Numenera Short Story: The High Mother

In the residential district of Naverene, High Mother Tepin sat at a desk in the church of the twin gods. Although the room was much smaller than her usual accommodations at the city of Glavis, she did not let such a fact deter her from her work. Such indulgences led to a weakness of spirit that tainted all that it touched. A lesson she learned long ago.

Like all pairs of twins in Glavis, she and her brother were taken by the church and raised to honor the gods. Chosen to serve the people of Glavis as the gods’ messengers in the Ninth World. As she grew older, she realized that such service was more of an afterthought to the religious leadership, most of its members little more than a gang of thugs coated with a thin veneer of piety. While others would have become disillusioned at such corruption, Tepin swore she would not allow the same to happen to her. She dedicated herself to do whatever it took, both fair and foul, to raise through the ranks, telling herself that once she obtained true power she would change the church from within.

It was a few years before she became High Mother that she discovered the truth. The great lie that had become the core of an entire religion. The twins they worshiped were little more than otherworldly explorers. Powerful and strange yes, but no different then all the other wondrous things that made up the ninth world.

Such a harsh truth explained the corruption of the church. The leadership knew all they believed was a lie and behaved as such, acting out their wanton needs with abandon. Their subordinates followed suit, given free reign to act like spoiled children under the supervision of absentee parents.

Where others would have had their spirits broken, Tepin simply saw an opportunity. She knew that the church could be so much more. In the past 1300 years, the church had stayed mostly in Glavis, content in administering the faith of a small city. It was a religion older than the Aeon priesthood, but had wasted away under the leadership of the simple minded.  She would change that. She would see the church turn into a force of good in the Steadfast. Capable of doing so much more than a group of out of touch Aeon priests more interested in studying artifacts then getting the maximum potential from its people.

Of course, such plans could not be done in one lifetime. Even with the long life given to her by being born in Glavis, she would not live long enough to see her plans come to fruition. She had considered choosing a protege, but so far had found no one who could match her vision.

Recent knowledge of an immortal in the city however has made her change her plans. If she could obtain the method this ‘Norash the Eternal’ used to maintain her life, she could guarantee that she would be around as long as necessary to ensure the new path of the church.

And, she had to admit, the title of High Mother Eternal did have a nice ring to it.

As Tepin was deep in thought about her grand plans for the future, her servant Layton stepped in. A sniveling man with a penchant for groveling, Tepin had saved him from an inconvenience of his own making a few years ago. He has been her loyal, if unimaginative, servant ever since.

“High Mother,” Layton said simply, waiting for the High Mother to acknowledge him. The tone of worry in his voice a bit more than the usual amount fearful respect she was used to.

Tepin long ago enforced within Layton the importance of her work. As such, any form of interruption would have to be only under the most dire of circumstances. She put down her pen and waited for him to speak. Instead, he simply handed her a piece of paper.

Tepin read the report. Then, read it again. Looking for any inconsistency that might show it was fabricated. She found none.

Looking up at Layton, she tried to see any indication of deviousness on his part. Although she knew Layton lacked the creativity for betrayal, she hadn’t reached her current position by taking chances. His manner however, seemed to show his usual subservient self.

“Is this verified?” she asked, annoyed.

“I assure you, High Mother, I wouldn’t have brought it to your attention without doing such a thing,” he said, his tone fearful. “It seems despite the report from Stargazer Narian, who you so wisely issued removed, the assassination attempt ultimately failed.”

Tepin nodded. Already going over possible plans of actions, before Layton derailed her thoughts.

“So, we will try again?” he said hopefully, his eyes alight with glee. Although he had no head for planning, he did at least love the idea of plotting. His part as her messenger to the darker and more violent parts of the faith making him feel, at least vicariously through Tepin, like a cunning mastermind.

“In the city? Are you mad?” Tepin said angrily, annoyed at her servants lack of sense. “They are under the eyes of the queen. She doesn’t maintain her power in that nest of noble vipers by being stupid. Any hint of such a move on our part and we will be destroyed in an instant!”

“No,” Tepin continued, slowly rising from her chair. “We will intercept them outside the city.”

“High Mother!” Layton said, surprised. The shock overcoming his usually meek demeanour. “They could go anywhere once they leave the city. There is a good chance we could lose them!”

Tepin smiled. The same smile that condemned many of her rivals to their deaths. The same smile that made Laytons’s blood run cold.

“Dear Layton,” Tepin began to say in a motherly tone, as if speaking to a particularly stupid child.  “As incompetent and corrupt as the church has been, it hasn’t been completely useless. It has had centuries to gather knowledge about the actions of our deities. The boys may be stumbling in the dark for answers, but we long ago learned the gods’ ultimate plans. I will leave for the beyond immediately. To where the boys will eventually head.”

“You?”, Layton asked, his eyes widening.

“Indeed,” Tepin answered. “Like previous leaders of the church, I lazily allowed others to handle my problems. It’s time I took a more active role in the church’s affairs.”

With that, Tepin walked out of the room. Followed closely by Layton, she moved to the back of the church and opened the door to the courtyard. As soon as she did, they were greeted by the sound of combat. Over a dozen soldiers in the colors of the church were conducting combat trainings, their Glavian armor coated in dirt and blood as they went over battle drills with practiced precision. Seeing the High Mother, a nearby commander called for attention. In short order, men and women formed two lines that faced Tepin, their right fists on the left side of their breast plates in salute.

“For too long,” Tepin said coldly, her eyes looking over the stone faced soldiers honoring her, “the church has used thugs and other criminals to enforce its will. Fine enough for a city, but not for a country. What you see is the beginning of a new path for the church. A holy army to enforce order and spread our light into the dark corners.”

“When those boys finally come to me,” Tepin almost crooned, turning her gaze towards Layton, ” I and my army of the faithful shall ensure they perform their final duty to the church.”

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About the Author
Jesus “Arvandus” Rodriguez is the founder and website tweaker of the Fandible podcast. When he isn't out creating imaginary worlds for his players, he also runs a youtube channel where he writes short fiction in various fictional worlds.

4 comments on “Numenera Short Story: The High Mother

  1. CallmeIshma3l says:

    …Most Holy Shit, Norash has been elevated to Plot Point!

  2. Thanak Drahz says:

    It’s great to hear more about the schemes of the High Mother. Jesus has put together a menacing schemer who still has absolute dedication to a cause, even if it is just her own ambition. Like all great villains High Mother Tepin makes the PCs cooler just by being able to face her and manage to walk away (or jump through a stained-glass window…). I look forward to hearing what happens when Tepin next allows the group to catch up to her.

    Probably my favourite part of the reveal of the church’s plans so far was that they’re not just putting on a religious act to serve their own selfish ends; they have figured out what the twin gods want and now actually work against their gods’ will to protect the sweet racket the church has got going. That is an interesting twist.

    Thanks for the Long Shot Fandible. looking forward to season 3!

  3. Fabian says:

    I think I realize what motivated this story. Jesus has been tossing and turning fitfully at night, clawing at his sheets, suffering from withdrawal symptoms as a result of not being able to torture his friends’ characters in Numenera. Then a thought occurred to him. “Say, if I write a short story about a major villain, I’ll be able to show them just how doomed they really are when we start up again!” After writing the story, laughing all the while like a madman, he slept soundly, the cravings sated for now.

    …but seriously, great story. It’s actually a bit of a surprise to learn that Tepin isn’t entirely acting just out of self-interest.

  4. Arvandus says:

    Thanks all of you. I had a lot of fun writing this.

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