Wretched Hive of Scum & Villainy
Gods and Religion
Some scholars of theology believe that all the world actually only worships a single pantheon of gods; it’s just the names and representations of them that differ, as well as regional importance of one god over another. Others resist that notion, calling each nation’s pantheon of gods a unique set, specific to that culture, although cults may migrate from culture to culture from time to time. Be that as it may, these are the gods that have temples in your area, as well as a handful of others that are also worshipped. Although, honestly, people in general are better described as “superstitious” rather than “religious.” Offerings and invocations are tossed off out of habit, and people have a healthy respect for the ability of a displeased god to give you a really bad day, but they don’t often otherwise pay particular respects to them. Pick whatever domains or favored weapon you think are appropriate if playing a cleric or other class that needs domains.
The way the pantheon works is that no god has “primacy” over another one according to myth. The various gods work in their respective sphere of influence, and their importance varies from region to region. Because the gods appear to be “hands off”; how their worshippers view them, and the popularity of their cults, evolves over time. If the gods exist at all, they may not resemble what mortal worshippers think of them anymore.
The most notable and noticeable of the pantheon are the Four Horsemen, who are frequently associated together on iconography and elsewhere. They are:
•Ciernavo (from Balshatoi Czernavog), also known as the Black Pharaoh, and The Conqueror. Riding a White Horse, and firing a bow into his enemies, Ciernavo is a god associated with the spread of civilization; the wresting of new nations out of wilderness, or out of the ashes of the old, either one. He is pictured as obsidian black, with long hair and a crown-like growth of eight four to six inch horns on his head. The hamazin see him as their patron and father, pointing to their resemblance to the traditional depiction of him as evidence. (Name is slightly revised from the name of the big demon lord in Disney’s “Night on Bald Mountain” segment of Fantasia, which in turn comes from Slavic mythology. He’s also pictured as looking very similar to Graz’zt, the famous demon lord of D&D lore, and is also meant to subtly invoke Nyarlathotep from Lovecraftiana.)
•Peronte (from Balshatoi Perun), the Thunderer. Riding a red horse and swinging a sword that flashes like lightning, Peronte represents war. He is a wild-eyed and wild-haired man, charging into battle on his horse naked except for his warpaint, and his face is obscured by constant crackling of lightning. (Name is a Italianized version of a Slavic thunder god not unlike Thor.)
•Culsans (from ancient Terrasan), the Taker, The Hoarder. Riding a black horse, he’s a cold god, associated with weights, measures, scales, money and civilization. Infamous for his miserly attitude, he’s also associated with famine, and when famine strikes the land, it is often believed that it is Culsans withholding his bounty because he hasn’t been sufficiently propitiated. (Name is an Etruscan god; aspect is pretty much exactly like that of the third Horseman, without being combined or blended with any other source.)
•Caronte (from ancient Terrasan Charun); Death, The King in Yellow. Riding a pale, sickly (or even dead and mummified) horse, Caronte is depicted as an emaciated, hunched, sinister figure wrapped in yellow rags that completely obscure his features (except sometimes a skeletal face), often with a scythe or sickle in his hand, harvesting the lives of those who’s time has come. Behind him is another figure walking slowly behind him, a leery, crawling demonic figure of uncertain and inconsistant depiction, known as Orcus or Hell. (Combining the fourth horseman with Charon of Greek mythology (or Charun of Etruscan who had many similarities) with further aspects of the Grim Reaper and Chamber’s King in Yellow seemed fun. Caronte is all of them rolled into a single package. Reading the Biblical verse, Death was followed by Hell—not a horseman, but apparently a flunky or assistant to Death.)
Besides the horsemen, several other gods are frequently worshipped or propitiated, or depicted in art and literature around the area. These include (in much more brief format):
•Istaria (uncertain origin of the name, but older versions Ishtar and Ashtarte are noted from old books), a goddess of books, libraries, and knowledge. Also pictured as lascivious and decadent, her worship is famous for it’s heirodules, or temple prostitutes.
•Cathulo (uncertain origin of the name, but also known by the alternate name of Dagon), a god who lives under the sea, supposedly dreaming in his underwater palaces, waiting for the day he will rise and flood the land again. His propitiation often includes the pouring of alcohol into the water, to keep him sleepy.
•Susnacco (from ancient Terrasan Susinac), a god of travel with statues in most towns. When in embarking on a long journey, it is often customary to kiss the statue first.
•Selvans, a wild god of the wilderness and the hunt. Tall and lean, with claws and fangs and a skull-like visage, adorned with great antlers, Selvans is a figure that represents the terror the civilized man feels at the wildness of untamed places.
•Moloch (origin of name uncertain), a god of fire and the sun. While seen as friendly in some locations, most see him as untrustworthy and dangerous, and see his hand in devastating wildfires and sere crops alike.
And a few other gods are known to the scholarly, but not to the general public—they have frequently been at the core of dangerous and seditious cults. Worship of—and even knowledge of—these gods has been widely surpressed.
•Demogorgon, a primal god of the earth, said to predate the other gods, and belonging to a much more wild and chthonic order of beings.
•Huudrazai, the blind, idiot Stargod, who sleeps in the blackness of the void, lulled into restfullness by the incessant piping of strange and hidious entities. One day, his cultists say, the piping will stop, jolting Huudrazai to wakefulness, which will initiate the End Times.
•Yaji Ash-Shuthath—also known as Yog-Sothoth, an ancient entity, knowledge of which came in suppressed and forbidden texts from the jann, is The Gate; the way to communicate directly with the gods, in a certainly suicidal and mind-blasting ritual. However, lesser rites remain which skate the edges of sanity, but which canny sorcerers occasionally risk to increase their own power.
And there are even local deities, like the worship of Dog in the area around Porto Liure (see below).
There are a great many lesser gods, demons, angels, and other spiritual beings believed in by the peoples of the Land of the Three Empires. For the most part, there is little difference between these lesser beings and gods other than magnitude and some of them might have local or cult worship as gods as well. These beings clearly take at least some interest in the affairs of mortals, since hellkin, jann and the Nefili or Nephilim are all supposedly humans, albeit blended somehow with spiritual beings.
In Porto Liure, there’s a very unusual cult: the worship of Dog. Dog is a “god” that’s actually fairly apparent to the residents of Porto Liure. Everyone knows about him. He lives on the island of Gandesa, not far from the city. He appears to be immortal—he’s been there since the city was founded at the very least—and undefeatable. In the early days of Porto Liure, soldiers and sailors tried to hunt or kill Dog, but most were killed and eaten for their efforts.
What exactly is Dog? He’s… well, he’s a very big dog. About the size of an elephant. His shaggy fur glistens like the shadows of darkest night, and his teeth shine like polished silver. His eyes glow a fiery red.
Mostly Dog sleeps on the island, unseen and hidden from view. Nobody knows where his lair is, despite many efforts to find it over the years. When Dog walks, he leaves dark footprints behind that ooze shadowy tendrils of darkness like oily black smoke, but if one tries to track Dog, the tracks always seem to end in a confusing maze, or circle back on themselves, or otherwise lead one to naught.
Nobody is exactly sure when worship of Dog started. It became apparent that Dog needed to eat. Three times a year, human sacrifices are left for Dog. Usually they are convicted criminals or enemies of the state, but if none are available, occasionally a citizen will be sacrificed. Dog prefers young maidens, but will take anyone that’s not too old and stringy. If Dog isn’t satiated through sacrifice, he will slip into Porto Liure at night and eat anyone he can find in the streets, leaving nothing but bloody tatters in his wake. In the summer of 421—almost 150 years ago now—Dog massacred no less than 43 men, women and children in a single night and was seen by many more, before slipping off again before sunrise, leading to the last attempt to hunt and kill him. Unsuccessfully, of course—he wasn’t even found after the Bloody Saturday Massacre, as it came to be called.
Another curious Liurism is that portegnos frequently swear by Dog, even if they don’t belong to the admittedly small cult of Dog. “By Dog!”. “By Dog’s rancid breath!” or “By the fleas of Dog’s greasy pelt!” and countless other variations pepper the speech of most native portegnos.