never return by his own will - she had no power over him.

And he crawled through the twisted tunnels of rock and earth, like a dirty beast himself, to find Deleritas, the Snail, and he asked him "Have you not, in your ceaseless search, found a secret and knowledge potent enough to doom Strevnir's return? Help me, kind scholar, for the might of a sword and magic have failed me!". Yet Deleritas but turned away in sorrow, as for all his wisdom he was yet to master life and death and was ashamed of his weakness.

And when all hope was lost and Payton was alone and broken, Saad Ishtar approached him the second time and offered his help, knowing that Payton will have to take it, even knowing and suspecting a foul motive.

And Saad Ishtar sent Payton to the darkest depths of the Earth in search of a scale from an ancient crystal snake - in return for which, he promised to share a secret on how to revive Strevnir. And as Payton with naught but his armour and a torch descended into the darkness, suddenly the earth gave way and he tumbled deep into a stone pit. Saad Ishtar's trap was sprung and how he expected Payton to perish.

When Payton came to his senses, he found himself surrounded by many thousands of scales and fangs, as it was a snake pit that Saad Ishtar prepared as his vengeance. And they tore Payton's armour and rend his skin and poison started to flow into his wounds. But Payton, for once, knew humility and saw that the snakes did this not out of malice but fear, and they lacked warmth and knowledge to do different.

Overcoming the pain and slow death of poison, Payton shared the flame of his torch with the snakes. He taught them medicine and words, legends of old and mastery of battle, of Galador's hope, of Strevnir's kindness, of Leandra's joyfulness and of Heide's passion.

And the snakes hearkened to Payton and were reborn. In horror at what they've done, they flayed their own flesh and used their skin as bandages for Payton's wounds. With their scales they patched his armour and gathered all together they delivered him to safety, promising for ever to be grateful for his teachings.

But despite the snake's help, Payton was weary of the mortal Realm. Once he came back, he immediately departed for the Evening Lake, taking the selfless snakes who saved his life with him and forever enshrining their place among mortal races.

Thus it came to pass that Payton became the third god to leave the Realm. He now resides with his warriors, friends and servants within radiant halls at the Evening Lake's shores, ever watchful of the hour when his help will be needed by mortals again.

Yet one more promise has Payton made. As he stood at the gates of the mortal realm, he swore a dark doom upon Saad Ishtar, and proclaimed that if he dares to put a foot inside gods' abode, he will rain fire and fury and poison yet unseen by men or gods upon him and till the end of times he will make him suffer tenfold the harm that he himself lived through.

And thus ends the tale of how Payton the Flame-bearer left the mortal realm, how the wise snakes got their wisdom and reason, and why devious Saad Ishtar sits alone at the top of the world, forever fearful of taking his rightful place among Talgur.



Notes:

- The Cult of the Flame-bearer is one of the most influential and militaristic churches in the Realm, despite having the smallest following among the good deities of Talgur. It sees protection of the Realm and its people as its mission and takes a proactive approach to it - offence, after all, is the best defence.

- Payton is a righteous, good and noble deity but by no means is he kind or forgiving. Sometimes he even comes off as arrogant - it is a common trait of his powerful servants to be condescending and patronising towards the weak, whom they are obliged to protect. But to be fair, Payton expects a lot from everyone and not only aren't his servants an exception - he demands even more of them.

- Only powerful individuals who have proven their worth to Payton or his clergy and received their personal approval and blessing - often after a harsh trial or a heroic accomplishment - are allowed to join the Cult; even then, Payton only accepts those who are willing to bear arms, kill and die to protect the world's order, their faith and those weaker than them – paladins and warrior priests.

- The Cult's role is especially important when a war occurs between nations and countries - Payton's emissaries serve as mediators and observers of armed conflicts, making sure that prisoners are treated fairly and no atrocities are comminuted.

- Finally, it should be mentioned that snakes (which are all, without exceptions, intelligent beings on Horizon) are considered to be the symbol and holy patrons of the Cult (according to the ancient legends, it was Payton who has given them a spark of reason and gift of fire) and lend their colour - dark green - to banners and vestments of the Cult.

- The Cult of Payton has an affiliated knightly order - the Scaled Lancers. Its knights support the military and peacekeeping operations (although their primary duties are still to the Borean crown, which sometimes creates conflicts of interest between the Cult and the Crown) of the Cult; at the same time, their real purpose is to forge a Champion of Payton from among its ranks. The Champion is decided on in a grand tournament, sponsored by the Church. The Champion is needed in the Realm's darkest times, when even the Cult's cardinals find themselves in need of direct divine guidance. The Champion, once chosen, repeats the epic quest of Payton and journeys to the depths of the Realm to find the wise King Serpent and ask him to prophecy the man's doom. It was as a result of such journey that the Cult of Payton abandoned the status quo and joined Constantine Feuerbrand in his quest to reforge Borealis.

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