The Faiths of Orb
In the World of Orb, faith is an integral part of virtually every community – whether it is present or not. In this Age, there are many Faiths, as even the Church of the Awakening God has splintered. It is not alone, as heresies, cults, and even formerly dead faiths surge to the forefront in a grim age of doubt and fear. Communities find that their religion gives them a code by which they can live and order their lives in an otherwise disordered world, and the power of this should not be under-estimated by travelers.
Centuries ago, the White Prophet, a Prophet from Ashdod said to be born of a virgin, opened the eyes of Ermor to the Awakening God. On the day the White Prophet was put to death for blasphemy and rebellion, the punishment for which death by pyre, the cult of the Numinas, Ermor’s ancestor based religion, was destroyed by a pillar of fire. Once unified and the foremost Faith in the world of Men, the Church of the Awakening Faith is split and beset by heresy, once-forgotten religions, and worse. Despite the troubles that threaten its primacy, the Church of the Awakening Faith in Marign and the Theurg Patriarchate in Pythium fight each-other for dominance – even as break-away faiths such as the Ulmish Reformation (referred to in Old Imperial as the Reformatio Ecclasarium Ulmicum) or the Ikonoklasta movement in Pythium.
Known in the world of Men as the Epoptic religion, the Am-Kheper religion was discovered in the ancient empire of C’tis. The Lizardmen of C’tis follow this religion, which seems exotic to the Men of Pythium, and use it as an almost encyclopedic framework for life. In C’tis, it is believed that all souls shall come to be judged in the hereafter by uncaring beings that none can fathom and many are obsessed with the afterlife and death. At the top of their society was the Sacral Heirophant, the Priest King of C’tis. Under the king were his high priests, with their sacred serpents, and the enigmatic Sauromancers, great mages of death. The high priests mastered the craft of embalming to preserve the remains of their kings, and tombs have been constructed to contain the mummified kings and their priests. The people of C’tis believe that one may bring with them to the afterlife anything that they are buried with, and so the Sacral Heirophants were buried in lavish funerary pyramid tombs with many treasures. The religion was almost destroyed in the Arcoscephalian conquest, but survived in secret.
Now, the religion is resurgent in C’tis. It has even spread to Pythium in the form of the Cult of Epoptes. However, unlike in former eras, none may look upon the re-established Sacral Heirophant and it is rumored that the current Heirophant is over 500 years old. The faith itself tends to be legalistic, giving precise prescriptions for the questions of life and death, and in C’tis, raising the dead is not considered to be an evil act (though the clerics of C’tis are expected to return the dead to their afterlife.)
The frozen North has protected its pantheon of gods with inhospitable winters and less hospitable defenders, and the Gods of the North have survived intact when many of the other old gods of Men have not. The Gods of the North, called the Aesir, have human-like qualities and each has its own specific sphere of influence. The Aesir fought the Jotun ice-giants for dominion over the North, mainly through the Vanir, demi-god sons and daughters of the Aesir. The Vanir themselves conspired to use the dwarves for their skill in armsmaking and creating powerful magickal items, and through plots and treaties they pressed the dwarven people into practical slavery – turning their natural avarice against them. They conscripted the dwarves in great numbers to fight the Jotun armies of Vaettir goblinoids, orcs, and trolls. These wars depleted the strength of the Aesir and the Jotun. The desperation of the Aesir led them into a trap set by the dwarf Alberich, whose cursed magical items were stolen from him by the Aesir and weakened them enough for the Dwarves to free themselves.
While the Aesir had initially dismissed the race of Men, believing them to be too weak, short-lived, and ambitious to protect them. Now, the race of Men is now their only hope. The Vanir are all gone now and the Aesir are diminished. The Aesir try to reach into Midgard and guide their new charges from their home of Asgard. The Old Power has not left the realm of Utgard, even as magic has begun to leave the land, and it is widely believed that these are the days before Ragnarök. This belief has drawn the men of Utgard to greater heights of heroism, for they believe that this will give them a seat at the table of the gods in Valhalla and allow them to participate in the final battle that marks the end of the gods.
In Pythium, mystery cults and old faiths are becoming resurgent and threaten, not only the dominance of but, the continued existence of the Theurg Patriarchate. These mystery cults are often adaptations of old and forgotten religions, given strange new life. They are popular, however, and often grant their practitioners political power and allow factions in the Emerald Empire to threaten the tenuous grip that the Emperor holds over his demesne.
The Old Gods of Arcoscephale have mostly been forgotten, and are believed to be dead. However, some Priestesses of Rhea still remain. When the Awakening Faith destroyed the Old Cult of Arcoscephale, the Priestesses of Rhea, who were neither a firmly established tradition nor holders of any political power or persuasion, were able to hide and be ignored in time. The Temple of Rhea was built on a small island, Korosos, on a healing grove and its priestesses are said to still have remarkable and miraculous powers of healing. However, most Arcoscephalians are either adherents of the Patriarchate’s Awakening Faith or Pythian mystery cults.
Some women are inducted into the order of the Sibyls, however, and serve an unknown and mysterious divine power. This is believed to be the source of their powers of sight beyond sight, and of their great wisdom. Attempts to discover more about them never succeed, and attempts to stop their gatherings never come to fruition – the seeresses are not where the plotters believed they would be, or some mishap or another complicates the efforts of the plot.
Most Demi-Human faiths are not powerful, influential, or otherwise dominant outside of the relatively small Demi-Human communities that they are found in. As a result, they are compiled and listed here. While adherence may be strict within the community, the declining Demi-Human birthrates and racial exclusivity of the faiths mean that new adherents are rare. Dwarves and Gnomes keep their own faiths, as do the monkey people of Patala. The faiths of the Elves and the Abysians have long since been dead, and Orcs have never had their own pantheon, but the old faith practices of the former races are discussed here, as well.