23 September 2007
The Anari (VI): The Tricksters
Time again for another instalment in our ongoing coverage of the swarming throng of deities, demigods and assorted what-nots that is the pantheon of Anuru. Today we look at Nosa, third of the Four Brothers, the patron and guardian of the Holbytlan, and of all who tend to find their fingers in other peoples’ pockets, and his various Servants and Avatars.
As always, the “Church” notation indicates whether the deity in question has a major organized following (a widespread church, with temples, cathedrals and a large, organized hierarchy), a minor organized following (a smaller church, with scattered temples and a sparse clergy), or no organized following (a few clerics, paladins, druids, rangers and other diverse worshippers).
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The Quick, The Grand Guide, The Trickster
Lord of Halflings
Small, clever, and cunning, Nosa is the third of the Four Brothers of the Anari. A congenital ne’er-do-well, he is called, amongst other, less-flattering names, “The Trickster” for his habit of making mock of the seriousness and gravity of his siblings. He is the swiftest of the Anari, and is able to move silent and unseen wherever he will, unnoticed even by those keeping watch for him. Despite his inherent flightiness, however, he is an implacable enemy of the Uruqua; he merely fights them through stealth and cleverness, rather than brute force. No one is really certain what he looks like; his powers of disguise are so potent that, it is said, he never appears in the same guise to the same person twice. In historical art, however, he is generally depicted as a red-cheeked Halfling, with long sideburns, and dancing eyes.
Because of these traits, Nosa was accorded lordship over the Holbytlan, the Halflings, after the darkening of Bræa – at least, insofar as Halflings can be said to acknowledge any lord. They are perfectly suited to each other, however, as Nosa has himself little interest in suzerainty over Kindred or Beast; he prefers to exercise his influence through personal action rather than by manipulating others to do his will. For this reason, there is no organized following that harks to his word, and very few priests who wield his might; he is more likely to be worshipped and invoked by rangers, clerics of the cities, and miscellaneous other individuals who prize freedom from responsibility, individuality, and cunning above all other traits.
One of Nosa’s traits is highly useful to his followers: the ability to always know where one is. Clerics of Nosa gain the Blindfight feat, and have both “Balance” and “Intuit Direction” as class skills, adding their cleric level to checks in these skills.
Alignment: Neutral Good
Sphere(s): Rogues, Bards, Monks, Archers, Acrobats, Trickery
Sigil: A torch, black and red, over a stooping eagle, white; together on an inverted plinth of emerald marble
Preferred hues: greens
Preferred weapon: sling
Worshippers’ alignment: Any non-Evil
Domains: Celerity, Community, Good, Luck, Protection, Trickery
Myran, Mistress of Chaos
Myran’s origins are obscure. While she was almost certainly created out of the baser stuff of the Universe along with all of the other Minions during the War of the Powers, her creation from the chaotic flux of space and time was incomplete; and, as such, she has no fixed shape or form, appearing in the form of a cloud of light, a stone, a dragon, or one of the Kindred, depending upon her whim of the moment. She seems to take two forms preferentially, however: that of a great, black panther, or a woman of the Hiarsk, bearing a harp. Her music upon that harp is said to make forms formless, unravelling the solidity of shape into the flux of shapelessness – a terrible power, that even the mightiest of the Uruqua respect and fear.
Myran has no church; her very being is the antithesis of the order upon which a formal religious hierarchy is founded. Her followers mirror her chaotic nature, acting as will or whimsy dictate, bearing in the general direction of good – but only just barely. Their principal driving urge seems to be fulfilling an insatiable wanderlust. A true acolyte of Myran will only rarely remain with the same group of adventurers for more than an encounter or two, unless he or she is pursuing a coincident goal. Even then, maybe not; clerics, rangers and bards of Myran exemplify “Adventure Attention Deficit Disorder”.
This tendency makes true believers in Myran inherently unpredictable. Clerics of Myran automatically gain the Evasion extraordinary ability, as a rogue, and Improved Evasion at 7th level. They also gain “Bluff” as a class skill, and add their cleric level to all Bluff checks.
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral (Good)
Sphere(s): Bards, Rogues, Felines, Chaos
Sigil: Head of a roaring panther, black, over a winged harp; together on a shield, barry gris
Preferred hues: black, grey, green
Preferred weapon: Claws
Worshippers’ alignment: Any non-lawful, non-evil
Domains: Celerity, Chaos, Knowledge, Magic, Trickery
Khallohaim, The Fleet One
Khallohaim is rarely worshipped, although he is venerated by all who revere fleetness of foot. Originally one of the Minions of Light, Khallohaim, mimicking his master’s trickery, once besought a favour from the Uruqua, Zaman, mighty in magic. He begged her to make him fleet of foot, in exchange for his wings. She agreed to warp the flux and make it so; but thinking to give him short shrift, she cast her spell to ensure that he was only as fleet a-foot as he was in flight. When the spell was complete, she told him of her treachery, laughing; whereupon Khallohaim merely smiled, and agreed to her terms. He then soared into the highest heights of heaven, folded his wings, and plummeted to earth – and during that epic fall, reached such an unthinkable speed that the Powers were struck dumb. At the end of the test, Khallohaim held Zaman to her word, surrendering his wings; and, seething, Zaman was forced to grant him such fleetness of foot that no Beast, Monster, Minion or Power could catch him – and most could not even see him in passing.
Khallohaim is usually pictured as a slender, blonde-haired Son of Esu, wearing a gilded breastplate and a scarlet cloak, and bearing a long sword with a winged crossguard. It is said that he can hurl this sword at any target on the same plane, and it will strike unerringly, acting as a Slaying weapon against whatever it hits. Khallohaim has no formal following and no temples, although it is not uncommon – at least in Human and Elven lands – to find shrines in his honour at places where athletic contests are held. Clerics of Khallohaim, who are few and far between, gain the Run feat at 1st level, and Endurance at 5th level.
Alignment: Neutral Good
Sphere(s): Horses, Athletes, Monks, Fighters, Speed
Sigil: A grey eagle, hovering; on an Elven Star, scarlet and black
Preferred hues: grey, red and black
Preferred weapon: Longsword
Worshippers’ alignment: Any Good
Domains: Animal, Celerity, Strength, Travel
Cham, Lady of Stealth
Cham’s appearance, in art and in the manu in which she chooses to appear when in Anuru, are so similar to Nosa’s that some theologians believe that she is nothing more than his female alter-ego. She is, however, a separate being, and is nowhere near as ancient, in fact, as her colleagues or her master. Cham was once a woman of the Nosadi, of the people called the Halpinya, the forefathers of the Halflings, who lived at the time of the Great War of Anuru, that ended the Ancient World and ushered in the Eon of Darkness.
As all students of history know, Bardan launched this final war only after building up a mighty army wherein his minions and monsters were reinforced by new blood: the Speaking Monsters, created from the ruined bodies and warped souls of members of the Kindred, captured and rent into new and hideous forms in dark pits beneath the world. From Men Bardan created the Ogres; from Elves, the Orcs; from Dwarves, the Goblins; and from Halflings, the Gnomes. But as has been elsewhere told, alone of all the Kindred, the spirit of the Halpinya was pure and unquenchable, and the Gnomes – created from this incorruptible matter – it were not to be turned to evil, and rebelled against their creator. And for this crime, they were imprisoned in the deep places of the earth, to labour for all time as the bond-slaves of the Uruqua.
Cham was one of those who, listening at the councils of the mighty, discovered this secret; and while Elves and Dwarves and Men pondered how they might wield the forces of the arcane, the divine, and the sword to free the Gnomes from their cruel bondage, Cham gathered her folk, and sought out Bardan’s fastness. By stealth, they mounted his walls, and penetrated the mystical barriers he had created to keep out the mightier of the Kindred; for in truth, Bardan had never considered the Halflings to be of much worth, but held them in contempt. This proved to be his undoing; for at length, Cham and her comrades found the deepest dungeons where dwelt the Gnomes in durance vile, and freed them; and led them to the Light. And at the last march, when they were discovered in their flight, and the minions of Bardan gave chase, Cham remained behind to delay the enemy and ensure her comrades’ escape; and so was slain. But for her, as it has been for many of the other Servants and Avatars and Minions of Light, death was not the end; Nosa raised her up and set her at his left hand. And while she chafes under his direction, ignoring the will of her would-be masters among the immortals as she did in life, she remains the focus of admiration and reverence for all among the Kindred who value the quick mind, and the silent step, and the hidden thrust from the shadows.
Priests of Cham are rare, turning up only in urban areas where they serve as a focus of divine might for communities of those who live by stealth and deception. Such priests have Bluff as a class skill, and add their level to skill checks in this area. They gain the Stealthy feat at first level. They also gain the Sneak Attack ability at first level, rising by 1d6 damage ever three levels thereafter (2d6 at 4th level, 3d6 at 7th level, 4d6 at 10th level, etc.).
Alignment: Neutral (Good)
Sphere(s): Rogues, Cutpurses, Monks, Stealth
Sigil: Nosa’s torch (scarlet and black) over a crescent moon, black, recumbent
Preferred hues: Any dark
Preferred weapon: dagger
Worshippers’ alignment: Any non-Lawful, non-Evil
Domains: Luck, Mind, Protection, Trickery
Yondalla, Mistress of the Holbytlan
Avatar of Hearth and Home
Yondalla is the avatar that represents all that is good and admirable about the Halflings: their sense of community, their love of making things, their respect for natural life, and their instinct to rally together in the face of danger. In this sense, she represents an ideal to which the Holbytlan aspire, but which – due to their essentially chaotic and free-spirited nature – they do not always achieve. Her origin is unknown, but she is probably one of the Minions of Light created during the Age of the Making. While she probably did not take up her present duties until some time after the Children of Bræa were created, it is known that she stood for the Halflings long before Bræa’s fall, and the transfer of the Nosadi to the care of her master.
Yondalla’s aspect is that of an elderly Halfling woman, wearing a long travelling cloak and bearing a staff, and her priests tend to dress likewise. The avoid rather than seek combat, engaging in battle only when all peaceful options have been exhausted. To this end they tend to be excellent problem-solvers, gaining the Negotiator feat at first level, and adding their cleric level to all Diplomacy checks. They also gain the Subduing Strike feat at first level, enabling them to do subdual rather than lethal damage without penalty, with any weapon with which they are proficient. Clerics of Yondalla invariably prefer to take prisoners, aiming to turn malefactors over to the secular authorities for judgement, rather than executing judgement themselves. The worship of Yondalla is perhaps the most widespread of all non-Human religions in Erutrei; even Halflings who worship another deity usually have a small shrine or image of Yondalla somewhere in their dwelling, invoking her blessing on the wellbeing of hearth and home. Any such image – whether an icon, a carving, a painting, a holy symbol, or whatever – will, if it has been Blessed by a Priest of Yondalla, confer the equivalent of a Resistance spell (+1 on all saving throws) upon all of the residents of any permanent dwelling in which it is placed.
Alignment: Lawful Good
Sphere(s): Halflings, safe and happy homes, skill, bounty
Sigil: Nosa’s torch (scarlet and black) beside a cornucopia, on a wheat-coloured shield
Preferred hues: Earth tones
Preferred weapon: Staff
Worshippers’ alignment: Any Good
Domains: Community, Creation, Healing, Protection
Eolwine, The Silent Stalker
Avatar of Stealth
Eolwine is little known among the Kindred, except among those who live by stealth and by striking from the shadows. Even more unpredictable than Nosa or Cham, she is a focus of admiration who live by the demands of their own code, and change that code to suit their fancy or as the situation dictates. She is often depicted, oddly enough, as a woman of the Esudi, slender and of medium height, with dark hair, and with her features always hidden by a hood. She tends to be revered by those who stalk their prey, whether hunters, thieves, confidence men who fleece their targets, or assassins. Because she is one of the Minions of Light, she tends to favour those who use their skills against evil targets, and reserves her highest grace for acolytes who defeat others more powerful than themselves – such victories representing the acme of skill.
Priests of Eolwine are exceedingly rare, although they do crop up, from time to time, in the same sorts of places where clerics of Cham may be found. A Priest of Eolwine gains the Deceitful feat at first level, and has Decipher Script, Disguise, Forgery and Sleight of Hand as class skills. She adds her class level to Disguise and Sleight of Hand skill checks. Finally, beginning at first level, a cleric of Eolwine can cast Disguise Self once per day per three levels; and beginning at 3rd level, can cast Alter Self once per day per three levels.
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral (Good)
Sphere(s): Thieves, confidence men, spies, non-evil assassins, stalking, hunting
Sigil: A bloody dagger over a finely-dressed noblewoman, on a plinth, grey
Preferred hues: burgundy, scarlet, black
Preferred weapon: dagger
Worshippers’ alignment: Any non-Lawful
Domains: Celerity, Death, Madness, Trickery
Palchriss, the Martyr
Avatar of the Hoof
What little is known about Palchriss is the stuff of legends and ancient artwork. One of the Minions of Light, he was the patron of Centaurs, taking the shape of one of their own, a mighty and indomitable warrior, sworn to the Light. In the Age of Wisdom, Palchriss was revered not only by the Centaurs, but also by all four-footed creatures, and was taken by Nosa as one of his avatars for his fleetness.
Palchriss played a small but important part in the history of the Elves. When Bræa wed Cîarloth of Harad at the dawn of the Age of Wisdom, and he became the High King of all the Elves, he refused a crown of gold or silver or mithril, and instead begged that he be permitted to wear a simple circlet representing the life of the world. Palchriss, wise in the ways of the woodlands, fashioned a pair of living diadems from the green branches and leaves of the forest, and presented them to Bræa and Cîarloth on bended knee; and it is for this reason that he is most often depicted supporting a crown in one upstretched hand; and that the High King and Queen of Elvehelm wear no gold or jewels upon their brow, but only the living limbs of the forest.
Palchriss is called “The Martyred” because he fell in long ages past, true to the service of the Light. According to legend, Vilyacarkin, one of the Greater Servants of Zaman, thought to overturn the allegiance of the Centaurs to the light by appealing to the chaos in their natures, drawing them towards evil. Palchriss learned of her schemes only when she had already seduced many tribes to her worship, and sought to interfere, opposing her intentions. He succeeded, but only at the cost of attracting her eternal enmity. This led to his doom; for, during the brief reign of Bîardath, the Ill-Born, when the light of Harad was suppressed and evil things flourished and spread across the Earth, Vilyacarkin caught Palchriss alone and unattended in a remote river vale, and with the aid of the Wolves of Mordakris, overwhelmed and slew him. And because this was before the Forging of the Dome, it was not his manu but his immortal and imperishable body and spirit that were slain; and thus Palchriss was cast forever from Anuru, returning in spirit to Ana, and no more was heard of him, or his mighty hoofbeats. Yet still he is remembered and revered by Centaurs and Elves alike, and his image and memory are recalled from time to time in works of art, and the writings of history.
As a deceased deity, Palchriss has no clergy, although there are many who revere him.
Alignment: Chaotic Good
Sphere(s): Centaurs, horses, fleet-footed creatures
Sigil: A centaur on a sky-blue field, supporting a crown
Preferred hues: sky-blue
Preferred weapon: spear
Worshippers’ alignment: any Good