Chronicles of Azoth
Religion in the Successor States is a complex and often violently difficult issue. After being somewhat disregarded in popular life for centuries, recent events have forced it to the forefront of awareness and at present, almost every settlement in the Successor States is busily aligning itself in one direction or another.
Almost all religion in Alaria is centred around five beings known as the Ascendants. The exact nature of these beings has been hotly contested throughout most of history, but due to the existence of Divinely-inspired magic granted to those who try to emulate and venerate the Ascendants, the following truths appear to be indisputable:
- There are 5 Ascendants.
- Each Ascendant represents a particular Path or approach to existence.
- Following along that Path with sufficient fervour and veneration grants the supplicant access to Divine magic (becoming Priests, Clerics, Paladins, Bladedancers etc).
Little else beyond these is fully agreed upon. Many priests and clerics of the Ascendants argue that paying due respect to the Ascendants grants fortune and the proper mindset to see through life’s woes, yet others (especially those from the Mahari Dominion) suggest that nothing less than total submission to the Ascendants is sufficient to fully armour a soul against the terrible forces of the world. Many temples claim that the Ascendants were all previously humans who attained states of Divine Grace, while others suggest that such an concept would allow for the accession of new Ascendants, perhaps even ones less perfect than those that currently dwell above. The metaphysical and doctrinal arguments have raged for centuries, perhaps even millenia, and they show no sign of abating.
The most common view taught, the one most likely to be understood by a city guard or itinerant pedlar, is that the Ascendants were once people who achieved such a state of Divine Grace that they rose out of the world, into the realm of the Supernal – a perfect place where the horrors of the world are left behind and only perfection remains. Each achieved this Grace via a specific Path which released them from the cares and terrors of the world, and by emulating that Path, the people of the world can share in that Supernal perfection, if only a little. Only the power of the Ascendants can protect the souls and bodies of the living from being cursed by dark powers after death, and so only the Ascendants can provide final rest; those abandoned by the Ascendants become ghosts, wights or even worse beings.
A description of each of the Ascendants, along with the other common names used for them in various parts of the Successor States, can be found below:
Few areas as large and diverse as Alaria have only one system of worship, though the human nations of the Greensward are surprisingly uniform in their mad jumble of Ascendant beliefs. Most notable amongst the other religions of the continent are the unique and highly ornate religious beliefs of the Khalzadim Dwarves, which revolve around Craft-Spirits that seem to humans like a cross between Ancestors and the spirits of particular professions or trades; many of the humans that live in High Khalzad also give veneration to these spirits, and a few travel from there to other parts of the continent.
There are other, darker belief systems found in the hidden reaches of the world, however, and most terrible amongst those are the worship of the Outer Beings. The clerics of the Ascendants describe these entities as being from “outside” existence, metaphorically Descended away from the Supernal light, and unable to affect the world without the assistance of credulous mortals who seek power. The Outer Beings offer such power, in the form of Pacts, and those who accept such Pacts gain power at a terrible price – both to themselves, and to the world around them, for the Outer Beings are not part of the Grand Design and injure existence with their intrusion.