Return to The Grace of Dragons
The Creation Story
So far as we know, the Four Gods are the pinnacle of power in the universe. Havrek and Besille are husband and wife, just as Tamrin and Mezanne are also husband and wife. The Four Gods are notoriously tight-lipped on the subject of the creation of our world, and their own spawning. Some suggest this means they do not know, but most feel it is more likely that the knowledge has the potential to be harmful to mortals..
In the beginning that we know, the Four Gods existed on our world, on Amaril, without any need or want for separate domains. Havrek and Besille had a palace and Tamrin and Mezanne had their own palace, both on opposite sides of the world. Amaril was no place for mortals then. It was a barren wasteland, save the expanse around the fortress of Good, which was green and flowered. The only thing the forces of Good and Evil did was fight each other. It was a pointless, unending battle of angel versus demon, with Havrek and Mezanne as opposing Generals of armies that could not truly die, only be lost to unconsciousness for a time.
Tamrin and Besille were bored by this. Neither found outright war to be of any particular interest, preferring both subtler methods and actual accomplishment. Each of them separately came to the determination that mortality was the primary ingredient missing, the lack of which made all of this war very uninteresting and futile. And so, each created a mortal race to put on the playing field, in the hopes it would spice up the conflict. Besille's creations were elegant and beautiful creatures, slow breeding and long lived. Tamrin's creations were ugly brutes, fast breeding and short lived.
The shi'aleen and the toruk joined the battles. Mortal as they were, they required the protection of their patrons' fortresses for food and shelter. Besille kept command of her shi'aleen, Tamrin kept command of his toruk. Each of them succeeded, but in ways they did not expect. The shi'aleen and the toruk took prisoners, which the angels and demons never did. They fought to the death to protect their offspring. Heroes rose up to lead their lesser brethren. And then came the ultimate shock: they banded together. The shi'aleen and toruk, having grown weary of seeing their brothers and sisters die for no reason other than the Gods' whims, negotiated a treaty and helped each other set up settlements outside the influence of the divine palaces.
Their most daring act was to form two strike teams who each stole into one of the divine palaces and liberated secrets. Secrets of magic. Secrets that enabled the two races to repel the advances of the angels and demons without divine aid.
When the Gods realized what had happened, they stopped everything. The war ended. The Four Gods came to the settlement and demanded to speak with the leaders. The leaders patiently explained why they had done what they did. They explained how it was painful to watch their sons and daughters, their brothers and sisters die in a stupid war they had no stake in. They saw nothing to gain by continuing it, and since the Gods had nothing to gain by ending it, they took matters into their own hands and removed themselves from it.
It may seem like the Gods are heartless and cruel to have put mortals in this position, but we believe that they were simply unaware of the true differences between mortal and immortal, having never dealt with the former before. They spoke at great length upon the subject. At that point, it was agreed that the Gods would no longer war upon the face of Amaril. If they wanted to play these games, they would do so elsewhere. Both palaces were removed from Amaril, to their present locations of Celestia and the Abyss. The Gods agreed to all be bound by the Two Laws:
The Four Gods may not directly interfere in the affairs of Amaril. They may act indirectly, through mortal vessels who worship them.
Neither celestial nor demon shall ever again be sent to Amaril by the hand of a God.
The shi'aleen and the toruk lost their direct connections to Besille and Tamrin, depriving them of many things, not the least of which was their sense of specific racial identity. They intermarried with each other, and the result of both circumstances is four of the five races we have today: elves, orcs, humans, and dwarves. The Mezzit are another story entirely, and that came later.
No one is exactly sure when the animals were introduced into the world, but it seems clear that it happened sometime shortly after the land began to prosper and bloom without the destruction of the wars to prevent it.
The Following of Havrek
The worshippers of Havrek erect grand temples reminiscent of Roman Catholic cathedrals. They typically have stained glass windows and large areas for the faithful to congregate. Temples to Havrek always offer food and shelter to His clerics and paladins when asked. They also offer an array of services, both spellcasting and not, for relatively small fees to defray the costs of maintaining the temple.
Havrek is also known as 'The Shining Warrior' or 'Justiciar'. He stands for justice, honor, and virtue, the hallmarks of forthright and bold Goodness. Adherents of Havrek are known for their fairness and valor. While many people believe that followers of Havrek tend to be uptight, rule-enforcing paternalistic types, the vast majority of them are actually gentle healers, wise sages, contemplative leaders. Wherever they settle, priests of Havrek build grand temples, usually with a blue theme to the entirety of it, including the stained glass windows, materials chosen for the structure, and lighting choices. When asked why they put so much time, effort, and money into constructing the temples, the reply is "each building is an expression of love for Havrek, a house fit for His presence in a way that no simple hovel ever could be. We praise Havrek with all the glory and high honor He deserves from us."
The clergy of Havrek employ a fairly strict caste system within their order. In essence, the greater the deeds of the priest, the greater his status and the more deference he is accorded by others of his faith. Paladins of Havrek are considered by the clergy to be special, and they are granted respect even before they have managed to actually accomplish anything. Paladins in general are quite rare, with typically no more than one per 100 priests or so.
The faithful of Havrek are encouraged to marry, though they are not necessarily expected to. They view chastity prior to marriage as an ideal to uphold, but individuals may or may not think it's a good idea, or even care.
Overwhelmingly male, Paladins of Havrek can usually be counted upon to be engaged in some sort of quest delivered directly from their deity. While Havrek is generally distant in dealings with His clergy, He is known to be quite involved - some would say 'meddlesome' - in the lives of His paladins. They routinely receive visions of places they are required to go, objects or people they are required to defend, liberate, or avenge, and other specific acts they are expected to perform. Most of them find that the tasks keep them within a specific geographic area, but a few wind up roaming the lands far and wide to fulfill their calling.
Havrek selects His Holy Champions personally. It is extremely rare for a person to present himself with a desire to become a Paladin and be accepted. Most of the time, a veteran paladin receives a vision about some young person he is supposed to go collect and offer the opportunity to join up. Should the young person accept, he becomes the veteran's squire, learning the ways of paladinhood from his mentor. Somewhere around attaining 4th level, the squire receives his first true vision from Havrek, ordering him to go perform some task of some kind. At that point, he parts ways with his mentor, starting his own career in service to Havrek. And someday, when he's starting to lose some of the spring in his step, he'll receive a vision telling him to find some other young person to offer the torch to.
The priesthood of Havrek is a diverse lot. Some have great mystical power. Some are mundane teachers. Some are wandering proselytizers. Some are musicians who spread gossip more than anything else. The common thread for all of them is that they have deep love for Havrek and truly believe in His teachings.
The typical fashion in which a Priest becomes one is a matter of personal conviction. Most often, he is the kind of person who found meaning, understanding, or some other type of enlightenment while attending services or working for the Church in some capacity. Unlike Paladins, it is rare for a Priest to have a Calling directly from Havrek. The average Priest spends a few years trying all the assorted roles the Church has to offer before settling into one that suits him best. A very few come knowing what kind of person they are and how best they can serve Him. It is also not entirely uncommon for a noble family to send an extra, younger son (or daughter) more or less against their will, in the hopes they will find a place among the clergy. The Church accepts such people, often because there is no better option for them, and (to be honest) because they typically come with sizable donations (even the High Priest in Haven can't make himself turn away a big bag of gold in exchange for taking over the care of an extraneous child with no other real prospects – he's mortal, after all).
Followers of Havrek have rituals to mark each of the following:
- Coming of Age
And celebrate the following holidays, in addition to the Equinoxes and Solstices:
- Sorlipriet, the 3rd of March (quiet contemplation)
- Cortinas, the 7th of May (festival)
- Vartinsalm, the 14th of August (festival)
- Kampredes, the 11th of November (fasting)
Haven, the Holy City
Haven is a city built by worshipers of Havrek to house an important relic, the Shard of Vartin. This relic is all that remains of the famed paladin Vartin, who was killed in the battle with the Dark Warlock of Mersten. Vartin martyred himself to kill the warlock, and only a shard of his armor was found to serve as his remains. The relic is reputed to have special powers, though what exactly it does is only known to a few, as it hasn't actually been allowed out of its glass case in centuries. The last attempt to steal it – only a few years ago – was foiled by a Paladin, lending credence to the idea that Havrek Himself doesn't want anyone messing with it.
The city is located in a highly defensible valley ringed with low mountains. There is a lake in the center of the valley, around which the city was built, with the small island in the center of it being the actual location of the Shard. The city center – a metaphorical designation, rather than a physical one – is located on a peninsula on the west end of the lake. That segment of the city is markedly different from the rest, having been constructed almost entirely of blue materials. And anything that stands still long to be painted blue, is. It is also very square, once upon a time measured with painstaking precision to be so.
Haven was designated the Holy City of Havrek as soon as it was large enough to actually be considered a city.
The Following of Besille
Those who venerated Besille over the other Gods are mostly elven. It is not a common path for humans to take. Those that do are disinclined to built any kinds of structures more significant than shrines. As the subtler, more refined side of Good, Besille doesn't command or suggest anything grandiose in Her name, but rather prefers Her adherents to incorporate Her teachings into daily life as much as possible. A typical non-elf priest of Besille also has some other duty, most often of a type best handled by someone with verbal and/or emotional finesse, such as being a community leader, a healer, an advisor to a leader, or a teacher.
Those who venerate Besille follow the holy days and ceremonies of Havrek's worshipers, considering themselves to be partners with that order. It is not uncommon for a church of Havrek in a major population center to have a few priests of Besille attached to it, in order to serve all the needs of a community. In smaller locations, a priest of Besille is less likely to be actually affiliated with any church.
Most priests of Besille are female. Besille does not sponsor Paladins, though She may bestow favor on Havrek's Paladins.
There are five civilized races and numerous uncivilized ones. Most of the mortals in the world prefer to stay in single-race settlements, and mixed race population centers are rare. There is one notable organization that claims to follow Death, called the True Pathfinders, who are almost always found in mixed race groupings. Their primary mission is to destroy the undead. Haven is a mostly human city-state.
Elegant and graceful, elves are seriously into nature and trees. As a race, they tend towards the veneration of Besille. They are the longest lived of the five races, and closest to the original shi'aleen race. Most elves live in the Great Wood or on the Shelios islands. Combined together, these two areas comprise the majority of the land in the southern hemisphere of Amaril. Almost universally uncomfortable in urban settings, elves can rarely be found in population densities greater than 10 to a square mile or so.
Elves consider their race superior to the other four. They are extremely insular and xenophobic, more likely to shoot first and leave the body to be picked apart by animals than anything else when it comes to encountering non-elves. Humans are the most likely to be tolerated. Mezzit are almost universally killed on sight by elves.
Ugly and brutish, orcs are a tribal race. As a race, they tend towards the veneration of Mezanne, but they are not inherently Evil, they just have little patience for the concepts of true justice and any kind of subtlety. Tribes are ruled by the strongest member of the clan, which is usually the only person the shaman treats with great respect. They are the shortest-lived of the races, and closest to the original toruk race.
Most orc clans are semi-nomadic, having an area they roam over the course of the year. Many pass through human lands peacefully and even on a rough kind of schedule, though others prefer the lives of raiders. Generally speaking, orcs are quite tolerant of the other races, especially Mezzit. Some orc clans, specifically the Garkid and Brovik clans, are notable and formidable merchant groups, having turned their penchant for traveling into a business.
Driven and ambitious, humans are too vast and varied to pin down with a blanket statement. They most often venerate Havrek and Besille together as a concept of Goodness, but there are plenty of humans who follow the Four Gods, individually or as a group. Some of them even venerate the demigods as above the Four Gods, though such people are few and far between. They usually have the term 'cult' associated with them.
Humans cover more land than any other race. They can be found in nearly any climate, and tend towards feudal governing styles. Theocratic governments are not uncommon. Humans invented the concept of 'urban', though they can be found in more rural settings, as well.
Sturdy and stout, dwarves tend towards the veneration of Havrek, which makes them natural enemies of the Mezzit. The race is stubbornly paternalistic and monarchic. As a general rule, they abhor magic of all kinds, except that carried by priests. Dwarven mages exist, but they are often scorned and shunned as being freaks and crazies, or worse, killed outright before they have a chance to amass enough power to fight back.
Dwarves can usually be counted on to not care all that much about the race of who they're talking to, so long as the non-dwarves aren't looking for more than trade, information, and a place to stay a night or two. Most dwarves live in the coldest, harshest places of the world, where the terrain is rugged and no one else has the constitution for the environment.
Much like elves, the Mezzit are graceful, but they are deformed. They were once elves who took up a cultish allegiance to Mezanne. The twisted magics they pursued in this effort changed their bodies and minds until they were a separate race entirely, one that places Mezanne above all else.
Mezzit look like elves, except they have one or two physical traits that clearly mark them as being of their race: horns, vestigial wings (never true wings that actually grant flight), tails, hooves of one kind or another for feet, fangs, eyes with no whites or all whites, strange hair or skin coloring, and the like. A Mezzit is always identifiable as such unless they make efforts to disguise their oddities.
Generally forced to live in hiding, and not especially socially inclined, Mezzit settlements are often small in population and well hidden. Large numbers of them have taken to living underground, where the other races are less likely to find them. Over time, they have adapted to this lifestyle, and it is now uncommon to encounter them on the surface at all.
The majority of Mezzit are the passive variety of evil. They don't go out of their way to cause harm or strife, but have a very loose moral compass. An average Mezzit is more likely to just ignore a beggar than kick one, but he certainly wouldn’t help one unless he had an ulterior motive. He also wouldn’t be inclined towards killing a person, but would feel no particular remorse if he did murder someone.