28 August 2007

The Anari (V): The Allfather

The next instalment in our review of the enormous pantheon of Anuru concerns the most widespread of religious sub-groupings: Esu, called the Allfather, the god of men.

For simplicity's sake, I've also included his three Servants, his two Avatars, and the specialized cadres of Minions of Light that fall under his sway: the Battle Maidens, and the Blood Warriors.


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Valfoðr (The Allfather), The Lord of Battles, The Father of Men
Mikkelseggr (The Big Man), The Master of Fist and Faith

Perhaps the best-known of the Anari, Esu is the quintessential god of humankind. An explorer, a warrior, a rogue and a riever by nature, Esu epitomizes all of the strengths and frailties of the branch of the Brahiri that was placed in his charge long before the beginning of the Age of Wisdom. While he is reputed to have taken many different forms when he strode Anuru before the closing of the Dome of the Firmament, today he is most commonly pictured in his primal form: that of a titanic, well-muscled man with long, dirty-blonde hair, a heavy beard and moustache (all usually braided), clad only in leather trousers and heavy fur boots.

He carries Ginnduna (“Mighty Thunder”), his enormous greathammer, in one fist, and is strong enough not only to wield it, but to do so one-handed. The Jarlin, his staunchest worshippers, say that his whispers are the thunder behind the stormclouds; the lightning, his javelins; and that his shouts cause stars and stones to fall from the skies. Legend has it that courageous warriors who fall in battle may be taken from where they lie among the slain by Esu’s Battle Maidens, and borne away to the Endless Hall, where they will fight, feast and make merry, until the world breaks and the final horncall of Tchudash sounds, and the forces of Light assemble to make war upon the Uruqua for the last time.

The Faith of the Allfather is probably the most widespread religion on Erutrei, if not necessarily within Anuru. It is certainly the most common religion in all human lands, with only three exceptions: Mirabilis, where no faith other than the White Hand is permitted; Ekhan, where the Hospitallers of the Healing Hand outnumber all other religions; and the Eastern Isles, where the worship of the Sea God, Thanos, has a slight edge. Priests of Esu cede to no one, not even warriors, the front rank in battle, and seek relentlessly the honour of battling the forces of darkness head-on. Esu fosters a particular hatred for the deathly Servants of Tvalt – especially Kaaris, lord of the corporeal undead, whom he calls The Corruptor. Clerics of Esu will go a long way out of their path for the chance to destroy the denizens of clay.

The Fists of the Allfather. Certain priests of Esu are known as “Fists of the Allfather”, and gain a variety of special powers, including the ability, through their very presence, to rally warriors and urge them on to greater efforts. Fists gain DR (electricity) equal to their level, and are treated as +4 CL when casting (or resisting) any divine or arcane manifestation of storms or lightning. In all other respects, Fists of the Allfather are identical to the “Warpriest” prestige class from the Complete Divine sourcebook.

Alignment: Lawful Good
Sphere(s): Battle, Humans, Storms, Lightning
Sigil: A raven standing upon and anvil
Preferred hues: Black and Steel
Preferred weapon: Greathammer
Worshippers’ alignment: Any non-evil
Domains: Chaos, Domination, Force, Glory, Strength, War


The Lady of Courage, The Mistress of Bears
(Greater Servant)

Karg is most often depicted, whether in scripture, sculpture or other media, as a human woman of proportions similar to her master: a titanic, muscular female warrior, severely beautiful, with waist-length, unbound, white-blonde hair. She is normally shown wearing stylized heavy armour and wielding an enormous greatsword.

Occasionally these depictions offer a more historical perspective. Karg is one of the original Minions of Light, who came into being at the behest of the Anari at the onset of the Wars of the Powers. According to legend, when faced with the prospect of battle against the mightiest of Bardan’s minions, she sought a weapon like Esu’s hammer, Ginnduna, fearing that any lesser instrument would not be strong enough enough to bear her might and rage. So she approached Kyrrsmida, one of the fathers of the Giants, renowned as the wisest weaponsmith among the Anari or the Uruqua. Kyrrsmida, who had been forewarned by Morga of Karg’s desires, demanded her wings in payment, and she agreed; but after she had been crippled by the strokes of his axe, he revealed his treachery, laughing, and summoned Morga to gloat over her humiliations and defeat.
Enraged, Karg transformed herself into the shape of an enormous bear, and slew Kyrrsmida; and then, returning to her own form again, though still sorely wounded and bleeding, she tore the betrayer’s heart from his chest, and with it, and her own bloodied wings, completed the forging. Thus was born Ljósveittr, the Light-Giver, Karg’s greatsword; and it was in her hand when Morga arrived. Though he was a Power and she merely a Servant, still he fled in terror when he saw Ljósveittr and its terrible, blinding radiance. Ever since, Karg and the sword have been a bane and a terror to the Minions, the Servants, and the Powers of Dark.

The followers of Karg were at one time mighty and numerous, and nearly as widespread as the acolytes of Esu. After the Fall of the Shadow King, however, when the need for implacable opposition to evil was less apparent, Karg fell out of favour. Few temples have been built in her honour for many centuries. Karg appears to be making a comeback, however – a mixed blessing, as she is so closely associated with the eternal battle to overcome evil that the resurgence of her cult can only mean that evil is gaining in strength as well.

The Claws of Karg. Some clerics of Karg become exalted through their service, and are granted, in a special rite, the ability to transform into a bear in moments of great need; these rare individuals are called “Claws of Karg”, and are generally revered more for their ferocity and the example they set in battle than for their wisdom or leadership. The ritual in question is merely the divine transmission of Werebear lycanthropy from a more senior Claw to the more junior, and is only accorded highly experienced priests (minimum 8th level). The newly-appointed Claw is a Werebear in all respects save for two: he or she immediately gains complete control over all aspects of the transformation; and the lycanthropic “affliction” (actually a divinely-sanctioned benediction) can only be transmitted to a new recipient through the proper ritual.

Alignment: True Good (Neutral)
Sphere(s): Courage, Humans, Personal combat, Bears
Sigil: A raven, superimposed on a greatsword
Preferred hues: Black and steel (silver)
Preferred weapon: Greatsword
Worshippers’ alignment: Any good
Domains: Animal, Domination, Force, Pact, Strength

The Lord of Fidelity
(Greater Servant)

The origins of Jurdish are humble. Like Miros and many of the other Servants, he was once mortal, one of the Kindred, a mere man. He served an early king of Esud, long before the birth of Chuadwaith, who later unified the empires of men; but the king that Jurdish served was petty and villainous, and used his power to oppress and brutalize the unfortunate souls who lived under his sway. Jurdish attempted to walk the fine line between loyalty to his sovereign and mercy to the weak, giving help to the downtrodden, and protesting to his king, but to no avail. At the end, the king condemned Jurdish for treason, and ordered him to stand trial by combat. Jurdish stood the trial, and defeated each of his former colleagues, one by one, until at last, bent and bloodied but still standing, no one stood between him and his former master. He challenged the king to personal combat, but the craven monarch ordered his archers to slay the victorious warrior. The hero fell on the field of battle, only to be borne away by the Boðvarrmær, the Battle Maidens of the Allfather, to stand and be judged before the High Seat.

Arrived at the Endless Hall of the Allfather, Jurdish, though astonished at his lot, was nonetheless appalled at the undisciplined revelry around him, as warriors fallen throughout the ages ate, drank, caroused and laughed, awaiting the next round in the eternal battle as the Anari fenced with the Uruqua in preparation for the Breaking of the World. Standing stiffly before the great chair, he asked what the Allfather willed of him.

I wish you to serve me, Esu replied, his (current) mistress Sîaf perched on one of his knees, and a vast horn clenched in one fist.

“You have many servants already, lord,” Jurdish said, looking askance at the hordes of drunken merry-makers crowding the benches and tables of the Endless Hall.

I have many warriors, the Allfather chided gently. Soldiers and generals, heroes from every age of the world have I brought to my board. They are the minions of battle, sworn to stand for me when blows and battle are called for. What I need is someone to stand for me when mercy and forebearance are sought.

“Forgive me, lord, but your name, while revered among men, is known for neither of those things,” Jurdish answered, his hand on the hilt of his sword, and a grim set to his mouth.

You could change that, if you choose to serve me, the Mikkelseggr replied.

And so Jurdish agreed to serve the Allfather. While he has no large following in Anuru, he is seen by men as the face of reason and mercy; and his priests, though they are not many, know that he stands at the side of the Allfather and whispers to him of patience, and forebearance, and justice for the downtrodden. When depicted in works of art, which is not often, Jurdish appears as a black-bearded man, bearing heavy armour and a longsword; and his shield bears his device, which is a brazen, full-faced helm, decorated with raven wings. The closed helm represents the defence of the weak, and the anonymity and impartiality of true justice.

Alignment: Lawful Good
Sphere(s): Fidelity and faithfulness, lords and rulers, Paladins
Sigil: A brazen greathelm, winged
Preferred hues: Bronze and black
Preferred weapon: Longsword
Worshippers’ alignment: Lawful Good
Domains: Competition, Glory, Good, Protection, War

The Lord of Fire
(Lesser Servant)

Perhaps the most unlikely of Esu’s servants, Tchudash, the Lord of Fire, was born a Minion of the Dark – a giant of fire of immense size and strength. A mighty warrior, he was called Tchudash the Mad by his allies, and served in the armies of Morga during the Wars of the Powers, wielding a great axe, and reaping his enemies like a farmer reaps new hay. Even his allies feared his prodigious rages, though; for more than once, in the blindness of battle, Tchudash had become confused, and had gone ravening among them, cleaving allies as often as enemies.

His battle madness proved to be his undoing. As is well known, after the creation of the Children by Braea, by guile Bardan stole from them the secret of the spoken word, and taught it to his minions. The first to learn it were the dragons and the giants. But with knowledge of the word came the understanding that even the Minions of Dark could freely choose their own destinies; and so began the Great Division, as half of the dragons, and half of the giants, decided to choose their own fates, and transferred their allegiance to the Light. Whole giant clans switched sides, and Tchudash’s clan, unbeknownst to him, was one of these. In putting down these rebellions, Morga gloried in forcing his Minions to prove their allegiance by setting brother against brother, and father against son; and so it was with Tchudash, who was ordered to lead an army against his own clan. He did so, all too willingly; but when the madness of battle lifted, he found that he had himself slain not only his mother, father and brothers, but also his young wife, and their two sons.

Tchudash returned to Morga’s lair, threw himself at his master’s feet, and begged for mercy; but Morga knew not the word, and declared that Tchudash’s family had received nothing more than the portion due traitors. In despair, Tchudash left Morga’s service, and sought long and hard for the Anari Vara, to beg her to return his wife and children to his side. He was found instead, freezing to death on a mountainside, by Esu himself. When the Allfather learned of Tchudash’s plight and understood the depths of his remorse, he went himself to the Long Halls and importuned Tvalt to release the spirits of the stricken giant’s wife and sons. Tvalt's skinless, eyeless face stretched in the rictus of a grin, and he invited Esu to take them; but the woman and her children were at peace, and had forgiven Tchudash; but fearing the return of his madness, they would not come. Esu returned to the mountainside with the sad news, and found that Tchudash had, in his absence, was nearly spent; and so Esu himself brought the fallen giant to the Endless Hall. His Servants were aghast; but Esu said simply, Here is one who is worthy to stand among you. And when Esu offered Tchudash the opportunity to serve the Light, battling the Minions of Darkness that had forced him to destroy his own people, the giant agreed whole-heartedly.

Tchudash has a small but powerful following, mostly centered in the outlying regions of Jarla, Kelva and Peshka; his cult appeals to berserkers, barbarians, fell druids and shamans, and the like. He is often depicted in a mode similar to Esu himself: as a giant of enormous proportions, clad only in a kilt and sandals, wielding a monstrous, flaming greataxe, and crowned by sun-yellow flames for hair, his dark skin burned white by the snows of the northlands. He also carries an ivory horn, bound with bands of brass, that summons storms and can be heard by whomever Tchudash intends to hear it, no matter where they may be. It is said that he will sound it one last time at the Breaking of the World, to summon all good beings to the side of the Great General for the final assault against the Powers of Dark.

True clerics of Tchudash are few and far between, but they gain a number of special powers. Like Barbarians, they gain the ability to Rage (once per day at 1st level, and one additional time per day for every five additional levels – 6th, 11th, 16th and 21st). They also cast fire spells at CL+2, and gain Damage Reduction (Fire) equal to their Cleric level. Finally, in addition to their Charisma bonus, they add half their cleric level to any Charisma-based checks made with respect to giants (e.g. Bluff, Diplomacy, Gather Information and Intimidate). They always carry a brassbound horn as their divine focus, and can blow it in place of Turn Undead attempts (bonus attempts from Extra Turning also count). This causes the equivalent of a Cause Fear spell of the Cleric’s level.

Alignment: Chaotic Good
Sphere(s): Rage, fire, battle, barbarians, good Giants
Sigil: A raven, entangled in knots, in a black circle, surrounded by flame
Preferred hues: Black, white and red
Preferred weapon: Greataxe
Worshippers’ alignment: Non-lawful, non-evil
Domains: Destruction, Fire, Glory, Madness


Ban Qoryllaq
Avatar of Battle, Lord of War

Little is known about Ban Qoryllaq; he is probably a former Minion of Light, elevated to the status of an Avatar by dint of excellence in leading the forces of the Anari during the Wars of the Powers. He has two aspects; one is that of a common human footman bearing a lance, the other of a massive, winged angel bearing a shining sword. While he has no cult per se, he is usually worshipped along with other members of Esu’s circle, especially when battle is in the offing. He is said to respond favourably to requests for tactical advice, particularly when human troops are outnumbered and badly in need of aid.

Alignment: Lawful Good (Neutral)
Sphere(s): Warfare, fighters, commanders, generalship
Sigil: A raven armed with a sword, scarlet, on a black-and-white checked shield
Preferred hues: Black, white and scarlet
Preferred weapon: Long, Bastard or Greatsword (or equivalent)
Worshippers’ alignment: Non-chaotic, non-evil
Domains: Competition, Domination, Glory, War

Olgar Olgarssen
Avatar of Rage, The Grey Slayer

Olgarssen was once one of the Blóðrekkr, the celestial warriors of Esu raised from the dead, who battle the forces of darkness by day, and crowd around the tables of the Endless Hall by night. In many ways he still resembled one of them, but he has grown beyond their ranks, and has become one of the lesser deities of the Allfather. Olgarssen is the patron of blood-fury, the insane battle rage that grips men from time to time, but most especially the fjord-raiders and seamen of Jarla, and the mountain and steppe barbarians of Kelva and Peshka. Such warriors often carry a token of Olgarssen, and those who do may enter the blood fury when wounded in battle (for every 10% of one’s starting hit points one takes in damage, the blood fury grants +1 on all attack and damage rolls, +1 on all fortitude saves, -1 on all reflex saves, and -2 on all skill checks other than Jump or Intimidate). It is said that those who earn Olgarssen’s favour may, in a hopeless battle, become infused with his indomitable spirit; and even though mortally wounded, will not fall until battle’s end.

According to legends, Olgarssen is the beloved of Brynhilde, the White Captain of the Boðvarrmær, the Battle Maidens of Esu. Olgarssen appears for all intents and purposes to be a warrior of Jarla, man-sized and with braided blond hair and beard, clad in a figured breastplate, and bearing sword, battleaxe and shield.

Alignment: Chaotic Neutral (Good)
Sphere(s): Rage, barbarians, berserkers
Sigil: A fist clutching crossed lightning bolts, white, on a black shield
Preferred hues: Black and white
Preferred weapon: Longsword or battleaxe
Worshippers’ alignment: Non-lawful, non-evil
Domains: Chaos, Glory, Pact, War


Unlike the other Anari, Esu has two very specialized classes of minions: the Bợðvarrmær, also called the Battle Maidens; and the Blóðrekkr, the Blood Warriors.

The Boðvarrmær

The Battle Maidens are Minions of the Light who serve Esu as his messengers, scouts and envoys upon Anuru. They are routinely tasked to watch over men, and especially their wars and combats, and to report back to Esu with word of particularly courageous and heroic deeds. On very rare occasions, with Esu’s blessing and approval, they will appropriate the body of a slain hero and deliver him to the Endless Hall, where he will be judged; and if found sufficiently courageous, Esu may breathe life back into him, and keep him at the tables of the Endless Hall until the final battle at the Breaking of the World. A select few of such warriors are even sent back to Anuru as a special envoy of the Allfather, to aid men in their wars with the forces of Darkness.

According to legend, Karg, the Mistress of Bears, is attended at all times by five Battle Maidens of especial beauty and skill; while Olgar Olgarssen, the Avatar of Rage, is said to be the beloved of Brynhilde, the White Captain of the Maidens, whose name means “Armoured for Battle”.

Save for their hard-feathered white wings and pale azure aura, the Battle Maidens appear identical to large, muscular and coldly beautiful human females. Although they appear to wear armour (chain and breastplates are most common, although full plate armour is not unknown), this is actually an extension of their mystical being rather than an artificial protection, and as such they are never without its protection. The same is true of their +4 Holy Longswords; these disappear when dropped and reappear when the Maiden snaps her fingers (in contrast to their +4 spears, which they always carry, and which transform into a shimmering bolt of lightning when hurled). The Battle Maidens are fearless warriors, hurling themselves into battle with bloodcurdling shrieks; more than five Maidens shrieking together have the effect of a Cause Fear spell of Caster Level equal to the HD of the strongest Maiden among them. The Battle Maidens never retreat in the face of evil; their credo is to die before surrendering to darkness.

Battle Maidens always bear a symbol of their master or mistress somewhere on their person, usually in the form of a large, intricate but monochromatic tattoo on their left thigh, upper arm or breast. Due to their boisterous, impetuous and highly competitive natures, the Battle Maidens of different masters often get into arguments and even fights. Although capable of adopting human guise, they are unable to disguise their beauty, their strength or their tattoos (which can only be concealed by clothing); and they know that their special status depends on their remaining pure in body. Legend has it that if a Battle Maiden falls in love with a mortal, the brazen doors of the Endless Hall will be riven from their hinges, and the King of the Giants will enter in, and cast the Allfather down, and rule the world of men from the High Seat of the Mikkelseggr.

The Blóðrekkr

Death in battle is not always the end – at least, not for warriors who revere the Allfather and his Servants. The bravest of the brave who fall among the slain are on occasion carried away by the Battle Maidens, and borne beyond the Dome of the Firmament, awaking bloodied but hale and whole before the High Seat of the Allfather. If they are judged worthy, they will join the ranks of the Blóðrekkr – the Blood Warriors of the Great General. Most of those so chosen will remain at the Allfather’s table, awaiting the Last Horncall of Tchudash at the Breaking of the World, when they will storm the Gates of Bardan; but the wisest and the mightiest are often sent back to Anuru as envoys of the Allfather, to work his will on Earth. Occasionally they will mingle with mortals to influence matters in a direction desired by the Allfather and his Servants.

No being below 5 HD is ever selected to be a Blood Warrior. Upon selection, the being automatically gains 5 HD and all of the attributes of one of the Blóðrekkr. Higher level beings have concomitantly more hit dice; some of the Blood Warriors are powerful indeed, mighty warriors on Earth, who fell and were reborn at 15-20 HD or more.

The Endless Hall, as its name suggests, is infinite in size, but at any one time, it will contain no less than 1,000 Blood Warriors, carousing, drinking, wenching and even fighting. It is said that Karg maintains a regiment of 666 Blood Warriors ready for battle at all times, and that she bloods them by letting them fight on Earth and across the Lower Planes. Tchudash is also reputed to be attended by a personal retinue composed of nine Blood Warriors of 20 HD or more.

Blood Warriors bear the armour and weapons they did in life; all of their possessions are repaired nightly and imbued with the Allfather’s power, rising 1 level in potency (normal becomes MW, MW becomes +1, +1 becomes +2, etc). Normal power limits do not affect this transformation; a warrior who meets Esu with a +5 sword will wield a +6 sword as a Blood Warrior. The additional power only holds while the owner of the weapon bears it.

Blood Warriors look and act much as they did in life, except that in the dark, their hair and eyes exude a soft blue radiance that cannot be damped down or extinguished. They often have a great, even wild, love for life; and because they are celestials rather than mortals, tend to compete for the notice and charms of the Battle Maidens, with whom they can carouse without the former incurring the penalties for carnal knowledge of a mortal (and also without fear of quickening). There have been reports of Blood Warriors becoming excessively familiar with mortal women, but it is not known whether any half-celestial children have resulted of such unions. "How" would be an interesting question, as the Blood Warriors are technically dead. For this reason, although it may seem somewhat unfair, there are no penalties or world-shattering catastrophes associated with fraternization between Blood Warriors and mortals.

There is no limit on the potential number of Blood Warriors, and Esu and his Servants have been collecting them for thousands of years in preparation for the Breaking of the World. Nine out of ten of them are 10 HD; one in twenty is 11-15 HD; three in a hundred are 16-19 HD; one in a hundred has 20-24 HD; and less than one in a hundred has 25 HD or more. Captains of the Blood Warriors tend to be selected from the strongest and most capable; and the War Leaders of the Blood Warriors (i.e., their generals) are fearsome indeed.