Herons of Baskarr
|Herons of Baskarr|
|Full Name||Herons of Baskarr|
|Date of Birth||Various|
|Date of Death||Various|
|Claim to Fame||
Despite the fact that the concept of sin is essentially nonexistent within the Faces of Baskarr, leaving many other religions focused on moral absolutism to denounce Baskarr followers as being inherently immoral, good and evil deeds still exist within the spectrum and manifest themselves through the Herons of Baskarr. Having once been actual living figures of the Asha, these Herons achieved a state of ascendence after their deaths through the Kharma they gained in life, with stories and accounts telling of the Herons attempting to teach followers of Baskarr the balanced ,and often complicated, nature of good. The primary message of Baskarr’s Herons is that one can cause evil through a dogged, single-minded pursuit of the good.
Herons are described in a loose “canon”; a vast set of theatre productions and fables centered on moral and theological instruction. Generally these focus on one Heron at a time, though some feature interplay between multiple. In these stories, each Heron represents the particular, singular trait they embodied in life, and pushes a mortal (or group of mortals) to do good through their path. This often results in both comedy and tragedy, however, as the mortals are pushed to further and further extremes until they either fall, or learn the value of moderation in seeking good Kharma. Hence the common, cautionary maxim among the Asha that “Baskarr has many faces; each Heron, only one.” This way of thinking affects that, unlike the Altalar and Kathar who also have pantheons of “patron gods” from which one is essentially chosen for life, an Asha following Baskarr can switch between Herons depending on whose morals and teachings suit them at the time. This switching of Herons is seen as completely acceptable, as it reflects the often pragmatic nature of the faith and how each individual Heron is just one “Face” of the goddess Baskarr, who serves as a guiding mentor above the pantheon of Herons.
In life, the Heron known as Nebapehty is recorded as having been a Rakhet with the head of a lion-like Asha with a mane, characterized as a mighty warrior with unbreakable bravery and valor. Having gained Kharma from defending innocent Asha from Altalar slavers and never running away in the face of danger, Nebapehty eventually died in a duel with another warrior and ascended to being a Heron of Baskarr in the afterlife. On the other hand, his virtuous bravery was also able to give way to the vice of foolhardiness and may have been the cause of his death, as he was likely unable to back down from the fight due to rushing into it without forethought. As a result, Nebapehty teaches the Asha of the dual nature of bravery and recklessness, in that one can do good by being brave without being foolhardy or unheeding of caution.
The greatest fable of Nebapehty follows a renowned adventurer who traveled all around the Asha lands and fought whatever enemies came across his path, protecting the weak and refusing to back down in even the worst of circumstances. However, he also made many enemies as a side effect of his rash temperament and often found himself in dire situations that could have been prevented with rationale or carefulness. The adventurer was often aided by a grasshopper who encouraged him to fight these battles until one day, it went to the adventurer and told him that a village needed to be saved from a nearby dragon that had begun terrorizing the local populace, once again appealing to the adventurer’s need to prove bravery. Without a second thought, the adventurer set off for the dragon’s lair with a blade in hand, only to discover that the dragon was much larger and more powerful than even he had thought. Despite the adventurer’s reluctance, the grasshopper tells the adventurer, “Go on, you have never thought to back down from a fight before, don’t be a coward and do it now!” Listening to rashness over reason, the adventurer charges the dragon and ends up seeing his fine fur coat singed by the flames. Realizing that he had nearly died due to recklessness, the warrior retreated to try calming his head.
A few moments later, the grasshopper transformed before the adventurer, revealing itself to be none other than Heron Nebapehty, who congratulated them on finally overcoming his rash thinking. Recalling the Heron’s life, the adventurer asked why Nebapehty had acted as the grasshopper who encouraged the adventurer to throw himself into dangerous scenarios, to which the Heron replied “I whispered only what I had to until the day you eventually decided that foolhardy thoughts should not drive one’s bravery. Such bravery is an admirable thing, but you can also do good by thinking before you act.” The adventurer thanked Nebapehty and Baskarr for such a lesson, and for being able to avoid the same sort of fate that the Heron had undergone himself.
Being recalled as a Senef with the head of a fox-like Asha with orange fur, Itjawetekh is canonized as a Heron that watches over the cunning and crafty, becoming a patron to all manner of thieves and pirates. He gained his Kharma in life as a thieving rogue who also gave a part of his stolen earnings to those in need, having allegedly died after being sold out by fellow criminals who believed him too much of a coward, as his craftiness was too often held back by giving in to fear. Once becoming a Heron of Baskarr, Itjawetekh teaches mortal followers to keep their wits about them and take what is needed, but also to act with dignity and not to give in to moral or emotional cowardice.
One fable relating to the Heron focuses on a thief who, while robbing the home of a prominent Asha noble, discovered through documents in the house that the noble had been responsible for disenfranchising and swindling the poor out of their homes for personal gain. As he reached to steal the documents as well, a voice in his head suddenly appeared, saying that the thief should expose the noble and refuse any attempts to buy or coerce his silence. The thief made off with the noble’s possessions, and a few days later received a written offer from the noble to be able to buy the documents back and also pay for the thief to say nothing about what the noble had done. While the offered bribe was exponential and would allow the thief to slip away with enough money to be set for life, the same voice inside of him spoke of the cowardice in staying silent, in that he must be cunning but also brave. The thief took the bribe but found a way to secretly copy the documents, giving the copy to the noble and released the original documents to the public later, resulting in the noble being exposed but also in the thief being taken and imprisoned by the noble’s guards.
As he sat in a jail cell preparing to face his death, a figure appeared in the thief’s cell in the form of the Heron Itjawetekh, congratulating the thief for listening to the voice in his head and for being cunning while also not giving in to cowardice (even with the thief having taken the bribe). Supposedly, the door to the jail cell unlocked itself and swung open, allowing the thief to escape and use his craftiness for both evil and simultaneously for good.
The Heron Ikerqedet is a Merew with the head of a Pit-Bull-like Asha who values laborers and workers. She gained her Kharma through perseverance and hard work to provide for both her family and communities across the Asha world, but she was also painfully headstrong and refused to accept help from others, leading to her death due to the exhaustion of overworking. Upon ascending to a Heron, Ikerqedet chose to teach other laborers and workers how doing good through diligence and perseverance can unintentionally hurt oneself and others if also subjected to stubbornness.
The greatest fable that exemplifies this moral focuses on an accomplished builder (allegedly the greatest since Ikerqedet herself) who was tasked with constructing a great amphitheater for the city they lived in, with the amount of time given to them to do so often spanning anywhere between one month to several years depending on retellings. Determined to get the work done with as much effort as possible, this architect spent night and day trying to build as much as they could so that they would not ever fall behind on the task, barely taking time to rest or eat. Others watching the construction admired the builder’s work ethic and focus on their task, but grew concerned by the builder’s stubborn nature and refusal to rest or allow others to assist in the construction, as the builder believed that doing so would equate to laziness or weakness. This overworking nature wore down upon the builder physically and mentally, their progress subtly slowing down by the day. While walking among the people in disguise one day, Ikerqedet witnessed this occurring as she passed the amphitheater and realized that the builder was hurting the community and themselves by confusing stubbornness with hard work, and decided to force them to change their ways. The Heron employed a variety of tricks such as turning the mortar into pudding or transforming into a fly that pestered the builder while they worked, resulting in the construction falling behind. The builder grew ever more frustrated as they watched their progress slow down, but yet they still refused aid and thought that these problems were signs that they had to double down on the work. Being even more exhausted and worn down than they were before, a moment of dramatic irony came when the tired builder one day dropped their hammer on their foot by accident, catching them off balance and causing them to fall from the amphitheater to their death. Many who saw the fall gathered around in confusion and grief, only for Ikerqedet to appear before the crowd and proclaim that the builder’s virtue of diligence had instead caused their own downfall by giving way to stubbornness, saying that the builder “had quite literally lived and died by their own hand.”
Merchants, inventors, and tradesmen are all under the watch of Heron Pakhewed, who is recorded as being a Merew with the head of a Capybara-like Asha. This Heron found their Kharma through the many ingenious inventions and economic ideas that he concocted to improve the standard of living for those around him, though he was noted to also be very fickle and quick to abandon passions on a whim, leading to both financial instability and a lack of solid care for any individual thing throughout his life. Once he passed away in his sleep and ascended to being a Heron, having found dissatisfaction with what he had wanted out of life, Pakhewed realized that an ingenious mind means nothing if there is no solid foundation upon which that ingenuity can grow. The Heron now goes about and reminds mortals of the importance of steadiness and wisdom, and how the good done through spontaneous innovation and creativity could instead be harmful if one does not control their own fickle and volatile nature.
To express the teachings of Pakhewed, one fable goes that a merchant had become profitable in her financial endeavors, allegedly having been advised by Heron Pakhewed to make creative financial strategies that, while often chaotic and insecure, usually resulted in the merchant being very successful. Issues would come about every so often as the merchant could be volatile and on-the-spot with her approach to business, but these problems became easy to ignore as they appeared small enough to be outweighed by the momentary profit gain. What the merchant failed to realize was that one could not survive solely on sheer luck and in-the-moment profiteering, and soon the merchant would find their endeavors falling apart as the lack of careful foresight to temper their wild innovation resulted in a mountain of debt without anything left to show for it.
Heron Pakhewed appeared before the merchant, who demanded why the Heron had given them so many creative ideas that were doomed to fail, to which Pakhewed replied, “I did nothing but provide the fuel for the engine, it was entirely up to you on the speed at which your mind wandered. If you had taken time to use wisdom to sort out what only worked at the time from what will work in the long term, the good brought by creative inspiration did not need to bring about the pain of fickleness.”
Ibkhakh is a Senef with the head of a tiger, who was a renowned adventurer and sailor in life. Remembered for leading others to fame, glory, and opportunity, Ibkhakh’s traveling-companions and his wider society at large often benefited from his daring forays into the unknown, and the discoveries and riches he brought back. Little is known of the circumstances of his death, as he simply vanished on a particularly daring expedition and never returned. For his quickness of spirit and encouragement of others to seek the unknown - and thus their own enrichment - Ibkhakh ascended as a Heron, and is followed by all Asha who have a daring spirit.
As a Heron, Ibkhakh drives mortals to push the boundaries of their experience, and seek out new horizons no matter the odds. The most popular story about Ibkhakh is as follows: There once was a sailor named Tjawshem, whose life had been relatively uneventful. He had few exploits to his name, and even fewer fine things to show for it. Hoping to finally make a name for himself, Tjawshem determined to gather up a new crew, as fierce and adventurous as his kindled spirit. Many men came to him, all as adventurous as he. One, in particular, caught his eye; a grizzled tomcat of a sailor, whose mere presence inspired excitement and daring. This Tjawshem took as his first mate, which would prove a fateful decision. The crew thus gathered, it came time to set a course. One man cried, “There is an island nearby, with unexplored pyramids!” Another rebutted, “No, no, there is an old slaver city to the west, no doubt ripe for the picking!” But the first mate grinned, turned to Tjawshem, and said, “I know of an old Altalar temple, to the south. If you wish for adventure, that is the place.” The captain hesitated, for this would surely mean great danger, but the fire in his mate’s eyes overcame his caution and he agreed. The course was laid, the oars struck, and the ship made its way to southern waters. What ensued was a confirmation of Tjawshem’s fears; for each stop was more dangerous, each shoreline more deadly, each ship they encountered populated with more mages. Yet at every turn the first mate urged them on, proposing one harebrained scheme after another, and soon their hold was laden with treasures even before they had reached their destination. Though the first mate’s spirit was infectious, and the crew frenzied by their immense luck, any Asha could see that as the white spires rose ever-more around them, wisdom dictated that they end their fun and turn back home. But hearing this, the first mate leapt upon a bench and shouted, “You good-for-nothing layabouts! You want to go home before our journey is done? I thought you thirsted for adventure, to make names for yourselves, to seek what’s good in life! I tell you, it’s a poor excuse for an Asha who turns his back on his destination before he arrives!” Their fears dispelled, a cheer arose from the decks, and the crew rowed double-time. But when they came to the temple, all vine-covered marble and colonnades, the inside as black as tar, their spirit faltered. It was the first mate who strode in first, urging Tjawshem to follow with a hand on his shoulder. What lay within was adventure, certainly. But also destruction. For among the riches resided demons and twisted things the likes of which the crew had never seen. They fought their way forth, pressing towards the inner sanctum, but soon a quarter of the crew had fallen. Then half. Then three quarters. Frenzied and filled with the first mate’s fire, Tjawshem pressed onwards without paying heed until he laid his hands on what rested upon the innermost altar; a scepter, all glittering and gold. With a triumphant shout, he lifted it aloft to what remained of his crew. All two men cheered with him, and the first mate’s grin flashed- and Tjawshem saw the tiger-headed Asha for who he truly was: those fiery eyes belonged to none other than Ibkhakh himself. As he vanished, the remaining sailors rushed to the ship. The journey back was silent, the ship carried home by an eerie tide as though of its own accord. Certainly, Tjawshem had experienced the most exhilarating adventure of his life. What could compare? And yet, what was the cost? So many men had been lost. And though their names would be remembered, and their glory moreso, the captain could not help but wonder if it had been worth all that. Somberly, he grasped the lesson presented to him, and offered thanks to the Heron.
Aakhet-hotep is a Nefer with the head of a Samoyed-like, remembered for having been a wise priest who taught many the value of truth-seeking and contentedness, and practiced a radical form of asceticism. He founded a retreat that often provided spiritual solace to the discontented, and was renowned for his ability to soothe the soul and enrich the mind. It is said, however, that he died after simply neglecting to eat for an extended period, having been too engrossed in a particularly long bout of meditation. Aakhet-hotep ascended to Heron status for having had such a positive impact on the lives of others and is widely renowned by scholars, mystics, and truth-seekers of all kinds.
As a Heron, Aakhet-hotep continues his life’s work by urging mortals towards a contemplative life, granting them wit and a sense of spiritual contentment, though often at the expense of their temporal needs. The most famous tale about Aakhet-hotep is as follows: There was once a man called Sedjemu, a powerful magistrate who oversaw many administrative functions under his lord. Made restless, however, by his monotonous life, he sent out a call for someone to come and soothe his soul. Many leaped at the chance, hoping to gain his patronage. First came the craftsmen and cooks, who offered fine works and foods, but these appeared empty to his eyes. Next came the poets and musicians, who offered pretty verses and melodies, but these rang hollow in his ears. Then came sailors and adventurers, who offered maps and opportunities to explore lost ruins and far-off lands, but these sparked no fire in his heart. It was only last, after all others had failed, that Sedjemu took note of the plainly-adorned traveler in his home. “And what have you to bring me?” inquired the magistrate. “Nothing,” replied the traveler, “but that which you already have.” The traveler explained to Sedjemu the ways of a meditative lifestyle; to be content with thought, and need nothing more. Pleased, Sedjemu took him into his retinue as his closest advisor. It wasn’t long before the traveler’s advice was put into practice wholeheartedly. Sedjemu learned to be content with little. And littler, and littler. For at every turn, the traveler taught him to be content, and to seek the truth, and nothing more. Soon, the people began to take note. “It seems that our magistrate has shut himself in his home, and hardly notices anything, anymore! Something must be done.” And so, once again, many people were sent to Sedjemu in an attempt to coerce him into action. But the tradesmen, and the poets, and the adventurers were all rebuffed with wit and wisdom, confounded by his newfound power of speech, left to question their own lives in turn. Next came his lord, imploring him to remember his duties and be active again, but after a lengthy dialogue, he too was mastered by Sedjemu’s wit. Finally came his partner, bringing their children. She begged him to remember his family, now neglected, but even she was driven away despite her passionate rebukes. Scorned, she chased him out of his home, in a desperate final attempt- and yet the traveler implored Sedjemu to take heart, and wander with him a while, to further discuss the mysteries of Aloria. At first, he did so gladly. It was only when they had reached the wilds that his heart began to ache for home and all that he had left behind. Finally, the veil lifted from Sedjemu’s eyes, and he saw the traveler for who he was: Aakhet-hotep, in glory, stood before him. Sedjemu finally understood, and wept. The Heron vanished, and Sedjemu rushed home, thanking Baskarr for granting him the lesson.
- Asha tellings of the Herons change from Kingdom to Kingdom, with minute details being different. This is because Asha religion is mostly told through oral retelling, and is never truly written down in exact detail anywhere.
- Each Baskarr Heron has a hieroglyphic symbol, depicting a sideways standing man with the head of the specific Asha animal strongly emphasized.
- There are far fewer Baskarr Herons than there are Unionist Herons, specifically because Baskarr Herons can only belong to one head-type at a time, and there are limited numbers of head-types.