At first there wasn’t.
No things. No being.
Then the seed.
First from the seed came the Verse
Second from the seed came the One.
The One was mind and will, but the One was second born, jealous and petty.
Seeking rulership it created the Ten and directed them to create our world, the animals, us.
And so they did.
The One was pleased and he did torment us. A world filled with evil, a world under his control, his watch, his caprice.
The Ten Watched. Three laughed, Three cried, Three were silent. And One was angry.
The last of ten turned to his brothers and they rose against the One.
The Second-born was made many, shattered and brought low. From his remains were born the passion of fire, the reason of water, and the spirit of air and from these the freedom of the wise.
We were made free to choose, free from control and the tyranny of the One.
But the creations of the One remained, vengeful and cruel.
So the Ten, crippled and broken by the battle with taught us.
How to bend the world and our spirits to our wills.
And from this knowledge the first empire rose.
Long ago, before any of this. Before the great empire, before the wonder of the first age. Before now and then, before here and there. Before the stars, the sun, before anything; there was the empty. The great nothing. In this time before there was only one being. In the tongue of the old empire they called it Primus Dei; the first God. We simply call it The One.
In the way back, the One was quiet. A child at sleep. But the One did not sleep forever. The empty began to fill around it and as stars flared to life the One began to awaken.
And in its wakefulness the One grew bored. Bored and powerful.
The One began to create and make. It made to allay its boredom.
First it made the Ayr. The Ten; Caelestes in the old tongue. And the One enjoyed its creations; it teased and tormented, tortured and twisted them. It made War and Art, Sex and and Heart. It made Memory and Justice, Hierarchy and Rage. It even twisted the empty into something; the Outsider. But its greatest creation was the Tenth; the Voice.
After a time the One grew bored and set its toys to work.
So the Ten created the world, and with it the One’s favoured plaything; humanity.
For a long age the One reveled in the torment of humanity. But not humanity as we are. Back then we were lumpen clay, dumb and bestial.
Boredom set in again and the One turned to the Ten who set to work, refining humanity. They imbued us with a piece of themselves; sex, heart, memory, justice, war, art, rage, hierarchy, emptiness and finally voice.
The One celebrated its newest, finest toys. It crafted terrible monsters and plagues and demanded our tribute.
And the Ten watched, for at least it wasn’t them.
But in time even the Ten knew that this would not last. The One would always grow bored and always seek new entertainments. So the Voice did what it had been made to do; it spoke. It spoke to the Ten and to the Humanity and it rallied all against the One and its viciousness. The voice gave the Lingua to humanity and by the combined power of man and Ayr The One was shattered into many. Some say that victory was not at all assured; that victory came only because the One erred; that the One had invested too much in its creations.
Whatever the case, the vicissitudes of the One were at an end and the golden age of humanity had begun.
The Short Telling
Nothing begat something.
Something begat the One who begat the Ten.
The Ten begat humanity and the world and all the things in it, all for the entertainment of the One.
The One was cruel, finding his pleasure in human suffering.
The Ten rose, under the guidance of the Last and down came the One.
But humanity still suffered, from the remnants of the One and the cruelest of the Ten.
So clever humans convinced the Last of Ten and its sympathetic brethren to teach them the words that formed the world.
Humanity was gifted the power to bind and dispel the Ten.
Humanity rose to dominance, building a grand empire, united under the power of the making words, the lingua, the tongue of the gods. And that empire fell to vice and war, and the madness brought on by abusing the words.
The gods of Aeldos are many and diverse. The gods are referred in a variety of terms including; the Ayr, the Deva, Caelestes or Celestials, or Divines. The guide below includes the most common and recognizable…
Aeldos’ major religions are varied, with no single belief system truly dominating the globe. Polytheistic tolerance is common in most parts of the world, though there are some areas where religious fundamentalism and persecution of outsider beliefs is a risk. Below is a brief list of the major religious beliefs.
All Ayr are owed, all should receive their due.
Many refuse to single out a deity and instead proffer prayers and offerings to the Ten as a group in acknowledgement of their role in freeing humanity from the ones cruelty.
- Decarism isn’t a proscriptive religion; there is no Decarist commandments or bibles, but there are an array of stories, some written and some oral, that are considered the source of wisdom.
- Most Decarists don’t seek to define what is right and wrong based on rules, but on situations and virtue. The religion doesn’t speak of what not to do in generalities, it tells stories to provide context and guidance, inform action, or offer examples of similar trials in the past.
- Specific or multiple Ayr may be petitioned for help in certain situations, through prayer and ritual, and some Ayr are seen as better for some goals; Oto before battle, Oxo before a hunt, Ixi when writing, etc.
- Example: Cruelty is wrong (as demonstrated by the treatment of humanity by Amth and the revolt of the Ayr), and killing can be cruel, so killing can be wrong. But the Ayr started a war that killed the One so it cannot always be wrong, so it also cannot be wrong to be the instigator of violence if one believes it shall result in less misery. The best rule that can be derived here is that if one must kill it is best not to be cruel about it, but most Decarists wouldn’t seek a rule, they’d seek context.
- Decarist priests can have roles beyond just ‘priest’. Warriors, craftsmen, wardens…
- A warrior priest might invoke Oto in defense of others, human or non-human, and may kill in service to the gods, even dedicating what they see as righteous kills *too* the Ayr, just as an Artisan priest might dedicate their creations, or a Scholarly priest their writings.
- … they can also *just* be a priest and focus on knowing the stories, conducting the rituals, and providing guidance.
- The Vox is credited with helping humanity by leading the revolt of the Ayr and with giving humanity the Lingua, but this does not earn it sole credit in the minds of Decarists.
- The Artisan gave creativity and inspiration
- The Caretaker gave diverse life, and maintained the balance of predator and prey
- The Warrior gave the tools and capacity, the desire to protect the self and others
- The Prince/Tyrant gave drive and ambition
- The Libertine/Deviant gave freedom, joy, and pain
- The Exile gave law and the capacity for justice
- The Outsider gave a sense of mystery and a value for courtesy and respect
- The Scholar gave wisdom and the appreciation of knowledge
- And it was the Scourge, with its capacity for destruction, that made it possible for the Ayr to bring Amth low
- Decarism is common because it is a pragmatic religion and its holy folk are examples of that. There are no sermons, no invocations of sin, no penance to do. There are rituals that petition and appease the Ayr and their values and thank them for their protection and guidance. And if one thinks they have offended the Ayr they might seek forgiveness through acts of appeasement.
- The Decarist priests role is to remind folks of the many Ayr, provide rituals and guidance from the perspective of the Ten, and help them live a good life.
- Most Decarist holy folk do not typically see themselves as invested with some special link to the Ayr; their piety comes from service of people and honouring the Ayr. There is no book or covenant or derived power, just knowledge of the stories and the rituals.
- If someone finds deeper parallels and value in the worship of specific Ayr that’s fine but that is a liminal place, a transitionary state *away* from Decarism and into henotheism, patronage, and focused devotion. Decarists are pragmatic and keep their options open.
- Some Decarists ascribe to soothsaying, seeking to interpret the wills of the Ayr from auspicies, but this is not universal and is generally reserved for high priests advising on major actions. This might inform action, approving or disapproving of the declaration of war or enacting justice… but many other Decarists see it as pointless superstition.
- Some Decarists also believe that the will of the Ayr is embodied in its worshippers. That if their actions are unjust they will be punished, and if they are just they will be rewarded. What is known to be just is to conduct the rituals and recognize the Ayr for their works. Recognizing and appeasing the values of each specific Ayr is for the Ayrsworn
- There are heroes of the Ayr and those who share their blood, and many stories of both. A Decarist priest might point to the story of Tzkan Asyr, Blooded of Oto, who set a cult of Amth to fire and the story of Surothan of Olon, chosen of Ixi who converted them; there is no singular commandment and any interpretation of the mythos so that there is, is just that; an interpretation.
What is sacred is the sacrifice. Without the Voice, we would all be eternally silent.
These believers offer their prayers, invocations, and sacrifices only to the Last of Ten, the Vox, the Ayr responsible for teaching humanity the making words and leading the rebellion against The One
The Ayr are powerful, but they are transient and corrupt. True wisdom is in the all, in the verse.
These believers worship the creation, not its creators. They believe that the One and the Ten, also known as the makers, are either gone, corrupt, or ultimately transient. They are typically more concerned with the rules that govern reality and do not generally offer prayers or offerings. Also known as natural philosophers.
The Ayr are not divine, they are simply powerful. Understanding the hierarchy, the true nature of the world, is the key to escaping the bondage of worship.
Those who do not worship the supernatural but instead seek to enumerate and classify it. They see a hierarchy of power and seek to place themselves in it. The chosen religion of many rulers, aristocrats, librarians, Shapers and Shifters. There is a very diverse interpretation of the power structure by its adherents and though there is no church, many believe that the Hegists maintain a network of occultists and a grand occult library in central cities.
The Ayr come and go, but other gods persist; gods of the deep and the dark and the distant. These Primals hold the key to true wisdom and knowledge of Aeldos.
Worshippers of the Animulus, the first beasts and other nature spirits. This umbrella term covers several tribal and totemic religions driven by emotional connection to various beasts and natural phenomena. Primalists are often more concerned with emotion than logic, survival more than enlightenment and equality more than personal opulence.
Let fire reveal the weakness in the iron
Worshippers not of the Warrior but of war and battle itself both as an abstract concept and as anthropomorphic deities. Kriegers are accordingly aggressive and many are found in the ranks of militaries and mercenary groups. This religion is found primarily among the Tollam
The only difference between a cult and a religion is the breadth of adherence. While the cults below may have a small number of adherents compared to the major religions, they are notable for reasons beyond their prominence.
Hemron, Blood Iron Cult
Blood and Iron, Soul and Steel; the secret of power lies not in gods and stars, but in the veins of men, and the metal that bleeds them.
Hemron cultists are obsessed with ‘Blood Iron’. Though it is a poorly understood phenomena, there is significant evidence that ‘cold’ iron immersed in the blood of the dying, inherits some form of power. Some believe the power is in fact the victims soul, while others argue it is a portion of some other divine power imbued to each human on their birth. The truth is unclear, but it is true that items made from so called ‘Blood Iron’ are more powerful than their mundane counterparts, exhibiting preternatural features. The potency of the effect seems tied to the metaphysical power of the victim; Linguists, the devout, certain lineages, supernatural beings, Priests, kings, warriors of note, etc.
Serpents, The Serpent Cult
We all look into the Serpents maw eventually.
A rare breed who worship the Aeldos embodiment of death itself, ‘The Uncreated Serpent’. Not prone to prayer or offering as they believe their own spirits are one day destined to be taken by the Serpent as payment for their worship.
Formati, Cult of the One
The Ayr are a lie. The One is first and all, and the only being worthy of worship.
Revisionists who have recently risen in power in a few remote places. They have inverted the generally accepted truth of the making. In their mythology the One is the victim of the treachery of the Ten and the perfection of the old world is only attainable by raising worship of the One. Considered in most nations to be violent heretics, they brook no theological debate and use grim methods to enforce their will.
A group of fanatical worshippers of the Scourge, the Brutusi are found almost exclusively amongst the savages of Aeldos. Considered insane by all others the Brutusi are the origin of the term ‘Brute’ and live up to the name, building horrific ‘pillars’ and ‘icons’ to the Scourge composed of their maimed or dismembered victims. Driven by a relentless bloodlust most lack any ability to conceal themselves. The depths of Brutusi depravity are unknown as they are driven by a singular edict – to do harm to all life.
The Cult of Mysteria
Those who worship the mystery beyond the Ayr, the vast and thrumming darkness. The darker things that lurk in the beyond are not a myth. They are distant intelligence’s which don’t understand the world we live in. Their curiosity is cold and unkind; the clinical curiosity of a bored child; a messy and alien curiosity that would be terminal to the subject. This cult is often associated with the Mists of Mujin and the Sucha found therein.
From the term ‘Votary’ or ‘The Avowed’, this cultist sect of Tyrant worshippers follows dark figures and teachings and participate in rituals that place them outside the normal Decarists.
Also known as the cult of the Unquiet Dead, this small but strangely omnipresent cult is devoted to the tending of the dead. Receivers are identifiable by their tendency to paint or tattoo skulls and skeletons on their bodies and the vows of silence many take. Receivers are a benign and symbiotic cult, considered favourably in many places for their readiness to deal with the dead. Some Receivers are even said walk the wilds, seeking out and settling the restless dead who fall far from home.
The secrets of the verse can only be found by searching the self that lies within. Revelation lies with the holy chemist and their sacraments; Ketha, Ibga, Mandragora, & Ixtropus
There are a variety of cults devoted to mystic and spiritual experience as induced by ritualized chemical means. Typically these cults are referred to by their preferred sacrament (e.g. Ketha Cults). The beliefs of such cults can be extremely diverse and are often built around the charisma of a central leader or supplier.
Aeldan beliefs about death are diverse and can vary even within individual groups of believers.
Membrists: Believe that upon death you relive your best or worst memories repeatedly according to whether you did good or bad.== Iwists: Believed that all humans are judged by the Ayr upon death and sentenced accordingly. The devoted of each Ayr get special places in the hidden domains of the Ayr.
Momentists: Believe that the spirit of the dead experiences the moment of death repeated for eternity. Are accordingly cautious and often seen as cowardly.
Tenebrists: Believe that the gods of death have sole dominion over the dead; that the Jackal takes the body, the Raven the mind, and the Serpent the spirit.
Convalists: Believe that all spirits are treated equally, that they fall into the ‘Valley of Souls’, the resting place and source for all, a great mixing pot of spirits.
Nocti: Believe in the eternal night. That in death humans are not and in life death is not.
Mundarist: Believe in the ‘anima mundi’ or world mind, a spiritual connection between all living things. In aggregate this connection is a singular entity and in death the spirit of the dead transcends to a higher position in the world mind.
Reincarnationists: Believe that death is a stage and that souls are reborn; that no soul truly dies. This differs from Convalists in the uniquess of souls. Where reincarnationists see people reborn and believe it is possible to remember past lives, convalists see all souls converged and new souls extracted from the valley as unique.
The Lost Gods
Where are the Ayr now? This is perhaps the most contentious religious question in all of Aeldos, the answer to which seems to vary significantly depending on where you ask it. Early texts and stories speak of the Ayr as titans, vast and powerful and towering over the land; more like weather than creatures, with their presence causing mortals to flee or drop to their knees in awe or reverence. Some stories cast a more anthropomorphic light, claiming that the Ayr would assume less grandiose or terrifying forms, walking the world in the guise of mortals. A large subset of these stories speak of other aspects of the Ayr; their chosen paragons, the Demiayr spawned by their interactions and pairings, and encounters with their favoured creations the Yaga…
Regardless of the set of stories or the personae characterized within, a significant amount of lore suggests such encounters occurred with decreasing frequency parallel to the rise of the Imperium and ceased almost entirely after the cataclysm. So what happened?
Asking this question generally nets one of the following responses:
- The Ayr are resting, still recovering from their war against Amth and the exertion of mending Aeldos afterwards. They will awaken when the time is right.
- The Ayr retreated from Aeldos during the rise of the Imperium as a conscious chose to cede control of the world to their creations and only show themselves infrequently if at all.
- The Ayr retreated from Aeldos during the rise of the Imperium out of fear of the growing power of mortals and are careful when they show themselves now
- The Ayr retreated from Aeldos after the fall of the Imperium, ashamed at the behaviour of humanity, and abandoned Aeldos entirely or stalk it only in secret.
- The Ayr are dead. Killed by their creations as is the natural order. What remains they left are so vast we mistake them for landscape.
- The Ayr are dead. Killed by ruthless betrayers in pursuit of primacy and the powers of the Ayr. Evidence of the crime was obliterated entirely.
- The Ayr did not disappear, they just took on new forms; that child that everyone sees but no one knows, that old man that you met on the road who shared his meal and then disappeared in the night, that knight who routed the army, the beast that haunts the woods, the endless storm in the Badlands
- The Ayr never existed; they were a primitive but convenient and culturally useful and unifying mechanism for explaining the natural and mortal world. Stories of the Ayr are useful, but shouldn’t be taken literally. (The least popular view, typically espoused only by aggressively iconoclastic natural philosophers)
Some cultures seem to prefer certain explanations, or a mix of explanations, over others:
- Svertheim: Svertan beliefs tend to vary between the Ayr being in torporous slumber, dead, or inhabiting the vast wilds in new forms.
- Vandar: The Vandarans tend to believe that the Ayr were ashamed by humanity and/or betrayed and murdered.
- Granden: Grandenari tend to believe the Ayr have taken new, hidden forms to adapt to the world, or that they have retreated.
- Lux: Most Luxi priests believe that the Ayr are resting, building their strength, and when they awake mortals will be judged based on the state of the world.
- Mujin: Most Mujinese shamans believe that the Ayr are either sleeping or have taken on new, more animist forms, inhabiting the world more directly.
- Badlands: Badlanders rarely spare time to think about such things, but most would suggest they are dead.
- Tollam: Many Tollam believe the Ayr are dead, killed by ancient Tollam. Some believe they are simply sleeping.
- Nehep: A common Nehepi belief is that the Ayr were murdered by arcanists and many consider this an irreconcilable stain on the souls of all humans.
- Ossandria: Ossandrians believe that the Ayr retreated from Aeldos, ceding control to the Osssandrian Imperator and blessing his dominion from afar
- Selene: Selenian priests tend to welcome all views, arguing that the truth is a combination. Some Ayr sleep, some left, some died, and some took on new forms.
- Victra: Many Victrans believe the Ayr retreated from the world out of fear of the growing power of mortals.
- Subin: Subinese beliefs speak of the evolution of the Ayr; they are now inhabiting newer, more subtle forms.
Some Grandens, Victran, Mujinese, Luxi, and Subinese priests and shamans claim that, whatever their fate, it is still possible to contact the Ayr through ritual. This isn’t a common view, and most who espouse it are seen as odd or potentially crazy, but that doesn’t stop people from trying. Most who claim such potential place a variety of conditions on contact with the celestials; the place, the time, the alignment of moons, the state of the petitioner, sacrifices, all are said to be important factors. In addition, Ecstatic cults claim contact can be made through certain holy substances.
Terms and Errata
The terms, Crying, Laughing, and Silent Ayr refer to the reactions each set of Ayr had to Amth’s torment of humanity; The Crying Ayr included the Warrior, Caretaker, and Artisan. The Laughing Ayr included the Prince, the Scourge, and the Libertine, and the Silent were the Exile, the Outsider, and the Scholar.