Superstition and Idolatry: Religion in the Age of Dusk

The Calamity brought an end to the Tyranny of the Old Gods but it did not bring an end to mankind’s tendency to offer worship to things greater then itself. Man has prayed since before there were gods to hear their prayers and thus he prays on after he has slain them by his own hand. Though their names are forgotten and their temples reduced to rubble housing nothing but dust and vermin, the power of the Old gods can still be felt in the Age of Dusk.

Some prophets state that the Old Gods are not truly dead but merely broken and that soon, they will rise anew and restore the world, laying waste to the depraved and crumbling cities of mankind and spare only a chosen few. These are often dismissed as fools and liars by all but the most desperate, for even a madman can see that the world is broken and cannot be fixed.

Some, knowing that the Gods are truly dead, seek idols in their fellow man and lift them up as gods. The Theocracy of Karaash claims with great conviction that each of the hundreds of aristocrats that govern its ancient provinces is but an incarnation of the Old Gods. The grotesque deformities that are all but omnipresent amongst them are considered to be signs of divinity, not merely the result of millenia of inbreeding and the bizarre alchemical infusions they require to survive. So too it was said that in old Sybarra, the Emperor himself was venerated as a god, with each new Emperor merely a reincarnation of the last.

Evil and nihilistic men look at the Calamity and worship the Sorcerers of Tzyan, for who can kill a god if not a more powerful god? The Cult of Tzyan is hated in all the civilised lands and is forced to gather in darkened alleyways and dank cellars, speaking the vile tongue of their extinct masters and bearing the blasphemous sigils on their flesh. It is the Cult of Tzyan that scours the wastes for remnants of the nightmare past, seeking to unearth the knowledge to gain control of the Weapon and bring about the restoration of dreaded Tzyan.

There are Sorcerers that pay homage to the unspeakable Wolves of Final Night but this cannot be termed worship for Sorcerers are selfish and arrogant men that believe only in their own superiority. They are righteously abhorred in all the lands of Autumn and it is said the ashes of a servant of Final Night can be made into a potent elixer to guarantee fertility.

Mystics and philosophers dedicate themselves to causes or ideologies with the same zeal of a half-ape prostrating himself before a monstrous idol. Underestimate not these charlatans and cloud-gazers, for a Curse of Intestinal Castigation pronounced by one of the assassin-mathematicians of the Three and Twenty-Seven will have the same effect as that of the most pious worshipper of dead gods.

The Red Knights war ceaselessly with all, seeking endless conflict and accepting loyalty from none. Indeed, it is the aspiration of every Red Knight to be slain by his more powerful succesor. Yet the Red Knight offers no prayers to any god and does not believe in life beyond death. His creed is said to be chiselled upon the cave walls of the oldest mountains and every year young men with dead eyes and no hope wander out into the wastes to join them or perish in the attempt.

Some look for divinity in the alien creatures with powers far beyond that of man, and many cults pay homage to the terribly beautiful luminescent energy creatures that cavort eternally in the upper atmosphere, occasionally taking one of the chosen few, never to return. The one-eyed priesthood of the Tesseract Tree seeks to offer up worship by sacrificing the unbeliever through crucifixion, hoping to harness its reality-altering power. One in ten citizens of Ursk are held in thrall by the accursed Obelisk of Ursk, which can heal all ailments and inflict them anew at any point unless the supplicant obeys its increasingly abhorrent edicts without fail.

People do not worship the Weapon and its ancient brethren anymore then a puppet may worship its master. To be invaded utterly and reshaped to express a concept for which you have neither words nor comprehension is not veneration. To inscribe upon one’s own flesh the fractal geometry of the tool of one’s extinction is not prayer. One cannot look upon these empty husks and recognize in them any remnant of humanity.

This is but an infinitesimal sampling of the religions and creeds of the Lands of Autumn.

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3 thoughts on “Superstition and Idolatry: Religion in the Age of Dusk

  1. Prince, this link may be of interest. This post reminds me of a couple of passages from Fred Saberhagen’s Empire of the East trilogy, specifically “Ardneh’s World”, which was the renamed, revised “Changeling Earth” of Appendix N.

    Imagine a vast buried sea of power, into which a man might hope to sink a secret well, not in safety, but still with reasonable hope of not being caught in a disaster, because he and a few others had managed to do it successfully a few times in the past. The Nameless One pondered briefly and fatalistically the secret syllables of a Name forbidden to be spoken. Wood knew that name, and Ominor of course, and four or five others in the highest councils of the East. It was seldom even alluded to -the Nameless One had heard Wood do so only once, on the day of Ardneh’s visit to the capital.

    Predictably, things go completely awry like they usually do when dealing with One who shall not be named:

    “Supreme Lord, I can rouse that man that they are working on out there; it is one of my spells that still oppresses him. Has he any information of importance?”

    “Not since you are here. Where were you?”

    “Mobilizing reserve forces, my lord Emperor. We shall soon have urgent need of them.”

    “And you were struck down in the process? So the woman told me, but I doubted . . . what, who, were you trying to call up?”

    There was a pause. Wood began to answer indirectly. “My Lord, shortly before that I faced Ardneh, and I was weakened thereby. Ardneh is now mightier than we have ever suspected he might become. He may be as strong as -one other, whom we both know of, whose name I have not mentioned – ”

    Ominor stood up. “Are you really leading where I think you are? Was that the purpose of the ceremony you had begun?” The secret tent muted sound, but still the anger in his voice was terrible. “Of course; who else could have struck you down like that?”

    “Lord Emperor, hear me out, if you would save the East! I tell you I have faced Ardneh and I know!

    We must arouse the One whose name should not be said, to fight for us. Or else we perish.”

    “Arouse him,you say? Not simply tap his power?”

    “Yes.” Wood swallowed. “Awaken him enough to send him into battle. Keep reins upon his senses and his will, and send him back below when he has served.”

    There was again a little silence before Ominor said: “You think it will be possible to release the one you speak of, then bottle him again like so much wine?”

    “It is a risk that must be taken, supreme Lord.”

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  2. Sweet i had not considered that. Mucking about with the traditional cleric/deity relationship might be just what i need to add that extra bit of decrepit post-apocalyptic fantasy vibe i am going for. Would you recommend Saberhagen’s Empire to the East series, it sounds pretty cool(i think i read some of Saberhagen’s Berserker novels and considered them good fun but i am a huge space opera/mil sci fi fan so i would then wouldnt i?).

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  3. I like Saberhagen, but he’s not to everyone’s liking. He’s not big on flowery descriptive passages when he’s describing mundane topics such as scenery, but he’s got a knack for using interesting similes when he’s describing the reality-distorting effects of demons and elementals. He also has tight plots, very few events don’t have their consequences crop up later. Plus, robotic med-evac helicopters called Valkyries? Fuck yeah!

    If you like “after the end” narratives and elaborate magic systems, you’ll probably enjoy it.

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