Religion & The Aslah
Religion plays an important role in Arrasia, with the gods (called the Aslah) central to the lives of ordinary and extraordinary individuals alike. These divine super beings have had a major say, both good and bad, in the development of Arrasia, with some looking to expand their power and influence into the world of mortals, who are themselves the children of the Aslah, who were their creators.
The mortal races reflect their makers in many regards, but also personify their imperfections, for the Aslah are not perfect beings but are filled with all the complexities, failings and brilliance of those whom they created. However, the Aslah are beings of great power, ability and strength and are, of course, immortal.
It is to the Aslah, their offspring, and servants, that the mortal races look for guidance, strength, courage, love and all the things that matter to them. Mortals can aspire to the greatness of immortality and can become gods in their own right - and, indeed, some have done so - and many Aslah have passed into Paradorn, where their spirits rest when they are killed; for killed they can be - not even immortality protects the Aslah from a violent death.
The Aslah have a strict hierarchy of power, which cannot be broken for it was written into the very substance of the cosmos at the beginning of time and which not even the gods themselves have any power over. This hierarchy dictates that at the top there are Greater Gods who rule supreme over all other beings and of whom there can be no more than nine at any one stage. Below these are the Demigods, who form the majority of the Aslah, and below these are Diviners, power servants of the Aslah who draw their power from them. These are the most numerous in number and are commonly called demons, devils, angels and devas. Although not as powerful as the Aslah, are nonetheless immensely powerful in their own right and often form mighty alliances which can on occasions challenge even the majesty of the Greater Gods. Diviners are not immortal, but can live for thousands of years.
The Aslah: Greater Gods and Demigods
The children of Eradu, the Aslah are Gods who can trace their lineage back to the beginning of time and creation. They are the the most powerful beings in the cosmos and their followers are found throughout the universe. All have left their mark, for good or ill, in both their own lands and beyond, but nowhere more so than in Arrasia, which sits at the heart of all creation.
Good and bad in equal measure, the Aslah have brought much beauty to the world and much ugliness. Where there is love, there is also hate; where there is light, so there is darkness; where there is good, so there is evil. Creators and destructors in equal measure, the Aslah are the greatest powers known within the cosmos, divine super beings who can and do change the worlds around them. They draw their power directly from the Divine Pool of Eradu, which gives them divine powers that set them apart from all others.
The Aslah are divided into two groups - the Greater Gods and Demigods. The Greater Gods are the most powerful and there are only nine of them at any one time, reflecting the nine children of Eradu who were the firstborn after the usiverse was first created. Only Kavak now remains of the original nine children of Eradu, the others having passed into the great Hall of Divine Spirits in Paradorn. Though there have been times when there have been less than nine, there have never been - and can never be - more. Only nine Greater Gods can exist at any one time as the substance of creation cannot support more. Demigods form all the Aslah who are not Greater Gods and, therefore, form the majority of them. Although not as powerful as their Greater brothers and sisters, they are nonetheless immensely powerful in their own right and are followed and prayed to throughout the cosmos. Nearly all Demigods aspire to become Greater Gods and it is not unknown for a Greater God to fall from grace and find themselves usurped by a Demigod, who rises to replace them.
The Aslah tend to form alliances between themselves, usually based on common beliefs and attitudes, though betrayal is common enough, even amongst those generally regarded as good. Political intrigue and treachery are an everyday part of life for the Aslah and they are constantly seeking to enhance their power and counter threats by forming alliances or increasing their power base, especially amongst the mortal races - for the more followers they have, the more power they can draw from the Divine Pool.
Interaction with mortals: It should be no surprise that, amongst mortals, the Aslah have a wide following and an immense power base of support. Indeed, this fountain of well-being is part of where every divine spirit gains at least part of their power and which helps maintain their status amongst the Aslah. The Greater Gods have larger numbers of followers, who can be found throughout the cosmos. The Aslah are represented through the clerics and disciples who serve them, usually in the form of mass religions, with elaborate churches and temples built to their glory.
Beneath the Aslah are Diviners, powerful celestials who are often the servants or offspring of the Aslah themselves. Although Diviners are free to make their own decisions and choose the path that best suits them, they nonetheless draw their power from the Aslah and are therefore both tied to and reliant upon those who they draw their power from. This usually forms a bond between Diviner and Aslah, with the Diviner definately the servant to their powerful master. Despite this, Diviners constantly scheme and seek to increase their power base. Though they are not immortal, Diviners constantly seek ways to become so and usually look to please their master as often as they can, in the hope that one day their master will see fit to impart some of their own immortality into them as a reward, thus raising them to the status of a Demigod. The more evil Diviners are also happy to murder an Aslah and take their divine power by force, though killing an Aslah is only for the brave or the foolhardy.
Diviners come in all shapes, sizes, and forms and many fall into specific categories, as defined by their allegiances - demons and devils representing the evil axis, and angels and devas representing the good. Some like for their loyalties to remain ambiguous and are as happy amongst evil as they are good, and many play important, if often unheralded, roles in events that unfold throughout the cosmos.
Interaction with mortals: Diviners are not represented amongst mortals in any great numbers and their followers tend to be small in number, usually represented as cults or obscure religions. Some, in fact, have no interest in the mortals, while others bend their will to extending their following. As such, the power base of Diviners varies widely, though even at best their following is small and scattered. Some have little or no following amongst the races of Arrasia and find their support in the deeper places of the cosmos.
Divine Pool of Eradu and Aslah Portfolios
Although the Aslah are mighty beings, their divine aspect is not innate to them, but is instead drawn from the Divine Pool of Eradu. Once a connection is made with the Divine Pool, it cannot be broken other than through death, so divinity is forever. However, the connection with the pool can wax and wane, meaning an Aslah's power can increase or decrease depending on their following, allegiences, and strength - both mental and physical. Every Aslah has dominion over one or more aspects of existence, which together represent their portfolio. The Aslah can interfere with many things outside their immediate sphere of control, but the power they wield over their own portfolio is much greater.
The Aslah do not directly choose their portfolio, but rather the Divine Pool of Eradu chooses it for them, depending on their nature. Some become the master of nature, sun, or life, some of humans, warriors, or merchants, and some of elves, or dwarves. Others find their portfolio draws from their darker side, and they become masters of evil, death, or perstilence, others of the undead, goblins or orcs. Although a portfolio is not fixed, it is rare for an Aslah to see it change, as it is rare for an Aslah to change. Their portfolio is their inner aspect revealed, and as such it is something unlikely to change.
Those Aslah with wider portfolios tend to attract more followers and, with it, more power, making them more likely to rise to the level of a Greater God should they be able to. Diviners do not have a portfolio, but instead tend seek to emulate and personify one of their masters'. Many of the Aslah form allegiances with others of a similiar nature to themselves and it is rare to see opposing natures form alliances. Even the very Dimensions - the worlds that make up the universe and where the Aslah choose to live - reflect their nature, or at least the Aslah choose Dimensions that reflect their own!
Politics of the Aslah
While the Aslah each have their own homes in the Outer Dimensions, many share their time together, where they are happy to do so. They love, lust, hate and desire, just as the mortals do. They have children, who are often themselves Demigods or Diviners, and they also argue, feud and fight with one another. Many come together under a common cause and work together until that cause is no longer important to them, while others are united through their ancestry or history. Of course, being immortal, both love and hate can be (and, for many, is) eternal.
War is common between the Aslah and has been central to the development of themselves, their homes and the mortal races. War is especially common between Diviners. Wars are often along a good and evil axis, but the evil Aslah are always in conflict amongst themselves, especially with the Infernal Wars that see law and chaos fight for dominance over one another within the domain of evil. The Aslah are happy to take their wars to Arrasia and often the battles and conflicts between them see Arrasia as the battlefield where their egos are contested.
Damarkan, Herophet and the other Outer Dimensions The Aslah live in the Outer Dimensions, where they have been since the end of the Great Void and the beginning of time. The homes of the Aslah come in all forms, from beautiful forests, great oceans and floating citadels, to places filled with fire, ice and horror. Once, all of the Aslah lived together, in a single dimension that was called Damarkan and each had a palace there. It was a place of wonder and was filled with the love and joy of the newborn cosmos. Each of the Aslah fashioned their citadels to suit their own needs and many dug deep, creating new layers to their dimensions or even creating new dimensions entirely, which they filled with Diviners and minions.
One such citadel was called Herophet, which was the home of Gort. Gort's heart was black and filled with great malice and evil and Herophet was a bleak and dark palace, which the other Aslah had no taste for. Under Herophet, Gort hid his dark minions in places of his own making and soon there was war in Damarkan, as he unleashed his foul servants against the other Aslah. As a punishment for his evil, all of Herophet was sundered from Damarkan and so the outlook of the two opposing Outer Dimensions was set - one, Damarkan, stood for good, the other, Herophet, for evil.
Damarkan would later be split several more times, with Talakos and Mulhata sundered as evil and dark places, while Wynord and Henipur would be granted independence from Damarkan out of the desire of the Aslah that lived in those places. Paradorn was also freed from its ties with Damarkan and became home to the Spirits of the Aslah, when their form was destroyed and they passed there as shadows.
Damarkan itself is now divided into many layered Outer Dimensions, many of which have their edges touching those of others. Sometimes, this join is seamless and it is possible to travel directly from one dimension to another, but most often requires a long journey through one or more dimensions. Herophet is also many layered, with the seven hells of Herophet home to devils and the other foul minions of the evil gods. It also coexists with the dimensions of Pakara, which were themselves carved out of Herophet and, like Mulhata, are home to armies of demons and filled with chaos and madness. War is common between those that dwell in Herophet and those that dwell in Pakara and Mulhata.
The River Mothex
When Herophet and Damarkan were split, the Aslah Themex stirred the waters of his home, Ryzor, and created a great river to bridge the now separated Outer Dimensions, which was called the River Mothex. Later Themex called upon the Diviner Oida to guard the river and ferry those who wished to travel upon it in his boat.
The River Mothex bridges the divide between all of the Dimensions and is the easiest way to gain access to any of them. However, it is not necessarily the safest and the journey down the River Mothex is an adventure in itself. All along the route are watchtowers, which were set by Themex to guard over the banks of the river. Many are now terrible places, filled with the minions of evil.
The river also takes many guises along its long and winding route, sometimes calm and gentle, other times angry and torrid. In some places the river itself begins to steam and boil, until it turns into a great stream of flowing lava, while in others the water freezes over completely, with only the boat of Oida and his minions able to smash its way through. Where the River Mothex flows through the Ethereal Dimension, which connects nearly all of the many layers of the cosmos, it winds and twists like a silver thread, its waters ever flowing. Here, those upon the river are vulnerable to attack from the many powerful races that live in, or pass through, the Ethereal Dimension.
The safest way to travel upon the River Mothex is to call upon the river boatmen, servants of Oida, to ferry them. However, as they make their slow and never-ending journeys up and down the river, others prefer to chance the dangerous waters for themselves. There are many strange and exotic races that dwell along the banks of the River Mothex and many strange and unique sites to be seen and experiences to be had. Only one thing about the River Mothex is certain - that there is no certainty.
Urd: The Great Gate of Many
Urd is a great tree that, like the River Mothex, connects nearly all the dimensions of the cosmos. Urd is so large that its brances feel more like living forests and distinct microenvironments exist along the vast and countless branches that make up Urd. At the end of many of the branches can be found portals to all the known dimensions.
Urd was created by Shylar during the wars which saw the dimensions sundered and she used it secretly roam the cosmos. It is filled with strange and wondrous creatures, as well as all manner of animals. Some can be used as helpful guides, while others are dangerous and deadly foes.
Only the denizens of Urd, and those that have studied it, know where particular portals can be located. Without this knowledge, it would be possible to wander Urd until the end of time and still not find what you seek. Portals can be destroyed and may vanish for while, but they always eventually reappear somewhere on Urd, though not necessarily in the same place!
Arrasia is the world that sits at the heart of all creation. Unlike any other dimension, Arrasia is unique in that it touches all aspects of the inner dimensions - fire, water, earth and air all vie for dominance. Arrasia is mutable, a place of the violent and eternal struggle for dominion between the opposing and powerful forces that helped create it. These forces both maintain its balance and are the reason for its extremes. It is home to a wide variety of life and where humanoids - humans, elves, dwarves, orcs, and goblins - can be found in their greatest numbers.
Other than the very elements of Arrasia itself, nothing upon it is native, including all of the life which either covers or walks upon (or below) it. Everything originates from the Aslah and the Outer Dimensions. Elves, gnomes, orcs, goblins, and all the other races, were forged by the Aslah. Of these, only the dwarves and humans were forged upon Arrasia itself, by the hands of the Aslah. The woods, plains and flowers were seeds carried upon the feet of Kavak as he traveled from Canath to Arrasia and which took root and flourished and soon covered all of the land. Arrasia is a melting pot of all that is good and bad, a reflection of its very creators.
The Aslah are not immutable and their power and status are in a constant state of flux. It is also possible for mortals to ascend to the heights of immortality and themselves join the ranks of the Aslah - though few have actually succeeded in this, as the path to immortality is strewn with great danger. There are no hard and fast rules how the Divine Pool of Eradu channels it's energy to form a divine relationship with the Aslah, but common consensus amongst the wise suggests that the Aslah attain their power in four major ways:
Divine Lineage: Those whose parents are both Aslah are always Aslah, with both parents imparting into their children some of their own power, meaning they are themselves diminished by the very act of bringing another Aslah into the universe. Although these will at first be Demigods, it is likely that they will soon rise through the ranks to attain great power, and are the most likely to ascend to the status of Greater God. It is very rare for two Greater Gods to spawn offspring, as these tend to grow to be amongst the most powerful of the Aslah and the parents fear that conflict, and their own Demise, is inevitable.
Those who have a single Aslah as a parent may become Demigods, especially if their Aslah parent is a Greater God, but are more likely to become Diviners. Some, however, for reasons entirely unknown, do not possess any divine nature and become mortals. Such individuals, however, are usually very powerful and their lives can be extended way beyond the years normal to their race, but they are nonetheless not Aslah, though they often claim to be, nor Diviner. Sometimes, they are great amongst their people, but sometimes they are outcasts and their hearts blackened and they use their power as a tool for revenge.
Divine Anointment: Any Aslah (Greater God or Diviner) can give the gift of immortality to any mortal they so wish. However, the power that is imparted into the recipient is lost in equal measure from the Aslah bestowing this great gift. As such, they will rarely anoint a mortal, for they jealously protect their own power and esteem within the ranks of the Aslah. An Aslah can give up as much or as little as they so choose, though they can never give it all up and relinquish their immortality (as if such a thing would even occur to them!). Generally, those that gain their immortality through divine anointment are Diviners who have served their master loyally or who have performed some great task or sacrifice.
Divine Appropriation: Although immortal, the Aslah are not indestructible and can be destroyed and their spirit sent as a shadow to reside in Paradorn for all eternity. In death, their link with the Divine Pool of Eradu is severed and all their power lost. As that power departs from them and they pass into Paradorn, some of it passes into their conqueror. How much power they receive is unpredicatble, though the more powerful the Aslah defeated, the more power they themselves gain. In this way, Diviners and ordinary mortals can become immortals, and the Aslah can become even more powerful. With so much at stake, the Aslah do not willingly put themselves in mortal danger and surround themselves with powerful Diviner servants, minions and guards. Death amongst the Aslah is not common, but neither is it unknown. Almost always, this is primarily as a result of conflict between the Aslah themselves. Such is their desire to preserve their own power that the gods do not take on fights with other gods lightly.
The Fountain of the Immortals: Residing somewhere in the fifth Hell of Herophet, amongst the fires of Tuska, is a fountain that flows with fresh and cool water. This natural spring, carved into a wondrous fountain, sprung from the ground when the tears and sweat of Onnus fell upon that place during his great journey and the water was imparted with some of his own power, creating an indirect link wih the Divine Pool of Eradu itself. However, The Fountain of the Immortals is in itself a journey, for the link that ties it to the Divine Pool is tenuous and many other energies vie amongst the silvery, cool liquid. Many have drunk from The Fountain of the Immortals, but only a few have attained the status of the Aslah. Many have been driven mad as the water consumes them and many more have simply fallen and been consumed by the fires of that terrible place. Only for a rare few has the water coursed through them, touching their very nature and infusing them with the power of immortality. Such individuals become Demingods.
Death - Mortal and Divine
Nothing is perfect, nothing is unbreakable and nothing governs the laws of the cosmos, except for the cosmos itself. These laws govern all that passes into and out of it, including the Aslah themselves, and everything can be broken, eventually, if the correct forces are applied in the correct measure. Although immortal, the Aslah are also governed by these laws, within which lay the seeds of their own destiny.
Although the Aslah grow and age with the passing of time, it has no adverse affects upon them and the span of their long, long lives is not reflected in their general appeal, as it is for mortals, who age and wither. However, like the mortal races they created, the bodies of the Aslah are fragile and can be destroyed through violent means.
Any Aslah that is killed - which is, in most respects, the same as killing a mortal, though much harder to achieve - dies. Upon death, their flesh withers and returns to the elements from which it was formed. The Spirit of the Aslah is all that remains - a shadow filled with torment and anguish, with fleeting images of its former greatness - which passes into Paradorn from which they cannot escape. Many have tried to bring back the Spirits of the Aslah, to resurrect their chosen master and see them live again, but none have succeeded.
Like the Aslah, mortals, including Diviners, also have spirits, though they take many forms. A spirit is like a vessel filled with all the aspects of that person's life, which is constantly added to and nurtured throughout their lives. Upon death, their spirit represents the sum total of their life. Some are light and filled with contentment and though everything is but fleeting and vague, all is good. For others, there is contentment, but also heaviness, a fleeting sadness that pushes away the contentment, like a momentary frown. And for some, there is darkness and all is pain and anguish and the spirit is heavy and can never rest and these spirits know no contentment.
The resting place for nearly all the mortals, from wherever they come or whomever they worshipped in life, is always the same, for all mortal spirits reside in the Halls of The Dead in Golgoria. There are said to be many halls in that place, with many corners, filled with the shadowy forms of the spirits. It is also home to the Keeper of the Dead and his minions, whose job it is to Sheppard new spirits to the hall and tend those within it. The only spirits that do not reach this place are those that are already owed to others - that is, those who sold their spirit to greater powers, usually for for wealth, power, or whatever their pleasure was. For these, their spirit is held by whoever it was they sold it to, to do with as they wish.
Unlike the spirits of the immortals, the mortal spirits are often recalled from their shadowy resting place, to live a mortal life again. But it is the nature of the laws that govern the cosmos that their time will come again and the minions of the Keeper of the Dead will one day return their spirit to the Halls of the Dead.
Some mortals seek to extend their natural life by channeling negative energy in order to become undead. Unlike zombies and skeletons, bodies brought back to life by necromancers and those involved in the dark arts, those who seek a life of undeath are nearly always powerful individuals who become vampires, liches and other terrible undead creatures.
However, even though their undeath allows them to continue their existence, sometimes for thousands of years, eventually even they will wither and their bones crumble into dust, for their immortality is but a false promise, filled with the misery of being neither dead nor alive.
Faith and Religion
Many mortals look to the Aslah for guidance and power, but some dedicate themselves to a life of worship and devotion to their chosen Lord, whose name and esteem they espouse and honor. The vast majority of those who serve in this way are ordinary folk who have no special connection with their deity, nor receive any granted privileges. These individuals are called acolytes and are the mainstay of the many churches that have emerged throughout Arrasia. They are ordinary people who form the bedrock upon which most religions are built, visiting the parishioners, raising funds and generally running the administration of the church and carrying out sermons and religious ceremonies.
A very few, however, dedicate their lives to their Lord and become powerful servants. Often, these individuals - clerics and paladins - have a direct connection with the Aslah they represent and are rewarded with special favours and powers in the form of powerful magic, incredible strengh, or other super human abilities. These are the foremost champions of their chosen deity and the Aslah value them and reward them in equal measure. Great leaders, they make sure that the doctrine of their Lord is strictly maintained and adhered to amongst the acolytes and followers. The upper echelons of religious orders are nearly always filled with clerics, whose close ties with their deity are essential in the understanding and interpretation of the creed espoused by their chosen Aslah. Missionaries, who roam from place to place to spread the word, are often regarded as paladins. Trained with weapons and comfortable in armor, they make formidable opponents and can often access areas, through the sheer force of their personality and will, that others would fear to tread.
Clercis and paladins are not as numerous as acolytes, but are the essential driving force who push the church forward and maintain its orders. Most ordinary folk will rarely have any dealings with clerics, instead relying upon the acolytes to tend them. A cleric or paladin's connection with their deity is such they cannot have other allegiances and must be entirely dedicated to one master alone. Those who lose their faith also lose whatever powers were bestowed upon them - but it is not unknown for a rare few to switch allegiances and betray their old master for their new one. But such betrayal is not for the light hearted, as the Aslah do not take kindly to those that are disloyal to them in this way.