Monday, December 2, 2013

Religions of Ghinor II


Ralph McQuarrie
Nephtlys is the goddess of wealth, worshipped (in different congregations) by merchants and thieves alike. She is the spider mother whose endless hunger is so great that she perpetually consumes her ever-birthing children. This hunger is a symbol to her flock of the great striving and endless greed that is the meat of true happiness.

The priests of Nephtlys are the Tempters who lure unwitting prey to feed the hunger of their goddess. In Viridistan they do so literally. There the doors of the great temple are left open and unguarded at night, and splendid treasures beckon from the altar room of the two great webs. But only the desperate and the starving, or the most foolhardy thieves, take the lure. For ever pregnant Nephtlys often manifests physically to sate her appetite when warm flesh approaches her webs. Elsewhere a metaphysical interpretation of the priesthood’s role prevails. There the Tempters spin elaborate webs of schemes and bargains that serve to benefit the temple and ruin its enemies. They take special delight in demonstrating to the high-minded that they too desire to have more and outdo others.

In Wolsdag, a small but lavish temple to Nephtlys is nestled within the inner precincts of the guildhouse. It is staffed by Tempters of the Monopolist faction who provide loans, often at brutal rates. Those who default are offered a choice to pay off their debt: be sold to slavers, or perform services for the Guild. Such services are always of a dangerous, morally dubious, or unpleasant kind.


Illustration by John Blanche
Manannan, the Ancient of the Seas, is popular among sailors and fisherman throughout the Wilderlands. The prophets teach that when the world was created by Manannan, a single great sea covered its surface, and man lived in peace and harmony in shining cities under the waves. But as a result of his transgressions, Mennanan raised the land as a foreign prison for man. That man breaths air, and walks on two feet is an alien condition, a curse that will be lifted on the day of reckoning when the waters once again cover the earth and the faithful are forgiven and welcomed back into the deeps.

The Temple of Menannan in Wolsdag, although small, is remarkable. Its rooms of worship are filled with curios brought by sailors from their many travels across the seas. Rusted anchors, nets, conch shells, whalebones, shark jaws, and stranger flotsam bedecks the walls and shrines. Murals composed of the powdered shells of luminous underwater creatures are kept lighted throughout the year, except during the Festival of the Longtide when the lights are put out, and their uncanny splendor is revealed. The basement of the temple contains underground access to sea caves along the coast. It serves regularly for the passage and temporary storage of smuggled goods, including those moved by the Enterprising Faction. For a fee the priests of Menannan can locate stolen, rare, or illegal goods, as well as pass on a great deal of information, or arrange for an ocean voyage. However, these services are usually available only to those who are vouched for by some known member of the community. 

Mer Shunna

Illustration by Chris Burdett
Mer Shunna is an extreme schism of the Manannuan faith. The Mer Shunna worship (so they believe) Menannan in the guise of Armadad Bog, the judge in the depths. According to their bleak doctrine, Armadad Bog is an unforgiving and merciless god. Mankind is thus forever damned by his transgression, and must wear for eternity the two-footed mark of his shame and condemnation. The religion centers on penitence, self-flagellation, and ritual enactments of the abasement of humanity before the blessed merfolk, beloved of Armadad Bog. Val-Ys is a holy month of penitence that culminates in the Mer-Moon Ritual, where young women are sacrificed in elaborate and haunting rituals in the light of the full moon, their life's blood spilling into the silver sea to feed the strange appetites of the merfolk who in auspicious years rise to the surface in a frenzy.

Owing to these elements of ritual sacrifice and self-mortification, this extreme faith is an outlawed heresy except in Viridistan, where it is the predominant interpretation of Manannuan faith. Wolsdag is home to a secret cult of Mer Shunna whose symbol is a silver forked tail. This cult maintains ties to slavers and commits black deeds.

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