Faith of the Dark Ancients
Dark, bleak, and brimming with untold power, the Void has long been a central pillar of Alorian Magic. It comes as no surprise that some turn to it in their time of need instead of the gods of orthodox faiths. The adherants to the Faith of the Dark Ancients, who call themselves “Dark Savants,” do not believe that their faith is inherently evil. In fact, they believe that the Void acts as an infinite source of power that can be tapped into to propel the mortal world into the next stage of progress through transforming the old. The Faith of the Dark Ancients is considered vile and highly illegal in all societies, cultures, and states, with the sole exception of the Kathar homeland where it is embraced along with ancient Arken worship. Ancientism generally encourages its users to engage in a cut-throat form of survival that involves personal growth and betterment at the expense of many others. As such, it should come as no surprise that Ancientism has some of the most depraved and decadent means of worship of any Alorian Religion. To the Dark Savants, the powerful survive while the weak die off; and that is the way of the world.
The Faith of the Dark Ancients is an ancient faith, but how far it dates back is unknown. Some claim it is as old as the Seraph, and only featured perhaps one central deity, but this is deemed unlikely by many scholars who believe that the Seraph were more attuned to the powers of the Exist. Regardless, it seems clear that the emergence of worshiping the Void is perhaps cyclical, and emerges as the next Void Invasion nears. The latest iteration of this worship began sometime after the Awakening of the Altalar. There is a belief, among some Altalar, that they once worshiped the Void and, when living in dark caves, they practiced dark arts. Though with the coming of Estel, she helped show them their way out of the darkness and into the light. Most Ailor and more reasonable scholars dismiss this as Faith of Estel scripture, but it does suggest that despite the prevalence of the Faith of Estel, worship of the Void was still present. It more clearly manifested itself at the end of the Consolidation, when the Cult of Shadows emerged in secret rejection of the way of Estel. Soon, splitter groups emerged in the Daughters of Chaos and the Sons of Malice. Later on, the Princes of Osc’ïrd also emerged as the next iteration of Void worship and served as the precursors to the Kathar. Meanwhile, other lands were also discovering the Void themselves, most obviously being the Allar of Sendras, who ended up fighting a civil war over the religious schism it brought with it. By the time of the Cataclysm, the Faith of the Dark Ancients was present across Aloria, not just among the Altalar but also within the polytheism of the Qadir, within the petty kingdoms and nations of the Ailor, and with those Allar who remained in Sendras after the conclusion of the Sendrassian Civil War.
After the devastating and impactful world event, the power of the Void dimmed as Magic weakened worldwide. Cults once capable of dark and vile powers found excessive power and energy required to perform even simplistic rituals. Thus, the Faith of the Dark Ancients transformed, and actually became a weaker Religion as it could no longer call upon the Void for rituals and dark spells. As a result, it fell out of favor throughout much of the world and while the distant Kathar kept it alive, they melded it with worship for the Arken, whose power was far more “tangible” and remained strong despite the Cataclysm. But over the past three centuries, the Faith of the Dark Ancients has slowly crawled back from the brink of destruction and now quietly thrives in population centers both rural and urban. The slow reestablishment with the Void as a power source for Magic has given greater credence to the faith in the Faith of the Dark Ancients, though the many old rituals said to be possible by these dark groups is lost both to time. Still, it draws interest from those disillusioned with normal life, but also those of altered mental states or finding themselves locked in depressive episodes. The downtrodden are welcomed by the Void, and with the suffering and war of the past decade and a half as Regalia asserts itself, it should come as no surprise that the dark faith grows not only among those less fortunate individuals of society, but also around those more fortunate who have had a taste of darkness and desire it again.
The central feature of the Faith of the Dark Ancients is the concept of the Struggle of the Ancients. It is generally understood that the Kathar came up with this belief concept, though it is also assumed that earlier iterations of Void worship had something similar. According to Dark Savants, the Struggle of the Ancients started when Void Essence was introduced into the world some indeterminate time in the ancient past. At this time, the gods abandoned the mortal plane as they considered it stagnant, weak, and a failing creation made in their image. This is where the Struggle of the Ancients comes in. The Kathar acknowledge all divine beings, but believe that when Void Essence appeared in the world, these ancients made use of it and allowed it to corrupt them to become even greater gods than those which had abandoned them. Then, when they were moved to compete with one another, a great war occurred wherein the various pantheons of Alorian worship waged war, both on one another and within themselves. In the end, a select number of gods survived the Struggle of the Ancients to become the Figures of Godhood, corrupted mockeries of their former selves that act as a Figure to a certain aspect of life, or a means of progression and transformation into something better and more powerful. As such, the Faith of the Dark Ancients stands at a curious position where it acknowledges practically any Religion it comes into contact with as real, but then proceeds to corrupt it for adaptation into its own dark iteration.
Choosing a single Figure of Godhood as patron or guardian is central to the Faith of the Dark Ancients. Dark Savants engage in cultist rituals and sacrifices to their Figures of Godhood in the hopes of being blessed by their touch. They also believe that the world should embrace the Void as a fuel to progress, and that it is a tool to make everything that is deemed weak into something better, stronger, and more worthy of existence. Many Dark Savants seek to continue the Struggle of the Ancients amongst themselves. Even though two cults of different Figures are members of the same faith, they still wage war on one another as an exercise in self-strengthening and proving the right to exist. The exception to this is the cult of the Black Betrayer, who are usually on the sidelines, manipulating the other cults and who rarely get involved in the fighting themselves. The Faith of the Dark Ancients is also known for a heavy association with the Kathar, and those individuals who are not Kathar often seek them out, freely letting themselves learn or serve Kathar.
What follows is a list of the eight primary deities of the Faith of the Dark Ancients, along with a description of how they are worshiped. Many more than this are known to exist, especially within Kathar society, but these seven are still key to the Faith of the Dark Ancients.
- Herphalas, The Bleeding Crown:
- The Bleeding Crown represents the Void God of Rule, power, domination and control. As its name implies, the Bleeding Crown is often depicted as a crown covered in blood. It is also represented as a skeletal spirit whose crown is constantly leaking blood. The Bleeding Crown is one of the more enigmatic Figures of Godhood because it has no distinct or clear evolutionary goal or progress, it simply requires its followers to excise power in whatever way they can. Worshipers of the Bleeding Crown are usually slavers or owners of large numbers of slaves, and this equally represents their source of power. Bleeding Crown Worshipers cannot nominally be detected as their mark of worship is performed on their slaves instead of themselves. This involves the sacrifice of slaves to keep the Crown flowing, but also carving the dreaded “Crimson Crown” sigil into the individual’s back. This symbol is a symmetrical, though abstract, red crown. They also carve Void iconography and symbolism into the skin of their slaves. Additionally, Bleeding Crown worshipers usually physically and verbally abuse their slaves, whipping them or making them wear a crown of brambles and seek to gain ever more power, as they are used in practically all forms of worship. Bleeding Crown worshipers are cruel people and even crueler slave drivers with a dulled conscience, no pity or compassion for their fellow people, with their only desire being the power they crave.
- Nirualla, The Verdant Ember:
- The Verdant Ember represents the Void God of Nature, Primal Energies corrupted by the forces of the Void. The Verdant Ember is usually represented like a mangled rose bush twisted and piercing a humanoid skeleton as if it has grown from its rib cage, but then tore it to death with its thorns from the inside. The Verdant Ember is usually considered one of the more harmless forms of Ancient Worship because the followers believe that the next step of evolution is to merge and become one with nature, to that end largely avoiding conflict with others in favor of fostering life. Verdant Ember worshipers houses are often indistinguishable from Yanar homes, as they have the same love and adoration for all flora. Yet, when a Yanar would enter such a home, it feels always slightly off or unsettling, some plants missing their flowers, some pruned leaves cut up in strange ways and an ever-present sense of restlessness that cannot be explained. Additionally, Verdant Ember followers often engage in the action of producing or consuming plant-based drugs, as they believe such substances are one way through which their mission may be fulfilled. Verdant Ember worshipers are exclusively vegetarian, meaning they only consume the fruits and plants from their own garden, but they are not pasifistic as some might assume. Indeed, many are fairly emotionally unstable beings, deeply attached to plants and what they produce to the point of violently defending them. A few, even more unhinged, attempt to make their dreams come true by experimenting on the living through the grafting of plants to their body or using corpses as fertilizer. As a result, they also have a reputation for grave robbing, though a majority of Verdant Ember followers do not do this as they seek to unite living flesh with plantlife.
- Abbagellon, The Weeping Beast:
- Abbagellon, The Weeping Beast, The Savage, is very similar to the Verdant Ember in that it represents the Void God of Beasts and Fauna, or more specifically the mutated end products of Void Essence when coming into contact with Aloria's animals. The Weeping Beast is usually represented by the form of a monstrous Url though if lacking a lower half, a bust of a goat or ram with curled horns and various Void Script inscriptions in its forehead and engraved on its horns is known to suffice. The creature is said to hunt the weak and foolishly lost directly, and its worshipers must follow its example. The reason it is called the Weeping Beast is for its deceitful nature. It is said to be able to mimic the voices and cries of distressed animals and people, thus luring others in to try and aid someone in distress when in fact, they are going to their doom. The Weeping Beast is worshiped usually with offerings made to the skeletal remains or skulls of horned goats surrounded by pentagrams of dried blood, surrounded by candles. Goats and sheep are ritualistically slaughtered in this circle for worship, and weapons used in the worshiper’s “hunt” are often laid delicately within said circle as well. Weeping Beast worshipers are often murderers or cutthroats, convinced that their harming of people strengthens themselves into a being worthy of hunting alongside the Weeping Beast. They are often loners, and it is rare for cults larger than three or four people to exist in the same area. Some are particularly savage, and make use of bones and skin as physical trophies of the hunt, occasionally even wearing them while out in pursuit of others.
- Odellballa, The Broodmother:
- The Broodmother is thought to be the corrupted form of the Velheimer goddess of fertility, Lensa. The Broodmother is believed to have won the Battle of Ancients on the merit of producing vast hordes of offspring, who then fought against her enemies for her as she remained in the shadows, producing enough spawn to replace those that fell. As such, it may come as no surprise that the Broodmother is perhaps one of the more repulsive Void Figures. She is always depicted as a grotesque female being with a slug-like lower form, whose spawn emerge from her rolls of fat and rapidly mature themselves. The Broodmother stands for perpetuity and lineage, but also for the complete abuse and disregard for offspring as property. Broodmother worshipers are hateful beings towards children, finding pleasure in the ridicule and harming of them, though not the killing. Broodmother worshipers "feed" off the misery of children, as it is supposed to give them personal satisfaction and further their connection to the Void. They are not just women, despite the female figure the vile goddess appears in, and men have been known to play a role in Broodmother cults as worshipers themselves. Her worshipers are also highly active in entertainment houses spaces, seeking to produce as many children as possible with as many partners. Luckily for the wider world, her worshipers, while once many in number, have largely been cut down both by other cults as they view such a creature as repulsive and vile, but also because the spread of the Regalian Empire and its laws has helped to route out and stop child abuse.
- Woldemar, The Scarlet Scourge:
- The Scarlet Scourge is a piece of Void irony that characterizes the unpredictability and chaotic nature of the Void quite well. Despite the fact that Vampires are Void-based cursed beings, the Scarlet Scourge seems to have developed alongside them as a means to use them for its own nefarious purposes. As such, to many, the Scarlet Scourge is the Void God of the night and darkness, but also of the Vampires. It is also sometimes considered to be the antithesis of the Sun in Shambala, though this is definitely not the original intention. The Scarlet Scourge is often considered to be the first Vampire and is represented by a pale being cloaked in a robe of deep red on the outside, but with darkness or the night sky “up his sleeves” so to speak, being the interior lining of the robe. His face is an exaggeration of Vampiric traits, with obvious white fangs emerging from the mouth as well as altered eyes (being shades of yellow, red, or solid black) and ending on hair shocked with red. It has the ability to transform itself, rapidly developing savage claws and beastial heads when it needs, but is also known for its abilities of vanishing into shadows, remaining hidden. Worshipping the Scarlet Scourge is to worship Vampirism and the dark nights so many of their Bloodlines crave, either in the form of evening masquerades to stalk prey through the dancefloor, or even moonless nights out in the forests or mountains, as they pursue their targets. Worshipers of the Scarlet Scourge are often Vampires themselves, or the curious breed of half-Vampire known as Vampire Broods. Others are Crimson Witches, the near-Vampire Kathar that developed sometime in the ancient past. All express their worship for the Scarlet Scourge by doing their usual Vampire activities, as he would do, though they carry with them a certain ritualistic factor lacking in the activities of less religiously inclined Vampires. Those who are not Vampires but follow the Scarlet Scourge are often bloodthirsty, seeking to spill, drip or create as much of it as possible. They are wretched folks, who harm themselves to let the blood drip into pits, pools and fonts erected to hold the blood of sacrifices. They also induce sacrifices of animals and Races in the slowest, most painful way possible, seeking to extract all the blood they possibly can before an individual expires under their wretched care.
- Anu, The Prideful Scorn:
- The Prideful Scorn represents the Void God of Self, the emotions and energies of the people that live on Aloria. The Prideful Scorn is usually represented on a cloth or tapestry, a single red lidless eye surrounded by writings in an indecipherable language written by the artist while under the influence of opiates. The god is seen today as a dark version of a tapestry of Imperial make, given their shared traits. How this being survived the Struggle of the Ancients was through the mental manipulations of those around it, twisting them to serve its interests. The Prideful Scorn is in many ways a representation of the Arken that exist in Aloria, more specifically the greater Arken that are often mixed up with the Kathar Pantheon. The Prideful Scorn represents the need for Alorians to evolve by giving in to their own prideful desires, and to become better versions of themselves. The Prideful Scorn worshipers usually possess such a Pride Tapestry which is hung in a secret compartment of the house where a shrine of candles is lit. More bold or daring ones will weave the symbol into the reverse of another tapestry in the home. Worship to the Prideful Scorn includes dripping blood of a foe from a piece of cloth or brandished weapon into a bowl and then burning it with incense to waft up into the fabric thus lodging the smell within its cloth. These foes they kill are those who they believe are weaker, and by eliminating them, their pride in their accomplishments should grow and they should increase in power as a result. The Prideful Scorn worshipers also all have a red eye tattoo somewhere on their bodies, most commonly on the upper torso or back. Thanks to the rise of Imperial Culture, some have been able to hide this tattoo of a red eye within other Unionist imagery in a false attempt to help blend into society.
- Djjwa Ifirti, The Thousand Eyes:
- The Thousand Eye God is the corrupted form of Esrah Alwattah, the artificial god of the Qadir. The Thousand Eye God is believed to have won the Battle of Ancients on merit of its infinite knowledge and its ability to steal information from the other gods through use of many “spy-eyes.” The Thousand Eye God is represented as a sort of living, half-machine tree adorned with hundreds of hanging mechanical devices within them holding humanoid eyes of all different types. The tree has no leaves, only the mechanical devices, and its dark bark heaves and groans, spilling dark green sap as gears and pumps move around within it, visible through knots and holes formed within the dark bark. The Thousand Eye God mainly represents the thirst for knowledge, the desire to know all, and the lust to consume the knowledge of others. To achieve its favor or follow its example, others must be similarly knowledge-focused. To the followers of the Thousand Eye God, knowing all is the end-goal and to absorb the knowledge of others is their main form of worship. They are most commonly thieves and plagarisers, seeking to take what others have for themselves and also killing others for rare knowledge so that they can be in sole possession of it. Additionally, many are hoarders, taking all they have and can in order to increase their knowledge in every little way that is possible.
- Eloblina, the Toad Mother:
- The Toad Mother or the Goblin or Kobold Queen represents the goddess of decay and time. Eloblina is believed to have won the Battle of Ancients on the merits of controlling time, and simply outlasting all other things with venerability, surviving long after all other things have rotted and rusted away in decay. Eloblina is usually depicted as either a man or a woman with rotten twigs and bugs crawling through long grass-like hair, either in or near a pond with many toads and frogs. The toads and frogs are considered the heralds of time, as those that believe in Eloblina, are convinced that when a toad or frog croaks, that it represents time going backwards, as these creatures speak and "live" backwards. The worshipers of Eloblina love mushrooms and tend to grow many in and around their home, as mushrooms equally are a representation of Eloblina's decay, a fungus that eats all things rotten and lost to time if given enough room to grow. Eloblina's worshipers also frequently engage in the consumption of psychedelic mushrooms, wandering into the forest and spreading mushroom spores around for the blessings of Eloblina. The primary goal of Eloblina worshipers is to acquire immortality, or at the very least to extend their natural lifespan as far as they can, by whatever means necessary. Eloblina is generally considered a rather beneficial Void God, as none of the activities of worshiping Eloblina involve harming others, unless they have a particular allergy to mushroom spores. Worshipers of Eloblina imitate their appearance by wearing twigs and rotten things in their hair, usually tied between or inside of braids. They can sometimes have a rotten odor following them around, which they can try to mask by wearing a large brimmed hat filled with freshly picked flowers that then decay, and eventually transition into their clothing with sewing needle.
- Worship in the Faith of the Dark Ancients is so diverse and widespread across the various groups who practice it that there are no single set or group of Relics consistent across the different regions. Where one community might have some unique relic they firmly believe to be totally authentic, the Savants of the next city over might dispute that and claim their own Relic to be totally authentic while that of their neighbors is utterly fraudulent. This can lead to fights for power and prestige between cults, which sees the loser’s relic destroyed. Shockingly, this is even done to genuine relics, and a number of notable ancient Void artifacts of the Kathar left in Daen due to the chaos of the Wildering have been destroyed over the past three centuries. A list of the most credible or generally accepted still-intact Relics are as follows: The Cracked Seeing-Eye, held by a sect of Dark Savants in Farah’deen; The Bleeding Sceptre, held by a sect of Dark Savants in Ithania; The Weeping Skull, held by a sect of Dark Savants in Cain
- The Faith of the Dark Ancients has been on the fall within the City of Regalia since 300 AC, as countless disruptions by the criminal element has driven these cults to abandon the city for less scrutinized pastures.