The concept of mortals creating gods in the world of Exandria has so many fun implications, but I think the most interesting (and hilarious) of them pertains to Artagan and Jester’s belief in him specifically.
Because it’s not a one-to-one sort of thing, right? The Wildmother, the Stormlord, Ioun, they’re old conglomerates of stories and faith. They were there and established a long time before the associated members of the Nein came to them or didn’t in their various ways. They have centuries of weight and history that lock their essences into place and maintain them. Yasha could not have un-believed in the Stormlord or altered his presence in the world. He is established by a mythos of millions (and Yasha knows very little about him, which is also fascinating given how serving him was ultimately just a proxy for Yasha’s self-actualization, which indicates malleability within their specific dynamic. But I digress.)
But that’s what’s so funny about Jester and Artagan: his relationship to godhood IS one to one! He had one follower for so long, and her belief was enough to exalt him far beyond what he ever expected - and he is very much colored by Jester’s opinion on gods, which is very simply “they’re full of shit and don’t actually do anything.” Exactly like Artagan.
Jester believes in Artagan as her friend before her god in all things. She knows him to be busy and unreliable at crucial moments. She knows to operate independently of him because he, like all gods to her, cannot be trusted to come through when she needs him.
And so, he doesn’t.
Not a single divine intervention. No moment of deep connection, and when she is bleeding out on the floor and whispering his name, she is calling for him as her friend - and it doesn’t matter. He’s not there because she knows he won’t be. This is exactly the sort of thing she knows in her heart of hearts not to expect him for.
Conversely, that sort of exchange is why he was able to be with her in Aeor, as true gods were repelled from the area. His influence and presence still took a hit, but if Jester had prioritized divinity over friendship it’s entirely possible Artagan would not have been able to be there at all (she knew by then he wasn’t a god of course, but their dynamic had long been established by then).
Jester straight up tells him: gods don’t show up for their followers. They don’t have to. The belief does the work for them, and Jester believed in him so hard she made him the same way. He is exactly what she expects and she knows him inside and out because for all intents and purposes Jester created him. She loves him for being her friend, not her god. That’s a bonus. The archfey who showed up to spread mischief with her and spin her tales of godhood just looking to be admired and adored set his own ass up for actual godhood and all of the trappings it entails, Jafar and the lamp style. He is just lucky that one, she never knew the power she had early on and two, that even if she had figured it out sooner she was at her core a kind person who wouldn’t have fucked up the both of them.
It’s doubtful whether Artagan was even capable of a true bond like friendship when he met Jester, but Jester believed he had chosen to be her friend specifically and so the push-pull of her understanding of friendship and of godhood became evident in him. It didn’t matter what power she believed him capable of if she knew not to expect him to use it when she most needed it. In allowing Jester to deify him, Artagan was literally altered as a being according to Jester’s belief of what a god is and her eternal trust in the innate potential for good in everyone.
Think about it! Jester grew up so isolated. Artagan was by design the friend she had always wanted, but her only understanding of friendship had come through watching other people and through reading, etc. He was literal wish fulfillment. A dream come true. A fairy tale. Jester’s idea of a friend was never going to be someone dependable who would look out for her - she didn’t need that. She wanted a partner in crime who willingly came around and kept her company and made her smile when she was sad. And that’s what he was. As a god he was fucking useless. As Jester’s friend, he was everything.
That poor bastard had no clue what he was getting into when he showed up in Nicodranas.
I also love this in contrast with the similar starting dynamic but incredibly different outcome of the relationship between Lucien and Cree.
Cree’s belief in Lucien, as the Nonagon, as a messiah and prophet - that’s what helped her drag him back from the dead. That’s what empowered him, as much as the Somnovem, to be something slightly more than mortal, more than a mere blood-hunter fighter.
The biggest difference at the start was in the dynamic - Cree knew Lucien to have started as mortal, and believed he was growing into something more, something to worship. She believed it so hard that it came to be.
But what was wrought, what Lucien became… and how he repaid Cree’s devotion… they’re such different outcomes.
Jester brought light and mischief and joy and a willingness to see goodness in even the most (or least) powerful.
Cree brought blood and power and disillusionment with the Claret Order, and perhaps a touch of vengeance-seeking, and a distrust of everyone except Lucien and the Tomb Takers - and even her trust in the Tomb Takers was outweighed by her trust in Lucien. (Cf when Molly insinuated that perhaps one of the Tomb Takers had betrayed him/Lucien while digging for information, in ep14, Fleeting Memories)
Jester believed her friend was a god - but moreover that her god was her friend. And she believed it so hard that both became true.
Cree believed that her friend was a god - but to the point that he stopped being her friend and became her deity. And her faith in him and his goals was repaid by him ultimately choosing to sacrifice her towards those goals - to use the follower she offered herself as, and betray the friend she had been.
Poor Cree deserved a better god, but maybe she couldn’t imagine one. And that might be the most tragic part of her whole story.
I love this addition because it clarifies something I’ve wondered about since it happened. Cree was delighted to see Molly/Lucien early in the campaign. She ran to him and spoke with him as a friend. She was so relieved. She also wasn’t off-put by his standoffishness and now I’m wondering exactly how much of Molly’s faking went into Cree’s idea of Lucien reborn, because if she just accepted that he’d become something greater than the person she once called her friend (instead of understanding that Molly was full of shit) that absolutely could have actualized later. She could have found the others and told them “he’s alive, but he’s different and we have to treat him as such.”
Because Cree isn’t really a fool about anything else? I was waiting for her to kill him herself in Aeor. I thought, you know, who must Lucien have been before, that Cree was still so devoted to that memory of him and blind to what he’d become? The idea that she wasn’t blind at all - that she actively believed him above things like friendship anymore, that she believed him a god or capable of becoming one and thus set aside any of the good she’d seen in him and gritted her teeth because this is what godhood is, it’s impartial and all-powerful. You don’t question it, you follow it and hope you’ve done enough to earn their favor. And if you haven’t, you accept that it’s your fault. Not a god’s.
You’re right, Lucien was Cree’s god before he was anything else to her. He may have started as their friend - he almost would have had to, for them to be so personally attached even before he had these powers - but he ended as every bit the being he swore he would be to Cree and the others, and i wonder how much of that was them.
How interesting then, that the Nein believed in Molly so hard that whatever shred of him was inside Lucien was called from nothing to prevent that power. To help protect them - to literally pull Lucien apart from the inside.