20 October 2007

The Uruqua IV

Avieccleasiae, aka The Bird Cult
(Lesser Servant of Bardan)

The Far-Sighted, Lady of Raptors

Of all the great faiths of Anuru, perhaps the most difficult one to explain is the one known as the Avieccleasiae; in the Traveling Tongue, the Bird Cult, or the Assassins of the Bird Goddess. Worship focuses around Korkrynn, one of the Lesser Servants of Bardan, a legendary individual who once served Bræa as one of the most powerful of the Minions of Light. Korkrynn, it is said, was the twin sister of Soryllea, and the two had been inseparable; but when Bræa appointed Soryllea Avatar of Winds, Korkrynn’s jealous anger came to the fore, and she repudiated the Light forever, and transferred her allegiance to the Uruqua. Bardan gave Korkrynn dominion of the skies and the raptors under his watchful eye, and (as is the way of evil) set her in opposition to her kin and her former allies. It is not known whether Korkrynn was entirely mad before this appointment; but if not, then the long ages warring against her one-time mistress and her own sister have made her so.

The Bird Cult rivals the Fist of Darkness as one of the most widespread faiths of Anuru; this is of course as Bardan wants it, seeing as how he himself lends his power, through Korkrynn, to the Cult’s works. Where the Fist enforces discipline and obedience, however, the Cult advocates and rewards unthinking, mindless savagery. Korkrynn’s disciples reject permanent places of worship, instead gathering in remote, often mountainous, locations for insane revels, and then dispersing again, often for months. Clerics obey no fixed hierarchy, preferring to settle questions of precedence by duelling – sometimes with spells, but more often with simple weapons and without defences.

While Korkrynn sponsors no Paladins, her Talons fulfill an analogous purpose. These are Barbarians who gain limited profane powers: at third level, and every 3 levels thereafter, a Talon gains one level of spell-casting ability as an Adept (but none of their other powers); their role is to guard the Cult and its members, and to seek out and destroy those who would spread the worship of Bræa, or any of the other Anari. Fortunately, the Talons are not numerous.

True Clerics of Korkrynn, by contrast, gain a number of special powers. They are able to summon a Familiar as a sorcerer of their level (which must be a carrion bird or bird of prey), and they are able to use their nails as natural weapons (treat as Armed). They have twice the normal visual range for their race, and gain Low Light Vision at 3rd level; Darkvision 60’ at 6th level; and Darkvision 120’ at 9th level.

Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Sphere(s): Air, raptors, carrion birds, storms

Sigil: Stylized yellow-eyed, bloody crow with sword on a blue field
Preferred hues: Blood and sky-blue
Preferred weapon: Any med+ sword
Worshippers’ alignment: Any evil
Domains: Air, Chaos, Madness, Weather
Church: Major

Lyra Kyllona
“Que buono me?”
(Greater Servant of Kær)

The Dark Songstress, Lady of the Pipes

Bards, it is said, consider danger a spice, and so it is not surprising that many of them – even those who are nominally good – revere Lyra Kyllona, the Dark Songstress. The reason for this is simple: while Myran may represent artists and performers among the Anari, she is too fundamentally chaotic to attract the worship of individuals for whom at least a measure of discipline is necessary. Myran’s mastery comes from her divine power; but mortals who aspire to tempt the soul and ensnare the senses with their art must struggle for long years to perfect their skills. Lyra Kyllona is the patron of all who make sacrifices for their art – and who, therefore, have the right to profit from those sacrifices, earning a decent wage for the gifts they give to lesser beings, and a little more besides.

This philosophy is explained in part by Lyra Kyllona’s origins. Once a woman of the Hiarsk (a fact recognizable by her flame-red hair and bright green eyes) who lived during the middle years of the Age of Wisdom, Lyra was a performer who sought only to share her art with the world. She traveled from city to town and back again, wandering between empire and wasteland, demonstrating her mastery of lute, horn, pipe and the dance to any who would pay heed, and demanding nothing in return. When she was waylaid and slain, therefore, there was no profit to be had from her body, and her murderers fled empty-handed.

Skill such as hers had been, however, can never be allowed to vanish from the world; and so she was sought out in the Long Halls by Kær the Thief, one of the Powers of Dark, who offered her immortality and a place among the Uruqua. Bitter and disenchanted, Lyra replied, "Que buono me?" Kær offered her recompense for renown, and the foremost place among the enchanters of Anuru – the chance to accept the praise, renown and reward that had been her due. Lyra accepted the offer; and since that time, Que buono me has been the motto of all who worship her. Art is to be sought and perfected for its own sake; but all things have a price, even art, and that price must be proportional to the value of the thing that is purchased. Lyra’s followers have a good sense of the value of their art.

Her church is small, but widespread and diverse. Lyra’s clerics are few, but potent; they gain Perform as a class skill, and add their level to all checks. They also gain Bluff and Intimidate. All must be proficient in singing, poetry, epic tales and at least one musical instrument. Lyra’s clerics also cast all Enchantment spells at CL+1.

Alignment: Neutral Evil
Sphere(s): Music, Art, Performance

Sigil: A lute and laurel wreath on a gold field
Preferred hues: Black and gold
Preferred weapon: Rapier
Worshippers’ alignment: Any non-lawful
Domains: Community, Dream, Glory, Luck, Mysticism
Church: Minor

“The Kaldtmordr
The Avatar of Winter (Bardan)

Despite his relative unimportance compared to some of his kin and comrades, Mælgorm is one of the best-known of the Uruqua by virtue of one single fact: he is the first of the Uruqua to be mentioned in the Tarinas Valtakirjas – the Book of the Powers, the tome of ancient poesie, inscribed in Draconic, that was brought to Elvehelm by the Three Golden Guardians at the end of the Eon of Darkness. The earliest tales in the Tarinas concern the birth of Eldukaris, the first of the Heroes of Men, and his search for Csæleyan, who had been kidnapped by the "King of Winter". It is not known whether the tale is strictly true, or whether it was simply a poetic analogy for the cycle of the seasons (winter overcoming summer, summer being delivered from the grasp of winter, et cetera). What is known for certain, though, is that Mælgorm exists, and that he is mighty.

The tale of the struggles between Bardan and Morga for overlordship of the Giants has been elsewhere told. Bardan made Gargarik one of his Greater Servants, and Morga raised Chamhain and Sylgur to prominence, to serve (respectively) as the Lords of the Fire and Frost giants. Bardan responded to the investiture of Sylgur by selecting Mælgorm from among the most powerful and capable of the Pit Fiends, and infusing him with the cold emptiness of the Void. Mælgorm thus was transformed, becoming a hideous being of ice, hating the cold even as he mastered it, and exercising lordship over winter and all of the beings that revel in the frosts. Mastery he was given over earth as well, and he became Bardan’s viceroy for the mountains; but in this role he has never dared to challenge Khallach, who in this realm is mightier far than he.

To increase his potency, Bardan gave Mælgorm a trident forged of pure white ice, Isgaffl, which freezes solid any corporeal being it touches, and with which he can bring savage winter storms into being in a trice. His only weaknesses are his lust for the green, growing things that are denied him by his new estate (for nothing green can grow within a mile of Mælgorm, nor can he approach within a mile of any green, growing thing); and his cleverness, which he thinks is enormous, but which in fact, is not - as demonstrated by the fact that Eldukaris won Csæleyan from him not by force of arms, but by craft.

Most clerics of Mælgorm are found among the Frost Giants, although the White Wyrms also respect him for his mastery of winter. His clerics gain Resistance to Cold equal to their level, and cast all damaging Cold spells at CL+4; but they can never cast Fire spells. They hate green and growing things (but, unlike their master, can approach them), and enjoy destroying forests and trees. Finally, priests of Mælgorm despise druids, and especially Fey creatures, and tend to attack them on sight.

Alignment: Lawful Evil
Sphere(s): Winter, snow, ice, mountains

Sigil: A thorn-wrapped sword on a black field covered with icicles
Preferred hues: Black, ice-blue and forest green
Preferred weapon: Trident
Worshippers’ alignment: any Evil
Domains: Cold, Earth, War, Weather
Church: Minor