Religion on the River
Sothark Traditional- The Winter Gods
Sotharks worship a fairly unique pantheon known as the Winter Gods. This pantheon is comprised of:
Father Sky, a partriarchial Father Deity who is generally apathetic towards mortals
Winter Woman, both daughter and frequent involuntary mate to Father Sky
Winter Wind, their eldest son
Winter Storm, their middle son
The Killing Frost, their youngest son
Traditionalist Sotharks do not so much worship these deity figures as they do respect, fear, and pay grudging superstitious homage to them. Father Sky is known to be an abusive husband who goes on prodigious drunken rampages, beats and rapes any woman he fancies, but who takes pride in strong, brave,courageous sons. Winter Woman is long suffering, coldly patient, and scheming; much Sothark mythology revolves around her cruel and elaborate schemes for revenge on Father Sky and evil mortal males. Winter Wind is a strong, powerful hunter and warrior who protects his mother and is a staunch defender of his friends and brothers. Winter Storm is a fickle fighter, undependable and treacherous, who shows no lasting loyalty to anyone, but whose wrath is terrible. The Killing Frost, their youngest brother, is a cunning, malevolent plotter who strikes without warning and whose sudden touch brings instant death to all living things.
Father Sky is patron deity of strong, aggressive males, especially tribal leaders, as well as all natural creatures that dwell beneath the winter sky.
Winter Woman is the patron of all Sothark females, and is the especial patron of the traditional Sothark shaman class, the winter women, who pass along all Sothark folklore, myth, and tradition by rote memory and who wield great if subtle influence over traditional Sothark tribes and clans. The only males whom she regards with any affection are protective husbands, good sons, or infants.
Winter Wind is the patron deity of warriors, husbands, and hunters. He despises weaklings, cowards, cheaters, and schemers.
Winter Storm is fickle, dark, and capricious. No one’s patron, but any wise Sothark will ask the winter woman to make an offering to him before embarking on any lengthy journey.
The Killing Frost is a dark, malevolent deity, a patron of those who would win battles through unfair means and destroy their enemies through treachery and unnatural powers.
Durshi/Northark Traditional - The Nurr’yk Pantheon / The "Old Religion"
Both traditional Durshi and traditional Northark worship an ancient pantheon known as the Nurr’yk Gods. Although there areminor dialectical variations in names, the gods worshipped are the same for both people. As there are nearly 100 major and minor deities, a complete list will not be supplied here. Durshi and Northarks families tend to take one deity in particular as their specific patron, but all the gods are worshipped and at various holy days, given offerings.
Some of the more prominent Nurr’yk deities are:
Durshi / Northark
Woda / V’odo, the High Father, Chief of theGods
Vakashta / V’kasha, God of Storms and Battle
Mirriti / Maroota, Goddess of Fire
Marvuta / M’Ravta, God of Death and Destruction
Vultara / V’tarek, God of Wisdom and Knowledge
Loka / L’uko, God of Chaos and Trickery
Arshina / H’rrshenar, the Great Bear God / the God of Apes
Gadura / G’uhdori, God of Rats, Plague, and Famine
Paravani / Parvanna, Goddess of Pain and Suffering
Holy Church of the One True God
Worshippers of the One True God through Its earthly avatar, Miriam Orishna, who came to the world as a mortal woman and was put to death by Priests of the Samaqel as a sacrifice for the sins of humanity, to re-open the paths of Hell and allow mortals to once more reach Heaven. A very worldly and controlling Church which dominated the very fertile midlands of the River for several decades, until it fell victim to a curse and was overwhelmed by darkness and damnation brought on by its own corruption. Now the former Holy Lands reside under eternal night and are the domain of the Noble Bloodlines of the Shadowlands, and the elaborate rituals of this once mighty religion are celebrated only by scattered, small communities of True Believers and a small population of Sotharks led by Utgar Bearfang, whose elder brother, Rugar, once agreed to convert his sizeable group of tribesmen and followers to the Faith in exchange for weaponry and troops from the Church.
Reformed Church of the One True God
A one time warrior for the Holy Church, Baldwin Blood-of-Saints rose high in the ranks of the so-called ‘Church Hawks’... and was sickened by the worldly corruption he saw everywhere in the Church. Diversion of Church tithes to the purses of individual Cardinals, the selling of indulgences, casual vow-breaking, and the establishment of Jeopard slavery all sickened him, to the point where, upon successfully taking the city of Ulvalor from the Giants, he renamed it Miria and declared it an independent city-state where he founded the Reformed Church of the One True God. Stripped of elaborate ritual, the Reformed Church is a zealously puritanical and evangelical religion determined to spread the fundamental truth of the Gospel of Miriam Orishna to every living soul on the River. Led by the fanatical Holy King Baldwin I, the zealous Armies of Miria have retaken and rebuilt the cities of the formerly Abandoned Lands, renaming them and filling them with pilgrims. The new Holy Lands have risen in the region formerly known as Aha’Taqel ("the Lands of theWolf").
Long a popular but secretive alternative to worshipping the Samaqel on the River, there are many different established cults that worship Necros, God of Death, Prince of Worms, the Rider. Founded usually to seek protection from the whims and wrath of the great Jhareesh who created the Ancient Lands, these differering sects of death are often at each other’s throats.
Among the most prominent of the various Death worshippers:
The Black Giants: a racial minority among Giants, the Blacks rule the more numerous Grey Giants with an iron fist. Relatively recently, it became known on the River that the Black Giants worshipped Death, and that once they reach a certain age, they are converted into Undead as a sort of rite of passage into their full power and posterity. Grey Giants are also brought up in the traditional religion, but it is rare that a Grey is accorded the great stature of becoming Undead. However, Greys are often given the privilege of ritual sacrifice.
Deaths Heads: A nefarious cult of mostly human Death worshippers who dwell primarily in the borders between the human river valley and the Giant Mountains. Over the millennia this group has evolved many of its own peculiar rituals, ceremonies and beliefs, including the kidnapping of infants and young children for sacrifice followed by ritual cannibalism, and the raising of the bodies of their enemies as vorinkalla slaves. Deaths Heads do not believe in living on themselves in Undead form, but strike pacts with Death for extended mortal life, high status in Hell after their deaths, or reincarnation into new lives of wealth and influence, which they agree to use for the benefit of their particular cult of Death.
The Altar of Blood : Originating in the Empire of Man, this particular subsect of Death worship came to the River with the Imperial invasion forces and remained behind after their defeat and evacuation, taking and holding the Riverish city of Riva Zand. For nearly a decade, Riva Zand was known as a dark and evil city-state, filled with Imperial Death Priests and legions of undead warriors. The heroes Lyanna Morningstar and Calypso Skullsmasher managed to destroy nearly all the Death worshippers within this city in 3019, and the few remaining remnants of the Altar of Blood fled to Sottli Ban, where the only publicly known Temple of Death now stands.
The Noble Bloodlines of the Shadowlands: rulers of the eternally benighted Unholy Lands, these Undead Lords were formerly high Cardinals, Bishops, and other princes of the Holy Church of the One True God. Afflicted by the curse of the nosferatu, they are now eternally damned to be bloodsucking Undead who view the living mortals of the River as little more than wild cattle waiting to be domesticated.
These are simply some of the more well known Death worshippers on the River. There are other, more secret, cults as well. Regarded as antisocial and undesirable even by the amoral and violent standards of the River, death worship is something that generally must be done covertly, even when it is not actually illegal (as it is in the Realm of Ona-Tengu and the new Holy Lands).
The New Religion
Brought to the River by Ivy Blackwater, the Great Beast, and the Mighty Jonas from their distant homelands Beyond The Setting Sun, these Temples were given permission to be established within the Realm of Ona Tengu by the Crimson Queen, in exchange for their oaths of absolute fealty to the Realm. So it is that all Priests of the New Temples are actually oath sworn as Lords of the Realm, and owe their primary worldly fealty to the people and the Monarch, not to their Temple or their God.
As Urban Riverscum are a very unspiritual people, they have been slow to embrace the New Temples. It should be remembered that the average Riverscum knows for a fact who created the world and everything in it... the Samaqel, whom all Riverscum violently and virulently hate to the depths of their souls. Thus, all Riverscum loathe and despise their central deity figure, and because of this, the very concept of worship is deeply repugnant to them. It is commonly believed and accepted on the River that when one dies, one goes to Hell forever and ever, and because of this, it makes little different how one lives and one may as well strive for as much fleshly pleasure and gratification during one’s brief time on earth as one can possibly get.
While the New Temples have gained some worshippers, the majority of Urban Riverscum have never had or wanted any sort of organized religion. Many haven’t even heard of the New Temples.
The New Temples are comprised of:
The Temple of War
The Temple of Commerce
The Temple of Time
The Temple of Nature
The Temple of Fire
The Temple of Knowledge
Predictably, the most popular of these Temples is the Temple of Commerce. However, while many Riverish gladly do business with the Temple, only a small number are actual worshippers, of the Goddess of Silver and Gold, or any deity.
While the Samaqel was loathed and despised by the vast majority of Riverscum, there were once many millions of humans in the Ancient Lands who happily worshipped the huge, godlike Jhareesh. Residents of Do’Samaqel, the huge city created to house Its vast human herd, these ‘civilized’ folk looked down upon and pitied the poor, brutish savages of the River Republics. However, the people of the River never saw any of these elegant and refined herd-dwellers, and when the Samaqel died in 3004 (RC1) 99 out of a hundred of Its worshippers went insane and, in a sudden frenzy of violent madness, destroyed their city and themselves. Do’ Samaqel is reportedly now a ransacked ruin, inhabited only by small gangs of insane survivors and their feral children.
The only worshippers of the Samaqel that the average Riverscum ever did see were the Priests of the Samaqel. Degenerate, evil, slimey little bald guys in weird robes who floated up and down the River in a strange flying ship, they were hated and feared by a world they were sworn to exploit. Possessed of the ability to work apparent wonders merely by clapping their hands, the Priests preached the joys of belonging to the Samaqel while selling addictive drugs and miraculous devices that would only work for a short time, thus building a dependent clientele from one end of the River to the next. Once the Samaqel died, most priests went insane, and crazy or not, every Priest unfortunate enough to be on the River was torn to pieces by angry mobs within minutes.
These days, it would seem that Samaqel worship is extinct.