Alesian Religion

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Alesian Pantheon
Information
Type: Polytheistic
Deity: Jornos
Regional Origins: Alesian Imperium
Regions Where Prevalent: Alesian Imperium, Bahija, Elluria


Alesian religion is polytheistic, with Jornos the Starfire, birther of the world, as the head of the pantheon. Whether or not Jornos created the world is a subject of debate in other cultures who have their own religions, but among Alesians such heresy is punishable by death in the gladiatorial pits. The Alesian Emperor is the head of the state religion, and High Priest of Jornos. All male members of the Imperial family are priests of Jornos by dint of birth, and all female members are likewise priestesses of Filandria. Some take these responsibilities more seriously than others. Since the involvement of the Alesians in the Southlands Wars and the subsequent creation of Alesian-controlled Elluria, there have been efforts to identify Jornos with the Ellurian chief deity Gitaro, and syncretize the two pantheons and religions.

Deities

Chief Deities

Jornos the Starfire, the Celestial Emperor, birther of the world.(head of the pantheon, father of the gods, creator of the cosmos, giver of life, Lord of the Sun, the Moons, and the Stars.) Priests of Jornos wear the Star of Jornos, an eight pointed star made of silver or gold and often set with gemstones, as a symbol of religious and temporal authority. For the daily religious rituals, a sleeveless, knee length open robe of imperial blue is worn over the priest's usual attire (usually a hooded robe of imperial blue for those in Charnath). Crowns or skullcaps are the appropriate headgear. For important observances, the priest wears a silver brocade robe with a sash of imperial blue around the waist. Over the robe, the priest wears a fur-trimmed hooded cowl of Imperial blue that drapes over the shoulders and hangs down to the elbows. Over this, the priest may wear a great cape of imperial blue with a silver lining, which is long enough to trail on the ground. The cape may be elaborately decorated with embroidery, gems, and other adornments. The Emperor's cape is so heavy with adornments that it requires two attendants to walk behind him and carry it. The Star of Jornos is always worn for any religious function, and some rites require that the priest carry a scepter or ceremonial weapon as well.

Filandria the Celestial Emperess, consort of Jornos, the matriarch of the gods.(wisdom, aristocracy, grace, beauty.) All female members of the Imperial family are priestesses of Filandria, with the Empress as High Priestess. Attire for religious rituals consists of a gown made from a single piece of white cloth (most frequently linen or silk) woven with gold and silver threads, elaborately wrapped and draped. The dress is pinned in place with a silver brooch in the shape of the Star of Jornos worn on the left shoulder. Unmarried women wear a veil over their heads while in the temple; married women wear elaborate headdresses. All are bedecked heavily with gold and jewels in proportion to their standing within the Imperial House.

Other Deities

Azaera Windwalker, Bringer of the Rains. (Sky, wind, rain, travellers). Portrayed as free-spirited (and at times flighty), depicted as a winged maiden with a spear, or as snow-white hawk. The clergy of the Windwalker prefer flowing garments of white or sky blue, often adorned with white feathers. Priests wear hawk-shaped masks, and priestesses wear elaborate feathered headdresses for solemnities. Prelates both male and female carry ceremonial spears with a silver shaft and a golden head.

Delanis the Matron, patroness of the family, Handmaid of Filandria.(Love, Birth, Children, Marriage, Healing.) While Jornos and Filandria represent the epitome of Alesian aristocracy, Delanis and Grenadias represent the epitome of common Alesian family life. Their worship is extremely popular among the Alesian peasantry, particularly among farmers. The Matron's priestesses dress like the clergy of Filandria, though on a much simpler scale. The gowns and veils are ordinary linen or wool, and jewelry is rarely worn. In their daily employment as healers and midwives, the clerics of Delanis simply wear their holy symbols on a leather thong around their necks, which resembles the outline of a house with a fire inside.

Grenadias the Tiller, patron of farmers and those who deal in agriculture.(Farmers, butchers, caravaners) Grenadias is the embodiment of the yeoman farmer - quiet and humble of heart, devoted to his family. He is one of the most benevolent of the Alesian deities. Almost all farms have a shrine to Grenadias (a small stone or wooden structure with a statue or mosaic of Grenadias inside), and farmers offer the first fruits of their harvest to the Tiller each year. Since many of Grenadias's religious rituals are performed outdoors, their dress tends toward the practical. Clergy for the tiller favor robes of green and brown, often adorned with plant or animal motifs. Priests of Grenadias carry flasks filled with consecrated whiskey or beer for blessings.

Hepheran the Eternal Warrior, patron of the legions. (War, Duty, Courage) Alesian mythology holds that Hepheran was originally a dwarven deity, and was adopted into the Alesian pantheon after Orglok's rebellion. Each Falvarniok (legion) of the Alesian army adopts an aspect of Hepheran as their sacred totem. Hepheran is a soldier's god rather than a warrior's god, emphasizing discipline and cohesive tactics over personal glory. Most of the clergy of the Eternal Warrior are either current or retired Hevarniok in the legions. For religious rituals, they wear their Hevarnin's armor and carry a holy mace. Their normal white tabard may be replaced by one with an embroidered emblem of the Falvarniok's totem or other religious symbol on important holy days. The Ve-Hevarnin of a Falvarniok may wear a brocaded tabard set with jewels for religious observances, but never in battle.

Llarm the Greeter of the Dead, Judge of Souls, Steward of the Celestial Palace.(Death, judgement, closure, protection.) Priests of the Greeter dress in white and purple for religious functions, and their dress is often a stylized version of attire worn by civil officials. Many wear medallions, signet rings, and other signs of authority since Llarm is said to be the steward of Jornos' Celestial Palace and the judge of souls. The Gatekeepers, a militant order dedicated to eradicating necromancers and the undead, carry blessed swords at all times. In their daily duty, Gatekeepers wear white headbands or armbands, embroidered with wards against the undead in purple silk thread.

Rynia Goldenhair, Lady of Fortune. (Commerce, wealth, merchants, luck) Rynia's faith is enjoying a period of growth, thanks to the Imperium's rising merchant class. Several large temples to the Lady of Fortune have been built in port cities in the Imperium in the past few decades. Rynia is said to be the wife of Ultros. Rynia is the patron deity of Bahija.

Serathe the Springmaiden. Daughter of Grenadias. (Spring, youth, Represents wild nature, as opposed to her agriculturally inclined father.) Depicted as either a child or a young maiden, barefoot, and with leaves or flowers in her hair. Many Alesians pray to the Springmaiden for a short and mild winter, and an early return of spring. Priests of the Springmaiden dress similarly to the clergy of Grenadias, and often wear wreathes of leaves or garlands of flowers on their heads. They carry flasks of springwater for blessings.

Theorus, the God-Emperor. (public servants, law) Took on the form of a human to teach mankind and prepare them for the future conflict with the orcs. Founder of Charnath and first Emperor, from whom all subsequent emperors have claimed descent. Theorus is the Emperor's official title.

Ultros the Stone One, patron of the artisan and the architect. (Workers, artists, builders, miners)

Yilvor the Thunderer, render of the land, flooder of the rivers. (Storms, natural disasters, the ocean) Yilvor is more feared that loved by most Alesians, who believe him to be the herald of Jornos's anger. His worship is most popular among the seafaring Granarians, who have large temples to the Thunderer in all their port cities. Shrines and temples to Yilvor contain deep pools into which sailors cast a coin for safe passage before leaving on a sea voyage.

Vashra, She Who Sees All. Wife of Hepheran, Mistress of Magic, the Divine Oracle. (magic, knowledge, prophecy, music) Vashra's Songs hold together the four basic elements of creation. Alesian wizards cast spells by adding lyrics to Vashra's melodies. There are several branches of Vashra's clergy including an order of Inquisitors who hunt rogue magic users, an all-female order of Oracles, and a society of Skalds.

Traitor Deities

Alesians believe that the chief deities of the orcs of the Shadowlands were once part of Jornos's household, but were banished by the Starfire for an attempted coup. Their worship is outlawed in the Imperium, and any adherents they might have among the humans of the Imperium must carefully hide their allegiance.

Orglok, the King of Pain and Lord of Traitors. (Chaos, Destruction, Lawlessness, Suffering, Torture, Necromancy.) Also the chief god of the Orcish pantheon. Enemies of the state are frequently accused of worshipping Orglok in secret. Orglok is said to have been original Alesian war god, but was expelled from the pantheon for attempting to usurp Jornos' throne.

Arkala the Poisoned Seductress, Mistress of Frost, the Perverse One, Queen of Whores. (Disease, Decay, Deception, Poison, Assassination, Seduction, Manipulation) Patroness of corruption in all its forms, Arkala is Orglok's consort and the mother of demons. Arkala is believed to steal the life from the land with the onset of winter

Mythology

The Creation Myth

The Origins of the Cosmos

For untold ages, Jornos sat alone in his halls on his throne, contemplating in silence. None save the Great Emperor himself knows for how long, for how can time be measured before the sun and moon marked the days and years? And no one save the Starfire himself knows whence he came, or whence his halls.

Some say that he always was as he is now. Some say that another had created him. Others believe that he simply willed himself into being. Such a secret is not for mortal minds to know.

When at last Jornos roused himself from his musings, he stretched forth his hands, flooding his halls with the fullness of his power and majesty. Even the vast corridors and chambers of the Celestial Palace could not contain his splendor, and his supremacy spilled forth into the darkness beyond the shining walls. Thus it was that the cosmos came into being. Even after the glory of Jornos had receded an echo remained, though it did not have any form yet.

Jornos lowered his hands even as the energy still vibrated at the tips of his fingers. He lifted his head and opened his eyes, and was astounded by what he saw. Filandria, unmatched in stately beauty and graceful bearing, stood before him, clothed in the shining light of Jornos' very splendor. Though he had not intended to make another, he rejoiced for he had grown weary of his solitude. And Jornos loved Filandria, and from his love Delanis came into being. Jornos took Filandria for his wife and crowned her as his Celestial Empress, fashioning for her a crown resplendent with innumerable glittering gems such as the mortal world has never seen.

Filandria bore Jornos many children, the first of whom was Orglok, then Llarm. Vashra, Ultros, Yilvor, Azaera, Grenadias, Theorus, and all the others followed afterward. Delanis served as midwife to Filandria, and afterward as nurse to the children of Jornos.

The Shaping of the World

When the sons and daughters of Jornos had grown, the Starfire called them before his golden throne. He unfolded before them the idea he had conceived in his aeons of contemplation, and bid his children to carry out his designs. He assured them that each would have their part, though he did not make all his plans known at this time so that his children might not leave their first works poorly wrought in haste to begin work on greater splendors.

He chose Orglok, Ultros, Yilvor, and Azaera to be the first to venture beyond the walls of the Celestial Palace and shape the universe as their father had instructed them. The four went forth into the formless abyss and brought order, sculpting it according to the will of Jornos.

Orglok was given dominion over fire, for he was headstrong and impetuous. To Ultros went dominion over earth, for he was himself steadfast and unmovable as a mountain. To Yilvor went water, for though he was slow to anger, his wrath was terrible when roused. And to Azaera, the ever free-spirited dancer, dominion over wind was granted.

It was in this first ordering of creation that Orglok first became jealous of his father's power. He resented that he and his siblings toiled while their father merely watched from his throne. This bitterness grew because Jornos had forbidden them to do either more or less than he commanded. Orglok wished to do as he pleased, and shape creation according to his whim. As the firstborn of Jornos' children, he felt slighted in the dominion granted to him by his father. It seemed to him that fire had a smaller role in their labors than the others, for he did not know all that his father intended. But he hid his jealousy, and said nothing of his thoughts to anyone. The fire burned in his belly, and his anger simmered in secret.

Thus it was that sea, land, and sky were separated from one another. The mountains were raised up and the valleys carved out, and the courses of the rivers were plotted as Jornos intended. The boundaries of lakes and seas were marked off, and the earth was filled with metals and gems. Still, save for the rushing of the waters and the whisper of the winds, all was silent and lifeless.

Their tasks completed, the four returned to their father's palace and presented themselves before him. Jornos was greatly pleased and gave his approval, commending his children for all they had done. At that time he sent Vashra forth into the silent world to bind the work of the four together with her Songs, and she wove her potent melodies throughout all of creation.

Orglok's resentment was mollified by his father's praise, and for a time seemed to forget his grudge. This did not to last long, for he soon discovered that Jornos had made his brother Llarm steward of the Celestial Palace while he was absent. He was stirred to anger and sought out his brother, accusing Llarm of trying to steal his place as firstborn.

"What cause have you for jealousy, brother? Were you not the first of those chosen by our father to go beyond the walls of the Palace?" Llarm questioned his elder brother, tilting his head to the side. "And were you not given dominion to shape the world, while I remained here within these walls? You say you envy me, but my duties keep me as a prisoner here. I do not know whether I shall ever set foot into the world beyond, so do not be so rash to accuse me. Because you are my brother, I shall forgive this slight, but it shall not be so if you dare to call me thief again."

Orglok, silenced by Llarm's words, left his brother's presence. But ever after there was enmity between them, and they were never fully reconciled. Now Orglok had greatly desired Delanis, though he had told no one of his feelings. During his toils, his thoughts often turned toward her, and had resolved to claim her hand after returning to the Palace. And so, still stinging from his brother's rebuke, he sought her out. When he came to her chamber, however, he found her playing with two small children, twin girls. Thinking them Filandria's children, he said, "Well, I see that my father has not been idle while I labored! Who are my new sisters?"

"Nay, my Lord," she replied, "These are not your mother's children, but mine. Their names are Arkala and Serathe."

He was filled with rage upon hearing that Delanis had born children to another, but concealed it with a false smile. He complimented Delanis on the beauty of her daughters and asked who their father was, expecting to hear that Llarm had usurped him a second time. He was much surprised to hear that it was Grenadias, for he was quiet and humble of heart, and plain in appearance in comparison to his siblings. But it seemed now to Orglok that Grenadias had deceived him, and had been waiting for an opportunity to steal his heart's desire from him. And then, still smiling and speaking sweet words, he inquired about his brother's whereabouts, saying that he wanted to congratulate him.

While the four were about their business, Jornos had summoned Grenadias and unfolded more of his plan to his son. Grenadias was so overjoyed by what he heard that he pleaded with his father to begin his work early to add to the beauty of the Celestial Palace.

The Starfire consented, and Grenadias labored long and hard to create the famous Celestial Gardens, whose beauty is unmatched in the mortal realms. It was in these gardens that Orglok found his brother. He was not yet so hard of heart that he was unmoved by its beauty, and indeed, Orglok forgot his anger for a moment and marveled at his brother's work.

He wandered amongst the first trees and flowers, until he found Grenadias tending to a seedling. At once the anger returned and he berated his brother sharply, hurling many curses and vile insults at the Tiller. Grenadias was at first greatly troubled and confused by his brother's anger, though he would not be goaded into a fight. Orglok's heart was not yet so blackened that he could strike down his brother, who would make no move to defend himself, nor even return the harsh words. Therefore he stormed away in anger, and left Grenadias alone in his garden again.

Grenadias was again summoned before Jornos, and was commanded to begin his work as he had been instructed. He returned to his wife and daughters, and bid them farewell.

Now, Serathe was greatly attached to her father, and could not bear to be separated from him for long. When she learned that he would be leaving, she wept and begged to go with him. At length, Grenadias gave in and brought his daughter before Jornos to ask the Starfire's permission to bring his daughter with him. Jornos consented, and father and daughter went forth together. Grenadias labored for a long time to bring forth every plant that grows upon the earth, though they would not grow as they had in the Celestial Palace despite his efforts.

The Tiller returned to his father and explained his difficulty. Jornos had foreseen this problem, and gave Grenadias one of the torches from his throne room to bring the divine light of the Celestial Palace to the world. However, even this small portion of the light was too powerful for mortal world, and thus Jornos made it to rise and to set at intervals so that the whole of the world was not scorched beneath the power of its rays. And ever afterward, Jornos would cast forth the torch of the sun across the sky each morning, and take it back into his throne room at night.

So the world would not be devoid of his light while the sun was within the Celestial Palace, Jornos pried two great pearls from his throne and set them in the sky. They illuminated the earth with their pale glow, for they shone just from having been in contact with Jornos' throne.

Greenery sprouted from the earth and blossomed, and Grenadias was pleased until he saw that plants would only grow near streams and rivers, for they needed water. Grenadias went before his father once more to explain his difficulty. Jornos summoned Yilvor and Azaera, and bid them to assist their brother. Thus it was that clouds were formed and carried across the skies by Azaera's winds to bring forth water in all parts of the world.

While the first rains were gentle, Yilvor was much intrigued by their potential. He realized that they could be much more potent, but kept his own counsel and let his sister have dominion over the rains until he should have need for them.

Azaera was no gardener, and soon found the job of bringing rains tedious. And owing to her capricious nature, some places received too much water, and others not enough. Grenadias was not angry with his sister, for she did him a great service even though she was inconsistent, and the whole world blossomed and grew. All was lush and green, and Grenadias rejoiced.

Having accomplished his first task, he rested from his labors, playing upon the whole of earth with Serathe, whose laughter filled the air. Together, they created all the living beasts that walk, run, or crawl, both wild and tame. In gratitude to Azaera and Yilvor, they made the birds of the air and all the sea creatures. Serathe greatly loved all the new animals, and often had ideas for more. She would often hasten back to her Grandfather and sit on his lap to tell him of her thoughts. Sometimes he would grant her permission to create the animal she imagined, and other times he would refuse her. The whole world abounded with life and beauty.

The Treachery of Orglok

While Grenadias tilled and planted and raised the beasts, Orglok brooded secretly and grew in hatred. After he had accosted Grenadias in the garden, he was summoned before his father's throne to give account of himself. He abased himself before Jornos and pretended to repent of his jealousy and malice, begging the forgiveness of his brothers and sisters. He was granted forgiveness and afterward seemed changed, but his fair countenance and words were as new fallen snow over a heap of rotting carrion, and as quick to fade. He plotted revenge in secret, and nurtured the blackness in his heart.

Orglok saw all the works Grenadias wrought, and a great desire to possess all the splendors of the world stirred within him. Moreover, he resolved that if he could not have them, he would destroy them. He resented Serathe too, for she was allowed to bring some of her own designs to life, rather than strictly obeying Jornos' commands. It had never occurred to him to go to his father and ask permission, and the Starfire may well have consented if he had. Mortal men will never know the truth of the matter.

Orglok sought revenge on Grenadias and his family, and saw his opportunity with Arkala. He used play with her often, and would speak to her at length in her father's gardens in the Celestial Palace. She delighted in all the secrets Orglok told her, being a curious child, though much of what he told her were falsehoods meant to poison her mind. The seeds he planted indeed bore fruit as she grew, and Orglok filled her heart with blackness while her father was away. Curiosity gave way to desire, and desire to lust, and Orglok took her innocence one day in secret upon the flowerbeds in her father's gardens.

Delanis noted the change in her daughter as she grew, but it had been so slow as to be nearly imperceptible, and she mistook it for the normal changes that occurred as a child grew into maturity. None knew what Orglok had done, and although Vashra was suspicious of Orglok, she could not see his misdeeds clearly.

When Grenadias and Serathe returned, Jornos declared a great celebration, for all was in readiness for the culmination of his plans. There was feasting and rejoicing in the Celestial Palace, and all the gods made merry.

Grenadias was greatly surprised to see how his daughter Arkala had changed while he was gone, for Serathe had grown but little in that time, and was still a child. Although he was much amazed at the way Arkala had grown more beautiful, he nonetheless felt foreboding, though he knew not why. She was beautiful, certainly, but in a way different from any of her kin. There was something about the way she carried herself that he did not like, but he could not recognize that his sweet daughter was growing into the Queen of Whores. But these thoughts were soon forgotten in his joy at being reunited with his family, and he joined in the divine revelry with the rest of the Celestial Court.

And when at last the celebration came to an end, all the gods retired to their separate dwellings to rest except for Orglok. He only made a pretense of doing so, and instead secretly crept into his father's throne room while the others slept. There, he dared to sit upon his father's throne and gaze upon the whole world. His desire for power grew, and he resolved that he must some day unseat his father and claim all for himself. Arkala came to him and he seated her upon his lap, whispering his dark designs into her ear. He promised that he would make her his Empress, and all the other gods would bow before her and acknowledge her unmatched beauty.

And though Orglok had treason in his heart, he still dissembled and played the part of the loyal son. Vashra was no longer able to keep silent about her misgivings and went quietly to her father to warn him.

Jornos reassured her, saying, "Worry not, beloved daughter. For though he thinks he deceives me, I see to the depths of my firstborn's heart. I know the treachery he hides behind his smile, and the hatred behind his sweet words. Nevertheless he is the first among my children, and there is yet time for him to repent of his evil. The day will come when he will taste either my mercy or my wrath, and until then, say nothing to anyone of this."

Set at ease by these words, Vashra departed from her father's presence. Reassured though she was, she still kept watch on Orglok and his secret lover nonetheless.

That very day, Jornos summoned the whole Celestial Court before him, and bid them to look out over the world. For lo, Jornos himself had brought forth a new creation upon the earth, the race of men.

Jornos address his Court saying, "Behold, all you gods, the culmination of all that you have labored to create. Behold mankind; they shall fan out over the earth like a spreading flame and master it. I have granted them the light of Reason, and made them masters of their own destiny. Each holds the secret of what he will become, and yea, even divinity is not beyond their grasp."

And all the gods marveled at the race of men as they awoke and took their first tentative steps, save Orglok, who esteemed them but little. Seeing this, Jornos said to him, "Do not be so rash to judge them, my firstborn, for while they are little now, what they will become in time is great indeed. And you yourself will have a great part to play, for you will teach them strength and courage."

Turning to Llarm he said, "But they will not remain upon the earth forever, but will pass from the world and be brought to these very halls. As my steward, you are to find a place for them within the household according to their hearts and their deeds. I give you leave to reward or punish them as you see fit, for you possess wisdom little less than mine."

Orglok indeed taught mankind strength, bravery, and skill at arms, but he also sowed mistrust, division, and savagery. Men were thus divided into rival kingdoms and made war on one another because of the false whispers that Orglok planted among them. He recruited spies and servants to further spread discord among men, promising them great power in return.

Arkala caused no less mischief herself, for she could see a man's deepest desires, and delighted especially in those men try hardest to hide away from others. She inflamed the hearts of men with lust and greed, and whispered perverse ideas into their ears as they slept. All of humanity was in strife, but Orglok still thought little of them. He was ever contemptuous of their prowess as warriors, even as they slaughtered each other without quarter.

Orglok desired to create his own race of warriors, and correct the "mistakes" his father had made. Spying two boars fighting as he walked through the forest one day, he hit upon his idea. Snatching them up, he took them to a deserted place and created the race of orcs to be his perfect warriors. He gave them great strength and hearts that knew neither fear nor compassion. He gave them the power to see at night, when men were hampered without the light of Jornos' torch. He made them breed prolifically so that their numbers would ever increase, and he filled them with a savage spirit. He raised his warrior race in secret (or so he thought), and taught them much dark knowledge. They learned their lessons only imperfectly, though, since their hearts turned ever towards bloodshed. Orglok devoted much of his power to keeping his creations concealed until they were ready, though Jornos knew the evil his son intended.

Arkala, meanwhile, was ever-busy multiplying strife, seeding corruption and enmity everywhere. Those days were dark indeed, lawless times when men were given to every sort of depravity. She turned mankind away from the gods, raising up false prophets of strange religions to lead men further astray. Yilvor often visited warnings from Jornos upon mankind in those days, and Azaera's spears would rain down from the sky for the impiety of men. However, even as the servants of the gods delivered their warnings and called for repentence, Arkala's minions contradicted them and all of mankind was in great confusion.

The Expulsion of the Traitors

Until this time, Jornos had permitted his son's defiance to test the mettle of his creations. But the creation of the race of orcs without his permission had greatly angered the Birther of the World, and he summoned his firstborn before him.

When he received the summons, Orglok was troubled for his preparations to overthrow his father were incomplete. He knew that as strong as he was, he could not defeat Jornos by force, and had spent many years devising stratagems to unseat his father by cunning. Still, his carefully crafted plans were not in readiness, and he realized that he must make his attempt before he received his father's punishment or he would forever lose his opportunity. Therefore, he and Arkala desperately sought a plan. Arkala reflected on the ease with which she had been able to corrupt the minds of men, and wondered if she could not be able to do the same with her father's plants. They arranged for Orglok to dine with his father, and Arkala would taint his food and thereby lay him low so Orglok could dispatch him.

Jornos was accustomed to drink the nectar of the fruits of the Celestial Garden from a golden cup with his meals, and Arkala used all of her foul arts to create the first poison, using much of her strength to give it a potency to harm the Starfire himself. Though she thought that the deed was accomplished in secret, Vashra was aware of what she had done, and awaited her chance to deal with Arkala.

When Jornos heard that Orglok wished to dine with him and explain his actions, he knew that his son had some treachery in mind. Nevertheless, he consented to the idea, and awaited the arrival of his firstborn.

Orglok once again played the part of the repentant son and explained away his disobedience with many artful lies, and Jornos seemed to believe him. Taking up his bejeweled cup filled with poison, he offered it to Orglok saying, "It gladdens my heart that my wayward son has returned and regrets the harm he has caused. Share this cup with me, and be reconciled."

Orglok refused to drink from it, and would not even extend his hand to touch it, saying, "I have overstepped myself many times already. I would not dare to presume to drink from my father's cup."

"Take it, my son." Jornos insisted, offering it again. "Why do you refuse what I freely offer when you did not hesitate to sneak like a thief into my hall and sit upon my throne? You wish to take my place, and yet you are afraid to take my cup."

Realizing that he had been discovered, Orglok was seized by panic. He again pleaded his innocence and refused to take the cup. Jornos upended the cup and spilled its contents onto the table, where it hissed and bubbled like boiling water.

Filled with fear, he fled from his father's presence, and Jornos followed not far behind. Orglok hastened to his father's throne room and went to the resting place of the sun, intending to use its power against the Starfire. Since he had been granted dominion over fire, he assumed that he could control it, not realizing that the its flames came from the power of Jornos himself.

Orglok snatched up the sun from the sconce where it rested at night, and was at once horribly burned by his father's light. Ever after, he was never able to take on a fair appearance again, but remained forever sinister and frightening to look upon. With a tortured scream, Orglok dropped the sun, and it was extinguished as it hit the floor.

Orglok fled headlong from his father's presence, maddened by the excruciating pain of his burns. Hearing the commotion, Llarm took up his great shining sword and came running, and was astonished by what he saw. Filled with anger by his brother's treason, he chased Orglok to the very gates of the Celestial Palace.

He would have pursued his brother further and struck him down, but Jornos appeared before him and prevented him, saying, "Put away your sword and go no further, O Judge of Souls. For it is not your place to mete out punishment upon your siblings without my word. He has been chastised, and it pleases me to allow him to live in exile and brood upon his failure. Let him glory in his empty victories for now, but all his plans will ever come to nothing. Let him skulk in the darkness like a scolded dog for now, and in the fullness of time, not even a memory of him or his followers will remain." Lifting his hand, he deflected Llarm's sword, and the mighty weapon was shattered into thousands of glittering shards that were scattered across the sky.

Llarm was stayed by his father's words, but called after Orglok into the darkness, "I may be prevented from dealing with you as you deserve, dear brother, but your followers cannot evade me. I will do unto them as I would to you, and I will take great pleasure in making them suffer for giving allegiance to you."

Orglok paused in his flight for a moment, calling back to Llarm, "Brave words for one who knows not whether to sit or stand without our father's permission. Devise whatever torments you please, but you will never get hold of my servants." Then Orglok fled to the depths of the earth, taking refuge within the hidden fires of the deep. He devised the art of Necromancy to spite the Greeter, and spread this odious knowledge among his adherents. From that time on, all manner of undead abominations were found upon the earth, blaspheming Llarm with their twisted mockery of life.

While Orglok fled, Arkala hid herself, for she still had not recovered her full strength from creating her poison. She feared that she would not be so lucky as Orglok, and would not be allowed to escape. But Vashra discovered her hiding place and descended upon her like an eagle upon a rabbit. Seizing her by the hair, Vashra dragged Arkala through the halls of the Celestial Palace, all the way to the highest parapet of the shining halls. Arkala cowered before the Mistress of Magic and pleaded for forgiveness, but Vashra's heart was hardened.

"You would have shared in the traitor's victory," she replied, "and so you must share in his defeat, wench. Begone, and consider yourself fortunate that I do not do worse to you." With these words, she seized Arkala by the throat and cast her down into the darkness, and watched the daughter of Delanis fall.

Jornos returned to his throne room and picked up the sun's torch from where Orglok had dropped it, setting it back in its sconce. Upon feeling its true master's touch the extinguished torch reignited, and the sun's light was restored. Jornos once again took his seat upon his golden throne, and looked out over the whole of the world.

Llarm addressed Jornos, saying, "We may have nothing to fear from those two any more, father, but what of your race of men? Surely those two will continue to afflict mankind as they have before, and multiply the miseries they have already caused. Should we allow them to continue to do so with impunity?"

"I made men to be masters of their own destiny, and I will not stand over them like a nursemaid over an infant. But neither is it fitting for us to stand idly by and allow those two traitors to do as they will. Therefore, I grant to you and your siblings leave to guide men back toward the true path just as those two have led them astray. The choice of their path must always remain their own, however, and any of you who would interfere directly in the affairs of mankind must himself become a mortal man. This is my will."

Orglok and Arkala were indeed not idle in their exile, but worked ceaselessly to cause woe to mankind and show spite to the gods faithful to Jornos. Orglok would capture beasts and warp them into fearsome monsters with a taste for human flesh, and Arkala made poisonous plants from those that had formerly been wholesome. Arkala began to bear children to Orglok, but they were not as the children of Jornos. While they inherited some of their parents' formidable powers, they were not of divine blood, for they had been born in exile from the Celestial Palace. Thus were the race of demons created, and they accomplished much evil for their parents.

Arkala continued her efforts to turn the hearts of men to evil, for Orglok could no longer assume a pleasing form and struck terror into all who saw him. But Arkala found her work more difficult than before, since Vashra's servants confounded her mischief at every turn. In her anger, Arkala unleashed her greatest evil and brought forth disease upon the earth, striking down men and beasts alike with terrible plagues. But even her greatest triumph was diminished, for her mother Delanis taught the healing arts to mankind, and many lives were spared.

Grenadias was greatly grieved by the corruption of his daughter, and ceased to tend to earth for a time after her expulsion from the Celestial Palace. A great cold fell over the world from his mourning, and snow and ice fell from the skies instead of rain. There was a great hunger throughout the world for the crops would not grow, and men had never needed to store up their food before. But Grenadias was roused from his melancholy for the sake of his other daughter Serathe, for she loved the wild beasts and the flowers of the field dearly. The snow melted and the greenery returned, but the Tiller never fully recovered from his heartbreak.

The Story of Theorus

One day Theorus presented himself before the throne of Jornos and said to his father, "I have been observing your race of men, and I am troubled by what I see. For while Orglok's orcs are all of one mind, mankind is much divided and fight among themselves. Though I do not believe that the Traitor's creation is greater than yours, mighty father, I fear that they may fall for lack of unity."

"And what would you do, my son?" Jornos asked in reply. "For the hearts of men have grown stubborn and proud. And though your siblings give them much good counsel and aid, they still cling to the lawless habits they learned from the Exiles."

"They need a leader, someone to unite them and show them the power of the ways they have forgotten. But such a one is not found among the host of mortal men." Theorus replied.

"You know what I have commanded. If you would take this burden upon yourself, you must be emptied of your divinity and become as one of them. You will be subject to all of their afflictions and infirmities, and you will receive no more aid from us than we would grant to any other mortal. If any ask you whence you came, you will say, 'I am a wanderer from across the sea.' And you will never tell anyone what you are preparing them for. When you die, you must be judged by your brother as any other mortal, and your divinity will only be restored if your deeds in world of men merit it. Are you willing to do all of this?"

"I am, Father."

"Then so be it. Once you depart from these halls, you will be as an ordinary man, and you cannot return until you die your mortal death. Bid farewell to your mother and your siblings, and then depart."

Theorus bowed low before his father, and then departed from the Starfire's presence. He bid farewell to his mother and each of his siblings in turn, for he knew not whether he would ever see them again. Ultros gave his brother armor and a sword such as mortal hands have never wrought, and Azaera gave him boots that would never wear out, as well as cloak which would protect him from the bitterest cold. Grenadias took Theorus into his gardens and said, "I will give you such assistance as I am able. I will take the fruit of yonder tree and plant it in the earth. When you see such a tree, you will know your wanderings have ended. You shall found a city there, and gather men to yourself. I will make the lands there fertile, and Yilvor will provide your people with wells that never fail. The Traitor has caused me great grief, and I desire greatly that his schemes fail."

Theorus departed from the halls of the Celestial Palace with his gifts, and took on the form of a man. None know for sure where he first set foot in the mortal realms, though many villages and towns claim that he first appeared in their midst. But regardless of the truth of the matter, Theorus wandered far and wide and did many a mighty deed. In Jarvod, he met the great archmage Nevan, and the two became fast friends.

And after years of wandering, the two heroes came upon the tree Grenadias had planted, in the lands of King Igvar. It had grown in the middle of a small village, and all were amazed, for no one had ever seen anything like this Celestial tree before. A servant of Orglok had cursed it and attempted to cut it down, but he was struck down dead the moment his axe encountered the tree's bark. The people were much afraid of this dreadful portent, and none dared to touch it. Thus it was that all were astonished when Theorus came upon this tree and ate of its fruit with impunity. All apprehended that he was a mighty hero, for he was strong of arm, quick of wit, and handsome of face.

It is well known how Theorus met Igvar's daughter Dalantha in the woods, and how he was enamored of her beauty. Many have written of his rivalry with her suitor Astronius, and of the many labors he performed in the service of King Igvar before he consented to give Theorus his daughter's hand. Thus it was that Theorus inherited Igvar's throne when he died, and he founded the city of Charnath where he found the tree. It was he who first built the mighty granite walls, and restored order and piety to the gods in his domain. There grew many famous tales of his wars with the kings who bordered his lands: Belenor, savage Grallas, proud Rauvo, and Queen Carrade, who dared to take up arms and fight among the men on the field of battle.

Theorus ruled for many long years, sustained by the fruit of the tree Grenadias planted, and expanded the lands he inherited from Igvar. And though all the world was in tumult, there was peace within his domain. After three centuries of rule, he finally died a very old man, and his grandson Irirun inherited his kingdom. Irirun took his grandfather's name, as have all of his successors. Theorus was spirited back to the shining halls of the Celestial Palace, and was brought before his brother Llarm for judgment. His divinity was restored, and there was much rejoicing in the halls of Jornos.

The Coming of the Orcs

After many long centuries of breeding in seclusion, Orglok determined that he was ready to loose his orcs upon the unsuspecting world. Therefore, he led them forth from their hidden places in dark forests and caverns underground and commanded them to build ships to carry them across the ocean.

The orcs had never seen the ocean before, for Orglok had wished to keep them out of Yilvor's reach, and they were much afraid of its crashing waves and seemingly endless expanse. Driven on by their god's inexorable demands, however, they did as they were bid and constructed a great fleet. When it was ready, the whole orcish host boarded these crude vessels, and was borne across the sea by Orglok's power. They crossed the sea veiled in a black cloud, through which none but gods could see. Yilvor and Azaera summoned mighty storms into the way of this fearsome armada, though more ships survived than were sunk.

Now in those days, what is today called the Shadowlands was home to dwarves[1], who collected vast heaps of treasure in their underground halls. In the forests above the dwarven halls lived the elves, the longest lived of the mortal races. It was the elves that first spied the ominous black cloud upon the sea, and they were vexed and perplexed by the mysterious portent. When the ships landed, the cloud was thrown back, and orcs poured forth from their ships like pus from a lanced boil, and the entire beach was a roiling mass of green. They brought forth their arms and their engines of war, and many strange and foul beasts from across the sea. They pulled apart their ships for lumber and constructed fortified camps, and sent scouts forth to explore.

The elves were the first to do battle with the tuskers, and though they were skilled in arms, their numbers were small compared to this new foe. Many elves perished, and their great tree cities were burned. The great lords of the elves met in council and they agreed to depart from these lands and seek a new home across the sea. Thus resolved, they departed with such swiftness and secrecy that none know where they went.

The dwarves had been content to sit in their halls at first, but were drawn forth to battle after the departure of the elves. The dwarves were greatly attached to their land, and their gold especially, and would not yield to these new invaders. Led on by the priests of their war god Hepheran, the dwarves slaughtered orcs in heaps, and made the earth reek with their black blood. However, no matter how many orcs they slew, it seemed that there were always more to take their place. Slowly, one by one, the great houses of the dwarves were exterminated by the orcs. The orcs took up residence in the depths of the old dwarven strongholds, and have since been impossible to root out entirely. They bred in secret, and more orcs always spilled forth from hidden holes like insects to continue their endless warfare.

Hepheran was filled with hatred for Orglok, and was an implacable foe. His followers never surrendered, even down to the very last warrior. Even as the last of the dwarven hearths were extinguished, Hepheran would not admit defeat. He turned to the race of men, and revealed himself to the Terlindians. He taught them how to drill and to fight with discipline, and added to the knowledge of smithcraft Ultros had imparted to them.

Jornos saw that Hepheran was making followers among the race of men, and sent emissaries to call the Eternal Warrior to the Celestial Palace. Hepheran came, and spoke at length of his hatred for Orglok, and his desire to see the Lord of Traitors humbled. But while Jornos saw that Hepheran had taught many useful things to the men of Terlind, he had overstepped himself by interfering with mankind without the Starfire's consent. Hepheran was stubborn and proud, and would not admit that he was in the wrong. Their first conversation came to nothing, and Hepheran departed from Jornos' presence.

Hepheran might have left the Celestial Palace and had no more dealings with the Starfire if he had not heard a haunting melody drifting through the shining halls as he sought to return to his own domain. Its beauty far surpassed anything he had ever heard before, and stirred even his hardened warrior's heart. He sought the singer, and found Vashra in the Celestial Gardens. Hepheran was captivated by the daughter of Jornos, and his stubbornness was tempered by Vashra's wise counsel. Hepheran returned to Jornos and acknowledged that he had overstepped his proper bounds. He agreed to an alliance with Jornos on the condition that he be given Vashra as his wife. Jornos consented, and there was great celebration in the Celestial Palace to welcome Hepheran into the Starfire's Court.

Hepheran appeared to his priest Leorg in a dream, and commanded him thusly, "Arise, faithful servant, and take your cloak and staff. Go to Axin, King of the Terlindians, and say to him, 'A great darkness has fallen over this land, and the orcs spread like a plague from the south. Send ambassadors to Ganias, son of Seveig of the house of Theorus in Charnath and seek an alliance. For only together will this menace be turned back. Without the aid of Ganias you shall surely perish just as the dwarves. So says my master, the Eternal Warrior.' And if he does not believe you, I give you the gift of great magic from my bride. The King's son is sick, and you will heal him. Go forth now."

Leorg rose from his bed at once and did as he was commanded, and made haste to Axin's stronghold. When he arrived, he found that Axin's son Ataman was indeed gravely ill. Laying hands upon him and praying to Hepheran, Leorg restored the boy to health. All were amazed, for the servants of Hepheran had never wielded magic before. Leorg delivered his message to the King as he had been commanded, and Axin dispatched envoys to Charnath the following day. Thus it was that Alesia and Terlind were united, and the orcs suffered their first defeats.

  1. Oddly, the Alesian myth does not explain the origins of elves and dwarves, nor does it explain the origins of their gods.

Religious Practices

Marriage Ceremony

The ceremony begins with the bride and groom on opposite sides of the area in which the wedding is to be peformed, facing one another. This can be a temple, a home, or even outdoors. The priest stands in the center, with a brazier full of charcoals on the ground before him. The bride and groom advance toward one another, until they are standing on opposite sides of the brazier. If someone will be giving the bride, he/she should precede the bride, bearing a sheathed sword. He/she presents the sword to the groom, then steps aside to allow the bride to take her place opposite the groom. If there is not someone present to give the bride, the priest presents the sword to the groom. The groom unsheathes the sword and lays the sheath aside, then holds it in both hands, blade down. The bride lays her hands over his, and together, drive it down into the ground between them, in front of the brazier. It will remain there for the duration of the ceremony. Alesian temples usually have a removable tile in the floor that covers a small patch of earth for this purpose.

The bride and groom rise, and face the priest. The priest may address some introductory remarks to the bride and groom or to the assembly before beginning the marriage rite itself.

Priest: "(Groom), son of (father's name), is it your will that you be joined to (Bride), daughter of (father's name), in marriage and welcome her into the house of your fathers?"

Groom: "It is."

Priest: "(Bride), daughter of (father's name), is it your will that you be joined to (Groom), son of (father's name), in marriage and be joined unto the house of his fathers?"

Bride: "It is."

Priest: "(Father's name), father of (Groom), is it your will that your son be joined in marriage to (Bride), daughter of (father's name)?"

Father of Groom: "It is."

Priest: "(Father's name), father of (Bride), is it your will that your daughter be joined in marriage to (Groom), son of (father's name)?"

Father of Bride: "It is."

Priest: "(Groom), son of (father's name), do you understand your duties to (Bride), daughter of (father's name), as her husband and father to her children?"

Groom: "I do."

Priest: "And do you undertake them without reservation?"

Groom: "I do."

The groom presents his right hand to the priest, which is annointed with consecrated oil. He remains holding hand outstretched, palm up while the priest addresses the bride.

Priest: "(Bride), daughter of (father's name), do you understand your duties to (Groom), son of (father's name), as his wife and mother to his children?"

Bride: "I do."

Priest: "And do you undertake them without reservation?"

Bride: "I do."

The bride presents her right hand to the priest, which is annointed with consecrated oil. The bride and groom turn inward to face one another, and the priest takes their outstretched hands and joins them together, pressing them together with one hand above theirs, and one beneath.

Priest: "Then let it be so. May all the gods stand as witness to this union, and bless and preserve it."

The priest releases their hands, and the bride and groom kneel on either side of the brazier between them, with hands still joined. Using their left hands, the bride and groom spoon incense onto the burning charcoal from a bowl placed beside the brazier as an offering to the gods. as the smoke rises, they bow their heads, and the priest places one hand upon the groom's head, and the other upon the bride's head.

Priest: "May Delanis, patroness of marriage, watch over this union and grant you many long years of happiness together. May she preserve the love you bear one another all your days. May she protect (Bride) in pregnancy and childbirth, and watch over your children."

"May Grenadias, tiller of the fields, grant you abundance and prosperity all your days."

"May Hepheran, the Eternal Warrior, shield you from danger and grant your sons strength and courage."

"May Ultros, the great smith, forge this union and make it stronger than steel, and immovable as a mountain so that nothing but death itself may ever sunder it."

"May Vashra, mistress of spell and song, always grant her wise counsel to you both as husband and wife, and mother and father."

[If the couple is of noble or royal blood, the following is added:
"May Jornos and Filiandria, the Celestial Emperor and Empress, make your marriage as their own. May you always be faithful spouses, devoted parents, and wise rulers."]

"May the Starfire, giver of life and light, always hold you within the blessed radiance of his favor."

The blessing concluded, the bride and groom rise, and turn to face the priest. He presents them each with a glass of whiskey that has been consecrated to Grenadias, so that their marriage may be fertile. They face each other once more, and offer a toast to one another in turn. They raise the glass to each other's lips and both drink together. After that, they may kiss, which concludes the ceremony. The groom removes the sword from the ground, sheathes it, and attaches it to his belt. A properly Alesian celebration follows.