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Religion

The religion is orthopraxic, not orthodoxic. This means that it doesn’t matter what you personally believed about the gods, so long as you participate in their public worship. Piety means doing your sacrifices and singing your hymns and attending festivals and so forth, it does not mean believing certain things. (This is why it can be hard for modern pagans to authentically reconstruct ancient religion — even with all the information, we in the twenty-first century completely lack the social infrastructure that the ancient religion depended upon.) Any slightly differing interpretation of theology is just a personal opinion on your part, which you are free to hold, and all that really matters was that you maintain the religious traditions that you are taught. It doesn’t matter whether you thought the gods are anthropomorphic or not, moral or immoral, comprehensible or ineffable. There’s no Scripture in paganism — no direct and irrefutable Word of God that forms the entire basis of your belief system and that you cannot disagree with. There’s no such thing as heresy or apostasy in paganism. You can be impious by refusing to worship the gods, you can be blasphemous by desecrating their statues and temples, but you are not considered evil just for disagreeing about how gods work.   (text by Sarah McLean)    

Rational Gods (Major)

    (Human Name/Elven Name/Dwarven Name/Orc Name/Goblin Name)   Rational Gods (called such to separate them from the Chaos Gods...it’s purely arbitrary, of course) are those gods who are worshipped by the majority of the people, and have been for ages. The Chaos Gods are rumored to be nothing more than Great Demons who are trying to legitimize themselves in the eyes of the Rational Gods by usurping their traditionally held spheres of influence and portraying themselves as gods instead of demons. Besides, if the motivation is the same, and the apparent power is the same, what is the difference?   For the most part, the gods meddle only a little in the affairs of Ephemerals. This is one of the things that separates the Gods from the Chaos Gods. According to theologians, the gods stay aloof because they realize that humanoids have their own destiny that shouldn’t be disturbed by divine actions. However, on occasion, they will do a favor or two to those who truly deserve them....   While the practices of the different races emphasize different aspects of the gods, they are still the same gods (even though the religions arose in different areas). The different races also emphasize different symbology, although there is enough overlap in these areas to convince those well-learned that the religions share a common pantheon. In many areas, this information is not made public (although it isn’t really kept a secret either, it just isn’t mentioned in polite company.)  

Granted Advantages

All of the gods can give Granted Magery to their priests. What spells (and how many) they give are based on their sphere of influence (mostly, anyway), and how high in the priestly ranks the disciple is. The gods can also grant other advantages, as they wish; although someone must be deserving of them. The gods also act as a Patron to the High Priests ("appears" on a 9-, 30 points) and “regular” Priests ("appears" on a 6-, 15 points) (note that this varies by deity; some gods are more accessible than others). The Religion itself acts as a patron to the Priests also: base cost 15, reasonably powerful organization; appears on a 15- for High Priests, 12- for Medium High Priests, 9- for Medium Priests, and 6- for Low Level Priests (for net costs of 45, 30, 15, and 8). These patrons are optional, as they give direct access to the deity in the first instance (more so than usual), and more than normal aid in the second.   Different deities will have modifiers to their appearance rates. Perhaps “manifestation” is a better term than “appearance”, since they never actually appear; they may manifest an effect, but they don’t actually show up and chat, even with high priests. Also, these manifestations aren’t caused by some person simply asking for it; it takes devout belief, adherence to the religion, and typically some ritualized actions to get the deity’s attention…and then, maybe, the deity might possibly manifest something, usually something that is vague, non-specific, and perhaps genuinely unhelpful. Often any messages given by the gods are only useful in hindsight, when it’s too late to actually utilize the information in a proactive way.  

Priestly and Follower Characteristics

These are the general characteristics of the priests and followers of the various gods. Not everyone will have all of the disads listed, but if most of them are not part of the priest’s makeup, they are following the wrong deity and is not setting a proper example. All priests have Duty to deity (-2; technically it is “all the time”, but it is rarely “dangerous”), Sense of Duty to deity (-5), and Fanaticism to the gods (-15), and Vow (-5, follow all tenets of the religion faithfully). (-27pts)  

Lir/Aethelan/Kradun/Ahwok/Kradiiki (Sea)

  Never depicted as a humanoid, only as a complex spiral/celtic knot. Symbols also include dolphins, squid, or an abstracted picture of a school of fish. He (it?) represents the mystery of the sea, the danger, and it’s bounty. Priests of Lir often bless sea journeys to give sailors a better chance against arousing the wrath of Lir. Of all of the Rational Gods, he is the most...chaotic. He is the patron of sailors and others that live off of the sea. He is often referred to as “Wrathful Lir” or “Angry Lir”, although these really aren’t fair to the god. Elves add a reverence for coral reefs as a symbol of the interconnectedness of life and an intuitive realization that there is a similarity between the sea and blood. Dwarves add a sense of awe at the power of the ocean (in the sense that a tidal bore can power waterwheels). Orcish attitudes about the sea emphasize its erosional power and how the sea can overwhelm even rock. Goblins look at the sea in much the same way as humans.     Code of Honor (-10pts): Try to take the path of least resistance, but be as unyielding as ice when necessary; don’t let minor things bother you— “go with the flow”, but be prepared to overwhelm problems you set your mind to; your faith’s foe is your own; never attack a priest of the faith except in fair, open duel; never break your word if taken in the name of the gods; resent any insult to your faith or the gods in general.   Common traits for followers: Flexibility (5pts), Indomitable (10pts), Unfazeable (15pts), Versatile (5pts Bad Temper (-10pts), Callous (-5pts).    

Belisama-Ishtar-Ashtoreth/Galatha/Zendra/Zug/Sojekk (Love, Life, Creation, Death, Spirit)

 
  Depicted as a trio of women (young maiden, matron, and old hag). Symbols include flowers, a sheaf of wheat, trees, an inverted triangle or opposing triangles (like an hourglass). Humans have three names for her. It is she who created the Universe, then put Taranis in governance of it. +1 to Appearance frequency. Elves add their reverence to Nature (and this really goes without saying, since it is such a large part of Elven psychology). Dwarves tend to focus more on the creation aspect, especially artisans and craftsmen. Orcs tend to focus on the death and spirit aspects. Oddly enough, they also tend to focus on the love aspect as well, due to their highly emotional natures. Goblins tend to focus on the death aspect as well, but for a different reason: they have shorter natural lifespans, so they see the cycle of life somewhat accelerated.   Code of Honor (-10pts): Revere all life, accept the circle of life; your faith’s foe is your own; never attack a priest of the faith except in fair, open duel; never break your word if taken in the name of the gods; resent any insult to your faith or the gods in general, SD Pacifism (-15pts).   Common traits for followers: Animal Empathy (5pts), Animal Friend (5pts/level), Empathy (15pts), Fit (5pts), Green Thumb (5pts/level), Healer Talent (10pts/level), Plant Empathy (5pts), and Rapid Healing (5pts Chummy (-5pts; parallels the interconnectivity of ecosystems), Gluttony (-5pts), Honesty (-10pts), Lecherousness (-15pts), Oblivious (-5pts), Stubbornness (-5pts), and Truthfulness (-5pts)    

Mithras/Malaeth/Aheru-Mazda/Mokk/Jeli’noor (Light, Fire, Sun)

Depicted as an athletic man in warrior’s raiment, sometimes fighting a bull. Also called Bullslayer and Firebringer. Symbols include suns, sunbursts, circles, and bull skulls. Legend has it that Mithras was once mortal, but did favors for the gods (including killing the bull) such that he was raised to godhood. Taranis gave him the duty of the Sun. His is the only anthropomorphic constellation in the night sky, a gift from Taranis representing his respect and thanks. His altars always have a burning flame as part of the display, either as a magical flame that never goes out, or a simple brazier with a lit fire in it. Sometimes a candle is used (personal altars to Mithras, or by priests of Mithras out in the wilderness). Elves tend not to focus so much on oxen/cattle, as that part of the myth cycle isn’t really part of their stories. Orcs tend to focus more on the fire aspect, and also tend to see Mokk as more antagonistic (being nocturnal and all). They also tend to use Mokk as curse; i.e., “May Mokk burn through your eyelids!” or “Mokk take you!”   Code of Honor (-10pts): Revere the sun for its warmth and ability to make plants grow. Honor cattle and oxen for the gifts they give sentient-kind. your faith’s foe is your own; never attack a priest of the faith except in fair, open duel; never break your word if taken in the name of the gods; resent any insult to your faith or the gods in general).   Common traits for followers: Bad Temper (-10/-5/-1 pts Fit (5 pts Stubbornness (-5 pts Selflessness (-5 pts)  

Grome/Haethelas/Khuz’dun/Kruge/Pagiili Taavirl (Earth)

  Depicted as a stocky tree with a stone-like appearance. Symbols include gems, polished stones, stylized tree, hexagons and squares. He is often invoked by architects, both for protection against earthquakes, and because he is also called The Builder. Boats are sanctified in his name when built, to give strength to the materials they are built from, in order to protect them from the vagaries of Lir. Buildings are consecrated to him in an effort to get his blessing and hope that he doesn’t cause them to fall in an earthquake. Elves tend to focus on the plant aspects, while Dwarves focus more on the earth/ground/stone aspects. Grome is known both for the beauties of nature, and the fact that nature can be dangerous. Not as capricious as Lir, but not entirely predictable, either. The Rural Watch will often have morning and/or evening services to pay homage to Grome before the Watchmen begin their duty.   Code of Honor (-10pts): Treat the natural world (specifically plants/ground/stone) with respect. When using materials, ask for Grome’s forgiveness and blessing (miners, lumberjacks, hunters, farmers are all commonly invoking Grome when they “go to work” your faith’s foe is your own; never attack a priest of the faith except in fair, open duel; never break your word if taken in the name of the gods; resent any insult to your faith or the gods in general.   Common traits of followers: Stubbornness (-5 pts Intolerance (-5 pts Green Thumb (5 pts/level Plant Empathy (5 pts Oblivious (-5 pts Truthfulness (-5 pts), Damage Resistance (5 pts Unfazeable (15pts Callous (-5pts).  

The Morrigan/Lethan/Dun Barzak/Murgu/Kajakkis (War, Strife)

Depicted as an old crone or a raven. Symbols include swords, axes, ravens, crows, blood, and buildings aflame. When shown in humanoid form, she always has either a large sword, a large axe, or both (one in each hand). Her weapons are said to never cut opponents...her victim’s flesh parts before the blade of its own accord (stories mention two reasons for this, depending upon who is telling it: either the flesh willingly splits, responding to the will of The Morrigan, or the flesh is so afraid of her weapons that it splits spontaneously in an effort to not touch them). Elves tend to focus more on the strife aspect, relegating Lethan to more of a goddess of arguments and disagreements, since they rarely went to war with each other (she did get a surge in followers when the Tondene Empire started absorbing Elven cultures in their expansionist phase). For Dwarves, she is a minor goddess, as they don’t really war with each other either, although she has taken on some more business-related cut throatedness as Dwarves guilds can be rather vicious with each other when chasing market share. Orcs “blame” Murgu for their bad tempers, and consider it a blessing, since their history has often been very violent. They also look to her as one of their main patron deities (less so in the Empire, but quite often in other Orc lands). Goblins consider Kajakkis to be quite antagonistic, almost putting her in the “evil” category.   Code of Honor (-10 pts): War is a prayer to The Morrigan. Battlefields are sacred sites, and mass graves and funeral pyres (especially of the dead due to battle) are homages to her greatness. A priest of The Morrigan must pray before getting into combat if at all possible; if you can’t pray to her before the battle, do it while in combat (it’s not uncommon for a priest of The Morrigan to be avoided by enemy combatants because they don’t want to incur The Morrigan’s wrath and then get killed). Your faith’s foe is your own; never attack a priest of the faith except in fair, open duel; never break your word if taken in the name of the gods; resent any insult to your faith or the gods in general.   Common traits of followers: Stubbornness (-5 pts Intolerance (-5 pts Bad Temper (-10 Impulsiveness (-10 Callous (-5 Combat Reflexes (15 Damage Resistance (5 Enhanced Block (5 Enhanced Parry (5 or 10 Fit (5 Hard to Kill (2 to 6 Hard to Subdue (2 to 6 High Pain Threshold (10 Military Rank (variable Police Rank (variable Rapid Healing (5 Berserk (-10 Bloodlust (-10 Bully (-10 Code of Honor (variable Megalomania (-10 Missing Digits/Limbs/Eyes (variable; old war wounds On the Edge (-15 Overconfidence (-5 Paranoia (-10 Sadism (-15).  

Taranis/Gelanas Orthawodas/Kalozak Demas/Urdu/Gabrook (Air, Weather, Wind, Stars)

by Dymond Starr
  Depicted as a stately, wise humanoid, a cluster of stars, or a cloud. Symbols include circle, cloud, star with rays (similar but not the same as Mithras’) and a vertical line. He holds the Universe in his hands until Belisama chooses to destroy it. He is also called the Encircler, and the stars are reputed to be his eyes in some tales. Considered one of the wisest of the gods. When he is angry, he sends hurricanes or tornadoes. Of all of the non-Aarakocra gods, this is the one they pay homage to the most (when they bother to do so).   Code of Honor (-10 pts): Revere the sky, love the feel of rain on your face, know the importance of responsibility; think before acting; your faith’s foe is your own; never attack a priest of the faith except in fair, open duel; never break your word if taken in the name of the gods; resent any insult to your faith or the gods in general.   Common traits of followers:  

Minor Deities

  Minor deities are those beings who have parts of the metaverse “subcontracted” to them. For example, Raiden is a minor god of lightning, in the “employ” of Taranis (presumably because Taranis is busy supervising). It is also possible that they are simply avatars of the major deities.  

Raiden/Rathelas/Belan’dur/Oghak/Taakekkiri (Lightning/Rain)

by Pablo Ruizzx
  Depicted as a robed humanoid with a large, wide-brimmed conical hat, as a bolt of lightning, or, rarely, as a ball of lightning. Symbols include raindrops, jagged lightning bolt, and black cloud. Often he is represented as the Wrath of Taranis, since Taranis primarily punishes with storms.

Serannan/Celeborn/Randuzan/Stuglock/Glivirl (Woodlands/The Hunt)

by Kip Rasmussen
  Depicted as a tall stag-antlered man with a pack of wolves, or sometimes just as a wolf. Symbols include the stag, the wolf, the moon, and the tree branch. Said to have green eyes, never speaks. Loggers sacrifice to him to appease him and allow logging in the forest.  

Niell/Aethien/Galendur/Slagga/Shoshakki (Rivers/Lakes)

  Depicted as a slender, willowy humanoid with long, silver hair. Symbols include the heron, frog, newt, lily, and three interlocking circles (from raindrops in water). When a river floods, it is said that Niell is angry or sad (depends on the circumstances and who is doing the reading).  

Lims-Kragma/Laquetestal/Vanth/Skâthach/Shiniigami (Death)

  Lims-Kragma is known as The Gatherer of Nets, She Who Waits, and The Final Embracer. She rules over the House of the Dark One, and acts something like a prison warden for the souls of sinners. She isn’t evil, although she is callous and unyielding. She is the darker side of Astoreth’s final comforting. Her symbols are a square with lines crossing from vertex to vertex (like a boxed X), crosshatch (like a tic tac toe grid, symbolizing her net), and a hand holding a skull.  

Drefen/Alahyaralya/Akrâs/Azaka Medeh/Telipiinu (Hearth, Farming, Harvests)

His symbols are the plow, the hearth fire, and a sheaf of wheat.  

Seshat/Heringólë/Zha’ga/Wapeya/Tenjiin (Knowledge, wisdom, writing)

by Elena Kulakova
  Her symbols are the quill, scroll, and book. She represents lore, the sciences, philosophy, magic, and writing. The stories say it was she who taught people the concept of writing…voices without sound, words without voice.  

Kothar-Wa/Aule/Khoradûn/Yurtrus/Addoko

by Raphael Doppia
  Kothar-Wa is the god of smithing and crafting. His symbols are the hammer and knife, triangle and arch.Kler'naktha Deities          

Kler'naktha Deities

The Gods of the Kler’naktha are detailed in the notes about them. Because they think so differently than mammalian humanoids, their gods don’t quite line up the same as those of the warm-bloods.
SPHERE NAME NOTES
Fire/Light K'rraa'rghh Brother of G'grrhh'nn, Ss'rghhiss, Shrr'ghhrr'l
Water G'grrhh'nn Sister of K'rraa'rghh, Ss'rghhiss, Shrr'ghhrr'l
Wind/Air/Sky Ss'rghhiss Brother of K'rraa'rghh, G'grrhh'nn, Shrr'ghhrr'l
Earth/Stone Shrr'ghhrr'l Brother of K'rraa'rghh, G'grrhh'nn, Ss'rghhiss; mated to N'rraaghrh
Fertility/Love/Plants N'rraaghrh Sister to S'slhr'rghh, Rrogh'rghh; mated to Shrr'ghhrr'l
Death/Darkness S'slhr'rghh Brother of N'rraaghrh, Rrogh'rghh; mated to K'rkakht'l
War/Wealth Khrr'ghhn Brother to L'ssaah
Crafts/Knowledge/Magic L'ssaah Sister to Khrr'ghhn; mated to Rrogh'rghh
Dreams/Possibilities Rrogh'rghh Brother of N'rraaghrh, S'slhr'rghh; mated to L'ssaah
Fate/Time K'rkakht'l Mated to S'slhr'rgh
Lord of all Spaces S'thnaar, S'thnaarghh The "Mother/Father" of all, the Creator, either name is okay because the deity can be of either gender
The Lord of All Spaces is S'thnaar or S'thnaarghh, and is represented by a sexless Kler'nak made up of the faces of all Life, an obviously pregnant female of all colors, or a old male, also of all colors. It is ke who was born of the Sacred Egg which had formed from the Chaos, and ke who begat all other deities when the time was right for their Coming. Ke is also called the Great Beginning, Hatchling of the Sacred Egg, and Parent of All. It is traditional to alternate names when speaking or writing about this deity.   The Opener of the Way is K'rkakht'l, who appears as a black Kler'nak, covered with bright motes and swirls that constantly shift and flux. She controls Fate and Time, and is said to exist in all times simultaneously. She is the most quiet of the deities; indeed, she rarely, if ever, speaks. She is also called Timeshifter, Fate Fixer, Fluxwatcher, and The Mute One.   The Lord of Light is named K'rraa'rghh, and he controls the spectrum. Appearing as a rainbow-hued, muscular figure whose insides glow with a pulsing light, he is a popular figure for artists, as well as the clergy. It is he who is credited with the rising of the sun, the creation of stars, and the coloring of Kler'nak scales. He is also named Lightbringer, Firelord, Darkbane, and Illuminator.   The Mistress of the Seas is called G'grrhh'nn, appearing as a aqua-colored Kler'nak with webbed appendages and a wide fin on her back that starts just between her eyes and goes all the way to the tip of her tail. She is said to control the waves, tides, the course of rivers, and, to some extent, the biota of the waters and the weather. She is credited with the capture and imprisonment of Thool in his watery tomb. She is also called The Sea Mother and Tombkeeper.   The Master of Sky is Ss'rghhiss, and he appears as a Kler'nak-shaped whirlwind with eyes of lightning. He controls winds, and the weather with some assistance from his sister. He also has some control over flying creatures and other creatures of the air. He is also called Stormbringer, Air Lord, and Caller of Thunder.   The Earth Lord is named Shrr'ghhrr'l, and is perhaps the most powerful of the Element-Siblings. It is he who coordinates the actions of the other three, in order to make the world work properly. He is controller of erosion, minerals, mountains, and the motion and shape of the continents and islands. Yet all of his abilities would come to naught without the aid of his three siblings. He is also called The Earth Warden, Lord of the Four, and The Great Architect.   The Beginner of Life is N'rraaghrh, and she appears alternately as a matronly female, a young female just entering maturity, or an amorphous but somehow erotic collection of entwined plants. She is usually depicted as being green, but she also appears the color of eggshells. Her sphere of influence is fertility and Life. She is also called Lifebringer, The Great Mother, Mother of all Eggs, Mistress of Love, and, of course, Beginner of Life.   The Ender of Life is Ss'lhr'rghh, and he appears as a night-black Kler'nak, usually quite thin and emaciated-looking, wearing armor made of the bones of all who have died. His is very patient, although he wasn't always this way. He now knows that if he waits long enough, things will eventually go his way. He controls death and darkness, and has some influence over rational Life, as only beings at least semi-sapient understand Death. He is not generally associated with Evil, like many other cultures' Death Gods. He is also called The Dark One, Deathbringer, Chooser of the Slain, and The Last Embracer.   The Lord of Dream is called Rrogh'rghh, and his appearance is that of a pale, whitish, thin Kler'nak, clothed in purple robes. The robe seems to have no definite length, and shapes are seen in it that seem to be moving. He is said to wield considerable power in the Dreamlands, and there is also some indication that his shape is mutable. His arch enemy is said to be Thool, who is said to be one of the Dark Gods. He is also called simply "Dream" ("Enthr"), and Creator of Possibility.   Irgaaks are said to house a spirit. That spirit is said to be part of Khrr'ghhn, who in turn is made up of all the souls of dead warriors, kind of like a living, breathing Valhalla. Indeed, it is also said that Khrr'ghhn appears as a huge, silver, dancing irgaak wreathed in blue flame that laughs in combat and cuts steel and stone like butter. But he likes not only war, but the spoils associated with it, and thus he is also the god of wealth and greed. It is he who enabled Life to keep the abilities given to it by his sister L'ssaah. Naturally, he is the patron of warriors, and sometimes merchants. He is also called the Lord of Striving, Eater of Souls, Master of Blood, The Chooser of Mischief, and the Lord of Greed.   L'ssaah is the Patron of the Arts, excepting the Arts of War and those industries directly associated with it, although it is a fuzzy line where her influence leaves off and Khhr'ghhn's begins. She appears as a Kler'nak with skin the color of slate (which is what the first Kler'nak writing was done on) covered with all of the alphabets of the Universe. She controls Knowledge, Crafts, and Magic. It is she who planted the Mana Fields, and made them Strong or Weak as she saw fit. It is she who gave Life Civilization and its more ephemeral rewards. She is also called the Great Mage, the Wise One, the Sage, and the Scholar.  

Aarakocra Gods

  The isolationist and aloof aarakocra, not having much contact with the ground bound, have their own set of deities. Like the Kler’naktha, the aarakocra do not have “adversary” gods. Their gods tend to have dualistic natures, embodying both the good and bad of a sphere of influence, both help and harm. Care must be taken to avoid the bad sides of the gods. They, like the Greek gods, are not perfect beings, and can be capricious.  
Chief among them is the goddess of the air, Starbright Smoothfeather, She-Whose-Breath-Lifts-Our-Wings, and She-Whose-Wings-Enfold-Us-All. Mostly described as a nurturer, she also has a capricious side as well, which helps to explain the weather and freakish air currents. She should be loved, but never fully trusted. She is depicted as a large, white bird with clouds for feathers and lightning for claws.  
The second primary deity is the god of nature and wild things, Antlercrown Leafwing, He-Who-Runs-Below-Trees, and Foodgiver. He represents the wilderness that grows and covers the ground, and the life that lives at the boundaries of ground and sky; the animals that feed the tribe, and the danger that is inherent within them. He is depicted most often as a flightless hunting bird (basically, a phorusrhacid) with leaves for feathers and a razor sharp beak. Sometimes he is depicted as a nest with leaves woven into it (sort of like a wreath). Like Starbright, Antlercrown has both a nurturing (feeding) side, and a dangerous (“wilderness” isn’t called that because it’s placid) side.  
The third primary deity is the god of the earth and stone, the bones of the earth: Stonebeak Earthback, He-Who-Supports-the-Sky, The-Crawler-Beneath. He is described as callous, uncaring, and aloof, he is depicted as a burrowing owl with a body of stone, or sometimes as a circle of stones. When angry, he makes earthquakes happen or volcanoes erupt.  
The fourth primary deity is the goddess of the sea, Foamfeather Wavewing, She-Who-Eats-At-Cliffs, She-Who-Smooths-the-Sand, She-Who-Hides. She represents oceans, waves, erosion, depths, and secrets. Like her fellow deities, she can be capricious, as shown by riptides, rogue waves, and sharks. It is said that occasionally she has arguments with Starbright, and when this happens, hurricanes form. She is depicted as an albatross (often draped in seaweed), or a curling wave.  
  The god of fire is a minor god to the aarakocra; their temperature tolerance, feathers, and their habit of eating their food raw made fire less important than for humans. Lightbeak Flamefeather, He-Who-Burns, Giver-of-Heat-and-Light, Consumer-of-Forests-and-Taker-of-Lives. He is depicted as a flaming hawk (firehawk), a candle or torch, and as a sun with an eye in it.  
The goddess of darkness is also a minor goddess. Silentflight Gloomwing; She-Who-Covers, Bringer-of-Sleep, and Eternal-Trickster-Who-Laughs-in-the-Dark. She is, to a certain extent, the other side of the coin as Lightbeak, although she is by no means his opposite. She is typically depicted as a giant raven (sometimes with white speckles), a dark cloud, or a pool of darkness. She is the evening, the dark in the cave, and what is left when the last light goes out.  
Another minor goddess is the goddess of knowledge, perception, and vision, Palebeak Orbfeather; She-Who-Knows, the All-Knowing, and Finder-of-Lost-Things. While the sphere of influence is a pretty major one, it’s focused enough to relegate Palebeak to minor god status. She is never surprised, and has unparalleled situational awareness. She has a nest that is made up of all of the objects that have “disappeared” or been lost over the millennia. She is depicted as a bird with a white beak, and with eyes on each feather, much like a peacock. Other symbols include a stylized eye, a circle, and a series of circles in the shape of a triangle (symbolizing a pile of objects that represents both her Finder aspect, and the sum of all knowledge).  
The god of flight is Nighteye Thousandwings; He-of-Many-Wings, Fastest-of-All, Bestower-of-Flight. He is considered the fastest among the Aarakocra gods, and is their Messenger, much like Hermes. He appears like an Aarakocra, but with a large number of wings, like the pages of a book. His eyes are black, with a moving star field in them that makes it look like you are flying through space at great velocity. Symbols connected with him include a bird with four or six wings, feathers, and an upwards pointing arrow.  

Chaos Gods

 

Ghebbiloth/Raucalundo/Naggrund Gazan/Deukavroyas/Kaav’kirli (Destruction)

 
Ghebbiloth
Described as an amorphous mass of ropy tendrils (similar to the beasties in Edge of Tomorrow, or a spastic, thrashing koosh ball), Ghebbiloth symbolizes destruction, nihilism, and callousness. It’s actions seem almost non-sentient and random, although most people understand it to be malevolent. Symbols include a scribble, radiating lines (much like an asterisk), and a collection of overlapping circles.  

Nurghleth/Naergon/Khathumenzi/Kezezagor/Taakarakii (Plague)

 
Nurghleth
Depicted as an immense humanoid with horns and a wide mouth filled with sharp teeth, it’s gigantic and bloated with corruption, with foul-colored, leathery, necrotic skin covered in tumors. Symbols include a blood-red teardrop, an oval with short, radiating lines, and a bloodshot eye.  

Kharneth/Baugharna/Nananezam/Ukaduikm/Giikataj (Bloodshed/Sadism/Anger/Violence/Hate)

 
Kharneth
Kharneth is most commonly depicted as a gargantuan figure, broad and muscular, with a snarling hound-like countenance brooding beneath his red and black armor of brass and iron. His every word is a growl of inexhaustible rage, and his roar is that of pure bloodlust. He is called the Cruel Wounder by the elves, and the Abhorrent Dark by the Dwarves. Humans occasionally slur his name into “Carnage”. Symbols include the sword, axe, and skull.  

Nemain/Faegoroth/Iklalugrud/Nekhru/Nekkijiira (Horror/Fear/Dread)

Depicted as a snakelike black cloud with arcing lightning, growing spikes, and an aura of cold. It is said that the only noise it ever makes is the sound of knives sliding against one another.  

Gods, Souls, and the Afterlife

    Souls are an arcane (mana-based) phenomenon, which implies that, at some level, everyone has a small amount of power over mana. When a person is born, and their brain starts fully functioning, it reacts to the ambient level of of mana in the environment. This creates a pattern overlay over the neural system that, in some cases, allows the consciousness-mana pattern-matrix to exist independently if the body (and brain) dies. This matrix is not the actual person, but a “data ghost” or “virtual copy” of living person. Necromancers can use this copy to animate dead bodies. Because of residual reflexes, the copy works best in its own dead body, although other bodies can be used at penalties based upon how different the body is. For example, it has no penalties with it’s own body, -1 to everything in a same sex body of the same body type, -2 to everything in the same body type that is altered or damaged (missing limbs or a broken neck that has the head turned awkwardly, etc), -3 to vertebrate bodies with the same number of limbs (human soul—>dog body), -4 for different skeletal structure, -5 for totally weird stuff.   So the afterlife isn’t really an afterlife; more like a new “life”. The person is gone, but a kind of copy of their intelligence sort of might exist.   To the average person, however, there is no real difference. People have “souls”, and most people believe that these souls go to some sort of afterlife. The afterlife described (usually in a vague manner) is different depending upon the religion, which is generally racially based. So the Orc afterlife is different from the Human afterlife. But there are also various afterlives within each race, as religions change and evolve over time, and split up into sects. As there is no evidence or proof of any afterlife, it’s easy to just make something up.   These spirits can last for a long time. Some learn how to visually manifest themselves (thus forming “ghosts”), and some learn how to interact with the world (“poltergeists”, who can move objects, including air for sounds). Some learn how to do both. Souls/spirits can be sentient, depending upon how much of their initial matrix they are able to access. Some have been able to access all of their matrix, and will be very much as they were in life. Others who haven’t been able to access that much have gaps in their memories and personalities. Stronger memories are easier for a spirit to access.   Gods are created in much the same way. When a religion is created, a great number of people are creating a gestalt pattern that births an entity that more or less is similar to what everyone is thinking. This takes time, decades at least, and more normally centuries. The older and more widespread the religion, the more powerful the entity becomes. It’s a kind of mythopoetic creation. This is where all of the Rational Gods come from (hence the name), and why the various races “share” the same gods. The Chaos Gods are different; they are more like the Lovecraftian Mythos in the sense that they are beings from Outside. They are alien beings of considerable power that have little consideration of mortal beings. So, in that sense, they aren’t Gods. However, because their origin isn’t mythopoetic, they actually have more power in the world than the gods do.   The Rational Gods have little actual power. They can’t really interact with mortals very well, and while they may have some motivations, their ability to manipulate the world is limited. Blessed (and Very Blessed, but not Heroic Feats) is available, as a kind of communication is possible. Power Investiture is something beyond their capabilities, they don’t have the ability to channel power at that level for that long. True Faith is also beyond them; they again can’t channel that much power for long enough to do anything. Their power is social/psychological due to the effects of the religion itself, not the deity. They have enough power to allow and encourage belief, but not much to affect the world around them.   As mentioned above, the Chaos Gods are materially different from the Rational Gods. They are multidimensional beings, and as such, don’t fully exist in our reality. Because of this, they only manifest a portion of themselves in our reality, limiting their power but making them effectually unkillable. You can kill off their “avatars”, but since most of them isn’t there in the first place, they can’t actually be destroyed. Forming a body in our reality is their way of “reaching out” and manipulating our world-space. It is something that is useful to them, but not actually necessary for their survival. Having their avatar killed is merely a setback, until they can “heal the damage” and form another.  

The Religions

  A list of gods does not make a religion. It is the basis of one, but it doesn’t detail how people interact with these beings.   These religions are unorganized religions. There are no sets of laws about specific behaviors, or days on which you have to show up to church. There are temples, most of which are dedicated to a single god, although there are a few that have separate annexes devoted to several gods. These are rare, and typically only found in the crowded cities, where space is at a premium. Most temples are pretty small, often only a single room with an altar and maybe some benches or kneeling pads for those wanting to sacrifice or pay their respects. For inspiration, see Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey for examples of the simple buildings used as temples, although most won’t look like miniature Parthenons, as not every culture uses stone columns as a design element. Temples can be as complicated as a finely constructed, decorated building, or a simple lean-to shrine in the forest, decorated with moss and flower petals. It isn’t the shrine itself that is important; it’s the devotional effort that went into building it. A personal shrine, lovingly constructed, is more highly valued than an entire series of cookie-cutter, mass produced churches.   At least, that is the common assumption made by believers. Who truly knows what the gods want?   There is no “go to Church on Sunday”. Well, some villages might have some days on which they go spend some devotional time. Typically, most people work three days on, one off, three on, one off (eight day weeks). So, for example, a village might have people not working the fields on Kynetsday and Starsday, so those would be days that people would be likely to spend time in a temple doing their devotional rites. The next town down the road might have different days off. Larger towns and cities are a little different: they pretty much run eight days a week, so different people have different shifts, and their temples get a pretty steady flow of users.   Religion, and its rituals, is deeply personal. Since there are basically gods for everything, how one interacts with them varies depending upon who you are and what you do, and how you grew up. Priests give guidance as best they can (according to how they see things, which may or may not be correct for everyone), but communing with the gods is, and can only be, personal.   None of the Rational Gods demand human (well, sentient, as not everyone is human) sacrifices, but see below. Most sacrifices are money donations, food donations (often a portion of meals or drinks), or other objects valued by the person doing the sacrifice (such as a child giving the god a favorite toy). Thus, most temples have an altar in front of a statue or other representation of the deity, with several sacrificial items scattered about the base of the representation and altar. Coins, flowers, small items, cups of beer or wine, and food items are the most common; those temples with a basin would also be able to accept liquid donations. The coins are taken by the local priests to help support them and the temple. Usable items are stored until there are a sufficient number of them to hold a kind of garage sale, where they then sell the items for money that helps support the priests and temple.   The exception to the human sacrifice religion is that of the Ghannam Empire. They believe that the Universe comes in cycles. It dies, and the gods birth it into the next cycle. It is currently in the 4th Cycle, according to them. People have power, infused into their bodies. The gods bequeath this power when you are born, and it dissipates when you die. It is the mandate of the Rebirthers to keep the Universe from Cycling too quickly, as they believe that everything is reset when the Cycle turns over. So they try to keep the Cycle from progressing, and to do this, they require that the Cycle is fed energy…sacrifices. While most of the sacrifices come from fallen enemies (leading to a rather expansionist political policy), there are also a lot of domestic sacrifices as well. These sacrifices are treated well, as they are honored for their part in keeping the Cycle from ending. The rituals of sacrifice are necessary in order to channel the infused energy of the body back to the gods. This power allows the gods to keep the Cycle from progressing.   Neighboring countries, of course, don’t like having their citizens harvested for blood sacrifices. So there is always at least of low level of border skirmishes all along the borders of the Ghannam Empire. The Ghannam Navy also ranges far up the coasts to take prisoners; this is usually on the level of piracy, rather than large fleets. At the moment, there is a lot of political pressure on the Ghannam Empire’s neighbors to unite in some fashion to try to stop the Empire’s expansionist tendencies.  

Afterlives

  The afterlife of someone is variable. For the most part, the afterlife is very much like Hades’ realm in Greek myth. It’s a place where the dead go, with no real judgement on it being a good place or a bad place. It’s just a place. For the dead. What this looks like varies depending upon which religion is being followed, and those religions are primarily (but not exclusively) racially based. This is simply due to history/mythology.  

Religious Celebrations

  This varies by both race, and nationality. For most countries, it’s just about the same thing. In the Empire, a mixed race society with lots of cultural mixing, it gets more complicated. One of the reasons the polity has survived so long is its tolerant attitude toward religious beliefs. Because they put few restrictions on religious practices (historically they have sought a separation of governmental bodies and religious ones), they have been able to reduce the amount of religious animosity that would normally fester within the populace. Nearly a thousand years of tolerant acceptance can go a long way towards social engineering.   Because of this mixing, many of the religious rites of the different races have blended somewhat in most areas. Only in remote areas with little traffic are the pure, “old ways” still practiced. The rest have, to lesser or greater extent, converged.  

Humans and Hobbits:

  The religion is called “The Way of the Gods”. In Imperial, the term used is “Shepherdism”. Other Human/Hobbit languages use different names, but as they all worship the same sets of gods (more or less), they are all very similar in meaning.   Shepherdism isn’t a fully centralized religion. It has more in common with ancient Greek religion than Christianity or Islam. Part of that is the polytheistic nature of the religion, and part is simply due to the multiplicity of sentient races not being able to fully agree on a single, focused way of believing. In practice, because it’s so decentralized, individual pastors (called “caretakers”, in the sense of caring for the gods) have significant power to make decisions. Many will discuss important topics with other caretakers, especially if they are local. While there are several networks of caretakers, they are technically unofficial, and exist primarily to give mutual support for the caretakers who are a part of it. This gives the local caretaker both great power and little outside support, simultaneously. It isn’t a religion that is well-funded by a central group, so different areas have access to differing amounts of funds. Historically, there have been several attempts at consolidating the various small networks into a larger organization, but it never seems to last very long. There is just too much difference in how the various people view their belief systems to have it hold together for very long.   There have been several monotheistic religions that have started up, but none have lasted. There just aren’t enough people who believe that the gods should be combined into a single entity. New monotheistic gods have been created/discovered, but they, so far, haven’t been able to get any kind of foothold.  

Religion in Daily Life

  Shepherdism is rather informal. There is no specific day of worship, nor is there any social rule on how often one has to visit a temple or shrine. It is expected that visiting a temple is regular and at least reasonably frequent, even if the time frame is flexible and individual. Most people will visit a temple or shrine once or twice an eightday, some will visit even more often, and some less. Those who are especially devout will visit several different ones fairly regularly, to placate as many gods as they see fit. Some even make a day or two per eightday religious observance days, going from shrine to shrine paying obeiscence to as many gods as they see fit.   Births are welcomed with some variation of a simple ritual that celebrates the parents’ good fortune, and a blessing for the child to have a fulfilling life. This takes many forms, ranging from a simple homily to extravagant parties in honor of the birth, usually based upon wealth and vanity. Hobbits will almost always have food available, regardless of how extravagant the rest of the party is (and their near reverence of cooking and good food feeds into this).   Note: human gestation periods are about 280 days, or 7 Velyri months. Hobbits have a gestation period of 260 days.   Age of Majority is usually an important milestone, although when it happens varies by culture. It is usually shortly after the onset of puberty (10-13 years old in humans; 18 to 23 in hobbits). Celebrations for majority are thus held when the child reaches 16 (human), and 27 (hobbit). Like the birth ceremonies, maturity celebrations can vary in complexity.   Pairbonding/Consorting/Marriage/Handfasting
Names for marriage vary with culture and practices, but they take place when two people (usually of differing genders, in most places) want to combine households and extended families. They are, however, almost always happy affairs, even the ones that are prearranged or done for economic/political purposes. There is almost always an exchange of gifts between families, much like a dowries, but reciprocal. Often these are symbolic in nature, although many can be quite extensive.   While human/hobbit consorting has occurred in the past, it isn’t common, mainly because there is no chance of children from the union. But it isn’t totally discouraged, either. At least, not in front of the mixed couple.   Funerary Practices
The human/hobbit religions (which are mostly similar, but vary a little based on country and thus “ethnicity”) have an afterlife is most similar to ancient Greece:   House of the Dark One While the House of the Dark One is not considered to be directly a part of the underworld, it is described as being as far beneath the underworld as the earth is beneath the sky. It is so dark that the "night is poured around it in three rows like a collar round the neck, while above it grows the roots of the earth and of the unharvested sea." The House of the Dark One is the place that people think that demons live and come from. The people within this part of the underworld experience punishment for their sins.   Asphodel Meadows The Asphodel Meadows is the place for ordinary or indifferent souls who did not commit any significant crimes, but who also did not achieve any greatness or recognition that would warrant them being admitted to the Elysian Fields. It is where mortals who did not belong anywhere else in the underworld were sent.   Mourning Fields The Mourning Fields is a section of the underworld reserved for souls who “wasted” their lives on unrequited love. It is usually considered a subsection of Asphodel Meadows, but some sects consider it a section of the Elysian Fields, as love, requited or not, is usually a good thing.   Elysium Elysium, or the Elysian Fields, is a place for the especially distinguished. The souls that dwell there have an easy afterlife and have no labors. Those people who were especially righteous or had ethical merit ended up here. Heroes, demigods, or other people “close to” the gods would go here after death. Normal people who lived righteous and virtuous lives could also gain entrance.   Isles of the Blessed The Fortunate Isles or Isles of the Blessed were islands in the realm of Elysium. When a soul achieved Elysium, they had a choice to either stay in Elysium or to be reborn. If a soul was reborn three times and achieved Elysium all three times, then they were sent to the Isles of the Blessed to live in eternal paradise.   The way that they handle the dead is highly variable. Some bury their dead, some burn them on pyres. There isn’t a huge problem with necromancy or the undead, so there aren’t very many precautions that are taken. In the Tondene Empire, most dead are simply buried in a wooden box, in the fetal position to (hopefully) ensure rebirth in the Elysian Fields. When someone dies, the family will often hold a Remembrance of the Dead. This is basically a wake, or a celebration of life for the deceased, and usually takes place several weeks or months after the subject died and most of the grieving has ended.    

Elves:

  Elven society is based on their reverence for something known as the Eternal. It is not a god in the human sense, nor is It simply a religion or philosophy. The Eternal is a concept—the ideal around which the Elder races’ culture is based, and is used as a collective term for all of the gods in general. But it is more than that, as well. It is perfection, never changing, forever enduring. Mystical identification with the Eternal is the highest goal. Elves view the universe a gradually progressing toward communion with It, when all will become one, uniting into a single consciousness.   Elves see the Eternal as manifested in the natural cycle of renewal—birth, death, and rebirth, the changing of the seasons, etc. The harmony of Nature, the network of interdependent creatures and plants are examples of the world moving towards union with It. For this reason, the Elves have a deep respect and love for unspoiled nature—they strive to blend their communities into the environment.   Birth (“Nosto i Tulwië”, or Birth of the Future)
The birth of children are especially blessed events in elven culture, as they happen so rarely amongst the long-lived race. There is always a celebration, with dancing and singing to welcome the new member of society. Children are almost revered, as they represent the future. And because of the way elves view time, the future is very important to them, even if it is a long ways off in human terms. Elven females have about a period a year, and elven males tend to not produce nearly as many sperm as humans do; the combination results in very low birthrates. So children in elven culture have even more value, because they will hopefully live for over a thousand years, and thus have a huge potential. Elven gestation times are usually about 340 days (8.5 Velyri months).   In a very real sense, elven children become almost the entire village’s children, with most of the adults considering themselves aunts and uncles (if not parents) of the village’s children. It isn’t quite like communal parenting, but many of the adults act as if it were. Ultimate responsibility lies with the biological parents, however.   Age of Maturity for elves is somewhere around 280 years old. They reach puberty at around 100-120, and are physically mature at around 200 or so. Elves don’t really celebrate the event, however, as it is a somewhat arbitrary age/number. Legally (if not actually codified) it means that the elf can start his or her own household, if they wish (many decide to keep living with their parents for a time). Of course, there are some precocious individuals who decide to start their own household early; while this is rare, it’s not unheard of, and if the parents are okay with it, so is everyone else.   Marriage (“Veryanwë” for the wedding event; “vesta” for matrimony itself)
Elves will use any excuse for a party, and marriages are no exception. Besides births, weddings are the most important milestones in an elf’s life, if only because it represents hope for the future of the society. The fruit tree is symbolic of a fruitful union, with the explicit hope and expectation that children would be born in the future. Elven marriages were almost always a statement that the couple want offspring. While elves born out of wedlock aren’t unheard of, they are rare. It takes an elven female a while to conceive, and thus the relationship between the partners has to last. Thus, most elven births are the result of long-term relationships, and usually those involve marriage. Elven lives were long, and they may change partners several times during their lives. But because it takes almost 300 years for an Elf to reach majority, a marriage reinforces the commitment to stay together long enough to properly raise a child and become a family, rather than just a couple that loves each other.   Funerary Practices
Elves believe that when they die, their souls go to the Realm of the Valar, also called the Lands of Aman. The Valar is the collective term for the Elven gods. There is no sense of judgement, no Heaven or Hell. Every Elf goes there, or so it is believed. They also revere Nature in general, mainly due to their very long lives, where they have the opportunity to outlive most trees, and thus see entire natural cycles during their lives.   To them, dead bodies are basically compost. They bury their dead, either at the base of a tree, or they plant a tree over the grave. This tree acts as a headstone, or, in some cases, a conduit for the loved ones to commune with the spirit of the ancestor. It’s not unheard of for an elf to talk to the tree as if it were their lost loved one. If the body was buried at the base of an already-grown tree, that tree had some special significance in that family’s life: it might have been the tree planted over their spouse’s grave, or some other loved one’s gravetree (“láralda” or plural “láraldar”). In any case, the dead body becomes one with Nature, while the soul goes to the Land of Aman, secure in the knowledge that their body’s last act was to feed Nature, a small repayment of what Nature had provided to them during their life.  

Orcs:

Birth
For most of orcish history, orcs have lived short, brutal lives, mostly due to their psychology and social structures. Orcs are remarkably tough, resilient, and can survive wounds that would kill anyone else. So that should demonstrate how brutal that history was. Orcish females tend to give birth in litters of two to four children, with the gestation period being about six months (Velyri 40 day months, not Earth months, or about 240 days vs human 280 days). There also is a gender disparity, with about 60% of the births being female.   Usually only one or two will survive childhood and grow up to become an adult. It’s a bit better in the Imperium, where the rates are closer to two to three survive (which has the follow-on effect of increasing the poverty rates for orcs, and having more orcs seek methods to prevent pregnancies).   In any case, births are not really celebrated in orcish culture (at least, not with a formal celebration; orc parents still love their kids in their orcish ways).   Age of Maturity
This milestone is celebrated, and historically has meant that a young orc is now a warrior. Orcs enter puberty at about 10-12 years old, and are physically mature at around 15-17. On an orc’s 17th birthday, assuming they have done well at arms training (and usually by this time they either have done well enough, or been injured/killed along the way), they have a coming of age celebration. This usually involves a lot of ritualized brawling in a ring or arena area to show off their skills as a new warrior. They are fought (non-lethally) by several members of the community, and even the most skilled warriors battle the new adult. This isn’t to insult the new adult, or to embarrass them, but to show respect for their new-found, if not exceptional, skills. The point isn’t to actually win the fights, it’s to demonstrate knowledge. The better warriors know that the new warrior is green; they are testing the new warrior’s skill set and finding out where they need more work. The fights are sort of like a final test and evaluation, and the new adult is shown where they need to improve their skills.   In the Empire, this fighting is more ritualized, and has less to do with proving the warriors skills and more with just having a fun brawl as part of the festivities. Many orcs in the Empire are not warriors, and the Imperial orc culture reflects this. But they still like to brawl….   Consorting
Because the birth rate for females is higher than for males, and because females tend to survive better than males, the population of orcs skews female. This has resulted in polygamy, with the stronger males having several wives. Their position in the family unit is (mostly) based upon what order they were consorted: First Consort, Second Consort, etc. Family politics, mixed with their racial bad tempers and beefy builds, can make arguments between consorts…interesting, and dangerous. They don’t usually go so far as to result in fatalities, however. Usually.   Weddings are celebrated. Previous consorts have a great say in which new consorts are accepted into the family. This goes a long way towards making the new, larger familial unit more harmonious. They often do most of the wedding planning, and are the equivalent of bridesmaids and maid of honor. If they are against the consorting, they will make it known and nix the whole thing. So new consorts have to “court” not only the male, but the other consorts as well, in order to get their favor. So, despite the males’ seeming to rule over orcish society, the females actually have a lot of the power.   Funerary Practices
Like humans, Orcs have several places that their dead could go to. The worst place is The Grey Lands, described as a flat plain of grey dust, with nothing to break up the monotony. In the Grey Lands, no dead can see any other dead, and thus it is perpetually empty and despairingly lonely. It is said that there is no way out of them if you are consigned there. If a band of heroes from the Halls of Gorok venture here, they are unable to see their companions (it works the same for the demons), making every battle a one-on-one fight.   The best orcs, those who have conquered great enemies, or led entire armies, or performed some miraculous duty, go to the Halls of Gorok, where they feast on fine food, fight glorious duels, and fight the hordes of demonic entities that threaten all of the Orcish Afterlife. The demons are trying to consume the lands of the orcish dead, and it is up to the heroes of orcish lore to protect them. The heroes of the Halls of Gorok have the ability to go to any of the other lands of the dead, and do so in order to fight the demons that threaten them.   Everyone else goes to Land of Toil, a Purgatory-like place that, at first glance, looks very much like normal life. Except that food barely grows there without almost constant assistance and care, so everyone there turns into a subsistence farmer/herder. There is a way out of this situation, however, and orcs that do find the Rebirth Canal can travel along it and reincarnate into a new life. It is said that the Rebirth Canal is one of the canals that irrigate the crops, but no one knows which one it is. Others have said that it changes, and you never know when a certain canal will become the Rebirth Canal. In any case, those who travel upon it will hopefully become heroic enough to go to the Halls of Gorok.   A word about the demons set to consume the orcish afterlife: it is kind of a cross between Ragnarok and the Langoliers. The former in the sense that the demons are “fated” to consume the world, and the latter because although they don’t look like balls of badly rendered teeth, they do seem to eat the fabric of space-time. They can also be compared to the Hounds of Tindalos in that they exist beyond time and space. They have been described in many ways, usually as a chaotic mass of gnashing teeth, but also as a constantly moving string sculpture that “absorbs” whatever it’s touching, erasing it from reality, and also as a burning, luminous, amorphous shape that burns its way through reality.   Orcs prefer to burn their dead on pyres. The bigger the fire, the better, as it shows the world and the gods how great the orc who died was. The heat from the fire is also considered to propel the soul to the Halls of Gorok, so many orcs will make the funeral pyre as big as possible, even if they don’t believe that the dead orc truly merited going there. Disgraced orcs will be buried under piles of stones, symbolizing that the extra weight they carry will cause them to end up in the Grey Lands, or at least in the Land of Toil. It is considered an insult to be buried under stones, and many family feuds have arisen because of it.  

Goblins:

Birth
Births are celebrated at about the same level as humans. Goblins have a gestation period of about 200 days, or 5 Velyri months. They typically give birth to a single child, although twins or triplets are occasionally seen. Birthdays are a big deal to most goblins, maybe because they know they have fewer when compared to most of the other races.   Maturity
Goblins reach puberty at around 8-10, and full adulthood at 13-15. Their 15th birthday marks their admission to full adulthood in goblin society, and the birthday party often lasts all night. It starts at sundown, and ends (most of the time) at dawn. Presents aren’t really a thing, but serving food during the celebrations is.   Handfasting
Goblins tend towards monogamy, much like everyone else, excepting Dwarves and Orcs (who are polyandrous and polygamous, respectively). They can get married once they are considered adults, although it isn’t unheard of to be betrothed to someone when still a child.   The wedding is celebrated (although they call it the handfast ritual) by both families (usually). It is considered to be a happy affair, and the joining of two clans (or strengthening the bonds within a single clan). It can, like a human wedding, take place during the day or night, but goblins, who tend towards nocturnalism, like night handfastings.   Funerary Practices
Goblins call the afterlife the “Otherworld”. The Otherworld is much like our own, except different. It is the land of the gods, so it is much more enchanted and mystical, almost dreamlike. It is a land of fog and mist and deep, dark forests. Fantastic beasts live there, some beautiful, some fierce. Some Goblin sects call it the “Mirror World”, where things are much like the real world, except that everything is a bit…off. Souls go here while they wait to be reborn into new bodies in the real world. The gods spend their time here hunting beasts that fall into the class of “soul eaters” or “soul hunters”; creatures who eat souls so they can never reincarnate, and are lost forever.   Historically, cannibalism was spread throughout all goblin societies. Many grew out of it. The goblins that still practice cannibalism do it for what they think is a good reason. When someone is reincarnated, their personality is new, and thus the old personality was erased. This is unacceptable, the person who died was a valued member of the society, and who they were should be preserved. Eating them takes who they were—all their strengths, all of their memories, all of their achievements—and keeps them within the society. The more of the body that can be consumed, the better, leaving only bones, which are kept in tombs in jars.   Non-cannibalistic goblins bury their dead in tombs, if they can afford it. If they can’t, they bury their dead in stone coffins, if possible, and if not, in large ceramic jars that symbolize a tomb. The stone is meant as a kind of protection against the soul eaters, at least symbolically. Those goblins on “good terms” with the gods don’t fear death (and the soul eaters), because they feel that their gods will protect them in the Otherworld. Those who feel like they have angered or disappointed the gods in some way will likely fear that the gods won’t rush to their protection when facing the soul eating beasts, and thus might fear their death.  

Dwarves:

Birth
Dwarves live for a couple hundred years. Gestation times for dwarves are usually about 280 days long (seven Velyri months). Only about a quarter of the births are female, and they are more celebrated than male births. There is a welcoming ritual for any birth, however, male or female, and fertility rates among Dwarves is slightly lower than that among humans, as dwarven females have a slower menstrual cycle. It averages 45 days instead of a human’s 28 day cycle. An invocation to Zendra (the Dwarven name for the goddess of Life) is made a few days after a dwarf’s birth, in hopes of a long, prosperous, and happy life.   Maturity
Dwarves go into puberty at age 18-22, and fully mature at about age 30-34. At that age, they gain the ability to speak at political functions. Until then, their opinions were considered that of children, and while they would be listened to, the weight of their opinions was less than that of an adult. At that age, they could also be conscripted into the military, although in times of great need (such as an invasion) younger dwarves would serve as necessary.   Marriage
Due to the fact that only about 25% of dwarven births are female, polyandry is common. Some male dwarves don’t marry at all, becoming gentlemen bachelors. Others share their wife with their brother-husbands. Weddings are considered happy celebrations.   Funerary Practices
Duzakh is the name of their hell. It is usually depicted as a deep well, deeper than any delving, and dark, stinking, and narrow. Normally Dwarves are fine with enclosed spaces, and rarely do they suffer from claustrophobia. Duzakh takes that strength of theirs and turns it on its head. It is where the most horrible punishments and tortures happen to the souls of the dead, based upon the sins they committed when they were alive. It is filled with harmful creatures.   Khuvesta is the name of the Dwarven paradise, a place where those “good” dwarves go. A “good” dwarf is one who follows the Threefold Path (Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds), practices charity, is “good” for goodness’ sake and without expectation of reward, and believes in spiritual equality and duty of the genders. The latter is important since only about 25% of dwarves are female, and thus need to be cherished and protected, including from overprotection. Khuvesta is also called the “Infinite Halls”, where the walls are bejeweled and inlaid with precious metals. Here the souls are treated to all kinds of luxurious things.   The Middle World is what the dwarves call the “material plane”, or the world. It is the world of the living.   When someone dies, they go across the Bridge of Judgement. Below the bridge is a chasm that becomes Duzakh, and the soul is met by one of three women: a sweet maiden, a matronly lady, or a foul old hag. The maiden leads the soul across the bridge, which widens and becomes Khuvesta. The old hag leads the soul across a bridge that narrows until it becomes razor thin, and they fall into Duzakh. The matron leads the soul across a bridge to the Middle World where they are reincarnated and they must live another life, hopefully to become more sin-free, and thus win access to Khuvesta.   Once the body dies, it is just an empty shell, and what happens to it is largely irrelevant. If the dwarf was an important personage, they may be given a monument (usually in the form of a stele or obelisk, beautifully carved and/or inlaid). But even commoner dwarves get at least a plaque, with their name and family and any other special notes carved into it, and mounted in the Halls of the Remembered Dead, which is basically an undercut version of a cemetery. The bodies, after a funeral (which is held a few days after death), are incinerated in the forges or furnaces that supported the undercity.  

Aarakocra

  Birth
Aarakocra hatch from eggs. There is usually only one egg in a clutch, and aarakocra tribes are often quite small, so offspring are highly valued. Aarakocra can lay an egg up to once every three years, which is also how long it takes for an aarakocra youngling to become an adult. Aarakocra life spans are about 30 years.   When the egg is about to hatch, the parents will sing, mentally encouraging the fledgeling to break out of the egg and join the world. For the first year, the fledgeling is unable to fly, and spends most of its time in the nest, being taken care of by the parents and the clan. Parenting duties are shared by the parents, and, to a lesser extent, by the rest of the communal tribe. Education starts within a few months of birth, and the young are able to communicate at about the same time. After about a year, they are able to fly, and the real education begins.   Maturity
Aarakocra are mature at age three. At about that age, they are considered adults, and expected to contribute to the clan’s well-being and benefit. This is usually as a skywarden, which is basically a hunter, although there are elements of policeman and militia mixed in as well. The Sky Folk don’t have any special celebration for this; it is just quietly observed.   Pairbonding
Aarakocra mate for life. When a partner dies, they typically won’t find another, but it has happened, it’s just very rare. Their lives are short enough where this isn’t usually a problem. The pair bonding ritual is actually very low key; part of this is due to the small average size of the tribe, and part from just a sense of standard obligation. Everyone is expected to bond with someone and promote the expansion of the clan. There is no real celebration, although the pairing is told to the Clan Leader and Clan Shaman (if one exists).   Funerary Practices
Dead aarakocra are wrapped in a cloth shroud, and left on open platforms built at or near the tops of mountains. That way the enfolding wings of Starbright Smoothfeather can take their spirits. Loved ones will often take feathers from the dead body as remembrances, using them in items created to remember the dead. Iceglint took some feathers from his lover Allbright when he died, attaching them to his helmet as decoration. Respects are shown when the bodies are put on the open platforms; this can be a speech, poetry, a song, or whatever else those paying those respects wish.  

Kler’naktha (Reptilefolk)

  The Kler’naktha are an old race, and have a great many rituals and means of obeisance.   The Rituals   Songs of the Cycle of Life
Song of Hatching
Hymn of Naming
Song of the Coming of Age (also known as the Song of Majority)
Song of Mating
Hymn of Fertility
Hymn of Laying
Chant of Death (also known as the Chant of Passing)
  The Rituals
Supplication of Purification (used to cleanse one’s spirit of sins, real or imagined)
Invocation of Battle (clerical blessing upon warriors before a fight)
Invocation of Trade (clerical blessing upon merchants)
Invocation of the Gods (opens the communication channels to gods)
Prayer of Exorcism (gets rid of ‘evil’ spirits, possessions, and the like)
Supplication to the Ancestors (asking for the blessings of one’s ancestors)
Prayer of Guidance (asking for help with decisions)
Supplication of Protection (asking for help from danger)
Hymn of Work (chant used when working, helps to pass the time)
Invocation of the Hunt (“Saying Grace”)
Invocation of the Clan (ritual used at clan meetings and reunions to bless the clan as a whole)
Invocation of the Family (ritual used at home to bless the family)
Supplication of Safe Passage (used after one dies to insure safe passage to the afterlife)
Supplication of Spirit Communion (used after one dies to insure spiritual melding with the god)
Supplication of the Elements (asking for fair weather, no natural disasters, etc)
Invocation of the Sun (used to greet the sun in the morning)
Invocation of Sunset (used to say farewell to the sun and for it to have a quick journey around the world)
Supplication of Darkness (used to ask for protection from the cold and night; the night has always been considered linked to cold due to their physiology)
Supplication of Atonement (to ask for forgiveness for a major religious sin)
Invocation of Holiness (used in the ritual of priesthood)
Invocation of Patronage (used to open a channel to a specific god)
    The Songs of the Cycle of Life celebrate the various stages and happenings in a kler’nak’s life.   The Song of Hatching, sounding like a low-pitched trilling noise with few changes in pitch (almost like a humming sound), this song is sung just just before and during the hatching, usually by a priest of N’rraaghrh, although it can also be sung by priests of Rrogh’rghh, K’rraa’rghh, or S’thnaar. In a pinch, the parents can sing it. It’s length varies, and is about as long as the hatching itself. Generally, it ranges anywhere from twenty minutes to over two hours, depending on the number of eggs and how long they take to hatch.   The Hymn of Naming sounds like a soft humming that varies widely in pitch. It is sung during the Time of Naming, which happens about a week after the younglings hatch. It is sung for each child, lasting for about three minutes each time, then suddenly stops, only to start again about a half minute later. During the time when the singer(s) stop, a child is given kir name by one (or both) of the parents. Once the name has been given, the priest (usually K’rkakht’l or N’rraaghrh, but can be S’thnaar or L’ssaah) feeds the child a piece of seasoned meat, symbolizing the hope that the child will grow strong.   The Song of the Coming of Age, also called the Song of Maturity, sounds like soft, low-pitched chanting (which is what it is), and is sung during the Coming of Age Ritual by both a priest of Rrogh’rghh and a priest of L’ssaah (or, if a lifestyle/profession choice has been made by the one undergoing the ritual, by the priest of the god who is a patron of that profession). The ritual and song both last about three quarters of an hour. Sometimes the parents join in the singing, but it is not required. A small drum or a pair of sticks keeps tempo.   The Song of Mating began as a “serenade”, became part of the religious life for a time, and has since mostly died out. Only the most traditional or romantic kler’naks use it now, and some think that it is becoming fashionable again. It is a simple song, with about a dozen lines that are repeated thrice, with minor variations with each repetition. The style varies based on the singer, as does the basic melody and instruments (if any) used. When used as part of the Pairbonding Ritual (i.e., a wedding), it is sung by a priest of N’rraaghrh, or, if necessary, by a priest of S’thnaar.   The Hymn of Fertility is basically a request for fertility (and virility, although the language makes no distinction between the two), and sounds like a low humming that rises and falls in cycles. As it is used before sex, it is often quite short, and can be sung by either partner. If sung as part of a fertility ritual (to have a priest lend kir divine aid), then it is sung by a priest of N’rraaghrh, or, in a pinch, S’thnaar.   The Hymn of Laying is sung during the time that the female is laying her eggs, to insure the mother’s health, and, to a lesser extent, the eggs as well. While the parents prefer that all of the eggs become viable, realistically this doesn’t happen all that often, and it is better if the female is able to lay more eggs. It sounds like a low, rhythmic chanting, and is generally sung by a priest of N’rraaghrh or Shrr’ghhrr’l, who act as midwifes. Laying is usually done in cleansed (literally and ritually) warmed sand.   The Chant of Death, or the The Chant of Passing, sounds like a ululating keening or wailing sound, sung by a trio of mourners (usually family or clan members, but they can be hired). Over this background vocal is the chant itself, the first part of which is spoken by a priest K’rkakht’l, the second part is spoken by a priest of S’slhr’rghh. The third part is spoken by a priest of whatever patron god was followed by the deceased, and the fourth is by a priest of S’thnaar. It takes about three fourths of an hour for the entire chant to be completed.   The Rituals are used for a variety of purposes and are done whenever deemed necessary, as listed under each ritual. They can be said by anyone, but are most effective when done by a priest.   The Supplication of Purification is used to cleanse one’s spirit of sin, and is directed towards whichever god is followed by the supplicant. It also helps (perhaps psychosomatically) to strengthen the will and to fight off disease. It takes about 15 seconds to say, and is usually repeated many times, depending on the person praying, the perceived strength of the sin/disease, etc. Also used as a light punishment, much like a Christian “Hail Mary”. The standard posture is standing, with one’s chin elevated. To humans, it looks similar to a haughty position of attention.   The Invocation of Battle is a clerical blessing upon warriors before a fight, directed toward Khrr’ghhn. It is spoken by either a priest of Khrr’ghhn, or by a high ranking military officer. It simply asks for victory, glory, and booty (in that order of precedence). It normally takes about a minute, but there is a 5-second shortened form. It is done in a balanced crouch, with the speaker holding an irgaak point up (“striving for the sky”). If no irgaak is available, then any weapon will do (just not as well). It is considered bad form (not to mention bad manners) to attack while the defenders are making this prayer, and the defenders usually take offense at this, and fight viciously. (There are rumors that some less scrupulous kler’nak generals attack their own troops with a token attack to set them off, but they are unsubstantiated.)   The Invocation of Trade is a clerical blessing upon merchants and business in general. It is directed toward Khrr’ghhn and L’ssaah, and is performed by a priest of one or both of the deities. It has become fashionable for merchants to greet each other with the first few lines of the invocation. It takes about a minute and a half to say in its entirety.   The Invocation of the Gods opens the communication channels to the gods, and is used as an adjunct to other prayers. It is directed at any or all of the gods, and there is no ritual position or stance used; instead, the stance of the other prayer is used, if any. In formal ceremonies, this prayer is usually spoken at the beginning. In that case, there is a stance: it uses the same position as the Supplication of Purification. Many phrases of exasperation (much like “oh God”, “Jee-sus Christ”, or “Saints preserve us”) come from this prayer, which started out as a generic request for divine assistance. It takes about two minutes to intone, and is spoken by any priest.   The Invocation of Patronage opens the communication channel to a priest’s patron deity, and is used very much like the Invocation of the Gods. There is no specific stance, and it takes about two minutes to say. The priest uses this to express thanks that kir deity is kir patron and for any favors that the deity has granted.   The Prayer of Exorcism gets rid of ‘evil’ spirits, possessions, and the like, and is spoken only by trained priests (they believe that exorcisms can be dangerous, especially in the hands of the unwary and unprepared). It is generally the priests of L’ssaah who do exorcisms, but the priests of S’thnaar are often trained. It takes over an hour to say, and is accompanied by ritualistic motions and ritual components (including fresh eggshells, symbolizing Purity, and clean sand, symbolizing Mental Ease). It is preceded and followed by Supplications of Purification.   The Supplication to the Ancestors asks for the blessings of one’s ancestors, and is intoned as an adjunct to asking the gods for something, since, according to kler’nak belief, upon one’s death one’s spirit becomes part of kir patron. It is like having an ally close to the god. During the prayer, the ancestor(s) are specifically named, and vary depending upon which god is being asked for assistance. Clanless Ones do not generally use this prayer, as they have been rejected by their family/clan. Similarly, orphans with no knowledge of their family history cannot use this prayer (they don’t know who to call; there have been stories of ancestors talking to them anyway, thus telling the supplicant who ke is related to). This prayer is also used to bless clan and familial events. It generally takes about ten minutes to say.   The Prayer of Guidance asks for help with decisions, and is spoken by just about anyone, directed at whichever god is felt most appropriate by the supplicant (it usually ends up being the patron god, since it is felt that with their patron there is more hope for success). It uses the same stance as the Purification Supplication, and takes anywhere from a minute to several hours, depending upon the decision and the belief and needs of the individual. Only the beginning and the end are ritually formalized, the rest being extemporized. It usually appears as if the supplicant is asking questions of the god, with long pauses in between. There is no ritual stance, although many prefer the “divine attention” stance.   The Supplication of Protection asks for help from danger, and is similar and derived from the Prayer of Guidance. It is directed toward one’s patron deity, although it is also directed at one of the Element-Siblings or Rrogh’rghh. There is no particular stance. Like the Prayer of Guidance, only the beginning and ends are formalized; the rest is based on circumstances. It takes about 10 seconds to say, although it is possible to say it very quickly (adrenaline helps this takes only four seconds.   The Hymn of Work is a chant used when working, to help to pass the time and, in some cases, to ask the gods to bless the work. It is directed towards Khrr’ghhn or L’ssaah, and only takes a minute to go through the verses. They are set up cyclicly, to facilitate starting over; in fact, it was designed to be able to be started anywhere within the cycle, and has no real beginning or end. It is particularly suited towards repetitive tasks.   The Invocation of the Hunt is the Kler’nak version of “Saying Grace”, although it is usually intoned at the beginning of the hunt and just before the kill is eaten. With the introduction of livestock, it has mostly been used just before eating. It is directed towards the Element-Siblings as a group, for allowing the kill to be healthily fed and raised, and for allowing the hunters to find and kill it. It takes about thirty seconds to say. For ritual hunts, it is spoken by priests of the Element-Siblings.   The Invocation of the Clan is a ritual used at clan meetings and reunions to bless the clan as a whole. It is the first order of business during such meetings; starting anything important before the prayer was once considered taboo, now it is only really bad manners and an affront to the clan. It is spoken by a priest of K’rkakht’l who belongs to the clan (if one is not available for some reason, the second choice is Rrogh’rghh, and the third is L’ssaah) and takes about ten minutes (much of this is taken up by a short list of the most prominent historical members of the clan and their primary accomplishments).   The Invocation of the Family is a ritual used at home to bless the immediate family. It is spoken by the head of the household, and takes about two minutes. Although it is meant to be spoken primarily during times of familial stress, many say it at some standard time during the day (usually mealtime, although many favor dawn or dusk) as a daily blessing. It is directed at S’thnaar, the Parent of All.   The Supplication of Safe Passage is used after one dies to insure safe passage to the afterlife. It is spoken by a priest of S’slhr’rghh, and takes about five minutes. If one is unavailable, then a priest of K’rkakht’l is used instead; failing that, anyone who knows it can say it, although this is only used as a stopgap measure. As soon as possible, the speaker goes to the priest and asks ke to speak the prayer.   The Supplication of Spirit Communion is used after one dies to insure spiritual melding with the god; this comes after the Supplication of Safe Passage. It is spoken by a priest of S’slhr’rghh or K’rkakht’l, and takes about ten minutes. Like the Supplication of Safe Passage, if the appropriate priest is not available, then anyone can say it and ask for the divine blessing. It usually is spoken a few minutes after the Supplication of Safe Passage, after the priest feels that enough time has passed for the spirit to be on its way.   The Supplication of the Elements asks for fair weather, no natural disasters, etc., and, of course, is directed at the Element-Siblings. It is spoken by anyone, most especially farmers (yes, kler’naks have a few farmers; they do eat other things besides flesh). It is spoken in the divine attention stance, and takes about a minute to intone. A more ritualistic variant of this prayer is used by the Elemental priests for special occasions, this may or may not involve any or all of the four elemental deities. The prayer is also used by military generals to try to gain advantages over their enemies (such as favorable weather or geologic/landscape advantages).   The Invocation of the Sun is used to greet the sun in the morning and is intoned in the divine attention stance, facing the rising sun. It is directed at K’rraa’rghh, and takes about thirty seconds to say. Anyone can do this (and most do). Formal occasions happening at dawn start off with a more ritual version of this prayer; this takes two minutes.   The Invocation of Sunset is used to say farewell to the sun and for it to have a quick journey around the world. It is otherwise similar to the Invocation of the Sun, except that it is spoken facing west. Formal occasions starting (or ending) at dusk begin (or finish) with a three minute formal version of this prayer.   The Supplication of Darkness is used to ask for protection from the cold and night (the night has always been considered linked to cold due to their physiology and diurnal habits). It is directed first at K’rraar’ghh, then at S’slhr’rghh. It is generally spoken in a crouching stance, and takes about a minute to say. This is often a “bedtime prayer”, and, as such, is often intoned from the resting position.   The Supplication of Atonement is used by priests whose ties to their deity have been weakened due to the breaking of a religious stricture. It is spoken while kneeling, with one's head down, and takes anywhere from a half hour to a full day, depending upon the severity of the "crime". The prayer is directed at one's patron deity, whom the priest has, in effect, insulted by breaking a stricture. It is considered demeaning to have witnesses, which is why other priests like to be there—it helps to make sure that it doesn't happen again. Non-clerical personnel are still not meant to see the atonement, and they are barred from the proceedings.   The Invocation of Holiness is used by priests to create more priests. It is part of the Bonding Ceremony, takes about two hours, and has many ritual movements associated with it. It is with this ritual that the priest is bonded with kir patron deity, and is directed at said deity. A priest of S'thnaar is required to speak the Invocation, but a temporary priest may be ordained by a priest of K'rkakht'l.   The Pairbonding Ritual
  A Pairbonding Ritual requires a priest of N’rraaghrh and a priest of K’rkakht’l, Rrogh’rghh, or L’ssaah. It starts with an Invocation to the Gods, followed by an Invocation of the Clan (or two, if the partners are of different clans). Next comes two Invocations of the Family, directed at the families of each partner. This is followed by the Supplication to the Ancestors, spoken twice, directed at the ancestors of each partner, to ask for their blessings. All of that was to make sure that the actual Pairbonding Ceremony can be started in the first place. During the speaking of the words of the ceremony (spoken by the Priest of K’rkakht’l, this takes about eight minutes), the priest of N’rraaghrh is singing the Song of Mating. Once this is complete, the two partners are pairbonded (married), and the Invocation of the Family is spoken once more, directed at the pair (to symbolize that they are now a family). The Ritual generally takes about an hour in total.   Now the pair are “legally” entitled to bear young (the Kler’nak sense of family values don’t officially condone bearing children without a family to take proper care of them). There is generally a feast (put on by the families involved; often, if the nuptuals are popular or have influence the clans as a whole get in on it and the party lasts for days) afterward, to celebrate the union. Often, pairbondings are done in batches, so that the preparations for one can be used for several.   The Ritual of Spirit Bonding
  The Ritual of Spirit Bonding is the ritual used to make a follower into a priest. At least three priests are necessary: a priest of S'thnaar, a priest of K'rkakht'l, and a priest of the patron deity. It begins, like most Kler'nak rituals, with the Invocation of the Gods, spoken by the priest of S'thnaar. This is followed by the Prayer of Guidance, spoken by the person wanting to be ordained; this takes a minimum of twenty minutes, as the three priests, the supplicant, and the deity try to decide if priesthood is really what is wanted. Often, this can take quite a while, especially if politics rears its ugly head (it is considered taboo for this to happen; gods and the priests that serve them are supposed to be above this unseemly behavior). This is followed by the Invocation of the Clan (spoken by the priest of K'rkakht'l) and the Supplication of the Ancestors (spoken by the priest of S'thnaar), to ask their guidance and opinions.   Once these preliminaries are complete, the supplicant undergoes a ten minute Supplication of Purification (spoken by the supplicant), to cleanse kirself of any residual sins (although, by this time, the supplicant has already subjected kirself to hours of this on kir own). After this, the Invocation of Holiness begins, with parts spoken by all three priests, as appropriate.   The following ritual components are used: eggshell, symbolizing new birth as a priest; sand, symbolizing nurturing, which is what a priest does to both the religion itself and to the people ke serves; the supplicants blood, symbolizing kir devotion to the deity, as a pledge; food and drink, symbolizing sacrifice; and scale paints and scribers, to mark the Kler'nak as a priest. The paints last for days, and the designs are used tell everyone that the supplicant is newly-ordained; the scribers engrave small, runic designs into the scales as part of the initiation ceremony—these last for life.   Designs used depend on the patron deity for the most part, but because S'thnaar and K'rkakht'l have a big part in the creation of new priests, there are certain designs that are always used, in addition to the varied ones. The paints are noticeable from a distance, but the scale carvings are not. They require a close inspection, due to their small size.   The whole ritual (including the adoption of strictures, vows, etc.) takes about four hours, after which time the newly ordained priest fasts for three days alone, contemplating his new duties and preparing kirself for the future. This time is often spent reading the holy books of kir patron deity (usually written in runic form). It is considered bad taste for a priest not to have working knowledge of the runic alphabet.   There are different levels of priesthood, and the Invocation of Holiness (with minor variations) must be used for each level. The levels are (in increasing power): Priest of the Blue Rune, Priest of the Silver Rune, Priest of the Gold Rune, and Priest of the High Rune (note that the colors are the same ones used in their military structure; the color codes were started by the priests, and the military followed suit).   The Ritual of Leavetaking
A funeral starts with an Invocation to the Gods, followed by the Chant of Passing, followed thereafter by the Supplication of Safe Passage, and finally the Supplication of Spirit Communion. A feast (how lavish it is is based upon the relative wealth of the clan/family of the deceased and how well-liked the deceased was by the clan) is served after the Supplication of Spirit Communion; this usually ends up turning into a party in honor of the dead. It is held wherever the clan decides, whether it be on a mountain, or on a sand dune, or a garden, or in their home. The body is shrouded (if available; the shroud represents the separation of the body and spirit), and, when the party is over, either left there (if in a natural setting, away from habitations; this is done for practical reasons, not for any specific religious ones), or taken to some such place and left there. Since the person who inhabited the body is now a part of their deity, the organic vessel that housed their soul is no longer important. There have been cases where the body of the deceased was made into fertilizer or pet food; there is no kler’nak stigma attached to this. You cannot desecrate the dead any more than you can desecrate a dead twig or a rock.  

Social Life

The primary social structure of Kler’nak life is the Family. This is generally made up of a few generations of closely related individuals, and they generally live either in the same dwelling, or nearby, within an hour’s travelling distance. Kler’naks are extremely family oriented, and tend to put a lot of emphasis on who is related to whom.   On a more political note, the most important structure is the clan. This is made up of a related group of Families, usually numbering in the high hundreds or even thousands (it is not unusual to have a clan reach the ten thousand member size). It is also normal for two clans to arrange a few marriages to strengthen the ties between them, in effect melding the two clans into one larger organization. Each clan is a separate “tribe” or “country”, but all of the clans belong to a loose confederation (this does not stop clan wars, however, it just makes them less common).   Each clan has a name and a motto, along with certain sword signatures (irgaak shape patterns). Some clan names include “The Sound of the Motion of a Field of Grass in the Wind”, “Thunder in the Valley of the Sun”, “Rippling Waves Crashing on Rocks”, “Rocky Spire by the River of Plentiful Fish”, “Shape of the Five Standing Stones on the Hill of the Ancestors”, “Blowing Sand Over the Space of Dunes”, and “Fence of Mountains Circling the Plains of Fire”. Names are generally based on nature, either a concept or a geographical feature, or whatever. The mottos vary (it is not uncommon for a clan to have more than one) and occasionally change with time; the choice of mottos is often political.   The most prestigious political position that can be held is Head of Clan (this is not to be confused with the Guardians, who are a secretive group of people culled from several clans, and work for the good of the race, not for any specific clan). Beneath the Clan Head are the heads of the eight most prominent Families, who do all of the decision making. Ties are settled by the Clan Head; the Clan Head normally gets no vote, but the power and respect of the position make his wishes practically law anyway. In effect, their primary style of government is an enlightened monarchy/republic.   As with their military, rising through the ranks is by skill and ability only, time in office and petty politics rarely enter into the decisions. In fact, many still do not understand politics in the human sense of the word, they just cannot grasp the idea that people would choose someone who couldn’t do the job well. . . .   Note that the pantheon has a distinctive lack of “evil” gods. In Kler’nak theology, there are no “mortal enemies” or “devils” (like the Giants of Norse Myth or Satan of Christian myth). The primary conflicts come as “divine family disputes”, that usually manifest as inter- and intra-clan political maneuvering that may, in fact, lead to war; these “disputes” can last for centuries (what is time, to a god?). Often they will involve games that take place during clan reunions and clan gatherings.   The primary game is one similar in play to football, but played on a large circular field that is translated as “Breakthrough”. The game is basically played as follows: one team starts in the middle, the other at the edge. The center team must move a tetrahedral stone (weighing about 80 lbs) past the edgeline; the edge team has to take it and put it in the center. The stone can be carried or thrown (which can be quite painful when used as a missile), and tackling, striking, kicking, and tailbashing are all allowed (killing and maiming are discouraged, but accidents do happen . . . ). Points are scored by fulfilling the victory conditions. The game ends when one team has scored 15 points.   Another competition is Sokaaghh’lakshi tournaments, with Clan Champions battling it out; another is a territory-grabbing game similar to capture the flag, but with each flag denoting ownership of a piece of the game field. In this game, physical confrontation can only take place under certain rigid conditions; most of the land grabbing is done through stealth and outmaneuvering the enemy.  

Priestly Characteristics

These are the general characteristics of the priests of the various gods. Not everyone will have all of the disads listed, but if most of them are not part of the priest’s makeup, ke’s following the wrong deity and is not setting a proper example. All priests have Duty to deity (-2; technically it is “all the time”, but it is rarely “dangerous”), Sense of Duty to deity (-5), and Fanaticism to the gods (-15), and Vow (-5, follow all tenets of the religion faithfully).   S’thnaar:
Code of Honor (-10) (treat all life with consideration, abuse nothing; your faith’s foe is your own; never attack a priest of the faith except in fair, open duel; never break your word if taken in the name of the gods; resent any insult to your faith or the gods in general), Sense of Duty (-5) (to all other priests of pantheon). -3 to Appearance frequency.   K’rkakht’l:
Code of Honor (-10) (speak only if necessary (religious duties excepted do not try to change the fates of others—to each kir own; be patient; always appear calm; your faith’s foe is your own; never attack a priest of the faith except in fair, open duel; never break your word if taken in the name of the gods; resent any insult to your faith or the gods in general). -2 to Appearance frequency.   K’rraa’rghh:
Code of Honor (-10) (be punctual, always honor promises; your faith’s foe is your own; never attack a priest of the faith except in fair, open duel; never break your word if taken in the name of the gods; resent any insult to your faith or the gods in general), Pyromania (-5)   G’grrhh’nn:
Code of Honor (-10) (try to take the path of least resistance, but be as unyielding as ice when necessary, don’t let things bother you— “go with the flow”; your faith’s foe is your own; never attack a priest of the faith except in fair, open duel; never break your word if taken in the name of the gods; resent any insult to your faith or the gods in general).   Ss’rghhiss:
Code of Honor (-10) (never be lazy; stay active; stay versatile; your faith’s foe is your own; never attack a priest of the faith except in fair, open duel; never break your word if taken in the name of the gods; resent any insult to your faith or the gods in general), Impulsiveness (-5).   Shrr’ghhrr’l:
Code of Honor (-10) (never give up; give back what you have taken from the earth; your faith’s foe is your own; never attack a priest of the faith except in fair, open duel; never break your word if taken in the name of the gods; resent any insult to your faith or the gods in general), Stubbornness (-5).   N’rraaghrh:
Code of Honor (-10) (revere all life; your faith’s foe is your own; never attack a priest of the faith except in fair, open duel; never break your word if taken in the name of the gods; resent any insult to your faith or the gods in general), SD Pacifism (-15). +1 to Appearance frequency.   S’slhr’rghh:
Code of Honor (-10) (be merciful but firm; your faith’s foe is your own; never attack a priest of the faith except in fair, open duel; never break your word if taken in the name of the gods; resent any insult to your faith or the gods in general; always avenge such insults), Bad Temper (-5), Honesty (-5), Impulsiveness (-5).   Khrr’ghhn:
Code of Honor (-15) (strive to be your best, never ignore an insult to your self, lord, or banner; insults must be wiped out by a fight or apology; must accept challenge from anyone of greater or equal status or rank; accept conflict; your faith’s foe is your own; never attack a priest of the faith except in fair, open duel; never break your word if taken in the name of the gods; resent any insult to your faith or the gods in general; always avenge such insults), Greed (-10), Stubborn (-10), Vow (-5) (dedicate slain enemies to Khrr’ghhn). +2 to Appearance frequency.   L’ssaah:
Code of Honor (-10) (seek knowledge; never do shoddy work; take pride in working, be courteous; your faith’s foe is your own; never attack a priest of the faith except in fair, open duel; never break your word if taken in the name of the gods; resent any insult to your faith or the gods in general), Honesty (-5). +2 to Appearance frequency.   Rrogh’rghh:
Code of Honor (-10) (always act with dignity and style, be openminded, be an aloof but good listener; your faith’s foe is your own; never attack a priest of the faith except in fair, open duel; never break your word if taken in the name of the gods; resent any insult to your faith or the gods in general; always avenge such insults), Compulsive Behaviour (-5) (collects and tells stories), Honesty (-5), Won’t Start Fights (-5), Truthfulness (-5).   Granted Advantages
All of the gods can give Granted Magery to their priests. What spells (and how many) they give are based on their sphere of influence (mostly, anyway), and how high in the priestly ranks the disciple is. The gods can also grant other advantages, as they wish; although someone must be deserving of them. The gods also act as a Patron to the Priests of the High Rune ("appears" on a 9-, 30 points) and Priests of the Gold Rune ("appears" on a 6-, 15 points) (note that this varies by deity; some gods are more accessable than others). The Religion itself acts as a patron to the Priests also: base cost 15, reasonably powerful organization; appears on a 15- for High Runes, 12- for Gold, 9- for Silver, and 6- for Blue (for net costs of 45, 30, 15, and 8). These patrons are optional, as they give direct access to the deity in the first instance (more so than usual), and more than normal aid in the second.  

The Church of the Awakening

The Church of the Awakening has been around since the moon Jypra disintegrated. That destruction is considered a metaphor for the bursting of the mental chains that constrain our ideas. It is treated as a symbol of our minds being blown, in effect. Shortly after the moon blew up, and while the pieces of it were raining down in a glorious meteor display, people started to move through the population centers talking about the Glorious New Age. It will be an age of wonder, of growth, and of enlightenment; of open minds and new ideas.   The message resonated with people living in superstitious fear of the moon's destruction, and the wave of magical chaos that came with it. While the chaotic spike in magic was a one-time event, most people didn't know that, and feared that magic was somehow "broken", and at the very least, more dangerous than they had thought. Their numbers grew, starting in the Tondene Empire, but flowing outward into, eventually, all of the countries on the continent of Endrica. Temples were built, in a style very different from traditional religious shrines. These were hexagonal in shape; this was done to really make them stand out from what had come before (and act as a visual demonstration of "new ideas and ways of doing things".   Crystals, of all kinds, were made into religious symbols. Soon those crystals were phased out in favor of the crystalline shards that had started showing up everywhere. Every adherent is given a shard on a chain or cord, to hang around their neck as a sign of belief. Adherents are taught that the crystals are a kind of cosmic channel to , the Universe, in the same way that a cross can act as a channel to the Christian god. It acts as an effective focus. There is a large crystal cluster behind the altar, set up so that it appears to the congregation to hover over the priest's head as they give their sermon. They started out as large quartz crystal masses, but have since been replaced by large clusters of connected Shards. Adherents will often reach up to touch it with their own crystals, both as a sign of reverence, and in the hope that they will connect and grant them a magical boon. And sometimes, it happens.   The Church is broken up into diocese; in the Empire, they correspond to the Grand Duchies. In other countries, they use other demarcations, but the basic organization is the same. Each diocese is administered by a Rosha, which is a high priest, who is addressed as "Ani" so-and-so. Ani is an honorific, much like "m'lord" or "your honor". Their priests are called Ajahn, they are basically the local clergy, and they are addressed with the honorific "Ayya". The Ajahn are assisted by the Sunim, who are sub-priests, acolytes, and priests-in-training. The Sunim are called simply by their names; they won't get the honorific or title until they actually become Ajahn. They all look to the Tulku for guidance and leadership; the Tulku could be considered the "Pope" for comparison purposes. Most people who have been Awakeners for a while have found out that the current Tulku is a Human male named Elkinder Umarth, who resides in the Kingdom of the Lake. It is said he lives in a mansion on the beach, with a wonderful view out onto the lake, and that he likes to fish and philosophize.   In the Tondene Empire, there are 12 Rosha who administer the diocese, and another eight who are itinerant. They have the status, training, and respect of their peers, but not the job. Their task is to help spread the word of Awakening, not run a diocese. There are several hundred Ajahn, and likely thousands of Sunim. Other countries, being much smaller than the Empire, have many fewer Awakener priests.   The Church of the Awakening has been around for around 80 years or so. In that time, they have managed to convert about 3% of the urban populations, and 1% of the rural (mainly due to the lower population density of rural areas making it harder to get to everybody). They have done a lot in a short period of time. And their message of open-mindedness and a "new you" is appealing. So it is making some pretty good progress against the older, more traditional religions.   Priests of the traditional religions have started to take some lessons from the proselytizing of the Awakeners, and have stepped up their rhetoric about the older gods. They don't want to lose believers to the newfangled religion of the Awakening. In many areas, street preachers of all kinds can be heard hawking their religious wares.

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