Because Launtelle knows that once the Heirophar has found you, no matter the power you do or can possess, it is only a matter of time before you are given the choice; serve or die.[/fusion_tab][fusion_tab title=”Dustra Teldragon” icon=””]An orphan girl taken under the Redcloak’s hem at a young age, Dustra has sat at the feet of the old woman for years, absorbing how Launtelle protected herself from those who sought her services and to do her harm in equal measure. She’d always had suspicions that the old woman was more than she seemed, and when the Agents of the Heirophar begin tearing Tanthalas apart to get her, it would seem Dustra’s suspicions were right.
Armed with only her wits, a strange lyrical rhyme, and her nimbleness, Dustra is left to fend for herself.
To keep living, she must find out why the Heirophar has taken an interest in her beyond her association with Launtelle. But has Launtelle given her the key to saving her from the Heirophar’s strange fascination, or for completing some dark purpose the Redcloak had groomed the girl for all this time?[/fusion_tab][fusion_tab title=”The Heirophar of Skalaunt” icon=””]Without question the most powerful archwizard in the land, and not merely because of his arcane powers. Originally brought to put an end to the petty and costly fighting of the feudal lords of Skalaunt, the Heirophar turned on those who had hired him, swaying other wizards to his side and taking the land for himself.
But the Heirophar’s aim is not to rule. Ruling is merely a tool. A tool for amassing more magical knowledge and wealth. From his position as a benevolent dictator, Skalaunt flourishes, and he is able to send forth his agents to all reaches of Asmer, who in turn convince others to join their ranks with coin or coercion. Not all agents are hidden, nor are they all constantly roving, seeking any sign of magic. Many are the common townsfolk, the nobility, peddlers, and sailors. The baker next door could be openly known as an agent, but he may be just as in the dark as everyone else about the sheriff being one as well.
When someone of sufficient magical power is found, they are offered a choice: serve the Heirophar or die. There is no negotiation. There is no quarter. Even should they choose to serve, they are no longer allowed to return to their lives. They are whisked away to Skalaunt.
What happens to them there, no one knows.
Rapacious in his quest for knowledge, he pushes ever outward, building his armies and preparing for not just overt conquest, but bloodless coup d’etats of strategic ports and cities, all the better to watch for those he seeks.
Needless to say, his neighbors find it quite alarming.[/fusion_tab][fusion_tab title=”The Elders Most High of the Six” icon=””]The Elders Most High (or Highest) of the Six are the highest ranking priests of the Six Gods that make up the most powerful and widespread pantheon in Ertalon. They rule the abundant farmland of Rheligor, having ousted the previous wastrel ruling class and establishing order.
No tone of unrest is ever brooked, no murmurs of discontent are allowed to flourish. Everyone in Rheligor is allowed to work as they see fit (most are farmers), they all have plenty to eat, clothing, comfortable beds, and roofs over their heads.
What they do not have is the freedom to do other than the Highest Elders decree. They are kept from education and coin, given only opportunity enough to best work at their given task.
No Rheligor priest would ever publicly speak of any faith in the myths of the old dragon gods and the power they once wielded. Neither do they give any credence to the rumor that those very same dragon gods are only sleeping, and soon will wake.
Any found in Rheligor to be saying such nonsense are harshly dealt with to show the error of their ways.
And among the Highest, the wheels-within-wheels churn constantly. Politics and religion are intermarried in Rheligor like nowhere else, and it takes a strong individual unafraid of those murky waters to dive in.
An ever-present struggle for power is waged, with the Highest of the Great Three attempting to impose their wills as more important than those of the Lesser Triad, stating that their gods are truly the balance on which the entire world rests. The Highest of the Lesser Triad move to keep their power, and the power of their gods.
There are two things they all agree on. The first is keeping the Heirophar in check, leading to his eventual overthrow and “freeing” of the people of Skalaunt, the way the Warpriests “freed” the people of Rheligor. The second is to maintain their ongoing battle against the Stormtalons, having been granted the power to create Blood Temples, reclaiming fertile lands from the mists and keeping them free.[/fusion_tab][fusion_tab title=”The Six” icon=””]The gods are divided into two parts: The Great Three and the Lesser Triad. In general, all of the Six are worshipped equally, with individual circumstances giving one god or another importance in someone’s life at the time. For example, scribes might ask Pelaspur for his blessing while trying to riddle out particularly troublesome writing, and then might next call for Noroedryn to watch over them as they copy from a newly written work regarding baking secrets.
The priests of the Great Three insist that their gods are younger, more powerful, and truly the support of all things, whereas the clergy of the Lesser Triad and scholars tend to disagree, stating that all of the Six are necessary for true balance to be maintained, giving each god equal standing.
The gods themselves are indeed locked in an ongoing conflict, but there is no real passion or anger driving it. Rather than personally striding forth to do battle against one another in a divine war, they use mortals as their battleground and the faith of mortals as their weapons. Each god has a clear and distinct vision of how the world should be, and they each strive to make it so.
That desire was opposed by the old dragons, who were “here before the Six, and will be here when the Six are gone”. It was the sheer power of the dragons and their ability to challenge the Six that led to them elevated to gods by most.
The Great Three consist of Pelaspur, Vraevre, and Morian.
Pelaspur, the Shining Shield
Seen as a tall, handsome, silver-plate-armored warrior of calm or grave temperament, who bears a variety of weapons and a huge, glowing, plain silver-hued shield—or just the shield, flying silently upright, growing or diminishing in size and radiance.
Pelaspur is the Lord of Light, and stands for justice, order, obedience, and a future of clear roles and definitions for all. His priests are charged to adjudicate, make and continually refine laws, sway customs to accept and come into accord with laws, and to “define” everything (items, processes, professions, the meanings of words, and so on) so order can be refined. A Pelastrian priest wants a tunic to be precisely defined and differentiated from a jerkin, and a wasp from a hornet—by everyone, with Pelastrian clergy as the judges and guides. A Pelassran shrine is marked by an upright plain silver shield, and is often a grand building limned in white and silver.
Judges, law enforcement, scribes, scholars, storytellers, and bards often call upon Pelaspur.
A thumb-sized silver shield, tall and straight-sided, convex, with a central bottom point. Some are fashioned as rings, or made to serve as picks for stringed instruments.
Vraevre, the Lady of Stars and Shadows
Seen as a barefoot, long-limbed, beautiful woman with large, dark eyes and knee-length blue-black hair that constantly swirls and coils, who moves silently and gracefully, and wears flowing gowns and half-cloaks that often briefly part in random places to reveal glimpses of her.
Vraevre, She of the Forest, is the deity of wonder and night and mystery and intrigue, of enticement and romance and lust, of passion and friendship and cooperation in the keeping of secrets. Her priestesses stand for personal choice and the inner personal journey that the life of every intelligent being should be, that creeds should be personally assembled and definitions personally made (rather than being blindly accepted from others).
True harmony comes not from regimented order, but from finding one’s own way and taking personal responsibility for what one does—and a true life is full of secrets and whimsy and play and small manipulations and deceptions. A Vraevran priestess dances on moonlit nights “under the stars and amid the shadows,” on the edge of a wood or in a forest clearing, to worship “the Lady” and to receive guidance—in the form of visions, visible to all, that appear in front of the dancer—from the goddess. Vraevre stands for personal freedom and style, for the soft word rather than the harsh denunciation—but also for violence, often involving daggers, when the need for resistance cannot be avoided any longer. A Vraevryte shrine is marked by a tall oval of nine stars, often as nine shards of glass glued to a stone.
Adventurers, thieves, courtesans, artists, lovers, and all manner of free spirited folk call upon The Lady.
An oval of black stone around which have been glued (or affixed on a dark wire frame or mesh) nine gems or faceted cut glass stones, in such a way as to hold a tangle of blue-black female human hair stretched over the oval (in an irregular manner).
Morian, the Dark One, the Death God
Seen as a tall, thin figure in a sweeping black cloak, cowl up to conceal the face, only two cold green eyes visible—and if pressed, nothing but the cloak, for it hangs empty, as if an invisible solid body inhabits it. Morian flies, as a comet-shaped black streaming cloak, as often as he walks, and when he points or reaches out with a hand to grasp creatures or items, his hand “is like roiling smoke, or writhing shadow, and chills living flesh like a cold flame that leaves a brand or scar.”
Morian is the Duke of Death and Lord of the Undead, and stands for the fear of mortality and what facing it can compel, of the ongoing rise of the undead and of those who do murder, of decay, and of plague and infection. He is the “Spur of War.”
Morian clergy see to burials and make pacts with the living to prevent their loved ones rising as undead for decades, and teach that for life to have meaning and to replenish and renew, death must be with us in “the Great and Root Cycle of All,” and that what makes us fear or loathe Morian is his power—that the only thing greater than Morian is the Flame of Life. They banish and curb undead, but also lead them in battle and keep them as guardians of Morianyte temples and holy places.
Undertakers, soldiers, apothecaries, herbologists, hedge wizards, and holistic healers often call upon Morian to guide them.
An irregular lump of charred bone, on which has been painted two green eyes (priests often affix two green gems to serve as the eyes, to bone that is either from a priest of Morian who died in battle, or from a foe of the faith slain by Morian clergy.
The Lesser Triad
Lesser only as they have been so named (no doubt by the priests of Pelaspur), they are older gods who have found their worship shared by the Great Three, but not greatly diminished.
The Lesser Triad consists of Sroon, Tlarore, and Noroedryn.
Noroedryn, the Wise Walker
Seen as an old, weathered-faced, bearded man in a cowled cloak and robes, who bears a tall Gnarled Staff—or just the staff alone, hovering upright in empty air. Noroedryn is the Old Wizard, the Seeker After Wisdom, and stands for the accumulation and preservation and responsible sharing of lore, both magical and mundane.
He is the patron of sages and wizards, and the Keeper of Arcana (books of magic), who causes spell-scrolls and even spellbooks to mysteriously disappear from wizards’ tombs and as mysteriously appear elsewhere. Noroed clergy are charged to copy books of magic and of wise sayings, of cookery and of craft secrets (smithing, weaving, tanning, dyeing, the making of chain and rope and footwear), and to sell these but also to (in secret) give some of them away freely to those in great need or who show great talent.
Noroed clergy receive writings as offerings , and are charged to record what they overhear or can learn, and to establish caches of writings everywhere, “high and low,” for the “betterment of all,” for “wisdom is the sword that fails not.”
Magic-users, spies, scholars, scribes, students, and teachers usually ask for Noroedryn’s favor.
A miniature staff (usually the length of a grown man’s hand, and worn strapped to a forearm, but sometimes elsewhere about the body if concealment is desired, such as beneath the breasts of a woman, or high on an inner thigh surface). Noroed clergy usually strap metal-tipped pens to their miniature staff, and often wrap scraps of parchment or vellum around the bundle thus created, carrying all together so as always to have writing implements to hand.
Tlarore, the Beastmother
Seen as an everchanging-in-shape hulking monster that snarls, ceaselessly gives birth, and very frequently lashes out with claws and tentacles and snapping jaws. Tlarore is the Lady of Fangs and Claws, and stands for hunting and wild savagery and natural killing and devouring, the essential inner “nature” of all beasts, intelligent or brutish.
She is the Wild That Cannot Be Tamed, the Spiller of Blood, the Gore-Drenched One, patron of successful hunters and—Tlaroan clergy claim but all others dispute—Tamer of the Stormtalons (Her priests believe she has the power to hold back the Stormtalons and to guide and aid those who venture into them, but other clergy and most sages say this is a spurious claim, and Tlarore has no more power within the mists than any other god). Tlarore is the Lady of Beasts, venerated by most intelligent “monsters” except dragons, and She is the Cloak of Outcasts, the diseased, disfigured, exiled, and fugitives from justice; she champions loners and the insane.
Hunters, sailors, mercenaries, the Snake-Headed people of the Yacathan, Mistwalkers, and animal breeders often call upon Tlalore.
A necklace of (pierced, and strung on a thong) talons and fangs from any sort of wild beast. Larger teeth and claws denote piety or high priestly rank, and wearing the “savage bits” of a monster is the ideal (it’s best if the wearer had a hand in slaying the monster, and the ultimate is to have vanquished it alone, as a deliberate offering to the Beastmother).
Sroon, the Flame of Life
Seen as a white vigorous dancing gout of flame that scorches or ignites only what she chooses to, and needs no fuel nor support (she can hover in midair, or be seen under water or in the rushing torrent of a fast stream). Sroon, the Awakening, is the unquenchable force of creation and life, of birth and renewal, of purging disease and taint and ascending to new vigor and strength. Sroon cannot be slain or defeated, though she may be forced back or away for a time. Sroon is the Truth, or rather the force that drives intelligent beings to seek truths and take strength in knowing and embracing them, the essential truth being honest and utter self-knowledge. A Sroonyte priestess disrobes and dances unharmed in a fire, or rolls around in one, for fire—and lightning—cannot harm those wholly dedicated to Sroon. A Sroonyte altar is a hearth or firepit, and Her holy places are leaping flames—that turn white to indicate her presence or favour.
St. Elmo’s Fire/Will o’ The Wisp and the Aurora Borealis are all called Sroon’s Mantle, and are said to appear when she is pleased. If one follows and gets lost or dies, it is considered that they were not strong enough/faithful enough/etc. to truly receive what Sroon was trying to lead them to.
A blackened piece of wood from a fire built by Sroonyte clergy and used for the worship of Sroon, that has been carved into the shape of a leaping flame and painted white.
Usually it has a hole bored through it so it can be worn on a thong around a devout Sroonyte’s neck, next to the skin. (If a Sroonyte priest wears such a token outside their clothing, so it can’t touch their skin, they will always have another token, worn elsewhere, that is touching their skin.)[/fusion_tab][/fusion_tabs]