The Last Azlanti
Fulfilment of destiny
Aroden (pronounced AIR-oh-den)2 was the immortal Azlanti human who raised the Starstone from the bottom of the Inner Sea in 1 AR, founded the city of Absalom, and became the patron deity of humanity.3 He was once prophesied to lead humanity into an Age of Glory, but on the day of his supposed return, he apparently died of mysterious causes, catapulting Golarion into an uncertain future and the Age of Lost Omens.4
Aroden was born in the tumultuous final days of Azlant. According to legends, he was an unrivalled blacksmith and Azlant's premier swordmaker, and personally wielded many of his swords to defend Azlant from the chaos of its last decades. He was a follower of Acavna, the Azlanti moon goddess, and Amaznen, god of magic. His most famous creation during this time was the Azlanti Diamond, a clear jewel-bladed sword intended to be the weapon of the next Azlanti emperor. When the then-emperor failed to choose a successor from a pool of unimpressive candidates, he asked Aroden to decide for him, and Aroden took it upon himself to keep the Azlanti Diamond. Many believe this decision provoked the veiled masters to call down Earthfall to destroy Azlant.56
Following the destruction of his homeland, Aroden led the Azlanti survivors east to the empire's colonies in Avistan and tried to salvage the empire's vast cultural legacy, especially its unparalleled magical developments. During this period, Aroden somehow became immortal even as his contemporaries intermarried with the locals, had children, got old and died. Over time he acquired the titles of the "Last of the First Humans" and the "Last Azlanti" because he was ostensibly the last fully High Azlanti to die (by several thousand years).57
After a few centuries, a sect of the prophecy-obsessed Knights of the Ioun Star, the former guard of Azlanti emperors, declared Aroden the embodiment of the Last Azlanti prophesied in the Starfall Doctrine. During this time, he led an army into the Outer Rifts to kill Ibdurengian, a demon lord who had been ravaging Azlanti colonies for three centuries in a quest to eradicate all of Azlant's descendants. Thereafter, Aroden remained in the Great Beyond, building up alliances with otherworldly creatures and exploring alien philosophies that expanded his mortal consciousness and perspective. Aroden eventually returned with a new focus: charting a new destiny for humankind as a whole.5
In -1524 AR, Aroden's travels in Golarion led him to the Arcadian nation of Xopatl, whose fantastic magic interested him. He spent several years in Jolizpan working as a farmer and fisherman while learning from local botanists and earning their trust. During this time, he befriended the native adventurer Arazni, and together they earned limited access to the sacred Tumbaja Mountain and the Veins of Creation.8
After completing the research she needed, Arazni invited Aroden to travel across Xopatl to apply her research from Gujaraldi to distant communities. For the next several years, they earned a reputation as heroes. In -1505 AR, they returned to Jolizpan to report on their improvements, in the process repelling an invasion by the Razatlani warlord Imictal. Following this exploit, Arazni and Aroden were granted unlimited access to Tumbaja Mountain and the kumaru tree that was the source of the Veins of Creation. After Arazni finished her research and parted ways with him, Aroden stayed for his own experiments. Unknown to anyone else, he placed a fragment of his soul within the kumaru tree, giving him the ability to manipulate the Veins of Creation with ease and greatly expanding his power. In -1489 AR, two years after Arazni's death, Aroden left Xopatl.9
Before his ascension, he is known to have completed a number of miraculous tasks. The most famous of these is when he traveled to the settlement of Egorian in Cheliax. The town was surrounded by plains of red roses, half of which turned white at Aroden's mere presence. These flowers maintained their coloration for thousands of years thereafter.10
Absalom and ascension
Aroden is best known for raising the Isle of Kortos from the seabed and transferring the Starstone to its current resting place in the Starstone Cathedral at the center of Absalom. In order to bring life to the slime-covered Isle of Kortos, Aroden stole five life-giving orbs from the Orvian vault of Vask, which he called aeon orbs, believing that they could be put to a better use aiding humans than supporting Vask's native xulgaths. He placed each aeon orb on a mudbrick Aeon Tower and linked their magic to his own essence, quickly turning the islands green, particularly around the towers.11 Unknown to Aroden, the sole aeon orb he left in Vask was insufficient to maintain its ecosystem; soon enough, the vault was transformed into a lifeless waste of black sands by the radioactive crystals on its ceiling.12
Growth of Aroden's faith
Having declared himself the patron god of all of humanity, Aroden called on mystics from all over the Inner Sea region to join him in Absalom and share their wisdom. They soon began arriving from Osirion, Qadira, and Taldor, hoping to honor the god-king and marvel at his miraculous accomplishments. Their teachings helped inform many of the city's more esoteric orders and institutions of learning, some of which have survived to the present.13 Aroden worked hard to protect and aid humanity, while encouraging the rise of his faith, particularly in Taldor, and encouraged the growth of the city of Absalom. He generally preferred to provide aid from a distance (such as the siege of Absalom in 166 AR, when the Archmage Nex besieged the city). When necessary, however, Aroden took a very active role in the destruction of humanity's foes.14 He personally fought off the invader Voradni Voon during the First Siege of Absalom in 23 AR,13 and centuries later defeated the wizard-king Tar-Baphon in 896 AR.154
In addition to his martial achievements, Aroden decreed that the Isle of Erran (located just to the north of the Isle of Kortos) would be a private refuge for himself and his closest followers, including the Knights of the Aeon Star, sword-mages who accompanied the god during the first centuries of his divine existence.16
Departure from Absalom
As early as the fourth century AR, historical records depict Aroden increasingly removed himself from the mundane affairs of Absalom and the world of Golarion, and shifted his focus to his growing divine realm on the plane of Axis. When travelling to Nirvana in 1121 AR, he met his old friend Arazni again, now an astral deva, and she accepted his offer to serve him as his herald. When Tar-Baphon returned to the world as the lich named the Whispering Tyrant, Aroden did not intervene, leaving the matter to Arazni with disastrous results.
Aroden is known to have appeared only once in recent centuries, in 4433 AR in the Kellid nation of Sarkoris to fight the avatar of the demon lord Deskari and drive him and his followers into the Lake of Mists and Veils.417189
Aroden was humanity's god of culture, innovation, and history. An important prophecy known as the Starfall Doctrine suggested that he was to personally manifest in Cheliax in 4606 AR, marking the beginning of a long-awaited Age of Glory. Not only did the god not appear, but the very power of prophecy, which had defined Aroden's life and spurred his personal accomplishments and ambitions, stopped functioning, ushering in the Age of Lost Omens. At the appointed hour, Golarion was instead racked with three weeks of storms and earthquakes that created the Eye of Abendego and flooded the nations of Lirgen and Yamasa on Garund's western coast. When the weather broke, the clerics of Aroden found they could not reach their god. With his divine mandate removed, the king of Cheliax fell into a legitimacy crises and the nation soon fell into a civil war.4202122
With the death of the god, the power of the Aeon Towers on the Isle of Kortos have begun to fade, slowly withdrawing their life-giving energies from the nation's soil and plant life.23
Since Aroden's death, clerics no longer receive his spells. Countless theories exist about how he might have died, including a battle with Rovagug or Asmodeus, a journey beyond the Outer Sphere, or reincarnation into a mortal man to save humanity. The gods might know his true fate, particularly Pharasma, but if they do, they have not revealed it to mortals.24214
Aroden's domain on Axis was a massive city designed as an idealised utopia that he encouraged his followers to replicate. Following his death, it was not absorbed by Axis and became known as the Empty Court, an empty wasteland contested by numerous parties, including his former follower Milani, who has rebuilt part of the Empty Court into the Refuge of the Red Rose, her second divine realm. The axiomites have declared the Empty Court a region distinct from Axis until someone wholly claims it.425
The twelve guises of Aroden
When Aroden walked the world disguised, he took on one of twelve guises: artist, beggar, craftsman or artisan, farmer, fisher, hunter, merchant, scholar, shepherd, soldier, tailor, and thief. Travelers to Westcrown can find these guises carved into stone along the northern wall of the Canaroden, a long canal in the city's Parego Spera district.26 The twelve guises are also portrayed in statuary in the hidden vaults of the Korradath—the building from where Imperial Cheliax was once governed—as the vaults were formerly used by the Church of Aroden in Westcrown.27
Aroden's strongest allies were the deities worshipped in Azlant. He turned to the Manual of City-Building, holy text of Abadar, for inspiration when establishing Taldor and Absalom, and saw the art inspired by Shelyn as necessary for a successful civilisation. After the gods he once worshipped, Acavna and Amaznen, died in Earthfall, Aroden pointed to them as examples that gods can die, but humanity will persevere.6 Irori saw Aroden as a friend who obtained godhood from mortality much as he did, and was greatly troubled by his death.28
Aroden respected Cayden Cailean as proof that human ingenuity, luck, and will were such that even a drunkard could succeed in the deadly Test of the Starstone. Norgorber, a villain who represents humanity's darkest urges, yet became a god through the very Starstone raised by Aroden, was a sworn enemy of every Arodenite. Iomedae, a former paladin of Aroden, inspired her former master through her devotion, and her optimism countered the dark impulses that accumulated during his millennia-long life.6
Aroden saw Lamashtu as the darkness and chaos lurking in the wild beyond the perimeter between man and beast, and Urgathoa as a reminder of the worst excesses that he left behind in Azlant. After his death, his clergy blamed Pharasma for withholding his fate, leading to violence across the entire Inner Sea region.6
Church of Aroden
Aroden's church was once the most powerful in the Inner Sea region and influenced almost all aspects of daily life. It has fallen into irrelevance since his death and many of his clergy moved on to worship other deities.4 Most of Aroden's followers have become clerics of Iomedae, his greatest servant, who is one of the few mortals of Golarion to complete the Test of the Starstone and gain divinity herself.29 Those few who do stay true to the Last Azlanti have been left without divine power, sometimes resorting to mimicking true clerical ability with magic items. They preside over crumbling temples, many of which have been taken over by other religions.3
One of the last great accomplishments of the church was launching of the First Mendevian Crusade in 4622 AR to take back the barbarian realm of Sarkoris from its demonic invaders and close the Worldwound.30
Even though his church no longer functions as a religious institution, it continues to have social and political power over a century after Aroden's death. This is particularly true in Absalom, the city he not only founded, but in which he created the Founding Laws, the writings upon which all Absalomian jurisprudence is based, and designed the Azlanti Keep, one of the metropolis' greatest structures.16
Priests of Aroden wear elaborate, archaic, multi-layered vestments that were popular in Taldor when the center of the church was still located there. Tall hats or helmets are common as well, and are said to have been inspired by the fashions of ancient Azlant.3
For additional as-yet unincorporated sources about this subject, see the Meta page.
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- The Worldwound, inside back cover. Paizo Inc., 2013 .
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- “Overview” in World Guide, 8. Paizo Inc., 2019 .
- “Faith: Aroden” in Humans of Golarion, 27. Paizo Inc., 2011 .