Religion among the Riverfolk
For all their nonchalance, opportunism and occasional avarice, the Riverfolk are a very spiritual people. The stories and the songs of old Bahag-hari and shining Arauan are all that remains of the former glories of the Tihluurani. Although they do not hold unto them stubbornly in the hopes of reclaiming the power and majesty of the past, the Riverfolk keep them as a reminder that they too were once a proud and great Kingdom…and that even the highest tower can fall into shadowed depths of obscurity.
Religion among the Tihluurani is less static and ordered than the organized religions of the current Kingdoms. A great deal of ritual and tradition had been lost in the centuries since Tihluuran sunk beneath the waves. What remains known in these dark days are the legends, the tales and the oaths that have been said and sung even before the dawn of Sulai-man’s Kingdom.
The Riverfolk revere many spirits of road and river, water and wilderness, but they pay the greatest worship to their two gods: bright Adarna and patient Bat-hala. This belief in two gods does not lead the Riverfolk into a binary way of thinking (good and evil, light and dark). Indeed, each god shares certain aspects of the other and neither is entirely good nor entirely evil.
The priests of the Tagalog pantheon teach that everything in this world is comprised of many aspects, that to appraise a situation from only a single perspective is an act of folly. A song is comprised of many words and many chords. A painting is wrought of many hues and colors and shapes. There is always another side to an idea, a person, a place or an object; the wise Tagalog can see all relevant sides of an issue before making her judgment.
The Riverfolk believe that the world is a song, sung into existence by bright Adarna and wrought into shape by patient Bat-hala. Whence came Adarna and Bat-hala is beyond the scope of human memory or human comprehension, they always were there… but the world truly began when She started her song.
Adarna sung of skies and seas and solid land; with hundred arms did Bat-hala shape islands, rivers, mountains and clouds. Adana’s music was bright burning sun, swift winds, mighty storms and thundering earthquakes. Bat-hala wrought the silences in Her song, crafting shadows from light and stillness in all else, that the world would not be drowned by Her power of Her voice.
When She birthed an eternal flame in the skies, Bat-hala sent it careening into the seas to quench it, but the skies remembered the first fall of the sun and made an image of it as a memorial of its passing. This too did Bat-hala bring down, only to release the bright flames of the sun and let the sky light up once more. Thus was born night and day, moon and sun.
Before she finally grew tired of singing, Adarna made life. Her song echoed across all worlds and springing forth from the spaces between worlds, from mud, from the winds and from waters were countless spirits that sang along with the bright goddess. Bat-hala looked upon the vastness of the choir and was discontented, for his silencing work was mostly undone. At first, he began to shape them as he had always done. But in the eternity of his shaping, his wrath and fury grew strong in his dozen hearts. In his rage, he reached out with his arms and wrapped around those spirits he could reach and silenced them. And in his rage, a single whisper escaped the Silent God and the song almost ceased to be.
When the silence was broken, one group of spirits went to Bat-hala and went to him, staring at his colossal bulk and his writhing arms in wonderment. He was appeased and gave unto them the way to change the songs of the world to their bidding, to speak without song or sound, and to shape the world according to their whim as he did. And although they did not have his hundred arms, thousand eyes nor his memories that stretched beyond time and space and all that was, they learned well and were given leave to worship him alongside Adarna and remember well the truth of the world’s weaving (for Adarna’s song was heard differently by all others). Ever since then, the Riverfolk have ever been the daughters and sons of light and shadow, of song and silence, of life and death.
Adarna’s song continues to echo across the world. Bat-hala continues his work, waiting and watching to the world slowly unfold, slowly bloom and slowly die.
When the spark of life threatens to leave the soul of a mortal, Bat-hala reaches out with invisible arms and takes it deep into the depths of his watery home (which is why it is important that a corpse be placed upon a boat and sent into waterways to ensure that he receives it). Once it is there, he remakes the soul anew, carefully mending it and replacing it and then sending it back into Midworld when he is finished. While a soul awaits in Bat-hala’s realm, he is given the opportunity the tell the tale of his life and sing the song of his days. If the song pleases Bat-hala, he allows the soul to occupy a place of importance or grant it gifts (such as a talent for magic, words or martial skill) that show his favor before sending him back to the surface.
View of Magic:
To the Riverfolk, the practice of magic is as natural as wisdom, skill and strength. Certainly, some animals can breathe water and others can fly while there are those beasts that remain land-bound. Thus do the Riverfolk relegate those with the talent and the power for spellcasting – they are different but it is a natural development. Witches and Priests derive their magic from the spirits and Gods, respectively; these are processes that are expected although unusual.
Sorcery is a different breed of beast entirely, however – especially with the tales of the Triune’s betrayal and corruption ringing significant in the histories of the Riverfolk. Sorcerers have taken magic, instead of being granted it and are therefore unnatural – which does not necessarily mean evil. The Riverfolk look upon Sorcery without the trappings of spiritualism: it is art, akin to swordplay or poisoncraft, that lends itself very easily to ill ends. Those few Riverfolk that can identify Sorcery do not perceive it as innately dark, but those who dwell on wooden ships would do well to mind the candle-flame.
Adarna is also called the Bright Goddess, the Sun-Phoenix and the Dawn-Singer of Worlds. The Riverfolk credit her with the creation of all things in the world, except Bat-hala. The Bright Goddess is omnipresent among the Tihluurani; even though Her image or symbol is not on display, each flash of painted color, each graceful gesture in dance and each voice lifted in song is in Her image borne.
The Tagalog believe that it is Adarna who birthed the light and the world with Her song. They seek to emulate her creative power and her poised strength. From Her do the Riverfolk ask for inspiration, for luck, for mercy and for hope in the dark times abound.
Since the fall of Tihluuran, majority of the Riverfolk have trod the Path of Adarna – bearing her colors, her light, her song and her mercy. Like serpent’s skin have they shed the viciousness and the ruthlessness that were borne by the raiders of yore. Adarna bestows Her favor upon the bold, the cunning and the charming, say Her Chosen – for thus (and for other reasons as well) have the Riverfolk fixed in their thoughts the path of trade and non-violence, that one day Her song may rise up again and raise the Riverfolk with it, far from the dark times and far from the grasp of the Writhing Curse.
Adarna commands Her followers to:
o Take risks, be bold and drink deep from the cup of life
o Create things of beauty, be it in word, song, craft or deed
o Bring Her light and Her song to the dark and dire places of the world
Symbol and colors: The Symbol of Adarna is a sunburst that bears the hues of the sunrise (gold, orange). Her colors are likewise, although scarlet and crimson are often seen therein.
Sphere Access:Priests of Adarna may choose one of these Spheres for the Acolyte of Faith ability they gain at first level. Furthermore, they may learn the Servitor skill for the other listed Spheres.
Spells: Those Priests that walk the Path of Adarna inflict Fire damage with their damaging spells.
The clergy of Adarna is a loose one, seeming more like wandering musicians than the bearers of Her wisdom. Indeed, Her Priests are always on the move, doing her will, healing the stricken and guiding the Riverfolk toward accord and glory. There is little in the way of organization in Her clergy: those that seek to bear Her song (a common interest among the Riverfolk) and find a master willing to teach it (a common enough circumstance) may do so. There are tales told of Tagalog who fall in battle and reawaken with newfound powers, lost memories and a half-remembered vision of a bright light swooping down to renew their fading life.
Those that learn Her song and use it against the dictates of Her will may find their powers revoked and the remainder of their life as bleak and accursed as Arauan itself. Those that seek out membership in Her clergy for the sake of power and the prestige awarded to Her Priests would do well to heed such a warning. There are tales abound of fools that sought to bend Her light and Her song to their whim and spent the rest of their lives blinded and deafened by the results of their hubris.
There are no ranks or hierarchy among the clergy of Adarna. Either one knows Her song or one does not. A cleric of the Bright Goddess may teach who he wills at his own discretion.
Also called the Silent God and The Watcher in the Deeps, Bat-hala is a both a significant god and defining theme among the Riverfolk. In the days of yore, the raiders of the Riverfolk would call upon the Watcher in the Deeps for strength in battle and eldritch might, sending drowned and bleeding sacrifices to he who dwells in the deepest depths and shapes the world with his hundred hands.
Though those times have passed and living sacrifices are no longer offered en masse to the dark god of the depths, Bat-hala still holds a special place in the ways of the Riverfolk. He stands as a counterpoint and companion to Adarna, providing stillness to song and shadows to light. Tihluurani look to Bat-hala for insight and for knowledge. Some still pray to him for potency in combat or to help them resolve vendettas but the Silent God’s dominion lie over control, over lore and over thought.
There are those that point out the similarities to the Silent God and the Writhing Curse. Bat-hala’s clergy is less than forthcoming with regards to the issue, only claiming that its arrival and its eventual departure is part of prophecy. Rumors say that the Writhing Curse is sent by Bat-hala himself to cull the Riverfolk from the world – it is this assumption that has led to the worship and adoration of Adarna in the years of the Tihluurani’s exile. For their part, those who keep the secrets of the Bat-hala know well that all life, all worlds are circles and the Riverfolk will one day realize the plan of their Silent God.
Bat-hala commands his followers to:
o Remember and keep holy the lore that Bat-hala had written
o Punish those who would torment and attack the Riverfolk
o Keep the memory of the dead and carve a new path for those to come
Symbol and colors: The symbol borne by Bat-hala’s Chosen contains tentacles from beneath surging upward, grasping an orb (which can also be a sun or a moon, depending on artistic/factional differences). Bat-hala’s clergy utilizes dark night colors in their attire, black, purple, dark sea-green and deep blue with hints of silver or gold in their trim.
Sphere Access: Priests of Bat-hala may choose one of these Spheres for the Acolyte of Faith ability they gain at first level. Furthermore, they may learn the Servitor skill for the other listed Spheres.
Spells: Those Priests that walk the Path of Bat-hala inflict Cold damage with their damaging divine spells.
The clergy of Bat-hala maintain temples in the secret places of the world, vast repositories of knowledge, history and darkess warded by both summoned monstrosities and devout faithful. These temples are one of the few exceptions to the Writhing Curse, although the largest Bat-halai temple at the base of Arauan remains sunken and untended.
The process of acquiring new acolytes to the order is as shadowy as it is mysterious. Presumably, those who wish to serve Bat-hala are drawn to his temples by a powerful vocation that manifests in their thoughts through whispers or dreams. Those who are inspired to find a deep temple and successfully complete the arduous journey to find one are considered especially blessed of the Silent God.
Most of the time, Bat-halai are drawn from drawn from the families of those who currently serve him. Some Priests take orphans and place them on the Path to Bat-hala. Others coerce prominent families to send a scion to a deep temple.
Novices emerge a few years later to serve Bat-hala’s will and guide his people while the master of the temple stays within and directs the Bat-halai from afar.
The ranks of the Bat-halai are:
Initiate of the Depths: are the lowest rank of the Bat-halai, tasked to tending and defending the temple as well as studying the mysteries of the temple.
Bearer of Whispers: are sent across the world to guide the Riverfolk according to Bat-hala’s holy will.
Master of the Temple: direct and coordinate the faithful of Bat-hala with shadows and whispers.