Know, O Childe, of the Sunless Kingdom, of Frozen Darknesses and of Howling Winds. Know ye well and keep the Myths of the Ishtari close to your heart.
I. A Goddess in a Godless Land (Year 0; First Dogma)
…and she was Ashra, the first Prophet. She heard the Goddess’ call, deep within the realm of the enemy. Although she believed herself unworthy, the Prophet did as she was bid…
It is known (even among the ungodly of the Ishtari) that before the Goddess took her, the Prophet was a sinner – an a godless unbeliever and a practitioner of magics that displease Kali-Avesti-Ishtar.
Ashra received and was befouled by the magics of the false Vaults. She was a powerful Diabolist in their arsenal, corrupting even the wisest with her counsel and massing an army powerful enough to topple the proud Wyrdic Empire.
But the Empire of Wyrd, though Godless, Blasphemous and now scattered to the thousand winds, was the mightiest of Midworld’s nations. They fell upon Ashra the Ungodly with savagery and violence, then dragged her away to their Emperor’s justice.
So it came to pass that in the time of the Wyrdic Empire and in Ashra’s direst need, the Goddess whispered to her Prophet and freed her from imprisonment. After Kali-Avesti-Ishtar seized the Prophet from the hands of the Wyrdic heretics and clutches of the false Vault, Ashra became the Goddess’ voice there and forever-after.
The lessons of the Goddess and the history of Her People were recorded in four Tomes of Kali-Ishtar Dogma:
- The Sutra-Yuga – The Dogma of the Prophet
- The Sutra-Dvara – The Story of the Ancients
- The Sutra-Mishka – The Dogma of the Heroes
- The Sutra-Vashna – the New Dogma
II. The Prophet Ashra (Year 1-9; First Dogma)
The Prophet took the Holy Word and made it known. Many was beguiled by the Wyrd and by Faiths most False. But there were some who heard the Truth and went to the Prophet on their knees.
As detailed in the holy book of Sutra-Yuga (the first book of Kali-Avesti-Ishtar dogma), Ashra spread the Goddess’ word among the populace of the Wyrdic Empire. She spoke of a true deity that would walk among her people and give them the power that was their due and freedom from the chains of Wyrd. She spoke of Crucibles that only the most faithful could survive and a Rebirth that would be borne after great suffering. She spoke of a haven for those who lived in the throes of magic and who followed the true Goddess of the World.
Not many were those who turn their ear to her but those placed the Prophet’s words in their hearts would be given salvation from the Demons that would bring ruin to the Wyrdic Empire in its final throes. To glimmering capitol and rustic farmland did the word of the Prophet spread; to those whose hearts yearned and burned for better and withered under the crush of Wyrd, the Goddess’ grace took root and bore fruit. Some of her followers came from the ranks of her original army, reborn through her just as she was reborn through the Goddess. Others were people of potent magics that were disenfranchised by their Empire or spurned by the Seven Wyrdic Gods because of the gifts that they had rightly earned.
Once again, Ashra had raised an army that made the Emperor of Wyrd tremble. Powerful magic-users stood beside her and beneath her Goddess. Greatest of her sorcerer-generals was Qarthai Flesh-breaker, the Lady of Venom, formerly one of the most feared criminal masterminds of the Wyrdic Empire. The mightiest of her witch-commanders was Maeda the Quiet-Fallen, a shaman whose very word was followed by thirteen barbarian tribes.
But before the Emperor could bring his own Legions to bear, Ashra and her followers disappeared… journeying northward into the Sunless Wastes where even light itself feared to tread.
III. The First Crucible (Year 9-54; First Dogma)
And so, the Prophet took them north, beyond greenery and sun – to realm that the dawn feared to tread. Though great was the adversity, the Goddess was gladdened of her Children’s resilience.
The exodus from Wyrdic lands remains one of the greatest trials ever faced by the Ishtari people. Deaths numbered by the thousands as starvation, exposure and raiders took their toll upon the refugees. Harrying the back ranks of the refugee’s column was the pursuing vengeance of the Wyrdic Empire, a swift army of horsemen numbering ten thousand horse, sent by the Emperor to make sure that the holy people of Kali-Avesti-Ishtar would not make it to their promised land.
Yet, the Prophet did not lie to her people. She had told them that great hardship and risk travelled with them on this journey. Sacrifices had to be given to Kali-Avesti-Ishtar to prove to the Goddess that Her people were truly ready – indeed, the fallen were the lucky ones who saw their true Goddess before any of their brethren did; save for the Prophet who saw Her before all others.
When the prey of Ishtar entered the frozen realms of the Sunless North, the attacks from raiders and soldiers dwindled as an eternal darkness set upon the travelers. However, the weather and barren lands continued their own assault in greater intensity. And then there were the horrific demons that lurked among the shadows of the wasteland who were called Yog-mothol; they devoured soldier, raider and Ishtari alike.
Drawn to the lights of the Ishtari, the sunless demons gathered in large numbers around the refugees as the Prophet’s disciples walked and lurked in their dreams as they rested. Eventually, the Ishtari were pushed and chased to the slopes of a massive mountain at very edge of Midworld.
The children of Kali were dying and surrounded, prepared to make their last stand and their final sacrifice to the Goddess. Even in the face of death and even at the edge of doom, they were faithful. All weakness and all doubt had been purged from them.
The Prophet saw this and she implored upon her Goddess for mercy. At the Deity’s behest, the mountain unleashed a punishing blizzard of flame and frost from its peak. The whirling storm engulfed the demonic horde, slaughtering monstrosities to the last demon. However, when the tempest reached the wearied, praying ring of refugees, it dissipated into snow and ash.
The storm of fire and ice had also uncovered a massive gate built into the mountain, yawning open and clear for the Prophet and her people. It is written in the Sutra-Yuga that a soft light and the faint sound of something breathing issued from within.
Ever after, the Storming Gate (Tun-Yarta) and the Holy Mountain (Dal-Reshik) would remain as the symbols of the Goddess’ children.
IV. The Watcher-in-Darkness (Year 54; First Dogma)
The Servant of the Goddess spoke to Her Children and gave them the means to survive the sunless north. Magic and lores poured forth from Him as the wind from the seas and Her Children grew strong from his Knowledges.
The Sutra-Yuga (the first book of Ishtari dogma) speaks of the Prophet’s journey into the bowels of the mountain, where the ruins of an ancient, forgotten Race lay dormant in funereal repose yet seething with hatred. Wraith-like shadows lingered from the ancient cataclysm that had laid this people low, their whispers laden with promises of power and madness.
The Prophet’s delve was unalone, as she was joined by Qarthai and Maeda (who would sacrifice her life for Ashra). Together, the three faced the crucible within the mountain, suffering and fighting for the sake of the Ishtari Chosen outside and the Ishtari that had yet to be born. Sutra-Dvara details each trap and each shadowy, demonic and undead foe they fought in great detail (for Qarthai was thorough in her writings), but in the end, they faced the greatest of challenges and their true destination: Gilgorin, the Watcher-in-Darkness.
Sutra-Yuga describes the Watcher-in-Darkness as a gigantic horned colossus, shrouded by midnight and with nine burning embers for eyes. It was chained and bound by the enemies of the Goddess and it was Her personal servant in the times when the barriers between Overworld and Midworld could still be traversed. Gilgorin was to be the salvation of the Goddess’ people, but it was a test of faith to release it from its prison, a test of might to subdue it and a test of will to bind it to Prophet’s.
After completing these tests, Gilgorin was free to do its Goddess’ work. With its help and the help of the spirits bound to it, the Prophet and her people summoned a latent power deep within the mountain which brought warmth and light that the Goddess’ people needed to survive.
It taught them how to create orchards without need for the Sun and Heat, how to ward off the Yog-Mothol, how to feed off the beasts of the Wastes and to survive its Sunless despair. Their most powerful magic-users were given precious knowledge and eldritch might enough to bind spirits and craft stone with willpower and ritual.
But only to the Prophet and only to her was given the words of the Goddess. To her and through her did the Goddess’ will become known. There were those who bore envy in their hearts, of course, men and women who saw only the prestige of the Prophet without truly knowing her burden, the burden she carried for us all – the burden of knowledge and the burden of all those who martyred themselves for her word and our salvation.
Those who envied would strike eventually, although their plans were long in fruition.
V. The Three Matriarchs (Year 54-225; Second Dogma)
Ashra, Siva and Nesha built the cities of the Kali-Ishtar, suborning beast, man and spirit in the Goddess’ name.
The First Dogma ended with Ashra’s ascension into the heavens and her work is continued by her descendants. The creation of the City of the Prophet’s Pact (now known as Ashra-grad) and the Sunless Kingdom required the Prophet’s lifetime and the lifetime of two of her appointed successors. So is it said in the second book of dogma, the Sutra-Dvara: “Ashra-grad was built by three Matriarchs”.
Siva the Shaper was the first daughter of Ashra and her general Ivan Ironbreaker. Siva, sometimes called the Sanctifier, also was the first Prophet-Matriarch and followed closely after her mother’s vision, chosen directly by the Watcher-in-Darkness for succession. Furthermore, she is credited with the organization and enforcement of Ishtari law, called Ashra Dharma. Her philosophies and lectures were renowned across all of Kali-Ishtar as the basis of Ashra Dharma. Siva was also directly involved in the creation of the Ashur-ashurai (the Holy Council) creation of the four castes:
– The Ashurai or the Holy (the priests, sanctified magic-users and the ruling caste)
– the Kshatriya or the Nobility (the other users of magic and the warriors who defend them)
– the Vashu or the Common (the tradesmen and the laborers)
– the Pariahs or the Unclean (the criminals, the outsiders)
Before long, the children of Kali began to thrive amidst the darkness of the Sunless North. Through faith and fortitude, they built powerful wards and impregnable holdfasts to keep away the cold and the dark, as well as the demons of the wastes. Amidst the Sunless Wastes, The warmth of the holy mountains provided the heat and the light that the People needed.
It was Nesha the Tamer, the second Prophet-Matriarch, that completed Ashra-grad and tamed the lands around her city. To remember her, the massive creatures that were tamed in her reign were named Ga-neshi; all Ishtari know these beasts and use them in all ways of life, although they cannot survive beyond the borders of Kali-Ishtar.
The scattered peoples that lived and survived in the wastelands were contacted and drawn to the power of Ashra-grad. Those that showed magical potential were allowed into the Kshatriya; everyone else were given to the Vashu or became Pariahs. Naturally, all had to listen and learn the words of the Prophet and know the Goddess in their hearts.
Slowly yet inexorably, the prey of Ishtar were building a Kingdom worthy of Kali-Avesti-Ishtar.
At the height of the Sutra-Dvarah’s narrative, the dominion of Kali-Ishtar spread across the mountains known as the Frozen Fingers. As the centuries passed, the Ishtari grew numerous and powerful… yet another crucible was coming.
Though the Ishtari were forewarned, expansion and solidification of their new territories were the foremost in their minds. The Kingdom of the Kali-Ishtar would expand its borders to its greatest limits. Aided by magic and fueled by devotion, nine bastions of power rose amongst the Frozen Fingers and the Sunless Wastes. To the Goddess’ foolish children, this halcyon age would have lasted forever.
VI. The Fate of the Watcher (Year 225-333; Second Dogma)
The Jotun attempted to take the Sunless Kingdom from Her Children, but the Watcher-in-Darkness was far too strong. Through his sacrifice and the sacrifice of Her Children was bought the freedom of the Ishtari.
Ashra’s prophecies foretold of their coming and the Watcher warned the Ishtari, yet the Jotun Giants came in the night as thieves. Covered in rime and hungry for souls, these frost-covered Jotun strode from the south and the west to feast upon the Ishtari and drain their magics. Those villages and towns that they set upon did not see their approach until the hour was late and the time to flee had long passed. The enchantments that held off demon and chill could not hold against the power of these creatures. Before a proper response could be mounted, a dozen fortresses of the Ishtari were devoured by these behemoths.
But the Goddess’ children had summoned every ounce and piece of magic they could bear against the Giants. The Watcher stood with the Ishtari as the three Jotun and the winter elementals they suborned as their army marched upon a city within viewing distance of Ashra-grad, Nurem-grad, the City of Night Rising.
It is writ in the second dogma, Sutra-Dvara that the war’s conclusion was resolved in ten nights. The Ishtari possessed the zealous Kshatriya, the devout Ashurai and numerous bound-spirits and demons. However, the Jotun proved impervious to almost all kinds of magic and their army of winter spirits and Chained men proved elusive in their defense and devastating in their attack. Only the Watcher could stand against the Giants, but it was only one against three.
At the war’s climax, the Watcher stood against the three Jotun and it seemed as though Ashra herself guided the Ishtari’s sorcery. The blood and souls of a thousand Ashurai were sacrificed to the Watcher to allow him to deliver a cataclysmic spell upon the southron invaders. The Watcher, who stood a head taller than his three gigantic foemen, exploded into ribbons of barbed tendrils that physically and spiritually shattered the Jotun into the frozen winds.
Of the Watcher-in-Darkness, nothing remained except a faint whisper that haunted the survivors of the Battle of Night Rising: “The Vaults are opening”
VII. The False Ones and the Long Sleep (Year 333-621; Second Dogma)
Though the False Ones swarmed forth from their Vaults in vast multitudes, the Children of the Goddess were forewarned and forearmed. They locked themselves in powerful magics, awaiting the next age in mystical slumber.
It is writ in the Sutra-Dvara that pure power can be only accessed from the true Vault and that only horrors and fiends dwell in the other Vaults. The denizens of these false Vaults crossed the weakened veil between Midworld and Underworld in terrifying numbers, swarming the realm of mortals. It is known that many Kingdoms across Midworld suffered to this scourge: Elf and Dwarf, Riverfolk and Jotunbrud. Even the Wyrdic Empire could not stand against this world-wide menace, crumbling as the Demons burst forth from corrupted Gates.
The Ishtari took the many years they had in preparation for the impending doom. Each of their cities became a fortress against the demonic incursion; gigantic frozen walls were erected and blackened with the frozen blood of martyred faithful. The lessons of the war against the Jotun were not lost upon the Goddess’ children. The defenses of the Kingdom were sharpened to a keen edge. Both the Kshatrya and the Ashurai prepared for a time of desolation like no other.
When the time came, the demonic tide surged with potence far beyond the wisdom of mortals could ever predict or fathom. Whereas the Jotun Giants attacked as a single force, it appeared as though the Daemon attacked all the Ishtari cities at the same time with the supremacy of limitless numbers and limitless ferocity. Joined by the Sunless demons of the wastes and made strong by the Demonic Princes commanding them, The holdings of the Ishtari stood firm at first; then, they began to wither from wave after wave of attacks upon wardings and defenders.
The planned defensive measures of the Ishtari cracked beneath the numbers and the ferocity of the Daemon. The invaders were cunning as well as fierce and the Ishtari armies that withstood the initial push were outflanked and surrounded. The mortal armies were torn asunder and routed even as Prophet-Matriarch Mishka invoked the Ishtari’s final means of defense.
Powerful wards burst forth from the walls of each city, blasting all nearby demons into oblivion. While their magic held, no demon nor mortal could enter its dominion. This powerful ritual was done at great cost; the sacrifice of many Ashurai and of the Prophet-Matriarch Mishka (known ever after as Mishka the Martyr) ensured that every Ishtari city would be isolated from the others for almost a hundred years and every Ishtari citizen was placed in a long, dreamless sleep.
VIII. A New Awakening (Year 720-900; Third Dogma)
When the Children awakened, the Kingdom was in disarray. Five cities stood where nine once were. But they set things to right, rebuilding and recovering what they could.
It is writ in the Third Dogma, the Sutra-Mishka, that when the Martyr’s ritual finally dissipated and the invasion had passed, Kali-Ishtar found that the world had changed around them.
The Children of the Goddess reawakened from their ninety-nine years of isolation and found a world of chaos. Only five cities remained were nine once stood. Their roadworks and holdings had fallen to ruin. A restoration was in order and the Children set themselves to work. The Ishtari tracked long roads and bridges of frost along the mountains and wastelands of their home. While the Kshatriya focused on the physical reconstruction of the Kingdom, the Ashurai tasked their efforts toward the reunification of Kali-Ishtar.
Prophet-Matriarch Loraa the Light-handed attempted this task to little success. The reconstruction of the networking roads and infrastructure exacerbated her lack of control .The reconsolidation efforts eventually stalled and slowed to a glacial pace.
The ancient enemies of the Ishtari resurfaced, seeding their dissent and heresy among the people during the long centuries of their patience. Unbeknownst to the faithful, they took control of three of the five remaining cities, corrupting weak Ashurai and Kshatriya to their cause.
XI. The Hundred Heresies (Year 900- 1314; The Third Dogma)
Through the centuries they waited, keening their blasphemies to a sharpened edge. And when they struck against a still recovering Kali-Ishtar, many faithful fell to their treachery. But the Goddess saw her Children’s plight and answered, renewing her Covenant and returning the Watcher to them.
In the bloodiest years of Ishtari history, the faithful and the wicked lived beneath the gaze of the new dogma. During this time, insurrectionists and heretics had taken full control of Zirya-zilya (the City of Beauteous Stars), Ziy-mitra (the City of the Fallen Dragon) and Marz-yanna (the city of the Melted River).
What followed was several hundred years of betrayals, battles and revolutions. Against the Prophet-Matriarchs, the insurrectionists utilized the magics of the Goddess’ twin — Umbral Sorceries — as well as Diablerie from the False Vaults. They taught falsehoods and wicked dictum to the masses of their cities, treating each aspect of the Goddess as a separate Deity or raising the idolatry of Demonic Princes. To add to their blasphemy, these rebels even placed themselves upon thrones, declaring themselves the monarchs of their city-states.
Such was the wickedness of her people after the gifts given them that the Goddess became silent, even to her fervent worshippers. After the passing of Nia the Unfrozen to a Insurrectionist ambush, the Council of Ashur-Ashurai had no choice to be govern their Kingdom as best as they could.
They did so with great difficulty, being surrounded by heresy and insurrectionists. After the City of Night’s Rising fell to the rebels in year 1152 of the New Dogma, Ashra-grad found itself to be the next target for the heretics’ armies. Despite the Kshatriya’s best efforts, the rebel armies steadily approached through snow, blood and carrion toward the seat of the Ashur-Ashurai.
In the eve of their greatest assault, the Ashurai sent pleas and prayers to the heavens above. They cried for redemption and for salvation — over a thousand captured heretics and over a hundred martyred first-born children sped their entreaties skyward.
The Goddess answered her people with chaos. The armies of the enemy began to faction and to bicker as they had never done before. Their daemonic engines of war shuddered to stillness. Their hell-beasts snapped leash and chain. Eventually, cruel words became swords and sorceries and the heretics and rebels spent themselves against one another.
In addition, a foul, horrific cry heralded the revival of the Gilgorin the Watcher, coalescing from the shadows of the air, and from its thousand-toothed maw issued demonic Yog loyal to the Ishtari (called Yog-shiroth). The heretics were crushed and routed, the survivors given to the Goddess and her Herald in victorious sacrifice.
In the decades that followed, the Kali-Ishtar and Gilgorin regained the cities that they had lost to heresy and insurrection. The purges left entire districts unpeopled and temples brimming with the blasphemers’ blood, but at least the Sunless Kingdom was whole again.
Though Gilgorin the Watcher was pleased by the bloodshed, it could not stay overlong in Midworld.
With Gilgorin’s guidance, they chose a young Priestess to house the sacred powers of the Prophet-Matriarch. Her old name and her old identity cast aside, Medeshka the Pact-sworn was the new Prophet-Matriarch, leader of the Kali-Ishtar and the Ashur-ashurai.
X. The Prophecy and the Treaty of Freehold (Year 1315-1343; New Dogma)
The New Prophet is tasked with a dangerous duty: to send the Children beyond the Darkness and the Ice into the heresy-rife Southern lands, seeking destiny and fulfilling prophecy.
Gilgorin the Watcher departed soon after Medeshka, the 25th Prophet-Matriarch was appointed, leaving her with cryptic prophecies and dire warnings that were recorded unto long scrolls of Ganeshi-leather by the blind-mute scriveners of the Vindra-sikh. At the counsel of the Holy Entity, Medeshka immediately sent ambassadors across the span of Midworld.
Her spies immediately discovered the Treaty of Freehold and her envoys demanded entry into its ranks. Through a demonstration of wealth, power and influence, the Sunless Kingdom was admitted into the Treaty over ten years ago.
Despite the misgivings of the Ashur-Ashurai, the Prophet-Matriarch sends supplies and funding as per the Treaty’s requirements. Her Kingdom is still in the middle of rebuilding, but her servitors and her attendants report that she spends more time in contemplations over the Treaty of Freehold than she does to the restoration of her own Kingdom. To date, the exact contents of the Gilgorin Revelations are a secret known only by the Prophet-Matriarch and shared to none save for this passage:
And the Goddess’ herald said unto Her Prophet —
The Prophesied Time is at hand.
When the frozen winds are stilled
the Sun rises once more in Kali-Ishtar
and the Ashur-Ashurai has failed,
you know that the end has come for us all.