Adventures of the Dread Sea
Religion, Cults, and Man
Religious practices vary greatly across the Dominions and literally hundreds of cults exist, many of them on a local basis. Only the most important religions are detailed below.
Before the Salkarian Reformation, the Empire was very open-minded on matters of religion. As long as a land or a city paid the taxes, it was free to worship whatever god it wanted.
With the Reformation a new divinity was introduced, the Divine Couple, Hulian and Hordan, the artificial fusion of Hulian, the smith god of Faberterra, and Hordan, the female goddess of Tricarnia. They are seen as the two faces of the same divinity: Hulian is the male principle, who governs over logic, fire, science and the written word. He also symbolizes the day. Hordan, instead, is the feminine principle: she is the goddess of emotions, water, and the spoken word. She also protects love, births, seasons, and the arts. She symbolizes the night. Statues of the Divine Couple feature a single head with two sides: a handsome blonde man (Hulian) and a striking black-haired woman (Hordan). The statues are never anchored to the ground, and it is the priests’ duty to rotate them at dawn and dusk, to show the face of the divinity currently in charge in a given moment of the day. In the Great Temple of the Divine Couple in Faberterra (the former High Temple of Hulian), an ingenious water mechanism slowly rotates the statues in a shown of technology that always impresses the commoners.
In truth, the Divine Couple is an artificial divinity, created to unify two very different people, the Tricarnians and the Imperials, and usually only lip service is paid to them.
In secret, because it is highly illegal, the Iron Priests still worship Hulian Lord of Fire in the catacombs of Faberterra and in other parts of the Empire. In this more real version of the cult, Hulian is the Smith god, He Who Turns the Darkness Away, lord of the Word, and protector of humanity. The priests of Hulian are aware that alien gods and their servants are still walking in the world, and it’s the priests’ sacred duty to fight them. It is not a secret that they are losing, but they will continue until the last fire burns out. Hulian Lord of Fire is represented as a lion-headed man, tall and muscular, with the sun painted on his chest and a smith’s hammer in his right hand.
Although the Imperial Law forbids it, in Tricarnia, Hordan Mistress of Darkness is still openly worshipped by the Priest Princes and their minions. Hordan is an ancient demonic creature adored since the times of the Keronian Empire. She is the goddess of darkness, pain, and unholy appetites. Despite her human appearance, Hordan is completely alien, ever thirsting for blood, violent sex, and other depraved acts.
She is usually represented as a busty bare-chested woman of otherworldly beauty. But a closer inspection reveals her demonic origin: her long braids end in tiny snake heads, her open mouth shows a snakelike tongue, and her nipples are deadly stingers.
Hordan is a generous goddess—as long as she is satiated with constant sacrifices. Otherwise, she feeds on her own followers’ bodies and souls.
The Northlanders have a rather cold relationship with the divine. They mainly worship the Lord of Thunder, a distant god who simply watches the mortals from the skies and shows his rage and power during thunderstorms. The Lord of Thunder intervenes only when a child is born, blowing into the lungs of the infant, giving him strength. What the human will do with his gift does not concern the god.
Ivory Savannah Tribes
The Ivory Savannah Tribes have a very complex theology, with many minor divinities, but they mainly worship Etu, the Mother, a female divinity presiding over rains and births, and Uletu, God of Strength, represented as a lion or bull, either as a beast or in hybrid human-beast form.
The Valk worship demons, the most important of which is Sha Mekri, an expression that in their language simply means “the King”. Sha Mekri is the incarnation of warfare and destruction. He is usually represented as a blaze (as sometimes happens in autumn in the steppes), or as a massive black stallion with a fanged mouth, whose hooves leave a trail of fire. In very rare cases, he is portrayed as a
massive man, dressed in metal armor full of spikes and riding a metal stallion.
The Cairnlords worship the Ancestors, the dead ones. Many of them don’t need to be depicted, because they still exist, in embalmed form, in their necropolis. Sometimes, they aren’t even truly dead. The Northlander warriors who return from incursions in the Cairns tell wild stories of emaciated figures dressed in ancient rags, who were obviously dead and yet they walked and commanded the living ones.
The Jademen don’t worship a god, though they recognize the existence of supernatural creatures, some of them good but mostly flawed and evil. Instead, they believe that every being can reach divinity through self-improvement and meditation following the Path of Enlightenment. Death is but a transition within this process: a creature reincarnates in another being, lesser or higher, depending on how it behaved in its previous life. The monks are at the higher stages of the process and the Enlightened One has almost completed it.
What is there beyond? It is a secret that will be revealed only to those who reach the divine. This philosophy, exported by the Jademen who left their country to live in the Dread Sea Dominions, slowly blended with the western rites and was adopted by many sects, like the Stylites of the Land of Idols, eremites who lives in constant meditation on the top of tall columns.
Cults and Man
The gods of the hundreds of cults throughout the Dominions may be actual divine beings, demons of some power, alien beings, or inventions of the cult leaders themselves. It is entirely probable that many of the priesthoods may not be serving actual gods, but are perhaps using religion as a front to provide themselves with an easy way of life. In any case priestly magic is nothing more than Sorcery or more rarely Lotusmastery, as there is no “divine” magic in the Dread Sea Dominions.
Umberto Pignatelli. (2011). Beasts & Barbarians, pp. 32-34 Studio 2 Publishing.ISBN 978-8393179657