~ T H E S E V E N G O D S ~
Long ago, there was Erda; many magical species thrived in her embrace, fantastical beasts which stalked the forests and incredible flora which survived in the most unlikeliest of places. People existed alongside all of them in harmony, sorcery and magic being second nature to Erda's most sentient species.
As understanding of magic grew within the circles of those with blue blood, people became jealous, craving more and more power.They toiled for years, honing their abilities to be as sharp as a newly forged silver blade.
No one can remember what truly happened next. All records have been long erased but that of oral tradition. Now, people only know that it was called The Null. It drained all magic from the planet, forcing the surviving human race back to it's very basics.
In the wake of the confusion, Seven Gods and Goddesses were born, each taking control over pieces of land which became the modern countries of Albia, Olvany, Thulm, Altankora and Tantian. The Goddess of cycles and time, Morrgan, declared the year of their ascension "The First Cycle" and the first year of an entirely new calendar. More than 3000 cycles have passed since then, Erda celebrates it's 3024th sun cycle with the pantheon this year.
A T H U S & A T H A L
The twin gods Athus and Athal are rulers over the country of Albia. Albia is home to the trading ports in the province of Hythe. Athus and Athal are brother and sister. Athus is the elder brother where as Athal is the younger sister. Each have their own colours, Athus is a red cross on a white background, where as Athal's consist of two green triangles meeting at their tip on a white background and together the colours form the flag of Albia.
Athus and Athal are guardians of contracts and family - ties both in blood and business. They rule over all bonds, relationships and rivalries, jealousy, money and material belongings - especially documents and books, prosperity, poverty and trade as well as craftsmanship. They value the lucrative exploits of their followers and displays of sharp business sense. If a deal is sanctioned by one of the twin's priests, then it is considered the most highest form of promise and the consequences of breaking it goes above even that which the law would deal out as punishment.
Vates are those dedicated to the twin gods, Athus and Athal. They are often dressed in white or cream but also have been known to wear deep greens, blues and reds. Vates can be identified by woven adornments with wooden or horn beads. Brass and Bronze are favoured metals. Vate are both men and women and come from all walks of life and walk very individual paths. Vate often take on a personal craft; as Athus serves Athal and Athal serves Athus, so Vates serve the community.
There are three ‘ranks’ of Vate: Nua, Vate and Droman which are organised into a Fiodh or ‘Grove’. A Fiodh always has at least one Droman but can have as many Vates and Nua as are needed. The Fiodh work alongside the military to maintain order as well as providing religious and spiritual guidance, and council to those in needs. Fiodh are present across Erda - families, businesses and other orders in Albia and beyond, all look to the Fiodh when in need of guidance.
Leabharlann is the official name for the great Temple-libraries filled with many documents, stories, decisions and all other paperwork dealt with by Vates. The Leabharlann is worked by Vate and overseen by specific Droman. There are small libraries usually in every major town, but “capital” cities often have a great Leabharlann such as Muirghein (Mi-reen) at Tunbow, Hythe and Cloch (Klo-ck) in Foss, Tillisten.
Nua are initiates. They’re often taught to read and write as well as count so they can begin taking account of their personal journey and that of their ‘Grove’. They write poems, stories and write songs as well as tell them. They begin their craft as a Nua, learning alongside serving. Nua often perpetuate superstitions and folklore, and take great pride in doing so. Nua are usually accompanied by another, higher ranking, Vate. They can also be found beside a Droman to take notes for legal proceedings. Nua are required to wear other colours than just white/cream.
Vate are experienced enough to take on roles such as working in their craft in the community as well as learning without additional support. ‘Middle rank’ Vates are often healers but have many other skills too. They start their formal study of law at this rank, helping Droman with smaller, less serious transgressions against the community. They make sure the Droman’s judgement is dealt, acting as extra eyes, arms and ears. Vate are required to wear other colours than just white/cream, most often green. Vates also keep the records for the various Leabharlann (low-eh-lenn).
Droman are wise, usually long lived individuals who are well versed in the laws of the land. They’ve earnt their position through dedicated service to their Fiodh, town and gods. Droman engage in politics, enforcing law and order and lead community feis and services. Droman often teach their skills to those in the Fiodh below him.
Expectations of the Gods
Athus and Athal expect the Vates to uphold peace and the law. Athus rules over Law, civil order and justice, whereas Athal rules over peace and harmony. Vates are extension of both of the twin gods. Athus and Athal, up until recently, have done their best to attend at all places which they are ritually called. The courts of the kings and queens of Albia have all been visited by the pair, accompanied by Droman. Droman are expected otherwise to answer any calls of aid.
Athus requires Vates to be of sound logical mind and to deliver accurate justice, whereas Athal often asks for compassion, leniency and mercy upon those she deems deserving.
To break the peace of the land is to dishonour or even hurt Athal, to which Athus will come down upon them with the help of the Vates. If Athus is honoured, Athal allows the peace to continue. She is the gate to harmony and he is the guard and as such guard of all good people.
Vates and Other Religious Leaders
Vates are respectful of the other religious leaders. Being that all the gods are from the same pantheon, it is widely accepted that the words of all religious leaders should be, at least, respected. On various issues, some leader’s words are taken over others. Vates are the leading authority on contracts, but will preside in the Albian way over funerals if a Weiha isn’t present.
Vates and the Public
Vates value balance, equality and give and take. Sometimes they are called in as mediators to oversee the writing of contracts to ensure that both sides are getting the best deal. Vates here act almost as laywers and can be present at council hearings and deliberations about the fate of a criminal. Droman are looked upon to solve many disputes.
S O T H A A L
Sothaal is perhaps the most decadent of all the gods. Sothaal is bright, bold and unashamed in everything he does. He is patron of lies, shadows and secrets as well as sensation, sensuality, fertility, beauty, all forms of art, control, discipline and abandon, illusions, stories and poetry, planning, extremes, waterways and the ocean.
Chalices and bowels, filled with wine or water and infused with flowers, herbs and honey are popular offerings to Sothaal. Sweet breads, songs, artwork and pigments are also offerings which are approved of.
Sothaal despises offerings of blood or the sacrifice of life in his name. He has been known to physically harm those who offer any of the like, including that of animal and insects, in his name.
Sothaal is not confined by binary gender associations. Sothaal regularly shifts his shape to various degrees across the genders spectrum. He "sees no point" in conforming to one alone when he "has been granted the opportunity to experience every tantalizing sensation from every angle." He does not mind being referred to as any pronoun when referring to him, though seemingly prefers 'He'.
Sothaal appreciates all forms of life but in particular flora and insect life. Any plant or insect can be considered part of his iconography. Some depict Sothaal in works of art with many arms and legs in a similar manner to a spider, Other's have depicted Sothaal with many eyes or a multicolored halo similar to that of butterfly wings. Sothaal himself prefers jeweled beetles such as scarabs, spiders for silk, bees for their honey and butterflies for their beautiful colours.
He revels in all interpretations of himself, and often changes his form and coloration to suit his mood, describing himself as a "believer in kaleidoscopic self-expression". It is not unknown for him to copy or closely mimic the appearance of an artistic depiction of himself he particularly has grown fond of.
Golds and blues are the colours Sothaal likes the most, and often never wears anything else. He describes the "exquisite vibrancy" of gold and blue as a " vivid, colourful expression of the juxtaposition of land and sea". Water is Sothaal's element. Not only does he rule over waterways and the sea, but grace, fluidity, possibility and artistic expression.
To be lavish in all things is to honour Sothaal completely.
Those dedicated to Sothaal are Pujari and act as extensions of Sothaal’s values and teachings. They often adorn themselves in the sacred colours of blue and gold to catch the approval and favour of their god. Though, Pujari do not shy away from any colour at all. During rites and rituals, they decorate themselves with as much colour and jewellery as possible, even elaborate body painting made from floral and mineral pigments.
A golden sash always marks a Pujari in a crowd. It can be worn in many ways – over the head, over the shoulder or around the waist. It is often pinned in place with a golden broach of some kind. Often, graduating Pujari inherit the broaches of their teacher. The elder Pujari may wear many broaches, sometimes one for every year of their service.
Pujari are never really chosen but volunteer themselves for the role. Many Pujari start as young adolescent artists, craving the guidance of Sothaal’s creative muses and dedicate themselves to Sothaal’s teachings. Pujari not only follow Sothaal but take inspiration from his Muses.
Muses are souls from across time which have been sanctioned Muses by Sothaal due to incredible feats of skill, creativity and ingenuity. The chosen humans are revered as sacred and are declared illuminated by Sothaal himself. There have been 6 Muses across the 3000 cycles Sothaal has been in power.
Lady Orissa ~ Capital City
Lady Orissa was the first of all the Muses. She designed and engineered the floating city of Merdija back in 0035c. She implored Sothaal to help her construct the city over the river Jaita, around the marble tower, in exchange for complete and total dedication. Orissa’s spirit impressed the fledgling god and agreed to help her build the new city.
It took Sothaal and 1500 men 200 days to finish constructing the beginnings of the floating city. Over the time, Orissa not only directed the artisans summoned to help her, but started her final and greatest project across the inner walls of the Capital’s Palace.
Across the walls of the main hall, Lady Orissa constructed the finest mosaic anyone had ever seen. Crafted from the highest quality materials from across Erda, Orissa ordered preserved Albian ebony, polished Thulmian silver and gold fragments, specially crafted porcelain tiles from Tantian, gemstones from the volcanic caves of Altankora and many more materials from across Olvany to finish the mosaic.
The mosaic was a glorious depiction of Sothaal himself, glittering in gold and cerulean. The form which Orissa constructed became one of Sothaal’s favourites and when Orissa passed away in 0076c he decreed the Floating City should be named in her honour. And so, Merdija became Orissa, her body entombed under her greatest work.
Saheb was a young man in training to be a Pujari. He climbed the outside of the marble tower at Japaipura in response to criticism from his peers that he was not enough for his God. He meditated for hours at the top, ignoring all calls from his teachers, peers and family to return down from above the treetops at the edge of the Emerald Belt. He stared across the canopy well into the night.
During this time, all manner of spiders, poisonous and not, came to spin webs with silk cast onto the boy. In his reverent state of meditation, Saheb did not move. He called to Sothaal for inspiration, desperate to prove himself. It was not Sothaal who answered, but the spiders.
Gently, they wove what seemed like a bolt of silk, guided almost by divine hand. Saheb watched, the silvery threads become a pale cream fabric. He watched until sunrise when the spiders left and then proceeded back down the tower with the stunning bolt of fabric tied around his waist.
The crowd camped at the bottom was stunned upon seeing the delicate silk bolt, now turning a pale golden colour in the morning sunlight. The moment Saheb’s feet touched the floor; Sothaal appeared from amongst the rays of the morning sun. Saheb fell to his knees, presenting the bolt of silk to his deity which was happily accepted by His Eminence. Saheb then declared that he would create one hundred more bolts of spider’s silk, woven by his own hand. Sothaal gave him a year to fulfil his promise.
During that year, Saheb sealed himself away from society, accepting only wine, honey and bread, left at his door, for sustenance. Saheb studied the spiders; some say he spoke to them, whispering requests to help him fulfil his task.
A year later, as the morning rose, Sothaal greeted the hermit at the base of the Marble Tower. Not only had Saheb woven 100 bolts of spider silk by hand, but had created a loom and 200 more bolts of silk. Saheb was declared an Illuminated Muse in 0105c.
Saheb Mahabir ~ The Spider’s Loom
Piera Regimio ~ Reconstruction at Vendi
The tower at Vendi fell in 2562c. The cause remains unknown and it caused many Olvians, including Sothaal himself, great distress. Piera Regimio was a survivor of the original disaster. Upon seeing Sothaal weep at the base of the destruction, Piera fell to her knees at his side and vowed she would spend the rest of her life reconstructing the lost homes and gardens of Vendi. She’s now the architect of Vendi, having redesigned and restored what she can around the newly formed oasis at the base of the ruins. Piera was illuminated as a Muse upon her death in 2597c.
Abil and Mireil ~ Udyana at Lys
In 0220c, Abil and Mireil visited the settlement of Lys. As Lys is on the edge of the Emerald Belt, the city rested on a rich space of forested land. Lys was just a ‘way point’ at this time, but being the last settlement along the trade routes from Albia before the Glass Wastes many people would pass through. Originally, Abil and Mireil spent most of their time tending to those sick and injured, especially from caravans.
It wasn’t until 0225c Abil and Mireil created the grand outdoor temple to Sothaal named Udyana. The gardens started as a small, sacred place for meditation and reflection but grew and grew as the pair became more inspired to create.
Udyana is made of many smaller gardens linked together over acres of land. The most popular segments include: the adorned trees, carved into by Abil and Mireil, Abil’s mosaic fountain and the sand gardens created by Mireil. Udyana wasn’t completed until 0231c. Abil and Mireil were buried in the grounds of the garden in 0257c as Illuminated Muses.
Ranai Magar ~ Cure for the Blighting
During 1578c, a great plague spread through Marble Towers across Olvany; leaves turned black and curled inwards, flowers refused to bloom, crops rotted away. For 10 years, the Blighting ravaged the plant life of Olvany. Things were looking bleak, the country fell into Famine. Sothaal could contain large pockets for short periods of time, but eventually it would spread further and further.
Ranai Magar managed to formulate a cure from rare herbs picked from Osmoor, Albia after trekking to Osmoor to and back to collect them. Ranai spent 8 months experimenting with the cure before finding the right formulation. The cure was highly successful and allowed the country to recover before more lives were lost. Ranai was decorated as a muse in 1588c.
After a large amount of research, botanists in Lys discovered that the Blighting was created by fungi feeding on those buried into the grounds of the Marble towers without being burnt and the ashes anointed first. From 1590c, much to many people’s distress, burials involving whole corpses were banned and it became law that all bodies must be burnt before being interned into any grave to prevent such a famine to happen again. All ashes must be anointed with Sunana before being scattered.
Purisadi is the rite of ‘Marriage’ to Sothaal to all who offer themselves to him. It is a spiritual marriage which does not affect their other relationships but rather is a metaphor for combining divine inspiration with that of human ingenuity and craft. The ritual is full of dancing, song and music and can be very individual and personal to those seeking Purisadi.
The brides and grooms are dressed in flowers and painted in bright pigments such as yellows and blues, often staining their skin weeks afterwards. Purisadi takes place by running water, either the sea or rivers. Many people travel, specifically for Purisadi, to the edges of the country or to the river Jaita for the ceremony.
Sothaal and Vakosh
Sothaal and Vakosh have regularly been at odds with each other. They have a disagreement every century or so, but never has there been a bigger disagreement than that of the summer months of 2230c.
One morning, Summer of 2230c, the sky remained black as night and the earth began to shake. The quake lasted around 11 minutes and Sothaal was most displeased. Sothaal descended upon the closest beach to the epicenter and looked out to sea. No one dared approach him, his radiant face twisted in anger. He stood for hours, waiting with crossed arms and slowly, his subjects began to realise why.
The tide seeped away from the edges of the land, pulling the azure sea further and further out, pulling boats, fish and nets with it. The stillness of the air was threatening. Birds fled from their branches, fleeing the oncoming danger.
It was only when the air began to roar that the people realised a tsunami was on the way. People fled, climbing to the highest points they could, but Sothaal stayed watching the wall of water slowly approach the shore. Only a few devout stayed beside their god.
As the wall raced forwards, Sothaal stretched his arms outwards. A golden wall of light shielded the land from the watery onslaught. Sothaal stayed until the tide returned to its normal, calm state before stepping out onto the sea and storming outwards to speak to Vakosh.
The argument between the two raged across the sea, mighty storms rocking the coastline, grounding ships and halting trade. It was a week before Sothaal returned, ultimately satisfied with the recompense paid by Vakosh.
Sothaal and The Marble Towers
The decadent god is patron of Olvany the keeper of the Marble Towers in the Glass Wastes. He provides oasis of comfort and colour in the otherwise baron straits of the desert. He has been known to weep upon the damaging of the towers, even going so far as to run on foot for 18 days and nights to get to Vendi upon it's collapse, though he refused to fix it, claiming that he "could never restore it to it's previous grandeur, it's design was unique, irreplaceable, as all life is" and that he "refused to disgrace it's memory with an inadequate and unoriginal copy."
N A S N I
Nasni’s love is erratic, cold and beyond most people’s comprehension. To some from outside the ways of Thulm and the Horned Goddess, she may seem uncaring completely; a destructive force, bent on turning everything she touches to ice but those dedicated to her know different.
Nasni teaches her followers many things; how to survive, how to turn chance in your favour, how to weather the harshest of storms and how to live and die well. Death and insanity is only what Nasni is most well-known for. Her embrace kisses every human on the planet whether they like it or not. It is to her that everyone returns in the end. What most people fail to see is Nasni’s compassion and mercy to those who are in pain and how she is a driving force to do something with your life, to do better.
Nasni wanders the world with Ekivitr trailing behind her. Many say she's looking for something, many say she's lost, others may say she's beside herself in grief. No one quite knows the reason but her crying can be heard on the howl of the wind.
There are few things which calm her and a few which enrage her. Offerings of blood taken with consent, bones of those killed in her name and serpent related items are always very well received as are highly crafted weapons or items made of metals.
Nasni would never see her people needlessly killed for any reason. She does not want those she deems unworthy to join Jokull before they're ready. Before battle, the fighters are blessed and prayers are said in order to alert her that they may be coming and to make them worthy of her. If someone is murdered by another before their time, rites must be performed on the corpse in order to make them worthy of her, or she'd come down on the Thulmian people with an icy iron fist.
Ekivitr and Jokull
Ekivitr, Nasni’s veil, blankets the most northern reaches of Thulm, in an area above the great ice plains of Isavollr and Isafeldr called Jokull. Jokull is the Nasni’s land of the dead and all souls return to her halls at the centre of Jokull. The cold temperatures are harsh and unforgiving to any life that enters it. Get too close and Nasni will snap you up, holding you tightly until you give your last breath to her
Next to her veil, Nasni’s greatest trademark is her horns. They pin her veil in place, protruding from her like deadened branches. When they collide with any object, they let out an almighty crack, causing the sky to flash and tremble, hiding itself away under darkened clouds.
Snow, ice and wind are all trademarks of Nasni’s presence. She is said to be present in every reflective surface, from which she watches closely. Those who do not want Nasni to claim a dying person would cover all reflective surfaces or dull them with a sooty paste in order to keep her from seeing them.
Of the animals, snakes and squirrels are among her favourite, but all horned animals are said to be aspects of her. This includes sheep, horned winter-lizards and bull but especially albino or white deer.
Aspects of Nasni
Nasni has many aspects and appears in many ways. She chooses her form carefully; she could appear as a beautiful woman with gentle deer horns tangled in rags or a wizened old lady, adorned with bone charms and soot, the veil hanging from the horns of a ram. She could even appear as a one of her sacred animals; deer, snakes, squirrels and other horned animals. One should be always kind, for you never know when you may be entertaining the Goddess.
Dispossessed younglings without any prospects for a safer, healthier or more prosperous future - for whatever reason - Become tempted by the call of the mythical "Drum Of Destiny" named Forlognir which is believed to by amongst the collection of Nasni's where she holds her icy court.
The Órvalfeigr are all doomed in some way: Many bear the burden of terrible sins and crimes against their clan and the gods as heretical oath-breakers whilst others are diseased and dying of awful and incurable ailments, or from emotional wounds which cannot be healed.
Many victims of ill fortune and poor decisions hear the calling of Forlognir that rings out to them with the offer of a single albeit grim hope.
Warriors of the Órvalfeigr are led by dedicated summoners, special to Nasni known as Fostra, who seek out and gather as well as lead the Órvalfeigr into battle. Bands of these damned children of destiny go where this is war - Over land or sea - Desperate to meet their ends at the end of a blade or monstrous beast instead of a bed or cold floor. Many do not wish their presence although it is always difficult for some commanders and tacticians to refuse the doomed their dying wish if it is to aid them in battle.
Forlognir can sometimes be heard and even seen by those brought from the brink of death itself, Nasni choosing it not to be their time; and they describe it as a dire instrument the size of a small mountain made of the bones of creatures that look akin, but not alike, to human beings where the skin stretched across the top is made from the sewn-together souls of the evil and sinful dead. The relic has a mind of its own, as the priests say, and it wishes only to serve Nasni. The power of this relic can, in theory and with Nasni's approval and sanctioning, be called upon directly to channel the energies of despair, death and release from life as part of a great ritual. Such a feat is disputed to have ever been achieved, however, but both debates over the veracity of differing accounts rage ever on.
H I G H Q U E E N M O R R G A N
Queen Morrgan rules over Tantian by herself, micromanaging all process within the kingdom to create a highly efficient force. She's the patron of all cycles, including the cycles of life to death, crops and fertility of the earth, all of time including night and day as well as
sun-cycles. She's also the goddess of pestilence and famine and lack thereof. She is movement and change, balance and imbalance.
Morrgan is most fond of circular round shapes, birds, intricate detailing and all forms of birds. She favours glass and turquoise as decorative items.
To honour her, Tantians often hang reams of coloured fabric flags around an area in order to show a holy space or somewhere which they want their goddess to pay attention to. This can be homes, shrines, farms struggling with abundance or even a stall. It is considered a good omen for birds to sit upon the flags as birds are a symbol of the Goddess Morrgan. Farmers, priests and soldiers alike wear feathers or other avian tokens to please the goddess and garner her favour.
Morrgan takes an active role in the ruling of her patron country. She sits on her throne at the great calendar Semzra atop the mountain Azten and deals with those who disobey her personally.
Morrgan requires excellence from all of her subjects, including punctuality. She has an array of complex rituals for all of the seasons and equinoxes. Many stories have been told of her wrath upon inadequacy and there hasn't been such an incident since 551 sun-cycles past. Her fury was so fierce that the offending subject aged his entire life and back again over and over and the moon halted in the sky, plunging the world into darkness until he corrected his misdemeanour and offered her 100 rare and exotic birds of the Emerald Belt in Olvany from his own personal collection. It is safe to say that no one has dared cross her since.
Choden are those dedicated to the Goddess Morrgan. They are often dressed in bright orange and burgundy but also have been known to wear greens, blues and reds. Choden often wear clay or glass beads or intricate metal pieces. Feathers and silver are especially favoured. Choden are both men and women and are neat, focused and usually intellectual individuals. Choden must be punctual and detail oriented in order to pay attention to their duties.
Choden and Morrgan have a close relationship, perhaps closest of all the gods. Those who are not part of the Azten-Choden are still punctual and intellectual people who take great pleasure in every detail of their dedication of Queen Morrgan, in Tantian and beyond.
All Choden and phenomenal navigators, having studied star charts of their routes and areas, they align marriages and funerals to planets entering into certain houses or planetary retrogrades. They watch the skies for Kalachak, for the end of all cycles. The first signs will be present in the sky. Choden are split into 2 Calpuli, clans, each with a distinct taste in clothing and insignias: Azten-Choden and Wai-Choden.
Choden are chosen by other Choden, usually at a young age. They undergo a vast education and when they complete it, are sworn in with their own blood on a Yantra, binding them to the will of Morrgan.
Choden value knowledge, philosophy and punctuality. Choden are often called upon by the public to help with difficult decisions or intellectual issues. They often write reams of information down into books; watching and documenting the history of the world. They are historians, philosophers, scientists, mathematicians and engineers, always in time and always on point.
Choden advise the public on the movements on the stars using astrology and astronomy. They also offer Yantra tattoos, a protective set of symbols drawn on the body. They can either be permanent or temporary.
The highest regarded of all are the Azten-Choden who reside specifically in Semzra; it is highly unusual for an Azten-Choden to leave the palace. It usually foretells of huge disaster if they must leave. They dress in deep green and bright orange robes with necklaces of feathers to show their closeness to Queen Morrgan. Their duties are kept a very big secret, even to other Choden.
The Wai-Choden are split into two groups again: Wai-Kata and Wai-Manda, each serving a distinct purpose for Queen Morrgan. Both wear bright orange, often with other colours like bright red or burgundy. They are based in Tantian and the wider world, gathering, delivering and returning all the things needed for Queen Morrgan and the calendar.
The Wai-Kata roam the landscape from shrine to shrine in holy pilgrimage, tending to the Kata, prayer scarves and flags, hanging from the shrine’s structure or tree. Katas are usually white, but can come in various colours ranging from green, gold to cream or even orange and hang all around the shrines or holy places. Wai-Kata keep a very tight schedule, arriving at shrines right on the day they were meant to. Wai-Kata also visit the spirit houses in the mountains and clearing them, Morrgan’s gateways for the spirits of her people to reach Nasni.
The Wai-Manda are mainly stationary, never too far from their home shrines. They’re the ones who tend on a daily basis to the shrine and the needs of the people around it. They often teach, or offer their experience and knowledge to those in need of it. At the New Year and throughout the 12th month, Wai-Manda are expected to create a mandala for Morrgan, using coloured sands and powdered clays to form intricate patterns and stories for their Queen to read.
Semzra is a vast fortress - the high palace and temple atop the Azten Mountains. It is here Queen Morrgan rules over Tantian with precision, dedication and zeal. Semzra is ultimately a giant calendar which only Morrgan can read. She predicts weather, movement of the stars and planets, cycles and seasons from the intricate circle stone.
The legend of Semzra is that the calendar was originally somewhere else. Morrgan called the stones from across the globe to Semzra and the calendar appeared as the rocks fell into place. The palace is covered with vastly intricate geometric patterns, a lot of it plated with gold, silver and precious gems.
Semzra is the only physical residence a god has in the world and thus is a centre of pilgrimage for the entire world’s pious, even those who have a different patron.
Falling out of favour
Tardiness around tasks for Morrgan can truly ruin your reputation with her. Things go really wrong really quickly if you’re late. She requires excellence and diligence in all things. Another easy way to make Morrgan mad at you is to dishonour the Azten-Choden.
Yantra is an expressive and personal ceremony, but takes place at the shrine. In complete silence, the Yantra is written on and in the skin of the recipient. Yantra vary widely as the content and complexity, as every prayer is different and the content of the Yantra will reflect the timing of the stars and planets as well as the prayer of protection being sent. During Yantra, the recipient is required to place their hands in “Wai”- a prayer like gesture and chant their prayer in their head, focusing on what it is they want to achieve.
Sanuk is the festival of praise and happiness, thanking Queen Morrgan for the renewing cycles and saving them from Kalachak, the abrupt end. It is usually celebrated in the first harvest in the 1st month but can be celebrated at any time or at any harvest. Sanuk takes place around the local Chinampas, floating planting beds for crops.
The crops are carried by everyone to feasting tables with singing, dancing and drink and prepared for a feast. Sanuk is a thanksgiving, led by the local Choden, who usually oversee preparations. Loi Celebrated at any planetary retrograde, Loi is a more sombre festival than Sanuk as it is a representation of letting go and moving on. Large leaves or paper is folded intricately to hold offerings of small flowers, candles and incense. They are cast into water, whether it’s a river, stream, lake or even a small pail of water. Choden write Yantra onto the papers and leaves which are used for the little floats.
V A K O S H
Vakosh, the God of blood & fire, of destruction and rebirth, of burning retribution and holy reinvigoration, is a complex being of many divine natures. Vakosh embodies war, fury, blood lust, natural disasters, wild animals and curses as well as martial order and obedience. Vakosh is the watchful keeper of the islands of Altankora, but through the subterranean tendrils of the world, may influence even far away lands. They may be found at the centre, the base, or even, with much contention and highly controversially , the head of the order of the Gods, depending on the world-view of the beholder, but they themselves are rarely to be found far from where power dwells.
To some in her lands, particularly to the Uiluli, Vakosh is a stern mother, bringing wrath, but also new life to their green homes, and watching cautiously as her children seek their place beyond her sacred home and put to sea. To others, such as the Khun, he is a vengeful warlord, quickly tiring of peace, and bringing adversity and disaster to constantly test those who have been strong enough to gain power, and to temper those who seek it.
Folk-lore of both main peoples in Altankora, the Kuhn and the Uliuli, both believe that the earth of Altankora is an extension of the body of their god; the stone is his bones, lava is his blood and the tender earth is his flesh.
Blood, fire, ash and soot are all symbols of Vakosh, harking to natural disasters and anger. Animal bones and skulls are also icons. Birds of prey and horses being Vakosh's favourite animals, their lives are never taken as a sacrifice. To kill someone's horse is a great dishonour and insult upon they who keep it.
Fire is the element most precious to Vakosh, and they perpetually guide and push the fire that dwells beneath the earth outwards; in their homeland, with burning force to engulf life and return it to them, to be brought new again; in other lands, seeing their fire seep up through the roots of all living things, that when brought to flame, all life may burn in their glory. By these means, Vakosh brings life to their servants, the people of Altankora, and sees that their life force flows over the land, to rejuvenate the green meadows and fields of the Uliuli, and the pastures and grasslands of the Khun, bringing life to each, and subservience from both.
They are symbolised in most cultures by a fire emanating from the orb of the earth, and the colours of fire, red, orange, and yellow, are frequently used to display Vakosh’s fiery nature. Rarely will Vakosh find favour in fancy rite and ritual, much preferring instead to see the devotion of those loyal to them through deed, watching over those who constantly strive to outdo those around them, and survive and thrive in the adversity they bring upon the mortal realm. Though this leaves few who truly know Vakosh’s grace, those who have may be confident in their power and hardiness. Those whom create unity from perilous discord, those who find strength from harrowing defeat, those who wield an inner-power forged through pain and suffering, these are the ones who Vakosh watches.
Moanapohaku is a dark, dense and incredibly strong type of stone found only in Altankora and the surrounding waters.
Moanapohaku is said to be clots from the wounds of battles with other gods, mainly Sothaal and sometimes Nasni.
It is the sacred stone of all people of Altankora, the dark stones often forming or being set into carvings for rituals or wood for sacred drums. It is, above all, regarded with great awe for its sharpness, hardness and ability to draw blood without much effort.
There are differing opinions between the two tribes, the Kuhn and the Uliuli, about how to best honour Vakosh.
The Uliuli would argue that the only way to honour Vakosh is with your way of life. For them, obedience and martial order extends to even the act of choosing when to kill and when to not. Martial order and obedience naturally controls the fury, fire and anger - often interpreted as 'passion' by the Uliuli.
The Kuhn beg to differ and believe Vakosh a deity who needs constant pleasing and honouring, accruing sacrifices and participating in clan battles just for his name. Ritual burning of warriors pre-battle, even just with the mountain path, is mandatory.
Few really ‘worship’ Vakosh, so much as they know that they will impress the fire deity through acts of absolute courage, power, and survival in the face of adversity. This takes different forms for the two cultures that inhabit the islands of Altankora, and for those who seek Vakosh’s approval abroad. These are described as the natures of Vakosh, and whilst rooted in the traditions and circumstances of the Altankora archipelago, they have travelled far, carried by those who seek divine power outside of the normal order of the common deities.
The Buryat Vak (Vakosh as Power)
For those who see Vakosh as the embodiment of pure power, especially the Khun of Altankora, there is the manifestation of the Buryat Vak. This is the nature of Vakosh that drives those from adversity to succeed, and to upset any who choose to rest on their laurels. This manifestation constantly ensures that only the best and most worthy hold power, not only that these gain power. This is done by ensuring that an unceasing stream of challenges and challengers to anyone’s power appear, and that those who seek power must compete and temper themselves in adversity if they hope to achieve and maintain success.
One of the key rituals of this manifestation is that of the Khun coming-of-age ceremonies, wherein, to please Vakosh, young Khun braves must ascend volcanic mountains and coat themselves in the ash of Vakosh’s fire to prove their worthiness. And naturally, the taller and more perilous the mountain, the greater the honour to the young brave. Plus, any who die in the attempt, and meet it bravely, are said to have fulfilled Vakosh’s divine quest, and bear no shame in their failure, but veneration in their devotion to the fire-god unto death.
In this manifestation, mercy is seen often as weakness, unless it is mercy which achieves dominance, such as when a Khun tribe absorb those of another tribe upon their defeat. However, no mercy is to be shown to those who hold power, and the ritual execution of enemy warlords and chiefs is the most divine of rituals to Vakosh in this manifestation.
The Melan Vak (Vakosh as Lifebringer)
As Vakosh turns the world to ash, and undoes the old and the unworthy, she brings again new life to have its chance to thrive. In this manifestation, those who see Vakosh as the eternal cycle of life and death, and particularly the Uliuli, she is venerated as a rejuvenator of the soil, and a mother of the land. These are those who rejoice in the lava-flows of Altankora, bringing the nutrients of the Earth to the soil; the forest-fires burning away the dense foliage for fresh tender shoots; and the floods which cover the land, washing away the dirt, and leaving new fertile fields.
This manifestation is revered through asceticism, and the ritual letting go of the old, and celebration of the new. Those who find joy and peace in death, and bliss and hope in new life can find Vakosh to be a source of ever turning abundance, for those ever prepared to let go of the old and embrace the new. They who are reeds who bend with the wind, who are adaptable, and who revel in new opportunities and possibilities are those who will find succour in the Melan Vak.
Rituals to this manifestation are often those of relinquishing and giving back, and those of celebration in the new. For the Uliuli, the resilience of their people and their dedication to Vakosh is shown in the ‘Mahalo’, meaning ‘With Thanks’ where the bounty of Vakosh that has been enjoyed is returned to the land if it cannot be in some way used. This is most typified during the Mahalo performed at Uliulian funerals, where thanks is given for all the good deeds of the departed, and their body is laid atop a prominent hill or rock in the barren regions surrounding Oma'omalepo. This will then be consumed by birds, and the bones will be collected and ground, before being spread amongst the crops of the new season, to encourage their growth, and to reflect to everlasting cycle of death and rebirth.
Vakosh and the Pantheon
Vakosh, in their wish to see only the strongest and most adaptable survive, is often found to be in conflict with the other Gods and is frequently unhappy with their natures. Especially so, with Nasni and Sothaal, whom they see as lazy and distant, and wasteful and gluttonous, respectively. However, what Vakosh seeks most of the mortals is that they seek strength and adaptability from wherever they can, and so naturally tolerates veneration of the other gods, and often delights in the occasional mortal getting the better of one of their lazy fellows. As such, the people of Altankora have a long tradition of worshipping the other deities alongside Vakosh.
This is typically done by use of the ‘God-Sticks’ wherein a circle is formed of the members of the pantheon, represented by a wooden stick or pillar, and sacrifices or offerings made to those relevant to the worshippers’ needs. Though in keeping with their final reverence to Vakosh’s expectations, no offering is made to them, but the boon gained from the other gods should be in service to strength or survival. It is also common for tests of strength, often by hauling the wooden pillars involved great distances, and by long journeys for the relevant materials, to be performed to please Vakosh.
Vakosh and Sothaal
Sothaal and Vakosh have regularly been at odds with each other. They have a disagreement every century or so, but never has there been a bigger disagreement than that of the summer months of 2230c.
One morning, the sky remained black as night and the earth began to shake. The quake lasted around 11 minutes and Sothaal was most displeased. Sothaal descended upon the closest beach to the epicenter and looked out to sea. Vakosh had sent a tidal wave.
Vakosh, when finally approached by Sothaal, was not repentant. Instead, he continued to fight with both Nasni and the Child God, Wyk, who had seemingly stirred the trouble up in the first place.
When Sothaal pressed for an apology, Vakosh refused, citing Nasni and Wyk as the causes, them having blindfolded his eyes and tied his limbs together as he was sleeping, teased him relentlessly. Nasni shook her head, refusing any part in the teasing, referring to Wyk as the culprit. It is unclear as to what happened next, but an argument again broke out between all parties. Sothaal sent Nasni home, the trickster Wyk having fled. He remained to speak to Vakosh.
The argument between the two raged across the sea, mighty storms rocking the coastline, grounding ships and halting trade. It was a week before Sothaal returned, ultimately satisfied with the recompense paid by Vakosh.
Vakosh and Nasni
Vakosh and Nasni have never quite seen eye to eye. Vakosh believes the souls of the departed in battle should fall under his jurisdiction where as Nasni rebukes him, telling him they are still dead and must come to her. Vakosh, therefor, has had trouble controlling his anger when it comes to Nasni. He often goes against her out of spite, even going so far as to cause avalanches in Thulm, wiping out whole clans of devout followers.
W Y K
Wyk is a god whose ways are lost to time. He is the only god who hasn't got a country of his own. He is god of the lost, patron of children and childish idiocy, slyness, bribery and trickery. He watches over thieves, roads and those traveling. Not much at all is known about Wyk.