"Frankly, I have no idea what you're talking about" says Helge-Dag to the small group of expectant faces. "I don't know of any dead gods at all, really, though I know about quite a few that have gone out of fashion. None that would have a world named after him. Actually, we call our world 'Earth'."
Entandil frowns. "All people call their world Earth. It is only other worlds that need a name. Our world is most commonly called Flower World, or World of the Dancing Goddess. The first name is older and recognized everywhere, while the second is more common today. In the same way, the world where you were held prisoner is called Stone World or World of Tears. Your own world was once called Iron World, but now World of the Dead God."
Helge-Dag feels a glimmer of hope. "But if I am not even from the world you think, then I cannot possibly be the guy you think!" "What you are is not in doubt; who you are is. We often define ourselves by the myths we choose to guide our lives. And doubt this not: Myth is what we have. The gods rarely walk among mortals; and when they do, we do not understand them. How much less then, when an event transpired long ago and far away! I shall tell you now the legend of the Dead God, as I know it. Perhaps that will make you remember.
"Eons ago, your world was full of magic; there lived titans, creatures like lesser gods but more chaotic. There was also a multitude of magical creatures: Griffins, mermaids, unicorns and kitsune, and many more. Mages, wizards and sorcerers came and went in the magic-rich atmosphere.
"But ages passed; magic grew scarce in the world; the titans left, or perhaps were slain by the young gods. The magical beasts too fled, or were hunted down by humans armed with cold iron. Yet the fading of magic was a slow process, not something seen in a lifetime.
"Then this necromancer was born. The legend says he was a demigod, son of a local god and a mortal woman. His father taught him to wield some godlike powers, and he became the greatest necromancer that world had ever seen. He founded a secret school of necromancy and took in carefully chosen students. The local authorities began to worry. But they did not know the half of it. He was playing them like an instrument, and they did not know it.
"On a carefully selected day, the necromancer gathered his most trusted students. In an arcane and disgusting ritual, he transferred his powers and part of his very soul to them. Then he sent off one of them, who had already gotten on the good side of the authorities, to 'betray' him. He was captured, sentenced and executed in short order. And it was all planned in advance; he even managed to die during a solar eclipse, when a necromancer's powers are at their greatest.
"It is said that with necromancers, you have to fear what comes after death more than you fear death itself. Normally, you should at the very least cut the head off a necromancer, quite possibly burn the rest of the body and scatter the ashes. But the local religion required whole entombment, and as it was a public execution so also the burial had to follow the rules.
"The necromancer cult was not so constrained. Within a few days, they had obtained the corpse. The inner circle convened, in whom he had vested his powers. Finally his most loyal follower, the one who had arranged the 'betrayal', sacrificed his own life -- gave up his own soul to eternal death so that his master would live.
"And the Dead God rose.
"No longer just a necromancer or even a demigod: His human limitations had died with him, while his powers had not. And his journey through the underworld had given him insights beyond the ken of the gods themselves. The rulers had killed a necromancer; but they had created a Lord of the Grave.
"Most necromancers are impatient, even liches. They want an army of the dead, and they want it NOW. This is their weakness; for they will animate any corpse they can get their hands on. But a corpse without its soul is just an ambling piece of meat. Sure, they can scare civilians and green recruits; but in actual battle they are just distractions; and outside battle they are nothing.
"The Dead God was far more cunning. He organized a cult where the members underwent a spiritually binding ritual, in which they transferred ownership of their soul to him, effective upon their death. With a soul to animate the body, you suddenly have access to all the memories and skills of a living person, making this new breed of undead far more dangerous than your common zombie.
"At first, the cult seemed little more than a nuisance. But how do you stop an immortal with infinite patience, whose servants only become more powerful when you kill them? Eventually he took over a country. Now, at least, any other necromancer would have raised his army and tried to take over the world. But no: He built schools. Here all children were taught useful skills, as well as brainwashed into giving him their souls. They were also encouraged to breed; for this is a thing the undead cannot do, however skilled they may have been in life.
"In this way, the Dead God consolidated his power, and slowly expanded. Once in control, he ruthlessly fought other gods and all magic users not under his control. Country by country, continent by continent, they died or fled. Priests, druids, witches and werewolves ... They all fled, those who still could, before the magic dried out and the stones were defaced or torn down.
It is from them we have this tale; and for a long time now, silence has reigned over the World of the Dead God."
Four pairs of eyes hang on Helge-Dag in the silence that follows. Finally, slowly, he shakes his head. "Sorry. Doesn't sound like anyone I know."