Ghlaunder (pronounced GHLAWN-dur)1 is the demigod of infection, parasites, stagnation, disease, and insects. His religious symbol is that of a blood-engorged mosquito.23 Other symbols associated with Ghlaunder include a circular maze-like pattern.4 A voracious and vile demigod of unclear origin, Ghlaunder revels in the spreading of suffering, plagues, parasites,3 stagnation, filth, decay, and death.5
Legends suggest Ghlaunder was initially found by the goddess Desna within a cocoon somewhere on the Ethereal Plane. Ever curious, she sliced open the cocoon, unintentionally releasing the Gossamer King upon the Universe.35 Desna became Ghlaunder's first victim as he attacked her and gorged himself upon her divine blood.5 Fleeing the wounded goddess, Ghlaunder has been Desna's nemesis ever since.35 These events took place long before mortals existed.67
Ghlaunder is depicted as a giant, monstrous mosquito2 bloated with parasites.39 In artwork, Ghlaunder's legs and head are primarily grey, and his head has a set of large jaws with a long piercing proboscis and six baleful dark-red eyes. He also has a brown abdomen and green wings.10
The Gossamer King's home is in the Abyssal realm of Bzuulzeel. This massive foul swamp is filled with equally disgusting demons, such as omoxes and hezrous, many of which are born of the souls of those who followed Ghlaunder in life. The reward for their service in life is to serve as nothing but sustenance for their vile god.11
Church of Ghlaunder
People who feel betrayed by other divinities after surviving diseases, or who felt excruciating pain through botched attempts to heal them, often find their way to Ghlaunder's faith. Such followers might for example be people ostracized for an incurable disease, afflicted by wartime illness and injury, or poxed in ways that have caused society to reject them.3
Ghlaunder's faith rarely proselytizes openly,3, and has few temples and no centralized organization. His followers instead tend to act alone and meet rarely in locations of stagnation, rot, and sewage for their rituals. Oagon in the Sodden Lands is home to one of those rare permanent Ghlaunderite congregations, where followers breed mindslaver molds and disease-spreading creatures in the hopes of becoming the parasites' hosts.12
Ghlaunder's faithful also have few unholy texts, instead favoring works such as Calgaro's Compendium Pathologica, a compilation of guidance on spreading disease that includes details on vermin and parasites.13
Ghlaunderites typically worship through chants, bloodletting, and sacrifices where the victim is drained by blood-drawing vermin and released to unknowingly spread diseases, the casualties of which are considered their true tithe.9 Some Ghlaunderites sacrifice themselves in such ways.3 Such rites are typically held in secret near stagnant waters and accompanied by droning musical instruments such as bagpipes, bowed strings, and hurdy-gurdies.9
Outside of such ritual worship, followers of Ghlaunder exhibit their obedience by crafting foul poppets in the forms of plague-transmitting vermin bound in mud, filth, and their own blood. As it dries, the Ghlaunderite applies leeches to their own body and recites verses wishing afflictions on the living, then burns the poppet and leeches to inhale the vapors.5 Ghlaunderites celebrate weather conditions that foster the spread of diseases and afflictions rather than holidays, and especially revere blood moons in which a full moon is tinted red by pollution or atmospheric phenomena.13
The Gossamer King's followers often pose as clerics of other deities in order to infiltrate communities of their faiths. Rather than destroy them outright, the faithful of Ghlaunder seek to spread corruption from within and subtly move the unknowing towards the worship of their god. Rather than directly cause such a group's downfall, the priests wish to subtly live off them as long as possible29 while draining their resources, particularly their healing capabilities. Regardless of alignment, Ghlaunderites infiltrate congregations of nearly every faith but Lamashtu, for reasons unknown.11
If their true purpose is ever exposed, they seek to justify their existence in the natural order, arguing that infections and parasites help cull the weak from the herd.29 Such followers consider any resulting deaths to be sacrifices in Ghlaunder's honor.12 To aid their subterfuge, cultists may refer to Ghlaunder by obscure titles such as the Tender of Dreams or the Dream Tender, the Slumberer, or the Dormant Dreamer.14
Others travel the world planting sicknesses or exploring strange, monstrous lairs in the hopes of discovering new diseases and spreading them around Avistan and Garund. Devoted druids and rangers often form special bonds with vermin of all kinds, making it easier for them to affect the creatures with their magic.1516 Such travels also include secretly infiltrating groups of adventurers by posing as followers of other deities, where they then take advantage of the group's ventures into forgotten and unknown places to become infected with rare new contagions while parasitically consuming more of the party's supplies than necessary.13
Cults on Golarion
When openly worshiping Ghlaunder, cultists wear filthy unadorned gray clothes of their region's fashion that become smeared over time with the accumulation of sacrificial blood. Many wear mosquito masks, whether fashioned from local materials or from the preserved heads of giant species.13
A small cult of the Gossamer King's is said to reside outside the Korvosan town of Veldraine, hiding in an ancient Thassilonian ruin. There they breed a race of poisonous bloodseekers, waiting to release them against those who do not follow their god.17 Another cult exists in the village of Ravenmoor.18. An isolated cult in the Mwangi Expanse raises giant mosquitoes fed with their own blood, in accordance with the apocryphal unholy text The Sipping Sacrifice.19
His priests have recently learned of a form of monstrous cockroach found in Casmaron and eastern Avistan known as the Keleshite venomroach. They collect these mildly-poisonous vermin, and release them to plague small communities, seeing it as a furtherance of their god's infectious will.20
The hatred between Ghlaunder and Desna extends to their followers. His priests take particular pleasure in corrupting churches or communities dedicated to Desna. Like a parasite, they leech off the Desnans' goodwill and charity while secretly spoiling food, tainting wells, and spreading sickness. In more remote communities, they claim to be Desnans but spread a twisted mockery of her faith that performs profane rituals in deceptive supplication to Ghlaunder. Such mockeries have at times gone undetected for generations.9
In addition to Ghlaunder and Desna's clear hatred for each other, Ghlaunder hates most other deities. From the banks of Abadar to the diabolical temples of Asmodeus, he directs his clergy to infiltrate all others but Lamashtu's in their quest to spread disease and pain.11
Ghlaunder is welcomed by some demon lords of the Outer Rifts as one of their own, particularly Gogunta, demonic lord of evil swamps and boggards, and Mazmezz, mistress of swarms and vermin. Cyth-V'sug, with whom Ghlaunder directly competes for followers, is an exception and rival.11
Herald and allies
Ghlaunder's herald is Bloodbloat, a blightspawn who takes Ghlaunder's massive, bloated mosquito form. Bloodbloat has drunk the blood of dozens of deities and divine entities. While not native to the material Universe, Bloodbloat has also hunted and fed from those in it who possess divine blood, and has even answered the calls of Ghlaunder's most loyal devotees. It gorges in part with the hopes that its body will breed a disease capable of killing gods.11
Paizo published major articles about Ghlaunder in Inner Sea Faiths and Gods & Magic, and a in-universe story about his discovery and release by Desna in The Windsong Testaments series, "The Beauty of Horrors".
For additional as-yet unincorporated sources about this subject, see the Meta page.
- “Appendices” in Campaign Setting, 246. Paizo Inc., 2008 .
- “Chapter 3: Religion” in Campaign Setting, 170. Paizo Inc., 2008 .
- “Gods of the Inner Sea” in Gods & Magic, 59. Paizo Inc., 2020 .
- Feast of Ravenmoor, 25. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “Ghlaunder” in Inner Sea Faiths, 40–41. Paizo Inc., 2016 .
- James Jacobs. (July 2, 2008). Ten Other Gods, Paizo Blog.
- James Jacobs. (October 17, 2019). The Beauty of Horrors, Paizo Blog: Windsong Testaments.
- “Desna” in The Skinsaw Murders, 72. Paizo Inc., 2007 .
- “Ghlaunder” in Inner Sea Faiths, 42. Paizo Inc., 2016 .
- “Groetus” in Inner Sea Faiths, 50. Paizo Inc., 2016 .
- “Ghlaunder” in Inner Sea Faiths, 45. Paizo Inc., 2016 .
- “Ghlaunder” in Inner Sea Faiths, 43. Paizo Inc., 2016 .
- “Ghlaunder” in Inner Sea Faiths, 44. Paizo Inc., 2016 .
- Feast of Ravenmoor, 31. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “Chapter 5: The World” in Campaign Setting, 219. Paizo Inc., 2008 .
- “Other Gods” in Gods and Magic, 45. Paizo Inc., 2008 .
- “Sun Dagger's Crown” in A Memory of Darkness, 65. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- Feast of Ravenmoor, 3. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “Acolytes of Apocrypha” in Divine Anthology, 23. Paizo Inc., 2016 .
- “Bestiary” in Shadow in the Sky, 85. Paizo Inc., 2008 .