Spotlight: Silphenor and the Sack of Anarthos

The time following Daemoth's banishment is not recorded. The elders of Irrachost speak vaguely of the Days of Stars, when the heavens stood absent of the sun and unwelcome things came to dwell on Vinramar. Sowm's death, they write, irrevocably tarnished her creations and fated the remaining worlds to ruin.

But Jharus, hoping to salvage what survived, formed a new world to replace Salvendum and set it in the heavens. The elders tell that he bound himself eternally to the High Seat there so that its light would never dim again. The jharethil he tasked to protect Vinramar in his absence. With their father in exile, Daemoth's sons divided his dominions, establishing tribes and kingdoms to rival the jharethil's.

The earliest recorded histories remember a jhareth named Silphenor who rose to prominence as a high priest among his people. While traveling west Silphenor came upon the ruined tower of Maromutalcoth, its valleys blanketed in the bones of the second brood of Daemoth. Far off in the Darkplane, the great rock that held Daemoth's imprisoned spirit collided with something, sending a hail of stones plummeting to the surface of Vinramar. Whether by design or chance it is not known, but in the moment that Silphenor approached the tower, the stones of Daemoth fell to the ruins about him and overthrew his mind.

Silphenor returned to Anarthos in a tempest of murder. Hearing of the oathbreaker’s bloody work, Loragg hastened there to find him in battle with Forlortha and many hundreds of the jharethil. In a haunting echo of Jharus slaying the brood of Daemoth at Maromutalchoth, Silphenor alone besieged Anarthos, massacring its people in a thirty year siege. In those years he never ate or rested. He alone butchered its armies and scattered the jharethil to the coasts of present-day Arrochule.

The siege ended with a desperate struggle in the highest chamber of deserted Anarthos. Loragg was slain and cast bodiless back to Mardelthwaide, leaving Forlortha alone to withstand Silphenor. Seeing no other hope, she wrenched a part of the stones' influence to her own mind. With its will divided, Daemoth's enmity dissolved from the stones, but the fracture drove Forlortha and Silphenor mad.

In deranged flight from the ruins, Silphenor let fall the eight stones of Daemoth and they were scattered across the West. Little is told of him from that time, but some whispers tell that he fled into the Darkplane where his madness was seen as wisdom.

Forlortha fled formless to the world Iltallach, which she now claimed as a refuge for herself and her children. A great tree sprang from the rocky desert to house her spirit, and beside it she raised two gates to Vinramar—one opening in Orucolantra and another in Talanbir. Over the following centuries the fey children migrated to Iltallach in droves, where they tended the obstinate stone until water and life filled the deserted world.

The madness of Forlortha estranged her from her husband Loragg, who searched Iltallach for her in vain, not perceiving that the deranged malice within the tree was his wife's own spirit. This malice began at once to poison the land of Iltallach itself, making its people wanton and cruel. Elsewhere are told many tales of the mad elves and their dealings with the mortals of Vinramar.

From The Stonewar: An Assembled History by Bram Genning

Spotlight: Jharus and the Heretics

JHARUS

God of artisanry, bravery, creation, and justice

Alignment: Chaotic Good

Symbols: Eagles, precious stones, swords

Names and Titles: Jharus, the Artisan, the Sword of Life, the Host Lord, the Lord of Mardelthwaide, Ureleth (Eagle Helm)

Abode: Mardelthwaide (Salvendum)

Enemies: Daemoth

Vassals: Ava, Iala, Loragg

Religious Organization: The Jharric Faith

THE HOST LORD

Jharus is the younger of the Sons of Sowm. With Daemoth he subdued the primordials and built a throne for himself in Vinramar. His tower was called Anarthos, seated in the highest peaks of the South.

When Sowm was slain and her body broken, Jharus and his son Loragg crafted a new one—a great stone to replace the fallen sun. Jharus bound himself to the stone and became Salvendum, the source of all light and natural life. Mardelthwaide, the Hall where Jharus sits bound, lies at the center of creation and can be seen from all the four worlds. It's home to the many gods and exarchs in his service.

Few have seen Jharus since he became the sun. He is depicted as a colossal man with golden-feathered wings, dressed in golden armaments. He's known for his courage and cunning mind, counseling his servants and directing mortal affairs from afar.

The Jharric Faith

The Jharric Faith is an ancient religion. Its adherents, called Jharrics, have worshiped the Jharric Pantheon (Jharus, Loragg, Ava, and Iala) since the first children of the gods took breath. Each of the four gods is represented by a separate order of priests within the faith. Though they revere all four gods, many of the faithful identify with one more closely than the others.

Once the Jharrics were a highly organized group with a rich tradition, but are now so depleted in numbers that most congregations are really just a handful of the faithful praying together at hidden mountain shrines. Outlawed in most nations, the church is required to operate in secret to avoid persecution.

In the secret cities of the jharethil, hidden from the sorrows of the world, the church is still organized as it was of old, with the reigning king or queen serving as high priest over the people. The Council of Lansari sits beneath the high priest, each Lansarus presiding over one chapter of the faith. The chapters consist of four branches, one for each god in the pantheon. All the branches within a specific geographic location meet together in the chapter house.

Central to the ethos of the Jharics is the concept of mahat, which represents the five pillars of the natural universe: balance, justice, life, morality, and truth. Mahat is both a concept and a force. It is what protects the four worlds and all natural life from the infectious influence of the Darkplane. It emanates from Salvendum, sowing life and ordering matter by natural laws.

Those of the Jharric Faith are expected to preserve mahat by embodying its five pillars—maintaining personal balance, sustaining order and justice, preserving life, encouraging moral rectitude, and speaking only truth. Of course, this is far easier said than done, especially when most of the world wants to execute you as a heretic.

Priests of Jharus

Domains: Life, Light, War

Alignments: Lawful Good, Neutral Good, Chaotic Good

Type: Orthodox Communal

Place of Worship: Jharric chapter houses

Holy Symbol: Ensign of the golden wings

Among the Jharric gods, the priests of Jharus are the quickest to action. The most elite of their order train in both combat and the channeling of divine magic. Those who follow Jharus are expected to uphold his tenets and succor the weak. Though they embrace all five pillars of mahat, the priests of Jharus place more emphasis on justice than life, allowing them to take life in retribution for sin or oppression.

 

  Zeriel's Light  by  Chris Cold

Zeriel's Light by Chris Cold

THE JHARETHIL: GUARDIANS AND HERETICS

At Anarthos, in the earliest age of Vinramar, Jharus built forges and mines where he and Loragg crafted the arts of the earth—cities, ramparts, crowns, and swords, all set with the radiant gold and the finest cut stones. Jharus’ hand was greatest among all living things in the shaping of creation. While Anarthos stood, the land about it was bathed in constant daylight from the workmanship that adorned its walls.

Though Jharus delighted in craft, Loragg desired most to emulate the beauty of Mother Sowm in the creation of life. From the soul, spirit, and body of Vinramar itself he shaped a woman and called her Forlortha. At her creation Forlortha was more beautiful than Rinshari and wise as Loragg himself. Though she loved her creator and husband, her chief love was with the earth from whence she came, with trees and flowers and the beasts that roamed the wild. Forlortha bore numberless children to Loragg, Jhareth and Feiren being the eldest.

The children of Loragg revered Jharus and Sowm as the Lady and Lord of Life, the Mother and the Son of Creation. Jhareth took Eralatha his sister to wife. Their subjects were the jharethil, radiant souls that soon filled the valleys and woods at the feet of Anarthos. Feiren took his sister Culfirith to wife, and their followers were the Fey Kindreds who settled across the Sea of Tacarros.

The jharethil were much to the liking of Jharus their grandsire, and he taught them in all his arts of craftsmanship. Their wisdom and valor became greater than their cousins, and under the tutelage of Jharus they were appointed protectors of Vinramar. As their power grew, their spirits shone through their flesh in auras of light, and they manifested wings, great and feathered like those their lord Jharus bore. The jharethil rarely strayed from the sight of golden Anarthos except in small patrols.

Their peace and glory wouldn't last. Anarthos was sacked and turned to a nest of unspeakable horror. Millennia of war, captivity, and bloodshed changed the jharethil from the righteous protectors of the earth into a secretive and despondent race despised as heretics in most parts of the world. Their cities have been taken up into the invisible High Realm, a dimension that protects them from outsiders. Many jharethil were left behind to curse the god that abandoned them.

Ethis and the Maahiset

It has been told that Ethis deceived Sarnoss and later bore Jukai. After the Irvallath escaped from their imprisonment in the Primordial Realm, she frolicked in the open North of Vinramar, where Ruethas returned to again try his suit with her. In her wanton mood she accepted and conceived with him, each of the primordial lovers wearing the shape of a fiery eagle. Ethis laid her eggs in the mountains north of Vunhaeg.

The eggs hatched quickly, bringing the first phoenixes into the world. Enamored of her power of creation, Ethis bore hundreds more of Ruethas' young in a hundred different forms. The remnants of their brood are still to be found scattered about the wilder regions of Vinramar.

But Ethis wished more and more to make children after the manner of the Sons of Sowm—an intelligent offspring like the daemons that were settled nearby. Leaving Ruethas in secret she came to Vunhaeg, where she found the king’s harem, composed of his own daughters. Using her mask to take the form of the daemon king Hitullos, she lay with each of his daughters and departed. But in her haste she left behind the mask.

Each of the daughters of Hitullos bore a child from Ethis, stocky and fire-eyed with bright runes that burned beneath their skin. These stunted creatures were raised among the kindred of Hitullos, but were shunned and mocked. Their mothers called the litter maehisath, “the charred ones.”

After lying with Ethis, the daughters of Hitullos conceived only the her children, no matter the father of the child. Within 50 years the maehisath, outnumbering their cruel kindred, turned the sword on the daemons and drove them from Vunhaeg. Bereft of his station and offspring, Hitullos departed into the wild as a vagabond, carrying only the mask of Ethis.

By this time Ethis had lost interest in her children, and the maehisath called upon her for succor in vain. But after some years Ethis chanced to pass Vunhaeg again, and there found a thriving body of her children, who now called themselves the maahiset. Her arrival was trumpeted from the walls of the city, and she walked with the maahiset again, teaching them powerful runes both for speech and for primordial magic. Though Ethis gloried in her children, her mischief and cunning soon embittered the maahiset. She dwelt in Vunhaeg for a short time before tiring of them and departing.

From The Labors of the Irvallath by Bram Genning

THE MAAHISITES

Settling the mountains north of present-day Trentsmund, the maahiset flourished as one of the great ancient civilizations. During the height of their power, the demon-legions of Mohtra ravaged the maahiset lands, causing them to scatter far across the West and flee into the mountains.

Four thousand years later their descendants, called Maahisites, began to emerge: the heathfolk, sarrow, gugrum, and telmatra. While sealed off, each Maahisite race had grown apart from the others, developing different physical and cultural attributes. The sarrow, for instance, remained short like their ancestors, while the gugrum grew much taller. The heathfolk preserved some of the maahiset’s arcane tradition, and the telmatra became able seafarers.

Along with humans, Maahisites have become one of the largest and most diverse racial groups. Thousands of years of separation have estranged these four races, and it’s doubtful that any kindred loyalty remains between them.

At its height, the maahiset empire covered much of the regions of Trentsmund, Chayrshellech, the Norlythe, and Goltaraim. Though their monumental cities have been buried and ground into dust, there are still artifacts, ruins, and places of power to be found in these regions—remnants of the runemages’ forgotten art. But those who can discover the secrets of the forbidden relics may live to regret it.

Today, the Maahisite races have little memory of their ancestors. They take for granted the folklore, nursery rhymes, and symbols of power that survive from that era. Even the heathfolk, who inherited a tradition of simple rune magic from the maahiset, know very little of the ancient practices. Time swallows secrets, and the mysteries of the maahiset are no exception.

Spotlight: The Irvallath

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The Nine laborers of the creation were Rinshari, Ethis, Ulmhasa, Sarnoss, Imbakhao, Jukai, Baturach, Ruethas, and Senfaer.

Rinshari was the first to rise, an orb of beautiful flame that swept in the youthful air and boiled the sea. Of all the Irvallath, Rinshari was the most beautiful, and the quickest to employ others in her behalf. She first labored in Iltallach, where her fiery passion fueled the spirit of the earth and made it hungry.

The second to rise was Ethis, who is the daughter of Rinshari, a wanderer and a trickster. When Rinshari boiled the sea so that bulwarks of stone were exposed above the tide, Ethis delved deep into the earth, where her stony flesh melted into dripping fire. She burst holes in many places along the world's skin, sending showers of magma into the air. Rinshari ran about to contain the showers of Ethis, but her fires only further scorched the land, leaving Iltallach warped and charred. In time, Rinshari caught Ethis and brought her to Vinramar where they continued their labors.

Ulmhasa was the third eldest of the Irvallath. She sank deep into the waters of Morvugol, and did not rise to hear the call of Sowm until far later. Farthest from Salvendum’s light, Morvugol was a dark world, and Ulmhasa cooled almost to death as she slept submerged in the sea.

Her son Sarnoss bathed with her until the call of Sowm came, and then he rose to the surface and began to drink the waters of the Morvugol. When he had drunk his fill, Sarnoss plunged his hands into the earth, and sent forth seeds and roots to tend the ground and give it strength. But as he raised forests and gardens his dreams were tormented with the shadow of his mother, and all his labors turned to darkness and night. When at last she woke, Ulmhasa rose from the bottom of the inky sea to find a lush land full of rich, black trees and midnight flowers. Sarnoss was wroth and departed for Vinramar.

The fifth of the Irvallath was Imbakhao, Ulmhasa’s second child whom she bore after the departure of Sarnoss. Imbakhao is a vast serpent, made of the black magma of Morvugol. Ulmhasa gorged him on her own creations and the remaining dross that fell to Morvugol from Salvendum.

When Sarnoss came to Vinramar, he found Ethis burrowing and shaping the stone into soft, elegant forms. Her face was like the flame of creation itself, and her beauty infatuated him. Entranced he approached her, but while they lay with one another Ethis shed her mask, and the coarse plainness of the sand was revealed in her true face. Then Sarnoss knew she had not the beauty of her mother, only through the masks and false shapes she could wear. He departed into other lands of Vinramar, where he built jungles and palaces in the trees.

Ethis conceived and bore Jukai, the sixth of the Irvallath. Not desiring to raise a son, Ethis dashed Jukai against the rocks and left him a cripple. From that time his back was hunched and twisted, his face cloven in two. As he grew, he too learned to shape the earth, but his stone was clumsier and tougher than that of his mother.

Seeking his mother's affection Jukai followed Ethis across the land, but everywhere his path roughened her elegant magma, turning the mountains of Vinramar into crags of immutable rock. When Ethis saw how her work was spoiled she returned to Iltallach, where she perfected her craft and wrought her greatest works, safe from the marring of Jukai.

The seventh of the Irvallath was Baturach, the lady of death, who dwelt in the sky as a white light to Vinramar. Her throne is the Moon. Her work was to replenish the waters of Norahaltath. When Sarnoss drank from them, she lifted the seas again toward her white throne. When Rinshari boiled the waters with her flame and heat, Baturach sent rain upon the face of the earth to fill the seas and rivers again.

Baturach was always the shyest of the Irvallath, loathe to speak or be spoken to. When Salvendum’s light strikes Vinramar, Baturach counters to the farther side and hides so that none can call to her. At night she peeks out from behind the black of the Darkplane, growing bolder with each setting of the sun. When she is full, her hideous face can be seen in the light of the moon’s throne like an emblazoned skull until she again creeps into shadow.

Ruethas was the eighth of the Irvallath to rise. Angered that he had not risen sooner, he wrenched the worlds to a halt and finished his work while all else stood still. Once done, he watched the other laborers in secret as they toiled in their work.

As Ethis danced alone in Iltallach, Ruethas stole a mask from her and wooed her in disguise, but she would not give herself to him. The two danced and dueled across Iltallach until the rest of the Irvallath finished their work. Iltallach was thus left incomplete at the final call of Sowm, and wasuntil the coming of Forlorthaa barren land of strange rocks and fires.

The ninth of the Irvallath is Senfaer, the greatest in power. His breath drove the winds and encircled the four worlds with air for their protection from the void of the Darkplane. He was appointed by Sowm to oversee the others' work, and to delve into the Darkplane in search of all unreachable knowledge. He was Her messenger and steward to the Irvallath. He placed the stars in the midst of the Darkplane as waypoints to guide his servants safely through the Abyss.

After the death of Sowm the Irvallath’s numbers would increase to twelve with the birth of Zho-hau, the birth of Atiakha, and at the rending of Atiakha's soul in two.

— From The Labors of the Irvallath by Bram Genning

Spotlight: Daemoth and the Etholchan Church

DAEMOTH

God of creation, politics, revenge, and winter

Alignment: Lawful Evil

Symbols: Bound wheat, caverns, snow, stone

Names and Titles: Daemoth, Lachmarum, Lord of the Fallow, Lord of the Hills of Vinramar, Lord of Winter

Abode: The Abyssal Throne

Enemies: Jharus

Vassals: Gallister, Gauren, Maruma’e, Volgothyde

Religious Organizations: The Eitharmos, the Etholchan Church, the Order of Illiantri, and the Urrothic Church

THE LORD OF WINTER

When Sowm, the supreme Creator, saw the finished work of Her primordial laborers, She was pleased. Her two sons She fashioned with air and clay wrapped around sparks from Salvendum's flame. These sons descended to the four worlds as emissaries to treat with the primordials on Sowm's behalf.

Daemoth was proud and charming then, a master of forms and words. But even in his immortal infancy, obsession and ambition ruled him, eventually driving him to murder his mother Sowm.

Since his exile from the four worlds, Daemoth has become engorged and mutilated by the Darkplane. Pustules composed of mortal souls bulge from his eternal flesh, and wisps of dark mist enshroud him like eon-spanning tendrils. His eyes are cold and his hands clawed with cruelty.

Daemoth has tried time and again to subdue the world to his will. After many failed conquests, he has resorted to more subtle means and found success. With the incredible growth of human civilization, Daemoth worship has spread to become the most common religion in Vinramar. Through its influence, his servants rise to power, extending his hidden reach like canker beneath the world's skin.

In the midst of the first war against the primordials, Daemoth imprisoned Rinshari, the most beautiful of the elemental laborers, in the Vice of Winter. By force she conceived his most powerful sons, the arch-demons Gauren, Iarmov, and Arrochimeir. From these three spawned the legions of fiends and monstrosities that populated the West of Vinramar in its infancy.

Last of all his broods, Daemoth fathered the daemons with Atiakha, the daughter of the moon. Their empire Mohtra became the longest-reigning nation in Vinramar's history before it fell into ignominy.

THE ETHOLCHAN CHURCH

Most devout among Daemoth's followers is the Etholchan Church, an orthodox sect that maintains ancient traditions from the daemon culture, and holds its own law above all others. Etholchans commonly preach in the street and hold worship services where believers drink animal blood and, once a year, sacrifice a firstborn child to the Lord of Winter. Nations like Arrochule, Motta, and Trentsmund, where the Etholchan church is prevalent, can be dangerous places for the followers of rival gods.

Etholchans believe in strong displays of devotion to Daemoth, including ceremonial dress, religious rites, and a code of fraternity that empowers its members. Their ritual dress is a tunic that laces up the front, worn with a purple girdle trimmed in black. It symbolizes Deamoth’s constant hold over the life of the wearer. The tunic and girdle are often worn in conjunction with other clothing, but are required dress for believers.

Etholchan temples are overseen by local priests, who are themselves subordinate to abbots, chancellors, and consorts. All of the Etholchan hierarchy answers to the Horrom, the seer and central figurehead of the sect.

Etholchan Priests

Domains: Blood, Darkness, Knowledge

Alignments: Lawful Evil, Neutral Evil

Type: Orthodox Dogmatic

Place of Worship: Etholchan temples

Holy Symbol: Onyx talisman