Gilem: The Man-made Gods

Gilem (Gih-le-m) are the least powerful gods of Polaia. Most of their dominions are very small, no more than a village on average. They are the guardian deities of their respective villages, and therefore their dominions are very different from one another. For example: A Gilem who watches over fishing village might have the power to supress storms, while one from a more inland village might be tasked with staving off pestilence. Whatever the purpose, they are passive forces who usually only guard against generic forces.

They have no consistent form, and are instead represented by a somewhat anthropomorphised version of what they guard against.

Outsiders who have never seen a Gilem before commonly make the mistake that that which stands before them is an idol meant for worship of the deity, and not the Gilem itself. Many Polaians refer to Gilem informally as the ‘man-made gods’ in reference to the fact that each villages Gilem is created by their local cheifs, known as Gilalu, or ‘craft-fathers.’

According to Polaian superstition, anyting that a man builds possesses a small degree of individual will. Just how much will is possessed depends on how finely crafted a given object is. Gilem are consequentially the finest craft in their village. (On a side note: toilets, foods, disposables, and the like are often made by women for obvious concerns of ethics)

Gilalu are the leaders of their villages because of their supernatural ability to commune with the Gilem they or their ancestors created. Their role mostly comes down to the oversight of construction; making sure that houses, wells, storage sheds, and the like are built both securely and to the betterment of the village. However, they are also perceived as the more active aspect of the Gilem, and are thus required to defend in other capacities, such as killing a mountain lion that moved into the area, or damming a river in the rainy season. Succession is determined by a combination of heritage and skill. The title of Gilalu is defaulted to the deceased’s first-born son, but will be forfeited if the new Gilalu fails to maintain the Gilem’s body or accept the responsibilities of his role.

Though their forms and homelands are always different, Gilem always share a common personality; which is perfectly flat. The spirit that a Gilem is endowed with, though certainly with a will, possesses no emotion whatsoever and is apathetic to almost everything. Naturally, this makes communication incredibly difficult for the Gilalu, especially when it requires a specific plea. When such events arise, sacrifices become neccessary to rouse the god. Incense is burned, animals and grains are slain and burnt, and alcohol is poured out for its pleasure. The alcohol is especially important because, according to the Sages of the Five Isles, alcohol is pure emotion, and thus has the power to move even the dispassionate Gilem. Distilling was first developed on the island of Lilam for the express purpose of further pleasing the Gilem (though it has been consumed by mortals many times since then).

Sometimes a particular Gilem is far stronger than others. These Gilem’s size faroutreaches that of their kin, so that they rule over two or three villages, sometimes even farther. There are five of these Gilem that are at the very highest rank of Gilem, for they hold sway over the five provinces of Rehom, Kanuhom, Kaweiom, Lilam and Wogeilom. Together, they are symbols of the Polaian empire’s omni-reaching power. Of these five, the Cyclone, Gilem over the province of Kanuhom is the strongest and the master of the rest. The Cyclone is a 102′ statue in the form of a massive disk with four arms, two supporting it at the base, two raised high in the air. Each of the four arms possesses the mark of one of the other four provinces upon it, and the symbol for every other Gilem beneath the five is inscribed upon the statue’s disk body.

Before the countless Gilem of the Polaian empire were the four Still Ones crafted by the creator of the world, Sogom. He created the world firstly as a way to rid himself from the noise and chaos of the other stars about him. Sogom essentially wanted a summer home. As a result, he sent his wife down into the ocean to gather clay for him so that he might create four statues in the forms of beakless owls. He then endowed these with the power to dampen the other stars’ strength, thus making a bubble of static matter he called ‘the world’.

It is believed that this story is much the same as the Gilems’, and explains why they have such protective powers. The four Still Ones were made to filter out the power (or emotions) of other beings, to force objectivity and order upon things. Since many of the things, good or bad, in the world are caused by the cosmic scale of the Five Islands’ emotions, it is believed that the Gilem defend against disaster by amplifying and fine tuning the objectivity enforced by the Still Ones.

When the situation arises that one village is slain by another, or is found dead by disease, it is imperative that the Gilem be smashed to dust. This comes down to the fact that Gilem need their sacrifices for another reason. Without them, a Gilem’s lack of concern with the world increases, and paradoxically, so does its influence over the landscape. If left to its own devices, a Gilem can go so far as to render a five mile area completely inert and lifeless. Oddly enough, some people even still choose to live in these areas. These folks wish to gain a perfect level of emotional detachement, and so revere the wasteland Gilem and contemplate life under its shadow. These men and women are known as cursebreaker monks, and they are sometimes called upon by nearby villages for their incredible power to destroy unwanted emotions and curses in an area.

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