Herewith the next instalment in our ongoing look at the Powers of Dark. Today we look at Ekhalra, the Queen of the World, and the only one of the Powers to be seen within Anuru for more than three thousand years; Breacha, one of her Greater Servants, and the minister of justice and punishment on Ekhalra's behalf; and Chamhain, the terrible offspring of the union, long ago, between a Fire Giant and an Ancient Red Wyrm, raised to immortality by his master, Morga the Destroyer.
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“The Death-Bringers of the Queen”
(Greater Servant of Ekhalra)
The Grim Judge, The Right Hand of the Queen, The Death-Bringer
Eldest and greatest of Ekhalra’s servants, Breacha maintains the Queen’s Law throughout the earthly realms of Anuru. In the long ages before the Falling of the Dome, Breacha had played a lesser role, as Ekhalra’s envoy and herald; but when Ekhalra assumed supreme authority after the departure of the Powers, she needed a viceroy, a Servant of unsurpassed loyalty and iron discipline to enforce the Queen’s will. Breacha fit that role perfectly. An implacable servant of the law, she believes in maintaining discipline, order and obedience at all costs, without reference to such trifling considerations as good or evil. If one of her clerics heals a peasant, it is because sick peasants make poor servants; and if she smites down a demon prince, it is probably because he challenged the Queen’s authority. Breacha cares only for the stability of the Queen’s earthly realm, and drives her own servants to maintain that stability at any price.
This stance makes Ekhalra the preferred deity for all who believe in justice uncontaminated by favoritism, whim or mercy. Harsh judges, stern constables, and the strictest and most unbending of priests serve her gladly. Her clerics make excellent judges of character, gaining Intimidate and Sense Motive as class skills, and adding their level to all skill checks. They can also Detect Chaos once per day per level; cast Zone of Truth once per day per three levels; and Smite Chaos once per day, adding their level to their damage roll. Interestingly, Breacha does not accept either Maladins or Paladins; their Good/Evil focus offends her sense of balance.
Breacha does not have a church per se; rather, her clerics serve as roaming inquisitors, ferreting out those who would challenge the Queen. In times long past, they were often be found as the second-in-command at the great temples to Ekhalra; but now that her mistress' worship has all but vanished, Breacha's acolytes simply work on a free-lance basis, trying against all hope and reason to bring Ekhalra's errant children back to the fold.
Alignment: Lawful Evil
Sphere(s): Law, Punishment, judges, executioners
Sigil: Cloaked skeleton bearing a scythe
Preferred hues: Black, grey
Preferred weapon: Scythe
Worshippers’ alignment: Any Lawful
Domains: Community, Death, Domination, Inquisition, Law
Church: None (subordinate to the Keepers of the Queen)
“The Might of Flame”
(Lesser Servant of Morga)
The Burning Fury, The Lord of Fire
While Gargarik is acknowledged by most of the evil Giant races as their overall Lord and Master, the Fire Giants revere one of their own: Chamhain, the Lord of Fire. Born in the dark years before the beginning of the Age of Wisdom, Chamhain was one of the first true half-breeds in the world, the son of the King of the Fire Giants, and a Great Red Wyrm who had taken giant form to fight alongside them. As a result, Chamhain inherited the characteristics of both races: immune to fire, mighty in the sorcery of flame, and gigantic and strong beyond belief, he is a true abomination, with an all-consuming lust for destruction – and for these qualities, Morga gleefully accepted Chamhain as one of his lesser Servants. While he offers grudging respect to Gargarik (mostly out of fear), he lives in constant warfare with Sylgur and Mælgorm, who – despite their different overlords – have more than once joined forces to disrupt Chamhain’s designs.
Apart from the most evil and destructive of warriors and barbarians, Chamhain has no followers among the Kindred Races, although he has numerous Clerics and Shamans among the various Fire Giant kingdoms and communities. Other fire creatures – especially Azers and Magmen – have been known to worship him as well. Temples to Chamhain are invariably located in places of natural heat: volcanoes, lava pits, geysers, and so forth, and they may never be improved by artificial stonework. Sacrifices are made by incinerating living creatures – preferably Kindred or other Giants, especially Frost Giants, and Cold-dwelling creatures.
Clerics of Chamain gain DR(Fire) 10 at 1st level, and this goes up by 5 points every 5 levels (DR 15 at 10th level, etc.). They can Produce Flame once per day per level, and are able to Detect Fire or Fire Creatures (as a Druid Detects Animals) once per day, with the effective range doubled for Fire-based outsiders.
Alignment:: Lawful Evil
Sphere(s): Fire, Giants, Warriors
Sigil: Sword entwined in black flames, on a red shield
Preferred hues: Black and scarlet
Preferred weapon: Greatsword (flaming)
Worshippers’ alignment: Any evil
Domains: Destruction, Fire, Strength, War
Church: Minor (none among the Kindred)
“The Queen of the World”
(Power of Dark)
The Witherer, Mistress of Decay, Mistress of the Bringers of Death, Queen of the World
Ekhalra The Witherer may be the best-known of all the Powers, Light or Dark, if for nor other reason than that she is the only one that has walked the Earth since the Dome of the Firmament was created more than three thousand years ago. The tale of Ekhalra’s long reign upon Anuru is well known; at the Falling of the Dome, the Powers agreed to depart, lest their incalculable might destroy the very thing over which they were struggling. But because Tîan was still pinioned to a high stone peak by her own sword, which none could remove, in order to retain the balance of the Universe, one of the Uruqua had to remain behind. Ekhalra was chosen, and was given countless servants and great masses of wealth; and she built an impregnable fastness in a far northern land, whence she would sit upon a throne of adamant, the Queen of the World.
Alas for her, this bounty did not last. The slaves gifted her by her brothers and sisters, being who and what they were, did not remain long at her side, but fled her grasp shortly after the Falling of the Dome, and vanished into the empty vastness of Anuru, which lay shrouded under the Eon of Darkness. These creatures reverted to their old ways and their old worship, and spread throughout the Heavens and the Earth, to plague the Kindred. Ekhalra found her powers limited by the Dome, and could not seek out the disobedient and obliterate them by herself, or at least not easily; and so she sent her Servants, and Avatars, and Minions out into the wider world, with two goals: first, to punish the Servants, and Avatars, and Minions of her deceitful siblings; and second, to spread word of Ekhalra’s glory, and power, and unending reign throughout the world – especially unto to the most numerous of its inhabitants, the Kindred.
Despite the treason of her sibling’s followers, Ekhalra retained many of her own minions, and soon they had constructed a new religion – that of the Keepers of the Queen, a hierarchy dedicated solely to maintaining the worship of Ekhalra as the sole true faith upon Anuru, and buttressing her rule as the ultimate power and authority within the Dome. In truth, this task had not been a difficult one; the Departure of the Powers had left a vast gulf of faith throughout the world, and their absence for more than a thousand years (until the return of their Servants and Avatars at the end of the Eon of Darkness, the beginning of the Age of Discovery) left an empty gap that was easy to exploit. The only thing hampering the rapid spread of the faith was the strict harshness of Ekhalra’s clerics, who demanded absolute, unquestioning obedience, as well as monetary, arcane and even living tribute. For centuries, Ekhalra’s clerics were empowered to take promising youths to serve as clerics, soldiers or slaves of Ekhalra and her minions, although this practice has all but disappeared in modern times, now that her worship has been largely supplanted by gentler deities.
The return to Anuru of the Servants and Avatars of the Powers – especially of the Anari – took Ekhalra completely by surprise. She had been unaware of the pact between Bræa and Bardan that led to the creation of the River of Stars (aka the Astral Plane) as a bridge across the Dome, and was bitterly disappointed to learn that only the Powers themselves were forever barred from navigating it. Ekhalra had grown complacent in her queenship over more than a millennium, and her hierarchy had grown fat and comfortable in their ravages of the mortal realms. The returning Servants and Avatars of Light brought with them the peace and strength of the Anari, and the Kindred flocked in droves back to the worship of their ancient Powers. Ekhalra’s rage at this betrayal was terrible, but it was too late; her worshippers abandoned her, and in less than a century, her temples were in ruins, her priests but a scattered handful of fanatics, and all knowledge of her potency and power had all but vanished from the Kindred realms.
The only vestiges of her worship are scattered groups of followers in evil (especially human) lands, or among the Speaking Monsters; but the Kindred realms are still littered with broken temples, and the omnipresent Shrines of the Queen in every city, town and village. These are no longer kept up; but simple folk still drop coins or a prayer from time to time, out of old custom, ignorant of the terror and fear that the worship of the Queen of the World once represented.
Ekhalra, of course, is not gone; she cannot cross the Dome, and so cannot leave Anuru until the Breaking of the World. It is said that she has gone bitterly insane over the long years, abandoned by most of her followers; and that she remains in her distant fastness, served only by the mightiest of monsters, plotting her revenge on the ungrateful wretches who abandoned her.
Because their deity abides on Earth, Clerics of Ekhalra have a more tangible link to her power. They cast all spells at CL+1 and gain the Augment Summoning feat at 1st level.
Alignment:: Neutral Evil
Sphere(s): Heaven and Earth, rulership, order
Sigil: A grey skull on a gold star over a blood-red sphere representing Anuru)
Preferred hues: Blood and gold
Preferred weapon: Mace
Worshippers’ alignment: Any non-good
Domains: Community, Domination, Evil, Inquisition, Law, Summoner
Church: Once major, now virtually non-existent; some maladins