Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Zala Vacha

"Zala Vacha" was originally the Church's name for them--a broad category of all the cults scheduled for extirpation. They didn't have a name for themselves, because they didn't have anything in common (although they soon would).

And there were so many of them. A hundred city gods, a thousand petty divinities, and ten thousand hearth spirits (recognized by only a single family). A vast tree that hung over the whole continent, with every part shaded by its countless branches.

Except the Church did count them. It counted them, wrote out the next century's work, and then the Church pruned t hem back. Now the tree is just a stump with a few stubby arms, too thick to hack and too wet to burn. At some point the whole thing will have to be ripped up.


Let us be clear–there are some “cults of Zala Vacha” that do not consider themselves cults, and do not consider themselves a part of Zala Vacha. For the sake of your digestion, I've broken the largest "cults" into four parcels.


Please Don't Lump Me In With Those Other Guys

  • Void Monks
  • Necromancers
  • Truthmakers
  • The Dawnbringers
More Reasonable Than You've Been Led To Believe
  • The Fire Cults
  • Excelsiors
  • Biomancers
  • The Dinosaur Cult
Exactly As Horrible As Rumored
  • Doomslaves
  • Darklords
Held in Universal Contempt
  • Goxlagog
  • The Rat Cult

Void Monks


The void monks abhor the other members of Zala Vacha, and want nothing to do with them. (Although to be fair, the void monks feel the same way about most people.)


Nevertheless, the monks' atheist inclinations earned them suspicion, and their investigations into the lacunae have earned them condemnation. 


They do not have a centralized power structure, but the greatest of their monasteries is the Obliterat.  Their lay followers are the House Unheard. They are not associated with any god. (Casca, god of the Void, is respectfully acknowledged but not worshipped. He has nothing they need.)


Necromancers


While necromancy certainly existed prior to Nameless Queen Yama, she was the one who perfected the art.  Nearly all of the advancements in necromancy for the last 200 years have been made simply by studying her notes.  Modern necromancers struggle to understand even the things that she attempted to explain in her journals.


The Church burned her at the stake no less than three times and obliterated her memory.  They were successful.  She has not returned since, and her original name is irrevocably lost.  “Yama” is just the word for “zero” or “null” in gospeltongue.


While there are certainly necromancers outside of the Queenscult, the best necromancers are taught by her students.  And the Queenscult is jealous–it is quick to stamp out competing schools of necromancy.  


The Queenscult is led by the Visceral Court, men and women who each possess one of the Nameless Queen’s reincarnated organs.  It is through them that her rebirth will be secured.


Her army is the decapitantes--the headless armored zombies of both humans and giants.  Her elite soldiers are the princesses revenant, nearly a hundred wights raised from the now-desecrated Tomb of Unwed Princesses in Noth.


Their goal is the resurrection of the lost kingdom of Kyona, and nothing else.


by Suguru Tanaka

Truthmakers


UmU is the god of Truth, and OmO is the goddess of Lies, except for when UmU is the goddess of Lies, and UmU is also the goddess of Truth.  It’s all very tongue-in-cheek.  If you can grasp that, you can understand the Cult of UmU in its entirety.


Their great enemies are UmO and OmU, deceitful rival deities whose schemes must be hunted down and discovered. Most of the machinations are directed towards counteracting the machinations of UmO and OmU.


All four of these gods are very, very real. As real as all of the other gods.


The first tenet of UmU is “All gods are false, and everything a priest says is a lie.”


The second tenet of UmU is “It is useless to make lists.”


The third tenet of UmU is “Irony is the superior type of humor, and people who like it are superior to those who don’t.”


The fourth tenet of UmU is “There is no greater fool than someone who understands a piece of the Divine Plan.”


The fifth tenet of UmU is “All order is false order.  No line is perfectly straight, and we should stop pretending that it is.”


The sixth tenet of UmU is “You can only start to learn things when you realize that you don’t know anything.”


The seventh tenet of UmU is “How many more of these things do I have to write?”


The tenets change every time they are written down, and in fact, joining the Cult of UmU involves writing your own set of tenets.  


Every truthmaker of UmU holds the rank of The Pope, and is considered to be a heretic by every other The Pope.  But that’s not an obstacle–the The Popes of UmU have no prohibition against cooperating with heretics.


Some of them are mad, but most of them are probably just clever people pretending to be mad.  They dress like priests of other religions.  They hold their ceremonies in the middle of the night, in the temples of other religions.  


Sincerity is anathema.  People who sincerely join the Cult of UmU are tryhards, and should be avoided.  People who join the Cult of UmU ironically are the true children of UmU. In fact, the truest followers of UmU are the people who do not know that they are following UmU.


Their schemes usually involve embarrassing important people, mass schadenfreude, and general chaos.  (Some of the schadenfreude incidents can be intensely cruel.)


Their allies are: 


  • Mockeries.  What looks like a kid in a troll mask is actually something with the same statblock as a troll.  What looks like three guys under a dragon costume is actually something with the same statblock as a dragon.

  • Laughing Beasts (Babarukhs).  Sort of like werewolves that turn into big shaggy muppet-ogres with bone-white masks.  Cruel provacateurs.

  • Clowns.  The most hated of the Underworld’s creations.


They operate a circus somewhere in the Underworld. Their symbol is the fox, probably.


by Suguru Tanaka


The Dawnbringers


Good and Evil fought a great war, and Centerra was their battleground. Evil triumphed, the Authority turned his face from his creation, allowing it to be remade in the image of Evil.


This is why there is pain, disease, and death. In the Authority's infinite wisdom, do you think that he would create a world where your children would die of deformities before their first birthday? Where so many sleep in the streets, infected by diseases that cannot be cured? Where so many labor the whole lengths of their cheap lives, before finally dying alone and unloved?


And of all the poisons oozing from this cursed world, the cruelest one is the one that convinces us that this is normal--that this world is the natural state of affairs.


There is no justice in this world, but there will be justice in the next. This world must be ended so that the Authority will reclaim it. Only when the last sinner perishes will the world be allowed its rebirth. (And we are all sinners.)


The Dawnbringers will be the ones to do this. The Maiden has shown them how to take the love in their hearts and direct it.


Their greatest weapon is kindness--honest kindness without any strings attached. They heal all who come to them. They avoid violence and killing as much as possible. They operate many shelters and orphanages (and it is from these places that their most devout followers originate).


If they must fight, they will fight with non-lethal means. They avoid cruelty and killing as much as possible. They are not pacifists, and their soldiers include angels--beatific figures with halos and wings. They always show mercy to those that they capture. But before they release you, they will pacify you, healing your mind by restoring it to its natural state--where violence is rightfully abhorrent. You will never want to look at another weapon for as long as you live.


Truthfully, their ultimate goal is far from them. There have been mass suicides (happy ones, if you believe their priests) and sterilization of the willing. But yes, someday they will end the world--a calm sunset before a glorious dawn.


by Suguru Tanaka


The Fire Cults


The last remnants of the old volcano religions that existed in Centerra before the advent of the Church and the Taming of Fire.  They worship a paired set of divinities: Quen is the god of fire, self-realization, and rebirth.  Marsaat is the goddess of shadows, privacy, and peace.  They are believed to have a hidden church beneath Lady Hellfire, the last volcano in the world.


Out of all of the arms of Zala Vacha, the Cults of Quen and Marsaat are the most popular with the general population.  They perform all of the functions of a local church–weddings, exorcisms, namings, last rites, blessings, and festivals.  Many people have grown to loathe the Church’s inquisitions and authoritarianism, and they find resonance in the fire cult’s values of privacy and personal autonomy.


Excelsiors


Zhul is the god of money.  His followers are the excelsiors.  With his blessings, their eyes become jewels, and their skin becomes gold.  He dangles the promise of immortality, for what worth is wealth if death still stalks?


Any animal can be made into a Slave of Zhul by replacing its eyes with gold coins. Whenever the eyes are removed (from master or slave) the poor soul keels over and weeps like a toddler until they are returned.


Zhul's domain is money, mining, charity, greed, and immortality.  The excelsiors operate a number of prominent charities for the poor.  They also appeal to people who seek money, and there are always any of those.


Until recently, Zhul was a god in good standing with the Church. But the story of Zhul's indelicacy, discovery, imprisonment, and escape is too long to recount here.

 

His warlocks have the following powers.


  • Appraise - learn what something is worth.  At higher levels, learn to whom it is worth the most, and why.  (This ability is more powerful than it seems.)

  • Purse - stomach is a bag of holding.  Accessible by swallowing and regurgitating items.

  • Covet - teleport an item into their hands.  After [dice] rounds, it is returned.

  • Goldenbody - become immune to damage for [dice] rounds.  This spell has no effect on damage caused by gold, jewels, and other overt forms of wealth.


And yes, they do believe themselves to be superior to all other members of Zala Vacha.


by Suguru Tanaka


Biomancers


There are many schools of biomancy, but the oldest and the greatest is the Cult of Elcoroth, the Infinite Pillar of Flesh, who manifests as a rainbow of flesh arcing overhead (or several). If Zala Vacha has a heart, it is the miles of cardiac tissue that beats within Elcoroth.


The greatest living practitioner of biomancy is Grandfather Oshregaal, who dwells in Revanwall.


The Cult of Elcoroth has acquired a great deal of power and legitimacy simply because they are known as the greatest healers in the world.  Even the Church cannot cure cancer–something that the Cult of Flesh can manipulate as easily as your grandmother knits a scarf.


The Cult also derives its support from those who wish to develop super-human soldiers (and there are always a few).


Lastly, Elcoroth retains a degree of support among ranchers and cattle-folk.  Back when they were still called Elcor, they were a god of cattle, especially leatherworking and safe birth.


The Dinosaur Cult


Tyroganon Ferox was an ancient reptile, and perhaps the greatest genius and prescient that has ever lived.  According to his own testimony, he was able to see the entire timeline of Centerra in its entirety, hold the entire thing in his mind, and perform calculations on it.

There was no power on Centerra great enough to prevent his death. If there had been, he would have found it.  And although he uplifted other ancient reptiles to serve him, his power could not prevent an apocalypse that killed all of them irrevocably.  (The Great Deluge, it is believed.)  Tyroganon Ferox died in that era, and he remains dead.

To his human servants today, Tyroganon communicates by fossil tablets.  If you wish to speak to him, all you have to do is walk through the wild places and mumble.  (So great was his prescience, that he has already seen and heard all the things that have been, and will be, spoken in all of creation.)  If Tyroganon wishes to respond to you, you will stumble across one of his tablets, where he will respond to you in perfect Common.  (His spelling is impeccable but his penmanship is atrocious.  He was a crippled tyrannosaur.  It was difficult for him to scratch in the mud.)


His loyal servants are rewarded with the locations of gold mines and lost jewels.  All of his cultists someday hope to find a fossilized treasure map.


Tyroganon has other servants.  The serpentmen, long since extinct themselves, have been evacuated from a dying timeline.  Now, the serpentmen are crawling up through the history of Centerra.  They are appearing in history books where once there was nothing.  Ancient ruins are sprouting where once there was only sand. 


Allegedly, anyway.  No one has any memory or evidence of the weird ophidian ruins not being there. We're just taking them on their word.


But their assassins are already here. Serpentmen wizards, atrox pedigrees, and the abominations they call reptoks.


They are crawling up the timelines, these dinosaurs.  They are crawling up the timelines and soon they will be here.  Every year that passes, they get 13 months closer.  Can you hear them?  The words in your history books are turning traitor.


First they’ll kill your great-grandfather, then they’ll kill your grandpa.  Then they’ll lay eggs in your grandma’s house.  Then your dad will be dead, slain in his boyhood by a raptor that crawled out of a mine.  And then they’ll be here, all teeth and scales and you’ll be snapped up and devoured.


The paradox cascade will be shunted into a sacrificial timeline. A New Truth will overwrite the Old Truth. The border will shake and then shatter, flooding all the disharmonious corners of the universe, and the universe will accept it because the Universe values for Harmony but does not understand Truth. 


The incongruent residua will be shackled with chains of irrefutable causality and drowned.  The Authority will smile down from his sun (a bit warmer than the yellow one no one remembers) and flick his tongue in pleasure.  The reptilian thieves will steal from the dinosaur kings, and all will be as it ever was.  Mammals will be exiled to to, and the victors will forget the victory.


Of course, many madmen claim that this has already happened.


Doomslaves


Doomslaves are all consecrated to Phasmagore, the goddess of Blood and Doom.  Every member of her cult exists only to slaughter her enemies until their death.  Doomslaves wield serrated bastard swords called doomblades. They are deathseekers–their goal is to literally die fighting. 


Phasmagore is usually depicted as a woman riding a red horse or, less commonly, a woman sailing a ship on a sea of blood.  She wields two swords and nine heads hang from her waist.


Doomslaves cherish bloodshed, violence, anger, etc, but they are always obligated to accept a surrender–typically, they will just sacrifice a single person to Phasmagore and then be on their way.  They also won’t fight unarmed people, although they may sacrifice a few.


They claim that Phasmagore lives in a lake of blood, down in hell.  When they spill blood, they are merely “sending it back” to her.  Spill enough blood, and demons called shrikes will arise.


All who die in the name of Phasmagore are guaranteed a seat at her table, where there is feasting and fighting for all eternity.  All sins are forgotten, and all painful memories wiped away.  She does not require faith, merely service.


by Suguru Tanaka


Darklords 


Those who worship Mallefar (a.k.a. The Hammer of the Apocalypse, a.k.a. Master of the Falling Sky, a.k.a. The Debtholder) are known as Darklords and Darkladies.  They are gamblers, hedonists, diabolists, and spellbreakers.  Yes, they are exactly as edgy as they sound.


Mallefar is a comet filled with demons. Most believe that it was constructed by the Authority as a prison, and cast far from his light.  The comet returns every few years so that their repentance can be ascertained (just in case they’ve had a change of heart).  


Another theory is that Mallefar is their pleasure barge–the demons are joyriding between worlds.


Either way, Mallefar certainly seems to have a sentience of its own (much like Centerra itself).  It has a much different orbit than the other celestial bodies, and travels far from the universal ecliptic.  Speaking to Mallefar has been successful on exactly one occasion.  The evil comet spoke of its intention to strike Centerra, changed its course in order to pass below the aurora, and then departed to complete its orbit, mocking its audience all the while.


I will not repeat the comet's words here. They are too vulgar.


Mallefar has a period of 19 years and 19 days–it does not orbit near Centerra often.  In the long nights between their master’s warmth, Darklords and Darkladies turn to more conventional demon summoning to enact their plans.


They also have a connection to the Edgeless Sharp, best described as the dimensionless, semi-sentient plane of severance (in all its forms, but especially physical).  Many of them wield Orbs of the Edgeless Sharp and other strange artifacts–all gifts from Mallefar, arriving as asteroids that fall on the homes of Mallefar's enemies.


Orb of the Edgeless Sharp


Spend as long as you like gazing into the orb and invoking the Edgless Sharp.  Each round, a dozen papercuts open up on your body.  At any time, you may point your finger at a target and command the Edgeless Sharp to sever it.  It deals 1d6 slashing damage to the target for every round spent charging up the orb  (max 10d6).  


For every d6 that shows a 3, you take 3 damage.  Multiple people can charge up the orb simultaneously–the orb is “fired” by the first person to invoke it after helping charge it.  Usable 1/day.


by Suguru Tanaka



Cult of the Evil Earth


Goxlagog is the god of oozes and evil earth elementals.  He was worshipped by a nameless culture who valued boredom as the ultimate symbol of luxury.  Yes, there are pits of boiling clay, and if you go to the ceremonies you might get to meet the Black Pudding* and yes, those earthquakes did kill a lot of people, but like, Goxlagog sucks. Not as much as Gribblegrim and the Rat Cult, but close.


*The front end of the Black Pudding, not just the bucolic appendages you stumble across on wandering monster tables.


The Rat Cult


Incoherent, tawdry, and of no consequence whatsoever.


by Suguru Tanaka



16 comments:

  1. Porting the sad dinosaur over from the mystic america setting into centerra and marrying him with the idea of the dinosaurs eating up the timeline is genius. I always loved that guy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No porting required at all! It's the same dinosaur, in the same timeline! It all makes sense! Probably.

      Delete
    2. Transmultiversal travelers often speak of 3 strange parallels between every Time- & spaceline: Dinosaurs, Short Scottish drunkards and the United States of America.

      Delete
  2. When we ran Meal of Orshegaal, my level 4 rat master was the actual goddess of rats and was VERY devout to the Hessian church (because she was bullied by them so terribly). She must find and absorb this heretical rat cult. She is the TRUE goddess.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It's all good, as always, but my gosh the dinosaur prophet is perfect.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I love this, I love all of this.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Awesome to have these in one place, and glad to have you back. How about that bad-guy family you wrote up a few years back, the head cultist and his torturer wife? Which sect would you put them in, Darklords?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Really dig the dinosaur prophet, think I'll be stealing that communication via fossils idea too. Very applicable to haruspicy if you interpret it as petitioning a personified bloodline which then twists the sacrifice's innards with retroactive inbreeding.

    The Decapitatantes are just begging for head in jar counterparts too with several possible takes coming to mind. Honored knights wielding the sinners as the heads of maces or the censers dangling from chains. Conversely Decapitants as a penitent role suggests those same heads and jailor/shepherds, maybe thee head and body are even the same person but all an acolyte's un-Queenly thoughts were meant to reside solely in the one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Whoops, just reread the Yama post and it looks like sinner-Decapitantes it is, with face armour making oversight unnecessary to boot. It'd still be cool to see some extra skulls lying around, maybe a boss using a grinning meteor hammer.

      Delete
  7. After His Burial and Before His Death really stuck with me when I first read it. Looking forward to reading the full post but just thought I'd mention that I'm a big fan of the prescient Trex

    ReplyDelete
  8. "The Rat Cult: Incoherent, tawdry, and of no consequence whatsoever."

    Nothing ominous about that. They're just fans of vtuber Hakos Baelz.

    All hail the rrat of chaos!

    ReplyDelete
  9. So the Truthmakers are Discordians?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Discordian vibes out of the Truthmakers!
    Each and every faction described is inspiring

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Discordianism, Bokononism, and a couple other things, I suppose.

      UmU's true name is θώθ.

      Delete