Old and New Gods - Part II.

The Triumvirate

‘Whether or not the Divine are our children or we are theirs, our relationship in this post-apocalyptic era with the Gods represent our needs and inner struggles. Thus, Bal Ur Kaal is our treachery, Sergorod is our anger, and Ahskul? Ahskul is death itself.’

- From the last lecture of the scholar Ludvinius Cadvo before his execution for blasphemy against the Triumvirate

The Triumvirate is the name of the new pantheon of gods that now serves as the official religion of the Empire. This trio of gods came into contact with the Twelve (the Lich Lords of the New Empire) just after the Calamity and offered to aid them in the resurrection of the Riven Realms. Some say they even had a hand in ‘preserving’ the Apostles (turning them into Liches) even though that divine act is attributed to the Emperor in dogma. The three gods soon formed their own religious apparatuses under the watchful eyes of the Twelve who are not only the Heads of State but of Church as well, and who in turn worship the Triumvirate.

Sergorod is the God of Vengeance, Anger, Malevolence, and Curses. He is regarded as the war god of the new pantheon but he’s much more than that. His Church is tasked with upholding the law in cities, hunting down criminals, and delivering justice. This gives the Sergorodites unprecedented power that, mixed with human nature, can lead to a whole range of abuse and corruption. Most often, people who serve in wars or who come into contact with justice call upon the God of Vengeance; and of course, everyone who has a grudge, too.

Bal Ur Kaal is the Demon God of Charm, Intrigue, and Deception. Often called a ‘Demon Prince’, the elusive god’s followers like to think that their faith has permeated all of Imperial society; and perhaps they are not far from the truth. The Church of Bal Ur Kaal’s duties are much less pronounced than that of the other gods. These include spying for the Empire, running clean brothels and other establishments of carnal pleasures, mediating negotiations, and much more. People who want to hide lies or persuade someone often call upon the Prince of Charm. No wonder that lawyers, criminals, and opportunistic people are found in abundance in his following.

Ahskul is Lord of the Underworld and the God of Death. His Church is the strongest in the Empire, justifying the notion that Imperials have become death cultists. Yet it is also the least corrupt of the religious institutions by far, and the disciples of the Grim Lord are reputed for their silence, discreet manners, and grim empathy, even. Ahskul is believed to be the first being ever to have truly died and thus is theorized to have been around for much longer than his arrival after the Calamity. His Church is tasked with facilitating all funerals, burials, and with the overseeing of graveyards and crypts. Additionally, at times of war, the risen legions of Ahskul, called to unlife by his death priests and necromancers, make up the backbone of Imperial armies.

Apart from the Triumvirate, religion in the New Empire also acknowledges a variety of saints and proxies that can be called upon when their sphere is concerned. Of these, Mercatus, Saint of Commerce and Irafons, Saint of Roads and Travel, are the most well-known. Scoundrels often call upon Nox, Avatar of the Night, for protection, while Marcus Vorden (or ‘Old Hand Marcus’), Patron of Soldiers, is typically revered among commoners in the military. Lastly, the Immortal Emperor himself is considered to be a kind of a saint or deity in his own right and is very often named in prayer when someone wants to be protected or saved from peril.

Religious practices typically involve prayers, masses in great temples (these differ greatly for each member of the Triumvirate), and sacrifices. Every time an Imperial wants the help of a god or a divine figure, a sacrifice - or at least the promise of one - is required. Most often, people sacrifice food and drink (the more expensive the better), but the wealthy sometimes sacrifice animals in ritual. This is done exclusively by priests, who serve as conduits between the divine and the mundane. Sacrificing humans or members of other decent races is forbidden by Ahskul. What makes a ‘decent race’ is anyone’s guess of course. The Nosferatis Sisterhood has been known to hold human sacrifices in certain unspeakable rituals, so apparently they are excluded from the ban.

Fulcimus Imperium

‘The Empire is more fragile than you can imagine, parvus. The Pillars are what make it stand upright. So it is our duty never to relent, never to forget, and never to let the hordes of undesirables, freaks, and enemies of the Empire to undermine its divine glory.’

- Konarius, Knight of the Black Sun, to his apprentice

The Pillars of the Empire (Fulcimus Imperium) is the umbrella term for three religious institutions that are separate from the Churches of the Triumvirate, yet are intricately interwoven with them and bind them together. Their founding in the fourth century following the Calamity was the result of a terrible war between the Churches that almost toppled the New Empire, still in its crib. The Twelve, however, managed to stop the conflict and impose strict rules on the unbridled priesthoods. To build bridges among them, the Lich Lords devised a plan that involved the creation of holy orders that involve a pair of gods each, binding each god closer to the other two. Although the occasional strife remains between the clergies of such malignant gods, the Pillars were successful in bringing religious stability to the Empire.

Ordis Negras Solis (Knights of the Black Sun) is the first and foremost knightly order of the Empire. They follow Sergorod and Ahskul, being proficient in both the God of Vengeance’s military prowess and the Lord of Death’s necromancy. The knights are picked from the best soldiers, nobles, and warriors of the realms to serve without question. After they undergo rigorous training and mystical initiations, these deadly, dark knights serve by guarding aristocrats, aiding military exploits, and hunting down the enemies of the Empire - foreign or domestic. Due to the Order's official status as inquisitors, investigators, and executioners, they can go as they please and interrogate who they wish, a power that most of them gladly abuses for the good of the Empire.

The Nosferatis Sisterhood is a much more secretive organization, one that is best described as a coven of witches and a purveyor of dark secrets. Only a few Imperials know - but most have a vague notion - that the the Sisters in fact research magic and natural sciences. Dabbling in all the known sorcerous arts in an attempt to unlock more potent and ingenious powers, the Sisterhood has mastered blood magic, soul manipulation, necromancy, magical charms, arcane sacrifices, and prophetic divinations. No act is too depraved for them if it is in the service of the Empire. Countless new kinds of undead, mutants, spells, rituals, and dark truths came into the possession of the Empire through the ages thanks to Nosferatis.

Lastly, Ater Manis (the Dark Hand) is a secret society acting as the assassin’s guild of the Empire even though publicly the order is one of state couriers and spies. Applying Bal Ur Kaal’s art of secrecy, charm, and deceit, as well as Sergorod’s martial prowess and fanatic determination for justice, agents of the Dark Hand can eliminate any target named by the Twelve or the Senate. Individuals not in a state capacity can also hire the Ater Manis, albeit for a fortune and they still have to follow the strict code of conduct. Whoever works with them can expect efficiency and complete discretion. Word is that no target has ever escaped the organization, yet the vast majority of Imperials do not even know they exist.

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