Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Gods of Kickassistan: The God of Blackened Skies

The God of Blackened Skies

The Lord of Ash, the Vulture King, He Who Waits in the Winds, Devourer of the Creamated Dead and Keeper of Whispered Secrets.

Neutral Alignment


"Gods? Of course my people have gods, though we are wise enough not to need a god for every little thing on the face of Ore. My people, we have gods for one thing, the only thing you really need a god for: death." - Skallic shaman Hagan Marat

"Ah, yes, I suppose that our practices might have originated with the Skalls, but that's entirely immaterial. What's more important is that the rites of the Vulture King have ensured proper burials and hygienic disposal for the bodies of the dead while maintaining profitable operations since the Fall of Ur-Hadad. A faith that may have started with barbarians -- or may not have, I have yet to concede that point -- has ensured the continuation of civilized society and a higher standard of living for all of Man." - Brother Hesperod, Junior Accountant-Monk, Third Class

"I care not for such prattle. The Vulture King shall know my faith when He drinks in the ash from the burning bodies of my  foes." - barbarian warlord Karas of Skall

Among the Skalls, it is well-established that the only gods worthy of a man's veneration are the gods of death. Death is the only thing that men cannot change. The Skalls keep three main death gods; the first is the Stag-Headed God, He Who Is Devoured, a deity of bravery and self-sacrifice, keeper of the spirits of warriors who are consumed by their foes. The God Under the Mountain is the god of the buried dead, the Counter of Plunder, and is Himself buried beneath the stone and treasure that forms his cairn. The final god of this trinity, the God of Blackened Skies, is warden over the spirits of the cremated dead, as well as the Vulture King and the Prince of Ravens, a deity of both sought-after knowledge and irrevocable fate. It is His faith that has spread throughout the civilized lands of Ore.

Often depicted as a carrion bird composed of ash, the Skalls first venerated the Lord of Ash as patron of vultures, crows and other eaters of the dead. To be consumed by these birds was an honorable burial, as their bodies would bear worthy souls up to the storm clouds where He is said to dwell; the unworthy, however, would be shat back upon the earth, spending their afterlife literally as excrement. The Skallic priests would build tall funerary biers to feed the birds, but eventually the practice of cremation took over as the primary method of commending a soul to He Who Waits in the Winds when the number of bodies to be commended outstripped the birds' appetites, particularly during conquest. A number of Skallic tribes, however, never took to cremation; instead, they worked the massed bodies of the dead into vast tribute totems to be picked clean by God of Blackened Skies' favored pets. Finding a field of large towers comprised of dead bodies woven together around a wooden frame is a sure sign that you're in Skallic territory.

The Lord of Ash is also the Skallic god of storms, in particular in their most destructive forms. Thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, all these are the purview of He Who Waits in the Winds. Only snowstorms and blizzards are outside his sphere of influence among all inclement weather. Thus, it is common for Skalls to celebrate a monsoon but curse even the lightest of snows; Skallic myth reports that snow was invented as the dying curse of a god whose worshipers fell before the Skalls, a curse that shall dog the steps of tribes wherever they lead.

In Civilized Lands

In Ur-Hadad, Av Arat, Port Scourge and every other city of Man throughout the known world, the rites of the Vulture King are kept. Here, the faith has been adopted in a syncretic manner, and so the Skallic death god is worshiped alongside other gods on the Avenue of One Thousand Gods. Somewhere in the lands bordering the Skalls' typical stomping grounds, perhaps Hyperbarbaria, the rites of He Who Waits in the Winds took root and found purchase in the fertile imaginations of peoples eager to make some sense out of death and destruction, out of storm and warfare, amid the dead and burning bodies on the battlefield. By the time the Elder Races fled during the Fall of Ur-Hadad, worship of the God of Blackened Skies was widespread enough that the bodies of the dead (honored and otherwise) were set upon the roofs of the First City's buildings and palaces for whatever carrion birds would claim them. When that rite, practiced on such a wide scale, led to disease, the vulture priests introduced the Skallic practice of cremation as an alternative path to the Prince of Ravens' court.

Today, the civilized church of the God of Blackened Skies is one of the most efficient organizations in the Dominion of Man. A corps of priestly death-oracles predict the expirations of all citizens of a municipality, allowing the priesthood and families to prepare for upcoming demises. To manage these funerary expenses, an immense bureaucracy of accountant-monks has sprung up of the centuries, dedicated to careful oversight of church finances and the laity's contributions to them. In fact, there are persistent rumors of collusion between the oracle priests and the accountant-monks in order to fill the coffers of the faith much more soundly; the church takes such rumors seriously and has recently adopted the practice of appointing Auditors to investigate churches of particularly poor repute. These Auditors are the inquisitors of the Blackened Sky faith, charged with keeping the church free from corruption, and not answerable to the normal bureaucratic institutions of the church. Above all sits the echelon of the Vulture Priests, the ascetics entrusted with the holy duty of performing funerary rites. Any priest of the Blackened Sky may become a Vulture Priest (and, in fact, so can any faithful member of the laity), but the process is long and difficult, culminating in a ritual whereby the priest is offered up as a living sacrifice to the Lord of Ash; the greater the portion of his flesh devoured by carrion birds, and yet he survives, the greater the new Vulture Priest is favored by the God.