Deities & Churches of the Fourth Age
On the physical plane, those most attuned to the divine quickly realized the new situation, and began to realign their churches accordingly. This was not done without conflict. The decade-long God Wars were some of the most brutal conflicts ever to mar Zion’s Abyss, in this or any other age. Eventually, however, the clergy had their houses in order. This was not the complete end of the problem, unfortunately. The various followers of any given deity found that they often had conflicting visions of how to worship their god. These divides gave rise to sects within each church, each dedicated to a particular aspect of a given deity. The cooperation and good tidings between the sects is largely dependant on which god they worship. While the outright bloodshed is long over, the internecine struggles between sects are often just as bad.
Following is information on the seven deities worshipped on Zion’s Abyss, and the various sects that follow them. Aside from the deity’s own symbol, sects have a symbol used to denote them. This is usually worn as a small badge over the left breast.
The Storyteller is the father of the gods, and the creator of Zion’s Abyss. Being the creator, he is often referred to as Zion himself, and answers to this as well as to Storyteller. He has a special fondness for bards and sages, and looks fondly upon adventurers of any stripe. While he has a few clergy dedicated to him throughout the lands, he has no organized church, and thus no sects. He is usually depicted as an elderly human gentleman, with long flowing white hair and beard dressed in comfortable robes. Often, he is shown with an open book in his hand, and an amused knowing smile gracing his lips. The symbol of his followers is an open book, colored white.
Talabrina is the goddess dedicated to the preservation of all that is good. She is a fierce warrior goddess, every ready to defend her ideals with her twin katana. While she has worshippers of all races, her chosen people are the elves, and she most often depicted as such. Her image is that of a dark-skinned elven maiden with exceedingly long silver-white hair. She is most often shown with one hand held out in friendship or supplication, while her other grips one of her two blades. Her face is stern and unyielding, yet her eyes hold a sadness that never seems to go away. Her symbol is a silver katana imposed on an eclipsed sun. The sects of Talabrina’s church work closely together with little, if any, infighting.
Brothers of the Oath: This sect of Talabrina’s church believes that service to their goddess demands the protection of those in need, and service to the less fortunate. Their temples are often found in the poorer sections of cities, where they minister to the diseased and downtrodden. They set up schools and hospitals where they can offer their services for little or no fee. This sect also attracts paladins and other disciplined warriors of goodness who desire to aid those in need where few others will. Their symbol is a hand, held palm out.
Order of the Silver Sword: This sect is probably the most numerous of Talabrina’s followers. Their numbers are filled with warrior priests and battlefield healers, as well a number of adventuring clergy. These men and women follow the warrior aspect of the goddess, whom they call the Dark Maiden, taking the fight against evil to the front lines. They have few established churches, but have several small shrines strewn throughout the lands at various battlefields. What temples they do have in civilized lands are places of martial learning as well as worship. Their symbol is a silver katana.
Children of the Shadowed Sun: The Children believe that understanding is the key to winning any battle. As such, this sect is dedicated to the gathering, storage, and distribution of knowledge. Their temples more often resemble libraries and universities than places of worship. Indeed, they are often used for such purposes. Such places of higher learning cannot help but attract wealthy patrons, so this sect is by far the richest of Talabrina’s faith. They use this wealth to fund the other sects’ interests as well as their own. The knowledge they collect goes a long way toward furthering their goddess’ war against evil, as well. Their symbol is an eclipsed sun.
The Maiden’s Rage: The smallest sect of Talabrina’s church is also the least known outside of its confines. While dedicated to good as an ideal, the followers who join the Rage do not necessarily subscribe to the strict tenets of goodness. These fanatics have sworn to do whatever it takes to further their goddess’ aims, even if it may cost them deeply. When the other sects have a problem that cannot be solved by ordinary means, they call on the Maiden’s Rage to take care of things. Operating as spies, enforcers, or even assassins at times, they serve a necessary, if unfortunate, purpose. While they have no temples of their own, there are members in the employ of every established church of the other sects. Their symbol is a blood red teardrop, though it is rarely worn where others can see it. Those who need their services know how to get in touch with them.
The god Damion governs the laws of magic in Zion’s Abyss. After The Storyteller himself, Damion is probably the most powerful deity in existence. Magic is a fact of life for everyone, whether they actively use it or not. It is a force that surrounds and imbues everything. As its master, Damion is in an enviable position to effect a great deal. As magic is a neutral force, so is its deity. Followers from all walks of life are welcomed in his church, as long as they respect and worship the arcane. While most often depicted as human, he has a special place in his heart for the gnomish race. Of the major races, the gnomes are perhaps closest to the arcane energies that flow throughout the world. However, as stated, Damion is most often shown as a tall, slender human with shoulder-length blonde hair pulled back in a severe ponytail. His features are likewise severe, sometimes even cruel. His clothing is uniformly black, though the style may vary. His followers, while united in their love of magic, quarrel over its application, often breaking out into skirmishes of magical and mundane means. His symbol is a ball of purple and black eldritch flame.
Order of Power: They say power corrupts, and this sect certainly proves the adage. They dedicate themselves to the accumulation of power, by any means necessary. While they focus on magical power, political and economic power is also desired. This sect thinks nothing of murder and torture to get what they want. One of their favorite tactics is the enchantment of powerful victims, robbing them of their will and using them for all they are worth. They most often establish their temples near seats of power, where they have access to plenty of potential victims. Intrigue comes as second nature to these people, so proof of their crimes is difficult to obtain under the best of circumstances. Their symbol is a golden pyramid.
Order of the Heart: This sect believes that magic should be used for the betterment of all, and practices what they preach. Their magical healers are highly sought after, and they provide council to several influential people throughout the lands. They spend a great deal of time and effort battling the Order of Power’s myriad schemes. As both Orders prefer to operate behind the scenes, this is largely an unknown affair outside of the church. It is often not until one is already caught up in the web of intrigue between the two before they know anything about it. Despite this shadow war, the Order of the Heart remains a powerful force for good in the land. The sect is allied closely with the church of the goddess Talabrina. Their temples are located in both the poorest and richest sections of cities, as need demands. Their symbol is a crystalline sapphire heart.
Order of the Eldritch Flame: This group worries little about the outside world. Instead, they delve into the inner workings of magic itself. Learning to see beyond the known into the unknown, followers of these teachings focus on the intricate ebb and flow of the forces around them. Their in-depth knowledge and willingness to push beyond recognized boundaries make them capable of phenomenal displays of arcane and divine might. Unlike the Order of the Codex, the Eldritch Flame wishes not to cage magic with laws of being, but rather to know the laws behind those laws and to know how to makes those laws mutable. Their temples are often built in remote places, far from most habitation. Because of the nature of their worship, it is not uncommon for strange and unexplainable things to occur at or near these temples. Their symbol is a bright purple ball of flame.
Order of the Codex: The Codex is concerned with the laws and lore governing the forces of magic. They believe that the codification of magic will yield to greater understanding of the universe around them. They seek arcane knowledge with a zealot’s passion, and often sponsor expeditions to find such. Many adventuring groups owe their start to Codex quests. Among mages, Codex spellbooks are a highly sought commodity, but a rare one. The sect does not offer its books for sale, but has been known to award them for great services rendered them. They do build great libraries to house this knowledge, and membership to these edifices of learning is available with a monthly donation. They have temples scattered throughout the lands, in both populated and remote areas. Their symbol is an open black book.
Order of Passion: One of the lesser aspects of Damion is the patron god of lovers. The Order of the Heart represents one side of this aspect with its love of life and devotion to helping others. The Order of Passion follows a much looser interpretation of love. A hedonistic society, this group worships magic for the pleasures it can bring them. They see enlightenment coming from throwing off conventions and following ones own desires. A diverse lot, generalizations are difficult for this sect. One temple varies from another, sometimes even in the same city. Regardless, they are generally home to vice in nearly all its forms. Were this sect better organized, they might well run the underworld throughout the lands. As it is, getting its members as a whole to agree and commit at this level is virtually impossible. Many of their temples are “underground” affairs, though some are set up as lavish dens of iniquity. Their symbol is a pair of bright red lips.
When the dark God Calimar fell, it was Siqueness who took his place. Indeed, it was she that orchestrated his fall. Once Calimar’s closest lieutenant, Siqueness maneuvered a group of heroes into defeating her master, allowing her to take his place in the heavens. Or in this case, hells. The goddess of evil, she stands as the patron to spies, assassins, and undead. She is most often depicted as a humanoid, slightly smaller that average human build. Her face is cruel and amused at once, and hints at fae origins. Her mouth is often shown opened in mocking laughter, baring a set of fangs. Siqueness and Talabrina are deadly rivals, and their followers constantly work against one another. There are few open temples to her outside the kingdom of Sarduk’ Noir. Instead, small cults of her followers thrive in the dark and forgotten places, and the most decadent areas of a city. The various sects of her church plot as much against each other as they do outside influences. Her symbol is a green dagger, edged in black, point down.
Children of the Lich: This sect is devoted to the creation and control of undead. They seek nothing less than to dominate the entire world, throwing it into horrific darkness. To do this, they have begun to raise great hordes of mindless undead. They intend to use these armies to sweep the lands of all that is good. Worship often demands blood sacrifices, and the sect gleefully traffics in kidnapping and slavery. The main core of the sect is built around former ranking members of Calimar’s church. Their loyalty to Siqueness remains a matter of question, so the other sects keep a close eye on the Children. It was also the machinations of these people that ultimately led to the Fall. As such, the churches of the other deities often work to keep this sect within controllable limits. Temples are usually located in the center of vast necropolises, or at past battlefields. Their symbol is a white set of vampire’s fangs.
Brothers of the Poisoned Blade: The Brothers worship death, but not undeath. This sect is the chosen faith of assassins and murderers. Service to their goddess demands the blood of those who oppose her, and these worshippers are more than happy to comply. These are not mindless killers however, nor mere hired guns. These are people on a mission to make their faith, and their beliefs, the strongest, by whatever means necessary. Assassinations are most often done for religious or political reasons, rarely for money. Fanatics of the worst sort, they use whatever terrorist methods become available to them. Their greatest desire is to die in the service of their goddess, to sit forever at her right hand. The sect has no established temples, but has cells wherever the dispossessed and the criminal gather. Their symbol is a blood red stiletto, point down.
The Dominion: The Dominion desires the world, plain and simple. They want everything, and they want it served to them on a silver platter. The sect sees the best route to this goal to be systematic manipulation on every level, from national policy to personal freedom. They use laws like armies use swords, as devastating weapons to further their agenda. And, of course, it is all done “as a matter of public interest.” The worshippers of this sect works from the shadows, plucking a string here and cutting one there to make the world a better place for them, and them alone. Even within the sect, Machiavellian intrigues abound, as members plot and move against each other for a better seat at the table. The Dominion is master of binding one to their will, and has made writing contracts a devious art form. They have amassed a great deal of power with a minimum of effort, merely by key phrasing on important documents. Their temples are located near facilities of adjudication and law enforcement. Their symbol is a set of black manacles.
Order of the Ghost: The smallest sect of Siqueness’ church, these people desire knowledge for the power it can bring. Unlike the knowledge seeking sects of other churches, the Ghosts work to ferret out people’s darkest secrets. They then use this knowledge to bring their victims under their sway. Operating largely as spies for the church as a whole, the Order controls a network of “eyes and ears” unrivaled in all the lands. While the sect cooperates with the other sects of its religion, they also maintain their own agendas, and regularly keep the choicest secrets they uncover for their own use. Their temples are located in areas controlled by thieves’ guilds and other criminal elements. Their symbol is a black finger set against a pair of green lips in a “hush” gesture.
Malachai is the god concerned with the realm of law and order. He reigns as the patron to merchants, lawmakers, and adjudicators. The discipline he embodies also appeals to monks, so he often stands as patron to them as well. While the various sects of his church all agree that the rule of law is the highest concern, they disagree vehemently as to implementation of the laws, methodology of enforcement, and even which laws are needed. As such, there is a great deal of conflict within the church’s following. The god himself is depicted most often as a stern, unyielding human male. In one hand he usually holds a set of scales, and in the other a book of laws. He is clad in black robes of office with a sword belted at his waist. Other depictions have the sword in hand, replacing the book. His symbol is a set of golden scales of justice.
Hospitallars: As the name suggests, this sect is mainly devoted to the healing arts. They also dedicate a great deal of time and effort helping the poor and downtrodden, often acting as legal aid to these unfortunates. They work closely with the Brothers of the Oath sect from Talabrina’s church, often operating out of the same hospitals and other clinics. Even temple space is sometimes shared between the two sects. These selfless individuals believe that law and order are present in the world to make it a better place, and to make life easier for all, not merely for the affluent or lucky few. Their symbol is a silver pair of hands clasped in prayer, and it serves as a beacon of hope wherever it is located.
Justicars: This sect believes in the absoluteness of law, maintaining that law serves neither good nor evil, merely that it is. Laws are not made to be exploited for any cause, but to maintain a sense of order that allows life to flourish in a chaotic world. This belief in law without bias makes the Justicars much desired as arbiters in a myriad of disagreements. The clergy of this sect often serve as judges and other civil law enforcement officials, in addition to their divine duties. They are also the glue that holds the church of Malachai together, for the Hospitallars and Inquisitors rarely get along and it is up this sect to maintain the balance. Their temples are usually located near areas of civic government. Their symbol is a blue visage of Malachai, blindfolded.
Inquisitors: This sect has two key tenets to their belief. First, that law is exploitable, ever ready to be manipulated to suit their needs and desires. Second, that heretics and disbelievers in the rule of law deserve nothing less than the severest punishment. Heretics, in their minds, are more often than not any who stand in the way of their progress. The Inquisitors seek nothing less than the formation of the perfect police state, under their less than benevolent rule. Of course, all laws are “for the good of the people”, whether the people will it or no. These people are ruthless zealots who think nothing of using torture to achieve their aims. They often find themselves at odd with the Hospitallars, who care little for their goals, and even less for their methods. Their temples are located near prisons, and there are almost always shrines to them located in the deepest, darkest dungeons. Their symbol is a broken set of Malachai’s scales, colored blood red.
Templars: Unlike the other orders in Malachai’s church, the Templars have little concern for the vagaries of law. Their focus is not on making law, but on seeing to its application in the everyday lives of the people. Acting as police at times, temple guards at others, and sometimes as temple administrators, the Templars are the smallest sect of the church of law. They have no temples of their own, instead having members in the temples of the other orders. More often than not, they can be found guarding the temple gates, although they may also take care of the day-to-day business of the temples. Occasionally, the Templars are called upon by the other sects, to act as an internal police force, maintaining order throughout the church. Their symbol is a golden key.
Gabriel is the god of nature, controller of the elements, and the patron deity of the dwarven people. His followers include a large number of druids and rangers as well, and any who seek the divine in the pristine solitude of the great outdoors. Gabriel has been known to be capricious and stern, lovely and terrible, often all at once. His nature is as mutable as the elements he commands. Despite the apparent dichotomy within him, the dwarves follow him as the Stonefather, as solid and dependable as the mountains they call home. His church as a whole is rather loosely organized, each sect concerning itself with a different aspect of nature. His depictions are as varied as his followers. His symbol is a world tree, colored green on top with blue roots, set inside a sphere, divided white behind the green and red behind the blue.
Order of the Sylph: This sect worships the air that gives life to all, seeing the divine in the elements of wind and the creatures of the air. They are a loose conglomeration of like-minded individuals, with few rituals and even fewer goals. Their aim is to enjoy life as it comes, letting the winds take them where it will. To them, Gabriel is depicted as a tall, willowy human male, head thrown back in laughter, long hair whipping wildly in the wind. They have no real organized temples, though they maintain a few monasteries located on high, isolated mountaintops. The clergy of this sect can most often be found on the road, traveling from one place to another constantly. Their symbol is a white eagle’s feather.
The Stone Brethren: In direct contrast to the Order stand the Stone Brethren. This sect concerns itself with the element of earth, and its corresponding creatures. This sect also holds an inordinate amount of dwarven followers, seeking the wisdom of the divine Stonefather. The sect is highly organized, with temples run like well oiled machines by their members. These men and women seek the constancy of the stone beneath their feet, the unchangeable laws of nature as their doctrine. They have temples located in every major dwarven city, and well maintained shrines located in and around mountainous regions of the various lands. They have no overreaching goals, instead contemplating the wisdom of the ages found in the slow march of time. Depictions of their god are most often the image of a massive dwarf, hands resting on the pommel of his hammer, the hammerhead resting between his spread feet. His face is stern, implying that no force on heaven or earth will move him from his chosen place. The Brethren’s symbol is a gold anvil.
Disciples of the Cleansing Flame: Worshippers of fire, seeking the divine in the restive flame. The Disciples look upon the world and see one disaster after another warping the face of the planet. They see the blight of cities encroaching ever more on the pristine beauty of nature. They hear the clash of arms on the battlefield as armies tear up the countryside, leaving scars in the earth for years to come. They look upon civilization, and know it must end, for the good of the world. As old growth must sometimes burn to make room for new birth, so it must be with the so-called civilized races. As their name suggests, the Disciples seek to cover the lands in a cleansing flame, burning away society as it is now, to rebuild from the ashes a new world order, in their image. The world’s saving grace is the fact that the sect’s members refuse to agree as to how this is best accomplished. They spend as much time, if not more, arguing and fighting over this fact as they do actually plotting the downfall of the civilized world. There are few open temples dedicated to this sect. Instead, worshippers gather in secret, near lava pits beneath the earth, and in isolated places where fire has wrought destruction above. To them, Gabriel is represented by a towering inferno, an angry face staring down from the flames. Their symbol is, as expected, a ball of red flame.
Children of the Crashing Wave: This sect, too, looks upon the damage that civilization has done to the world, and is saddened. Unlike their cousins, however, these worshippers of the aquatic element seek to heal, and to educate. They believe that salvation lies not in anger and destruction, but in healing and rebuilding. While their relentless kindness can grow tiresome at times, the Children are welcomed with open arms almost everywhere they go. Their creed is gentleness and pacifism, and members of the sect are forbidden to use weapons, other than their magic and their hands when no other option presents itself. Their temples are located near sources of water: the seashore, alongside a river, a lake island, etc. They are welcoming of visitors, regardless of creed, as long as no harm is done to any living thing while within the temple’s walls. The followers of this sect depict Gabriel as a fae female, clad in sea foam robes, with a look of serenity on her face. To them, the deity’s name is Gabrielle. Their symbol is a blue snowflake.
Order of All: This small sect seeks merely to maintain the balance of nature in a changing world, and work to protect the flora and fauna of the lands as best they can. Little concerned with the trappings of civilization, these clergy can most often be found in the deep forests tending to the trees, animals, and fae creatures that call such places home. Aside from these forest shrines, they sometimes build small temples in towns that depend on the local landscape for survival: logging villages, farming communities, etc. The only temples located within the bounds of greater civilization can be found in elven cities, though even these are rare. The Order is generally disdainful of the so-called civilized races, though their greatest hatred is reserved for the goblinoid races and the orcs, who so skillfully ravage the lands they call home. Despite their iconoclastic tendencies, however, clergy of the Order will often go out of their way to help individuals who travel through their protectorates. They depict their deity as a large bear of a man, with stern eyes and a smiling face. Their symbol is a brown bear.
The Mistress of Chaos is a capricious goddess, as one would expect. Patron to the fae, she keeps close watch over the halflings of the world as well. She also holds a special place in her heart those cursed with madness. These tortured individuals have a special insight into chaos that few others can match. Indeed, the insane are often dubbed her children. Her teachings are open to any who hold chaos close to their hearts, even in the smallest amount. As one would expect from a goddess such as she, there is little to no cooperation between the sects of Sinsylira’s church. While there is little animosity between the orders, the very nature of their worship prevents any real organization between the disparate groups. The Mistress is most often depicted as a stunningly beautiful woman of fae origin, nude as often as clad. Her full lips are either curled in a subtle smile, or parted in laughter. Her eyes vary quite a bit, showing anything from a glint of mischievous pleasure to the light of pure madness, and everything in between. Her symbol is a cracked silver mirror.
The Unmarked Path: This sect seeks only the freedom of the open road, the escape in a well-told tale, the mirth of a friendly jest, and the pleasure to be found in them all. These free-spirited individuals preach that laughter is the best medicine to cure the world’ ills. As expected, they are a loosely organized sect, with members to be found anywhere and everywhere. They hold no permanent temples, instead sanctifying wherever they may be when and if the need arises. Often discounted because of their lighthearted outlook, the clergy of this order maintain a love of life that makes them implacable enemies when provoked. The Unmarked Path counts a great many halflings among its number. Their symbol is a silver tankard.
The Unshackled Mind: This sect believes that enlightenment comes from throwing off all conventions imposed by society and other outside forces. They worship their goddess as the embodiment of the chaos that dwells within everyone, and work to bring that chaos to the fore of their being. Insanity is a constant state of being for many of these individuals. Others are merely hedonists and purveyors of perversion. Still others are outright psychopaths. The only thing that holds them together is their shared belief that these things all bring them closer to the divine. There are few open temples dedicated to this sect, but secret shrines flourish throughout the decadent underbellies of every great city. Their symbol is a black set of broken manacles.
The Broken Order: This sect sees entropy and chaos as the natural state of everything, and thus dedicates themselves to the utter destruction of law and order. Anarchists and terrorists, these clergy travel the lands, committing crimes and atrocities to undermine the status quo and destroy the infrastructure that makes civilization possible. These zealots care little for life, including their own. They often use methods that are outright suicidal, the better to spread terror through the populace. They are constantly at war with the church of Malachai above all others, and often work closely with the Children of the Lich, of Siqueness’ church. They have a few open temples, usually in the most disreputable cities. Most of their worship sites are kept secret, however, and are constantly moved to keep ahead of the authorities that they work to depose. Their symbol is a clenched fist, colored red.
Order of the Inner Eye: This order does not worship chaos, per se. Instead, they study it thoroughly, the better to help those poor individuals lost within it. These men and women dedicate their lives to the study of the mind, and to healing the diseases that afflict it, both magical and mundane. Theirs is a small order, as few are willing to look deep enough within their own psyche to better understand that of others. Still, these scholars of psychology and philosophy are highly thought of by all who know of them. It is unfortunate that many afflictions cannot yet be cured, but the Order diligently holds out hope that one day the mind will be as easily mended as the body is by most divine healers. Their temples are located near hospitals and asylums, and are places of quiet contemplation. Their symbol is a violet eye.