The Called

My mind was in darkness. But no longer. I am reborn. I've been Called.  
  There is a song that echoes through the vast and unknown dark of the Patala region. It is a song that haunts the dreams of those who hear it, a song that exists only to those who have been called to serve in glory. Such is the faith of the Called, a loose confederacy of lost souls who have found purpose in the strange gloom of Patala and found something divine within the gleaming Thought-Metal that seem to carry the song with it. To those who have tasted the transcendent, nothing else will compare.    

A Calling From The Deep

You can hear it, too. I can see it in your eyes - you've been touched by something. Something divine. You're special, my friend, and nothing like the others. They don't know what you know - they haven't heard what you have.   Come with me. I will show you the way.  
— Radayan, Leader of the Called
  Every Called has their own idea of what they encountered, but they all share a truth - it was something exalted, something beyond the keen of any mortal. Ever since the first days of Patala, there are those who have felt the song resonate with their heart and given themselves to it. The fact that few share their response to the song only hardens their resolve, the idea that they, among all the many in Patala, have been chosen.  
Chosen by who or for what remains hotly debated.
 
The Called believe that they have touched something divine and are changed by it, that they have become a chrysalis for something greater. Now that they are put on the path by their kindly patron, it is up to them to walk it. Through prayer, meditation, self-mutilation, and modification, the Called seek to make themselves more than they are. Others fast, make pilgrimages to the Descent, or try wildly anything that comes to mind.   Sama, or Thought-Metal, is central to this belief. Through the metal, they can hear notes of the song and so hammer it into their flesh or bind it to their bones, bringing it close to their heart. Some die, but to the Called, such deaths are easy to explain - they did not believe enough, they had not truly carried the song in their heart. No, every Called knows, they will never perish.
by Unsplash (Jaroslav Devia)
Every Called knows in their heart that the key lies in the song. Many spend hours in deep concentration, listening to a sound only they can hear, for some clue of what to do next.
  In the early days of the cult, there were few cohesive ideas or shared rituals, with each Called making it up as instructed by fits of religious inspiration. But as more of the thought-metal was brought from the depths and into the city of Vicitra, the collective dreams began, wracking the city like a plague. Faithful and unbelievers alike began to share the same dream, with some even able to see the other within it. Those touched by the song could see each other like beacons, and while the rest of the city was glad to leave the dreams behind, the faithful revealed in them. In those dreams, then in person, a more cohesive set of beliefs began to emerge.    

Structure

Some are more chosen than others, I guess.  
  From those few, fumbling beginnings, a small and informal network of faithful began to emerge to find the truth together. Only recently have the Called been named so by the charismatic former merchant Radayan. Claiming to be blessed beyond all others, Radayan has started to consolidate the scattered cultists under a single banner.  
Already, those Called refuse his leadership have begun to disappear, sometimes hurled down the the Descent to beg their god for forgiveness in person.
 
by Rawpixel.com (Freepik)
Today, the cult of the Called is still coalescing into something greater. To many Called who have spent their days fumbling forward, the certainty and direction offered by Radayan are intoxicating. They whisper of the miracles he performs, the way he works the thought-metal, and the power of his voice, believing them to be the marks of a prophet.   Others are less convinced, even among the Called. Few things enrage the new leader of the Called quite as much as reminders of his past as a charlatan and his tricks of sleight-of-hand. Others leave his ministrations convinced not of his divinity, but duplicity. There are rumors of powerful narcotics and torturous initiations used to break those unwilling to embrace his vision. It hasn't taken long for the sermons to take a sharp tone, and the Called are being corraled to see enemies at every turn and in every shadow.
Despite the claims of a hostile world around them, Radayan is nothing if not practical. He has built a tiny mercantile fiefdom on the backs of those who trust him as their prophet. He sells their labor cheap and rewards them with 'enlightenment.'
  Below the prophet, Radayan employs several captains and enforcers to keep the flock in line and the coffers filled with coins. To be part of the Called has become an investment, with fees and elixirs to pay for. None are more prominent nor feared than the battle-scarred Rhua, a former Iron Spider who found her faith at the end of what should have been a mangling injury. She has replaced a great deal of her broken flesh with Chitin and thought-metal, first from necessity and later from obsession. Few in the cult can match her either in strength at arms or explosive temperament.    

Rite And Ritual

I've earned thirteen nails yet, and I'll earn thirteen more still.  
  Even among the scattered Called, trends have emerged. With the cult blossoming under new leadership, rites of induction, passage, and punishment flourish with new zeal. The song remains at the heart of nearly every ritual the Called undertake, though more and more have shifted towards the cult or its leader instead.  
Punishment has become a frenzied new trend among the Called, for infractions real and imagined.
 

To Listen

Shh. Can you hear it?
  The most commonly practiced ritual among any Called is to listen to the song. They hear it in their dreams, when they dare to go deep within Patala, or for those fortunate enough to possess the precious thought-metal. Every Called believes that the song holds the secret they crave and go to increasingly elaborate lengths to understand the message.   In the beginning, such rites were deeply personal things - performed in isolation by fasting, meditating initiates. In the cult, they have become ceremonies, sometimes called a chorus, where each member goads the others into greater acts of isolation, fasting, deprivation, and prayer.
by Unsplash (Melanie Wasser)
Such rites bind the cult together. In cases where such bonds fail to appear, the cult supplements the slow with powerful hallucinogenics.
 

Rite Of Binding

by Pixabay
Be brave. This will hurt. The pain will make you anew.
When mortal flesh fails to channel the divinity they feel flow through them, the Called reinforce it with something more sturdy. The Rite of Binding is part surgery, part ritual, and part self-mutilation, where the faithful sew chitin and monstrous flesh to their skin, hammer nails into their body, or carve prayers into their bones.   Before the cult formed, such rites were always done in fits of inspiration, crude and usually fatal surgeries meant to bring the supplicant closer to something divine. Now, they are tightly controlled, granted by those above in the order, and performed with pomp and circumstance. As a result, fewer of the Called are disfigured or mutilated in their search for perfection, unless that is the exact point of the 'reward'.
  Implants of thought-metal are the most sought-after, and cultists who sport them and survive command respect and envy from their peers. It is believed that only the truly faithful would dare to risk it, as their dreams lie open and exposed after. Some come to regret their act of zeal, with the song from the metal haunting their every moment, waking or asleep.  

The Rite of Initiation

Become one of us.
A new invention of the Called's new leadership, the Rite of Initiation is a long, arduous process that brings a new acolyte fully into the fold. It begins with fasting and meditation, with no sleep allowed for the new initiate. Only when suitably weakened are they brought to the leaders of the cult, and allowed to sup from the Chalice of Dreams. Only Radayan knows what exactly is used to make the glowing amber liquid, but those who drink it are swept away on a tide of hallucinations and revelations.  
Wagging tongues say that there is no exact recipe, that Radayan simply improvises or changes it as he sees fit. Only the strong narcotics and, some say, powdered or dissolved thought-metal remain. Some worry that Radayan has found a way to control the metal once it is within his initiates, bending mortal minds like a smith does metal.
  Surrounded by the chanting, writhing mass of cultists and celebrated as one of the few, the special, few come out of the experience unchanged. Depending on the mood of the cultist in charge, such transformations may be literal as well, with beatings or rites of bindings included to seal the pact forever.  
Abhasa - A Chalice of Dreams
Tradition / Ritual | Jul 27, 2022

A potent draught for those who seek the divine, a mix of uncertain vintage that bring hallucinations and, hopefully, enlightenment.

Patala   The Called live and worship in Patala region, a land on the very edge of the known world. Among the fragments of ancient ruins and the monstrous song from the dark, the Called have found something divine.   The thought-metal that sing in their dreams can be found only here, and so the Called cluster here like flies among rot.   Read more about Patala
aaron-greenwood-9G31hCCK_HQ-unsplash.jpg
by Unsplash (Aaron Greenwood)
 

The Call

It is a wordless, noteless song from the dark, with a sound that no instrument could ever make. Somewhere between phantom and reality, the Call exists only in the minds and dreams of those who hear it, while other hear only the wind or tumbling stone.   Those who carry Thought-Metal can feel the whispers crawl inside their skull like spiders, while those who stand at the edge of the great descent in Patala bask in the howling chorus from the Far Deep.   Not all who hear is are so enthralled - most, in fact, find the experience more than a little troubling, and speak of ghosts and demons that lurk in the wind. Thought-metal is still too valuable to discard completely, but more and more are beginning to treat the strange, irridescent metal with care.  
But the Called believe - they know - that the song is no devil nor growing madness, but a god.
 

Thought-Metal

Sama, or thought-metal, is a strange iridescent metal unique to Patala, or perhaps the Far Deep region underneath it. Smooth liked polished steel with a prismatic gleam, it reacts to thought like heated iron might to a blacksmith's blow.   It is hurled in spikes and fragments up from the the Descent by winds of daemonic fury, where the daring and foolish scale the abyss to collect them.  
Sama - Thought-Metal
Material | Jul 27, 2022

Gleaming, iridescent metal, shaped more by thought and memory than by a blacksmith's hammer.

 

The Plague of Dreams

When the collective dreams struck Vicitra, it revealed intimite secret and treasonous plots alike. While the city plunged into chaos, shattered by retribution and pre-emptive strikes, the Called found each other.   Eventually, the dreams ceased - the thought-metal was made the culprit. Too much, too close to someone, and their dreamed became a communal delusion. People hurriedly locked away jewelry that had once been coveted status symbols and took their secrets back to their sleep.   Today, people view the thought-metal with distrust. It is too valuable to discard entirely, but few are eager to see the plague return.  
To those in Patala, only a fool or a madman would wear thought-metal on their bodies, and to do so is to earn a reputation as both.
   

The Thought-Eaters

Terrors that hide in the darkness between thoughts, Shrikes are strange spirit-like beasts that haunt Patala. Some suspect the same troubles that brought the dream-plague has also served as a beacon to the hungry Shrikes, drawing them to humanity for a fresh feast.   To the Called, they are divine messengers and bringers of retribution both, for no prayer have spared the faithful from their hunger.    
Shrikes, the Thought-Eaters
Species | Jul 28, 2022

Hungry things that live in the gaps and shadows of the human mind, dwelling and feasting and spreading through fear.

 
Not the be confused with the Shrike, an seemingly immortal vigilante whose likeness grace dolls and puppets across Araea.   Read About The Shrike
 

Faradae, the Haven

Under the guise of having recieved a glorious vision, Radayan has slowly but surely started to build a new home from the cult, away from the noise and heresy of Vicitra... And away from friends or family, far away from anyone but the cult.   Though still in the early stages of planning, Radayan has grand plans for Faradae. Cultists are searching the Grey Halls of Patala for the perfect place, far enough away from civiliaztion to ensure the cult's control over its member, but not so far they cannot extract profit from them.    

The Cult & The City

Within Vicitra, the Called were considered eccentric but harmless - prey, rather than predators. Few have noticed the change that have come over the cult, or sensed the gathering danger. In the harsh, constant toil of Patala, it is no wonder that some crack, or go a little strange.   Not even now, when people have started to go missing for crossing them, are they seen as nothing but just another strange folk.    
Some, however, are more perceptive. Local Kaia who have run into the cult in the wild suspect that something have gone terribly wrong.   Aldara, a prominent explorer in Patala, has already lost one friend to the grasp of the cult, and is determined to break them.


Articles under The Called



Cover image: by Unsplash (Nisarg Chaudhari)

Comments

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3 Jul, 2022 21:11

I liked the theme of transhumanism in this article. The need to connect with something divine by deforming the body. But, that Radayan is so creepy (and probably a liar).

4 Jul, 2022 09:47

Thank you :D ANd when has a dangerous cult leader also ever been a liar? :O (Oh, always? Oh right)


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
3 Jul, 2022 21:16

Creepy cult, as if the thought metal and the creature in the far deep was not enough! XD   "sometimes hurled down the the Descent to beg their god for forgiveness in person." XD   So what do people actually think their god is asking them to do? Give prayers in his name? Send sacrifice and stuff down to the far deep?

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4 Jul, 2022 09:47

People sure do think that, because that's what the cult leader keeps telling 'em. He's very convincing. >:D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Sage Timepool
Garrett Grace Lewis
4 Jul, 2022 00:19

Hell yeah, rad ideas throughout here!

4 Jul, 2022 09:43

Thanks!


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
6 Aug, 2022 05:41

The thought metal and shared dreams sound both scary and fascinating! As for the cult, it's definitely more on the scary side. Radayan sounds like the classical charlatan preying on people who seek meaning in life.


Creator of the Kaleidoscope System, an alien star system shaped by a colorful radiation source.   My Pledge for Summer Camp 2022
6 Aug, 2022 10:03

Thank you! :D   And yes, like most cults, that's exactly what it is... Except the thought-metal and call are quite real. :O


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
21 Aug, 2022 20:51

What an interesting article to read and a great presentation. You never fail to remind us and teach us how important the placement of quotes, snippets and images are to break up the flow of text within an article, especially one of size. Your ability to format is like a painter who effortlessly touches his brush down here and there leaving behind greatness. While your ability to format is second to your interesting and captivating stories. I also love the Read more... side bars.


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22 Aug, 2022 13:25

Thank you very much :D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.