Pantheon and The Holy Orders
The Felusian Pantheon of the Holy Orders and Other Forms of Worship Practiced on the Airle
The Pantheon of the Holy Orders:
The Felusian Hegemony, save for the reign of the Tyrant, had officially recognized a specific Pantheon of Gods and Goddesses throughout its recorded history. In this pantheon it recognizes three ‘ages’ of gods, each earlier age passing on its responsibilities to the generation after it. Thus, the two major gods in the Pantheon, Cifae and her consort Aethir, are actually among the youngest gods, and are part of a generation that includes Edeun, Berugi, and the ‘nameless’.
Central theme of the Pantheon:
Dyer, on his journeys, arrived on our plane and found that it had decayed into utter evil and chaos. He was determined to return order to this universe, and fought alone against the boundless entropy of the shifting plane itself. The fight was a stalemate, and it seemed as though the battle would go on forever.
The chaos, although it knew it could not be defeated, possessed in itself a great hunger. Part of it coalesced into the shape of a black, fanged creature, and bought itself before Dyer. Introducing itself as ‘Fenrir’, it offered Dyer a proposition; it would allow Dyer to restore an island of order on this plane, with itself as the canvas. However, Fenrir demanded something in return; to be allowed to feast on a part of Dyer himself.
Dyer understood that such an action would lead to a balance of forces which would allow the achievement of his goal. He needed to be sure that his sacrifice would be at least equal to Fenrir’s offering. If not, chaos would still hold sway over this new realm, and his sacrifice would be for nothing. So, he offered as payment the most important thing a god of combat could, his sword hand. The sacrifice proved sufficient, and the Tumult peeled away behind a thin golden chain to reveal the Serene, and the world created within it he would call Eimar.
He had succeeded in his task, but the Eimar was still cold, lifeless, and without purpose. He realized that alone he lacked the proper perspective of scale to fashion it into something more worthy. So he created beings out of the rocks and earth of the Eimar; the Dwarves. They would work the stone they sprang from, creating and living in tunnels under the surface of Eimar, learning about their new world, and passing the myriad of their experiences down through their lineage.
Even though they were a resourceful people, he could see that he may have instilled too much of his own nature in them. They were obsessed with simplicity, combat, and order, and showed little interest in the working with the surface of the Eimar. Dyer had brought some stability to the Serene, but it still lacked the color and joy he had hoped to grant to his creation. Bound too heavily by his own limited perspective, he realized he would need to create beings which could be more flexible with their creativity than he could ever be.
So, he caused to come into existence a second set of gods, believed to be ‘reflections’ of Dyer’s life force; different facets possessing equal power, who would hopefully look upon the Serene with a different vision. He then stepped aside and passed on his leadership to one of his progeny. He chose Votan, a god of this second generation who he thought possessed the best potential for leadership.
Like Dyer, Votan possessed wisdom and love of honorable combat. However, he also had within him a fire of ingenuity, and a passion less bound by rigidity of perspective. Votan saw more clearly what Dyer’s wishes were, and sent the new gods Frezia and Friez to let loose their unbridled creativity, a skill they used to bring teeming life to the surface of the Eimar. They also created sentient beings with a strong connection to the Eimar, the Elves, Halflings, and Gnomes, who would act as caretakers of the surface world in much the same way as the Dwarves did below the surface.
The Eimar’s ‘roots and branches’ had now been secured in place, and the balance of this new realm could now be maintained. Still, Votan realized that the hunger of Fenrir would eventually return, threatening to undo all that the gods had done. The races they had created had the ability to defend themselves, but at the cost of neglecting their stewardship of their lands and maintaining the delicate balance there. Votan saw the need to create one more race, one detached from any specific duty to the Eimar, save to defend it.
With the help of the Dwarves and the gods of the second generation, Humanity was fashioned to specifically meet this need. To command them required gods which shared the same flexibility, and a greater understanding of the Eimar as well. Thus the third generation of gods came into being, who would guide and assist Humanity in their duty. This dichotomy is the one that the Order believes exists into the present day.
However, it is still believed that over time, the hunger of Fenrir will return, and the Tumult will be too strong to hold back. It is only a matter of time before the Serene will be thrown asunder in the battle of the ‘Narak’, an event in which even the estranged ‘nameless’ one will come to aid of the Pantheon to fight against his servant, Elum.
Elum will betray the ‘nameless’, joining Fenrir and breaking the links of the Golden Loop. The Serene will be directly exposed to the chaotic Tumult and begin to lose its form. The Narak will commence, the battle to end all battles. In the end, the gods of the Order and the races of the Eimar will be victorious, though at great cost. The Eimar will be restored, and those that survive will repopulate it under the leadership of what gods remain.
Dyer, will regain his hand through Fenrir’s abandonment of their bargain. His purpose complete, he will leave the Serene and travel on, presumably to bring order to other realms, and to perhaps return the Serene if he is ever needed again.
There are many who see the advent of the Nether as a sign the Narak will come soon, due to man’s abandonment of his duty, lured away by the allure of obtaining greater magical power, and the inherent chaos within it.
The recognized religious leadership of Felusia is referred to as ‘the Holy Orders’. The approved Pantheon is split into three tiers, with the Holy Order of Cifae considered the highest Order, and the goddess recognized as the leader of the Pantheon. Below that exists the gods of the military orders, considered the protectors and prime advisors of Cifae and guardians of the Serene. Finally, there are the gods of the people, guiding and aiding the community in their everyday pursuits.
Considered a neutral organization, the Order does hold an allegiance; to itself. Under the auspices of ensuring that the well being of all people is ensured, the Holy Orders considers each nation to be ‘in good standing’, or ‘not in good’ standing. As noble peerages are based on recognition by the Orders, all noble houses strive to remain in good standing, or potentially lose their sanctioned right to rule. Generally, this status is based on recognizing the Order’s influence first, and a rulers’ treatment of its citizens second.
A dominant force in the old Felusian Hegemony, the Fracturing and the chaos that followed all but destroyed the Felusian system of nobility that the Orders had utilized to enhance its influence there. Though its power as a whole has decreased, its sponsoring of the Holy Banners and the Reconquest assured it a prominent place on the Airle, and that the gods of the Pantheon would continue to be the main gods of worship among the colonists there.
Reproduction among the gods is a mystery not fully explained, but it is believed that the younger gods inherited a varying balance of wisdom, knowledge, and natural ability of the gods that came before them. Cifae was chosen by her elders their leader, supposedly considered to possess the most superior combination of the traits of all the gods before her. But from the younger gods diversity and power, comes the downfall that they are the not the masters of the specific traits they inherit. Thus, the oldest gods remain on in an advisory role, giving guidance to their gifted but sometimes conflicted ‘children’, serving as an analogue for society in general.
Although the gods of the Pantheon are usually represented with humanoid forms, their actual appearance, like their reproduction, remains a mystery of the faith. It is assumed that their appearance, as well as that of the races they created, is a reflection of their connection with the Eimar. For example, Dyer usually resembles a Dwarf or short Human, depending on who the artist is. The gods of the second generation tend to feature Human or Elven traits, with perhaps traces of Gnome or Halfling. The gods of the third generation are the only ones portrayed consistently as Human, much of that due to the Human-dominated Orders reverence of these gods.
Gods of the Holy Orders:
There are six Holy Orders, with the Holy Order of Cifae considered the primary Order. These gods are generally worshipped by soldiers of the Holy Orders, old Royal Regiments, and the nobility, the clerical orders themselves, and including members of the general population.
Cifae – Considered the Goddess of Fidelity, she is seen as the primary force in promoting and sustaining the common good of all. She bridges the gap between noble, commoner, and god alike, wise in all matters, keeping council of her elders and kin to temper her decisions.
Votan – The head of Cifae’s war council, he is recognized as the second ruler of all the gods. He is also considered one of the three creators of Humanity with his brothers Vilis and Vei. The similarity between Votan and Aethir leads him to be considered his ‘son’.
Aethir – Votan’s son, he is seen as a master of battle rather than of strategy like his father. As Cifae’s consort, he is the masculine counterpart to Cifae’s more feminine and diplomatic nature. He is sent as the primary executor of the council’s will, to do what seems best without hesitation. He is also seen as possessing the wisdom to judge a situation quickly, and to take righteous action when there is no time for contemplation.
Ferset – The militant judge of the war council, he is the guardian of the council’s laws. He keeps to the path when personal or moral bias might sway others. His name is invoked as well during competitions, to ensure fair play, and swearing on or to a symbol of Ferset is a common practice. His near absolute commitment to the rule of law is tempered by his understanding that there are times it may not be the moral choice, even if he is incapable of deviating from them. Thus, he is said to give his judgment when requested, and leave Cifae and the council to act on his findings.
Dyer – The first leader and oldest of the gods, he is recognized as the creator of the Serene, carving order out of the chaos through the sacrifice of his sword hand. Seeing that his creation would be unsustainable, he gave rise to the second age of gods to help him maintain and protect the Serene, passing his leadership to Votan when the time came. Considered a god of ideals and absolutes, he is seen as the basis for the rules one should strive to live by, and that one should only stray from them when situations dictate it.
Hemdel – The god of light, he serves as the protector and healer of the needy. The Holy Order of Hemdel is a popular deity among healing clerics, seen more as a defender rather than one of militant aggression. He also serves as the gatekeeper to the ‘brilliant path’ to the home of the gods, his name invoked in last rights to those about to pass on.
Gods of the Common People:
Where the gods of the Order are seen as the head of the Pantheon, there exists a level of gods which are seen to support the goals of the council. They involve themselves more with the needs of the everyday people, acting as a bridge between the worlds. Worship of these gods is more popular among the rural and non-Human/Dwarven populations of Felusian ancestry, who may not see common cause with the militant and Humanistic nature of the gods of the Holy Orders.
Frezia – Considered the goddess of renewal and community, her ties to nature are seen to give her great insight and sympathy for the needs of man. She witnesses the deeds of the commoner, rewarding those with good intent by aiding their efforts. Soldiers who die honorably in battle are also said to be rewarded in the afterlife, carried away by her servants to prepare for the Narak. It is believed that different appearance of the Elves is due to their connection with nature. Because of this, depictions of Frezia portray her with subtle Elven features, though not nearly as prominent as her brother, Freiz.
Freiz – ‘Brother’ of Frezia, he is the lord and tamer of animals. Popular among farmers and hunters, his strong affinity with nature is said to make him look completely Elven. He is understandably highly revered by the Elves, even above Frezia.
Vilis – The god of common sense, and one of the three creators of Humankind, he is seen as the one who gave man the gift of conscience and his sense of right and wrong. He is called upon when important decisions are made that need to combine morality with practicality, and stands in opposition to the direct interpretation of the law. He, with his brother Vei, are revered by the Dwarves, and sometimes portrayed as being short in stature.
Vei – The god of awareness, he is revered as the god who gave man the ability to sense the world around them. A favorite of trackers and those seeking answers, he is associated with the purity of unbiased observation and pure facts. To say, “Vei speaks through me,” is to say that one speaks the unvarnished truth. He is also a popular god among the Dwarves.
Phrysse – Where Votan, Vilis, and Vei are credited with giving the first Humans the spark of life, Phrysse is seen as giving Humankind its form; wrought from wood and spinning around it the cloudy strands of fate. As the ‘mother’ of all Humans, she is popular among Human women, and those who hope to glean reason from portents due to her special relationship with the Seers.
Edeun – The god of youth and rebirth, he is seen as the patron of joy, mirth, and the celebration of life. He embodies freedom from responsibility, a reward everyone is recognized to be entitled to from time to time. Though a young god like Cifae, he was considered one of three possible successors to Votan along with the ‘nameless’ one, but had no interest in the commitment being the leader of the gods would require. He instead decided to provide joy to the peoples of the Serene, to act as a balance to the concept of duty Cifae represents. When one is hung over, it is sometimes said that one has spent, “too much time with Edeun.” Views of the deity vary, with Halflings and Gnomes giving him more reverence. Also, there are cults that believe that he is secretly Elum, the prime servant of the ‘nameless’.
Veldare – God of beauty and charisma, he is also seen as a patron of elegant speech. He embodies the nobility and good that exists within all people, and also of good fortune. The grave injuries inflicted on him by ‘the nameless one’ sent him into the long sleep. It is believed that Veldare can still hear the prayers of his followers and intercede on their behalf, and still interacts with the faithful through their dreams.
Berugi – The god of travelers and friend of Velidaire, he is a wandering minstrel, storyteller, and recorder of history. He is popular among performers and those who journey the world. Also, he is seen as being present with those who die untimely and/or undeserved deaths, so that they and their story will not pass from the Serene without being heard.
Gods of Intercession:
Though not officially possessing temples of their own, these gods are still revered in the hopes they will intercede on ones behalf in times of need. Though the Holy Orders do not condone direct worship of these gods, organized worship of these gods does occur nonetheless, the most tolerated form being Erthus, whom wizards revere, and see as the prime reason access to magic by the races of the Serene is possible.
Erthus – Goddess of the River, she is seen as a giver of trials, revealing secrets of reality to those worthy of these gifts. She is seen only as a provider, holding no bias or moral authority, which to the Holy Orders makes centralized worship of her dubious.
Kaldi – Wife of Malestrom and Queen of Ice, she is seen as a stable counterpart to her chaotic husband. She is seen as a potential source of magical powers as well, but her name is mostly invoked to quell the dangerous natural conditions created by Malestrom. Cults based on her worship range from evil to good, some centering on her supposed forbidden love of Velidare.
The Seers – Unnamed, unnumbered, and undefined, this mysterious group of entities are seen as the creators of the clouds of fate, who weave the destinies of men to maintain stability and balance in a world of chaos. They are usually asked for the revelation of the purpose of events, but never asked to change what events are already set in motion. They are usually depicted as dark figures obscured in the clouds they create. Some believe that the Seers are not actually distinct entities, and are actually a manifestation of the combined gods’ subconscious will and imagination.
Gods of Purpose:
The gods of Death and of the Elements are considered to have important roles, but are not considered to have the general welfare of the people of the world in their interests. They are said to look on impassionedly, performing their god given duties working to the mysterious plans of the Seers in order to sustain the existence of the Serene. If their names are invoked, it is almost always simply in vain.
Malestrom – God of the elements, and husband of Kaldi, he is considered to be an entity of shifting form and unpredictable action. Pleasant or deadly weather is attributed to his moods, in combination with the clouds of fate. While many see Kaldi as the force that moderates Malestrom and keeps him from destroying the world, those who worship him see Kaldi as interfering with the universal plan, and cite her supposed secret love of Velidare as proof of her infidelity. Some speculate that his knowledge of this affair fuels his madness and causes his irrational ‘thrashing out’ on the world.
Holle – The Goddess of Death, regarded as the executor of the fates of all men. Her agents ensure that lives end when they are required to end, with nothing besides the intercession of the gods, or men with her blessing, preventing ones passing. As a reward, Holle keeps some of the souls she harvests, the ones unworthy of the tests of fate. The most evil she traps within her very form, subjecting them to specific and unspeakable torments. Worshippers range from those who believe she deserves thanks for her thankless but necessary job, and others who believe at heart Death is greedy, and desires to provide her proper sacrifices to increase her soul tithe.
The Gods of Opposition:
Gods who oppose the balance of the Serene are considered to be in Opposition. Though there are many forces and spirits who may assist the ‘unnamed’ one, there exists only two which would qualify as gods. Worship of either is considered high heresy, and could be punishable by death. Their symbols are used only by worshipers and not by the Orders, though they are commonly recognizable to the general population.
‘the nameless’ – A powerful deity who is believed to stand in opposition to the sovereignty Cifae and the gods of the Holy Order. He throws trials and threats towards man and god alike in his attempt to interfere with their plans. An extremely intelligent and young god who had been considered to lead the Pantheon, he disagreed with the predestined and unyielding weave of fate surrounding their creations. He believed that the races they had created should have no safety net, wishing to expose them fully to the freedom and pitfalls of pure free will. Originally his opposition was rather harmless, taking the form of interference in the plans of the other gods, but after his involvement in the ‘death’ of Veldare, ‘the nameless’ was forced to flee into hiding. The lack of forgiveness shown towards him, combined with the earlier choice of Cifae to succeed Votan as leader of the gods filled him with jealousy and spite. His name was supposedly lost to time through disuse, as it was believed that mentioning his name would attract his powerful attention.
It is heresy to worship the ‘nameless’, as he is considered to the primary entity in opposition to the established order. Those who do worship him do in secret, and do so for a wide range of reasons. Some believe that interference by the ‘nameless’ is the only thing that allows true free will and choice to exist on Eimar, while others simply respect in his attested incredible intelligence and power. Most who worship him believe that the ‘nameless’ and Cifae herself engaged in a secret affair, an act which would compromise her purity, and her legitimacy as a moral authority.
If the ‘nameless’ does possess any endearing trait to those who see him as a villain, it is that he has no desire to see the destruction of the Serene or the extermination of Dyer’s creation itself. It is said that during the Narak, he will come to see the error of his ways, and sacrifice his life to prevent the total destruction of the Serene. At that time, his name will be revealed to all to be spoken freely once again, so that all could pay proper homage to his final act.
Elum – The servant of the ‘nameless’, he is considered the god of secrets, and is used by the ‘nameless’ to further his goals. Usually pointed in the proper direction and given a basic task, he is left to do as he pleases to perform it. In some cases, over time he forgets his assigned task due to insanity or apathy, causing the ‘nameless’ to have to step in and restrain his subordinate when his actions go too far. Worshipers of Elum consider him to be the embodiment of narcissism and self indulgence above all other things. They also recognize him to be the true personality of a dual-natured Edeun, acting as a spy for the ‘nameless’ among the other gods.
Pantheon worship by other Felusian races:
The non-Human races that emigrated from Felusia generally recognize the gods of the Pantheon themselves due to their gradual integration into the Human dominated society. Still, their focus of worship does differ slightly, and the gods they revere most can differ from the interpretation espoused by the Orders. This is tolerated, as long as the gods they worship are considered to be the same entities, and are ones deemed fit for worship by the Orders. However, many simply recognize the specific doctrines of the Holy Orders, worshiping in the same fashion as Humans.
The non-human races of Felusia are considered to be older races, created by Dyer, Frezia, and Freiz. Dwarves are considered the oldest race, and are also considered to have been instrumental in the creation of Humanity. Because of this, they are the most revered and most integrated race religiously, the only major difference being Dyer’s elevated status. Besides slight differences in their rituals, they recognize the doctrine of the Holy Orders completely. The Orders interpretation that the younger gods are refinements of the older ones mirrors the roles of each race in the world, while subtly reinforcing the leadership role of Humanity in the Orders, and in Felusian based societies.
More traditional Halfling, Gnome, and Elf worship focuses solely on the lesser gods of the pantheon, due to their believed connection with nature. This mindset is reinforced by their superior and specialized senses and traits, which are viewed as animal-like. Although not considered inferior per-se, these races are seen as having a purpose, focus, and passion that is more connected to the Eimar than to direct service of the primary gods of the Order.
Gods of the Airle races:
The three main factions indigenous to the Airle worship gods which have different names, but strangely similar roles as the Felusian Pantheon. This has led scholars to believe that they are indeed the same gods worshiped by the Felusians, with the main deviation being the primary god each faction recognizes. This reinforces the theory that the Airle and Felusia shared a cultural connection at some time in the past. For the Orders, this serves as additional proof that the gods of their Pantheon are the true ones.
The Zielgfoke worship centers on the Mother of the Wastes, Celde and her husband Tempestze, who share the same apparent roles as Kaldi and Malestrom. Tempestze is shown as having more temperance to those who show him proper respect, and Celde sharing a more prominent role in providing mankind access to magic, much like Erthus.
The Telis worship E’phese and B’adur, who seem to share the same roles as Freiz and Veldare, and of Elo, whose actions sent B’adur into the long sleep. The one prominent exception to Felusian analogues comes in the form of the elf-god Fes’ania, or the ‘Father’, who saved the elves from extinction at the hands of the Orcs, and ensuring their continued survival. Stories about Fes’ania are considered sacred, and rarely if ever spoken to outsiders.
The Orcs have a quasi-monotheistic religion, centering on Grumah. Below him are a host of other demi-gods, some with vaguely similar traits as the Felusian ones. Scholars can make connections between Grumah and Votan, though research into the subject is difficult at best, with sacred Orc texts being hard to come by, and difficult to decipher. Some Orcs of the Del’cuz revere the Seers while still professing allegiance to Grumah, a strange blending of Felusian and Airle worship. Research into this subject can be controversial, as the Orders officially view Orcs as a perversion of nature by the ‘nameless’, and to suggest they worship Votan could be considered by some quite sacrilegious.
Alternate Worship of the Pantheon:
There are some who believe in the gods of the Pantheon, but differ in some way from the Orders interpretation of the faith. Some view the Orders’ control over the allowed forms of worship as an artificial constraint. Others believe that the Order has manipulated the hierarchy of the gods to fit their own agenda, and that the Order itself is a heresy. There also exist groups who revere Pantheon gods the Orders forbid worship of, including those which are considered apocryphal, or even of the Opposition.
The Order considers all of these alternate forms of worship heretical, and a threat to the order of the Serene. Their reaction on finding such centers of deviant worship can vary depending on the threat it poses, ranging from simply missionary work, imprisoning troublemaking preachers and reeducating their flocks, and in the most serious cases, the utilization of its inquisitor branches to track down and eliminate the threat.
Worship of other gods:
The gods of the Pantheon are not the only ones to have been worshiped by the peoples of the Eimar. Before the self-theistic Tyrant, and the Felusian Hegemony itself, there existed other religions, some which were equal, if not more influential than the Pantheon in their respective regions. Over the course of time, through conflict, missionary work, and the consolidation of power in Felusia, these other religions were forced underground, or pushed back to the fringe of society. Though the Orders and the Pantheon have come to total dominance, these other religions have not disappeared entirely.
Whether monotheistic, polytheistic, or based in nature, their methods of worship differ greatly from those of the Pantheon, even if the values they preach might be similar. The Orders see the old religions as either ‘misinterpretation’ of their gods, created through the trickery of Elum and the ‘nameless’, or perhaps the machinations of the chaos beyond the Serene. The followers of these religions are rooted out and dealt with wherever they are discovered in Airle, though it is rumored that in the chaos of Felusia, some of these older religions are returning to open practice.
There also exist cults of Fenrir, who see the gods of the Order and their imposition of their vision on the Tumult as the abomination. In their perspective, everything tangible that exists is a manifestation of their god trapped in solid form, and that the absolute destruction of an item frees a part of Fenrir from its imprisonment, the cults eventual goal being the destruction of the Serene.
Finally, there are a few who believe in gods who have ‘revealed’ themselves in recent times. These new religions are looked upon with deep suspicion, and are seen as a potential attempts by the denizens of the Tumult to create another incursion. Researching such emergences is one of the major duties of the Order’s inquisitor branches.