A people of secrets and zeal, the people of the Sunless Kingdom believe themselves to be the Children of their three-faceted Goddess. The Ishtari are a people that have no fear of darkness, pain or death; their faith has taught them that these are facts of life that are not only inevitable but concepts that must be embraced.
Three white eyes in a row over a field of dark purple. Within the iris of each eye is a crescent moon and a single star.
Kali-Ishtar is a theocracy where the Church and the State are one and the same. Thus, the leader of the state religion in Kali-Ishtar is also the secular leader of the Kingdom. Similarly, the people of Kali-Ishtar are not only the wards of the state but also the Chosen of the religion.
Thus, most Kali-ishtar that newly arrive from their Kingdom view the world from the lens of their religion. Regardless of whether such an individual is pious or not, the religious beliefs and dogmas of the Trinity Temple permeate every portion of an Ishtari’s upbringing, thanks to Koil-Kali.
A typical Ishtari views other religions with a baleful eye, enacts the rites as befits the moment and attempts to avoid breaking the laws of their Kingdom, regardless of whether they apply within a foreign land or not.
Furthermore, the society and laws of Kali-ishtar are bent in favor of women over men, sometimes unfairly. This means men are often cast and limited to roles of physical strength while women are freer to occupy positions of authority. Similarly, there is a prejudice against men engaging in governance and intellect — there is an unspoken stereotype of men being emotional, lustful brutes or dim-witted followers. While this stereotype is far from true, society discriminates unfairly against Ishtari males of all Castes.
Most males fall into this prejudice themselves, having been reinforced by years of stereotyping. They regard the males of other Kingdoms with some disdain for reaching above their station or for not acting humbly. After a long period of adjustment however, some Ishtari males begin to rail against the stereotypes that have been forced upon them and the lack of influence they lead.
Similarly, Ishtari women are often regarded as domineering and too independent by many other Kingdoms. Even matriarchal or egalitarian societies tend to consider Ishtari women with a wary eye, as their sex grants them more influence in their culture than most other Kingdoms.
Lastly, there is a long-standing belief in Kali-ishtar with regards to the supremacy of magic-users over non-magic using individuals. Generally speaking, those who earn or are granted the gift of magic are better treated and more highly regarded than those who are incapable of any of the magical disciplines. Pity, condescension and sometimes outright bigotry await those unlucky enough to lack this special talent, although one’s Caste stems this bias somewhat.
However, Magic that is licensed by the Trinity Temple is not an art to be practiced idly – it is a gift whose very use should glorify the Goddess. While the Ishtari revere Magic as supreme, they take care not to squander it. They purpose its use when necessary or when the spell brings glory to the Goddess.
Blood, Pain and Death
As a people, the Ishtari are no stranger to the grotesque facets of life. The Trinity Temple even teaches that Pain, properly devoted to the Goddess, is pleasing to Kali-Avesti-Ishtar.
Thus, an Ishtari may seem calm in the face of horrors and torture. But in truth, each instance of terror, agony and peril, is an opportunity to an Ishtari to give glory to the Goddess. Pious Ishtari may speak in mantras such as “All pain for the Goddess” or “Goddess be pleased” when faced with certain doom or when experiencing unimaginable pain.
That said, Ishtari do not go out of their way to seek out pain or death (except as part of a prayer or ritual). They are taught that the virtuous ascend to higher states of existence, even a semblance of divinity. Therefore, death has little fear for them so long as they are in good standing with their family, the Trinity Temple and with the Goddess – the rest of their afterlife is in their hands.
Truculent yet Curious and Adaptable
Because of Ishtari laws, the Children of the Goddess must be careful of being corrupted by the ways of the outside world. The Prophet’s words are final and the Goddess’ truth is absolute; thus, even listening the ways of others can be extremely perilous.
And yet, many Ishtari are possessed of a desire to discover ways beyond their own and incorporate those that do not violate their ethics. The nature of the world is different in the bright warmth of the sun; the Ishtari must determine the most efficient course of action for future tasks.
Still the threat of being accused of Heresy is a real one. Those who seek out the lores of other peoples must beware the Confessors and the Justices of the Goddess or become their quarry.
Mysterious and Secretive
To most folk, Ishtari remain enigmas mainly because they keep to themselves. While individual Ishtari may seem more amicable or less xenophobic, many of the Sunless people prefer their own kind.
When in the presence of outsiders, the Children of the Goddess have a tendency to speak only when necessary or when chanting prayers or Ishtari proverbs. Otherwise, they can be unresponsive when questions are asked of them.
Talkative Ishtari are often seen as inquisitive rather than expositional; that is to say, they are more likely to listen to the ways of others than to speak of their own beliefs and methods. After conversing with a particularly skilled Child of the Goddess, a foreigner may notice that the Ishtari spoke almost nothing of their own experiences, asked probing questions and listened earnestly to the answers.
Faithful and Zealous
Each Ishtari, from Ashurai to Pariah, was raised in the darkness and frost of the Sunless Kingdom with only the word of the Trinity Temple to keep them whole. Thus, most Ishtari are pious members of their faith, ready with prayer and action against any adversity and any foe.
Many Ishtari believe that blood, pain and death are holy to the Goddess, if given or taken in the correct mindset. So, many Ishtari prayers begin with a dagger cut or a slit palm, that the Goddess may take heed and be pleased by the pain and the blood offered to Her.
Before a kill, Ishtari prefer to torment their enemies before death, dedicating pain, blood and death to the Goddess. Some Ishtari smile during their sessions, but most do not — the pleasure is in serving the Goddess and giving Her what is Due, not causing pain or spilling blood.
Bone, Leather and Holy Silk
Bone (or metal) studded vestments of leather and fur are more common to Ishtari than cloth, although those Sunless Children that have had more experience in the world may partake of linen, wool and cotton to blend in better.
To Ashurai (and Ashurai alone) is given the privilege of wearing Gloaming Silk, a silken fabric made from the spiders of the Gloaming Wood. This fabric holds the bright hues of the creatures that spun it; due to its rarity, it is more often seen as an accessory (such as a cape, a mantle, a sash or a scarf) rather than an actual vestment. Occasionally, Ishtari of high-ranking have been gifted with flowing robes or tunics made with this special Silk.
Accents: Players of Ishtari characters that wish to portray an accent may use Russian/Slavic accents.
Ishtari characters have two names: a Surname and an Adulthood name. Married males have a third name, their bachelor name from before they were married.
An Ishtari’s surname denotes the lineage from which she hails. Ishtari are matrilineal, which means they trace ancestry through the mother’s side of the family. Names are typically chosen by Ishtari who want to emulate an idea, a hero, a favored relative or a symbolic object.
When a man in Ishtar is married, his last name becomes his middle name and his wife’s surname becomes his new surname.
Ishtari names tend to run the gamut of Slavic and Hindi names from the mixing of the Wyrdic culture with the Free Tribes around the Wyrdic Empire and within the Sunless Wastes.
Ashurai surnames tend to sound Hindi while Kshatriya and Vashu surnames tend to sound Slavic. Pariah surnames vary.
Male: Adal (justice), Borya, Dakshi (glory), Fyodor, Ivan, Kostya, Nikolai, Tarak (protector), Zavid
Female: Atasi (blue flower), Jaina (benevolence), Mandira (melody), Katya, Ganesa, Marfa, Ria (Song), Svetya, Yllana, Zinaida
Ashurai: Agni, Indra, Shiva, Vashtri, Yaksha
Kshatriya: Perun, Khosodam, Svarok, Voloth, Zorya
Vashu: Baran, Capek, Federuk, Medved, Sergeyev
The Sunless Kingdom are based on a hybrid of Hindu and Slavic culture, using minor elements from the mythologies of both cultures. Generally, the religious portions of Ishtari are taken from Hindi, but some of the other cultural aspects are either fictional or taken from Russian myth.