The Demigod Link

Is your warpriest link a constant thing? Does it ever fade into the background? I'm contemplating forming a second link, something happier than my copinglink, and I'm not sure how to tell when to tell when the line of a link vs a persona is crossed when not worn out of necessity.
Originally written on Tumblr, crossposted here because I like it.
Yes, it seems like my Sabe experiences would be a useful thing to talk about here. And in order to do that, I need to go over four things: who and what Sabe is, why he exists the way that he does, what that does for me, and lastly what I think he is in terms of terminology and why.
06/06/2021. total words: 3193

   To start, here is his toyhou.se profile, if you want to read more about his actual story and thoughts and whatnot. But I doubt you'll have the necessary context for that, so let me go into it. RuneScape (RS) is one of the oldest MMORPGs in existence. WoW might be older but I doubt it. Basically it's a medieval magic fantasy that's very long running and you the player end up the World Guardian, aka the guy that stops the gods (who are very powerful folks who just don't die of natural causes and typically stand for some philosophy) from blowing the world up because Guthix, the dead god of balance, asked you to. Well, he voluntold you. And that makes you a major chess piece, Elder Gods get involved, it's a big mess.

   But before all that happened, back in 2006 when I was introduced to the game and very shitty at it, well. I liked the lore insofar that I've always liked the lore, it was interesting and I liked thinking about it. I didn't have membership and I sucked at playing so I just read the wiki and the God Letters over and over and sometimes the Postbag from the Hedge. Alongside my two friends, we played at being children of the then-triad of main gods: Saradomin, Guthix, and Zamorak.

   I liked Zamorak best, but I didn't think his ideas would be the best for society as a whole, so I ended up playing child of Guthix. Eventually we grew up and grew apart but every couple of years I'd go back to RuneScape, read the lore, settle on what choices I'd make if I could play, and think about being the player character. In 2010 I discovered a fic - dawn by khayr, it's on Ao3 and dA - about Iban, son of Zamorak, right around when I was reading Percy Jackson. Cue him showing up as a soulbond and an older brother figure and guiding me right up until the end of sixth grade. Iban got me through the ruthless bullying that would later set the stage for all my major suicidal-ideation and self-hatred for the entirety of high school: even then, I was more stable than I might've been otherwise, because he interfered.

   Saradomin stands for strength through order. Procedures and law and diplomacy and war strategy. He was originally kind of a ripoff of the Christian god, but he's grown to be more of an order-over-peace character and is quite well-written. Guthix stands for strength through balance, and has been all over the board in terms of what he's done and will do. He's kind of a dick, actually, but his heart's in the right place.

   Zamorak, as you've heard, is strength through chaos and personal strife. It's no "the strong over the weak" or "the strong take care of the weak", it's flat-out "everyone is strong, and just need the right circumstances to tap into it to be the best they can possibly be". Now, his philosophy is kind of more for warriors and scholars, but if you tilt your head, it applies to everyone. Chronically ill folks will find their chaos in fighting to get up every day and maintain a life. Folks in traumatizing, abusive situations find that chaos in their very survival. Scholars challenge themselves and their fellows and their predecessors trying to find the answers they so need. Nobody in lockstep, no such thing as "we've always done it this way."

   A lot of human Zamorakians and Saradominist propaganda says that Zamorak is simply absolute evil: and to be fair, when most of that was written, he kinda was because he was based loosely on the Christian devil. Later writing says that they're typically mistaken on that. Zamorak isn't evil. The very first thing he did upon becoming a god was fulfill a promise and lead a slave rebellion. (The Avernic uprising, if anyone's curious.) He stands for the downtrodden and says "You are never going to get your dignity by going through the motions and trying to peacefully show you're worth respect. Burn some shit down and prove that you won't stand for this bullshit."

   Zamorak in a Saradominist's eyes is someone whose banner you wear when you want to be a crazy murderer. Zamorak in a Zamorakian's eyes is the singing voice who murmurs "Get up, this isn't enough to kill you, you can still do this," when transphobic laws get passed or you hear a slur thrown your way on the street.

   And as someone who grew up queer and nonhuman, yeah, that resonates, and the older I get the more I think "Guthixian philosophy is best for a society at large, but Zamorakianism for individuals is good." Because Zamorakianism can't really apply on a theocratic level. It really doesn't. It turns into American bootstrap culture and no social services and all that shitty stuff.

   The funny thing is that Zamorak himself has no issues helping out if he thinks you need it. (If he didn't, he wouldn't be cool with asking for help, or giving it when he's asked. Which he does do repeatedly so. The man has more kindness in him than people want to admit.) What I do find fascinating is what he thinks of the actions of some of his longtime subordinates, who clearly support him, but I don't think support his actual philosophy. Because if you ask me, he'd side with the downtrodden humans of Meiyerditch, not the vampire lords that treat them like cattle. He's proven that he likes humans, and doesn't see them as unworthy. I do wonder if Jagex will show us what he might do about that.

   Either way. Ahem. Over the course of a decade and a half, I keep going back to RuneScape, refining my philosophy and side, thinking again what I would do playing the game proper. About... I want to say five years ago, Jagex opened up the Sixth Age and I finally noticed, and they rewrote every god's philosophy because they wanted every single one to be actually playable. Not just "hurr durr evil" but actually have a logical line of thought. They probably didn't have pop culture paganism in mind, but the gods of RS are incredibly well-suited to it.

   Well, I found that out, and immediately went through every god's philosophy, and reasoned my way through it. What does a worshipper of this god look like? What sort of life would they lead? If I apply this to me, what does that look like from that perspective? Do I understand this? Is it comfortable to exist in?

   And as it turns out, I understand Zamorak the most, followed a close second by Armadyl, which was quite surprising. Zaros remains incomprehensible and I don't trust like that. (That's another story.) So I thought about it more, and it stuck even when I wandered off to different fandoms and interests. But what happened was that I ended up internalizing it, unknowingly and without meaning to.

   It meant that when, two years later, I ended up in a horrific and traumatizing situation, the anchor I hit that held me together was a mixture of being a Devil - I am a fucking God you will obey me and recognize my power - and Zamorak's core philosophy: this cannot kill me, this cannot stop me, this is pure fucking hell and I am going to laugh in the face of death because people are forged in hellfire and I will walk away knowing what I'm made of.

   And I was right. Honestly, out of everyone who was there with me, I think I'm the only one that was that deeply entrenched and walked out without trauma. I do not believe I could have done that had I not internalized Zamorak's philosophy. (That isn't to say if the others had that philosophy they wouldn't be traumatized, because there were absolutely other factors I wouldn't know about and some that I do and didn't do them any favours; but I am saying that it saved my ass and without it, I might not have been okay.)

   I walked out of that with zero regrets. Zero. Even now, I don't regret a thing. Because it doesn't matter what happened or how much I was lied to or if he deserved my kindness. I know what I perceived to be happening, and I know how I reacted, and when the pieces were down I was stronger than steel, gave kindness without considering the cost, and I walked away unscathed.

   How many people can say they've looked death in the eye and laughed? More than there should be, not too many that knowing what I'm capable of when put into pure chaos isn't somehow impressive. Because it is. And Zamorak's words proved themselves, or rather, I proved him entirely correct.

   And when I last went back to RuneScape, and thought about it with enough time to put it all into hindsight, well. Aw, shit, he was right. Then vaguely around that time I went back and read Dawn, which was unfinished, tracked down the author and demanded to know how it fucking ended. (She told me and we're still friends like three years later. xD) Then I went back and found my old OCs, and decided fuck it, I'm making my own World Guardian.

   So first thing I did was log in and jump over to the Makeover Mage and make myself into a boy. Kept the plateskirt though, I wanted to have the RS equivalent of a limp wrist to prove I'm Very Queer. Then I went about remaking my character. I wanted to make a self-insert, I was old enough to know it wasn't cringey, it was just fun, but I didn't want to use my default avatar with the black hair over one eye and the Chaorruption. I wanted to make a new self-insert based in nothing I was already using.

   So I made the most beautiful man I could! Long, dark brown hair, pretty semi-dark skin, looked Kharidian, and then I said fuck it and made him Zamorak's youngest son. Originally, he was adopted when he was young by Iban and Clivet, and suffered serious imposter syndrome when being WG meant he'd never get demigod powers. But as I grew more confident in myself, he ended up getting powers? And then eventually I rewrote his backstory, and then wrote about his mother, and her relationship with Zamorak, and then he had friends like Blaire and Icthlarin (who was also my furry awakening, rip me).

   Then with the most recently questline I've been getting a bit more into RS magical theory, and I've been mulling it over lots, and Seanan McGuire's Middlegame definitely helped; and I figured out how I wanted him to handle being World Guardian: it didn't make sense for him to be openly Zamorak's son, the other gods would just target his family to manipulate him. So I had him play neutral openly and Zamorakian to his friends, effectively living a double life.

   Then he just looked up one day and said "Oh, by the way, my father won't acknowledge me to keep me safe but I don't know that so we have a very unsteady relationship because I don't know if he loves me", and then Children of Mah came out, and he was all "Oh and I think I just got disowned (I didn't, Zamorak was protecting me, but I don't know that) so my relationship with Zamorak is Fucking Shitty" and he was stuck that way until I figured out how to save their relationship.

   It culminated in Sabe not knowing how his Mahjarrat powers worked and guessing, and hating himself for being half-and-half, and missing everything about being a Mahjarrat, and literally you couldn't have gotten more obvious in order to tell me I was having Fucking Issues coming to terms with the fact I didn't have any understanding or knowledge of my own heritage, but whatever, eventually I noticed that.

   And as I've been working to understand myself and my heritage, so too has Sabe been doing that with his Mahjarrat heritage. But for the longest time, no matter how I put him and Zamorak in the same room in a scene to try and get them to talk it out, it wasn't working. Something wasn't right. Sabe resented being World Guardian, hated having to betray his family, didn't know if he was wanted, and hated himself for having to kill Mah, the mother of his species.

   Not that long ago, a few months actually, he informed me (which is my shorthand for 'I suddenly figured out this happened, and it genuinely feels like remembering that one fucking word you have on the tip of your tongue, I always knew and just forgot for a while') that no, he'd been ripped in two by a hope devourer, brought to his father's stronghold, and Zamorak split his magic between mortal and divine in order to get around his godproofing and heal him. Zamorak's intense worry for his youngest son was what caused Sabe to break down and tell him honestly what was going on and how he was feeling, which caused Zamorak to do the same, and they finally, finally made up.

   A week later, I noticed the connection between Sabe's Mahjarrat issues and my Irish issues, and started to wonder if he was a linktype.

   I mean... he's a self-insert. He makes the choices I would, the me in the here and now, that I think are best. He's not a person I was and still know myself to be, he's not someone I grow into, he's not living his life beside me like a shadow. He's me, choosing the things I do, because I say so. But he's also me in the things he reflects, the things he struggles with, and things I had zero fucking conscious input on.

   Sabe is the person I am when a crisis hits and I have to deal with the chaos. Sabe is the person I am when I need to lead. Sabe is the person I am when I am desperate to be known and loved by those I consider family. Sabe is the person I am when I want to be sure in where I came from, where I will return to, and the things that I will always be. Sabe is a man of darkness who knows the light as an acquaintance and nothing more, who is cruel and careless and kind.

   Sabe is a warpriest of Zamorakian philosophy, because it took me twenty fucking years to put into words how I see the world, and now that I know, I will argue them to death and use them to help others. Drakath may have wanted a messiah to share the hivemind with others. Sabe is a warpriest, spreading the word and calling home the broken and the damned. He is the Last Rider, not the last of the Ilujanka but the one who keeps riding towards the chaos and never falls, no matter what.

   Some of who Sabe is I have conscious input on. A whole lot of him was unintentional and perfectly reflects me.

   So when it comes to terminology... I don't know what he is. A self-insert, yes. A linktype, maybe. A kintype, also maybe. Sabe doesn't feel like my past linktypes, because Sabe isn't always catharsis and comfort. Until he made up with his dad, Sabe was brutal and hurt a lot and constantly yearning for his foundation and slowly going mad. It wasn't fun. I just refused to do anything but see the story through. I was going to get it right. I wanted to see it to the end. I wanted to be the Last Rider, even though I didn't phrase it that way.

   But to answer your actual question, of what he feels like when I'm not actively being him out of necessity, desire, and active thought. If it fades into the background.

   And like... it can? Sabe as he is, recognized for what and who he is, is kind of a new thing. Sabe as a concept is very old, but Sabe as what he is right now is new, and confusing, and honestly I'm still trying to figure out what to make of it.

   Like, seriously. Sabe is Zamorak's son. Am I Zamorak's son? Is he keeping an eye on me as I am? Would he be proud of me? Would he offer his approval of my progress? Does that make me, in some way, the World Guardian?

   I have not a clue, buddy. Not a goddamn clue.

   So what it means is that I've been paying attention, really. I don't just become strong in times of crisis. I've been trying to do better. Be better. Learn, and listen, and rethink myself. Break out of lockstep, of doing things the way I've always done them. Try to always do better than I did, build habits I like, stop waiting for things to change and just do it. Become the chaos, instead of waiting for it to hit me.

   It means I need to live up to what Guthix told Sabe to do. It means being gentler, being kinder, not burning bridges when I'm not sure. It means keeping an eye out for any sign Zamorak's listening, in case I am his son, in case I really have to decide what I'm gonna do about being the son of chaos incarnate.

   But other than the questioning, what it feels like is just... what I was already dealing with, just a little more at arm's length and easier to deal with. Once I recognize that his issues are reflective of mine, if I solve his, I have a pretty good idea of how to solve mine. Some of it won't work exactly right - Zamorak will always forgive him for not being the son he expected he might have had, my own parents may not, yay I'm queer and pagan - but it's a good rule of thumb.

   It's also just comforting to know that when in doubt, nothing can kill me, because I simply refuse to die. I am World Guardian, I am a demigod of chaos incarnate, all the hellfire in the world can do nothing but strengthen me. And if I present those to myself as unshakeable beliefs, because for Sabe they are, then I'll be okay. It probably couldn't stop most disasters or tragedies, but I got hit by a car, broke five bones, and walked away with a record recovery time, so I mean... I can't prove that I can't die by some accident or tragedy, but you also can't prove that I can. (Trying to do so usually falls under what we call 'murder', and I personally believe I can't be murdered. Only assassinated.)

   But really, I think the worst that could possibly happen with a new linktype is that you learn what not to do. It's new, it's scary, it's chaotic, and from where I'm standing, that's the best way to learn.