“The Chosen are the Body of the Trinity Temple and the Ashur-Ashurai are Her Soul”
Basic: The “Holy of Holies” are an advisory body and a governing aid to the Prophet-Matriarch. Many matters of rulership are handled by the Ashur-Ashurai.
Symbol: Three nested triangles. The smallest and the biggest triangles are black, while intermediary triangle is purple.
History: The Ashur-Ashurai has ever existed as an aid to the Prophet-Matriarch in the task of governing and protecting the Sunless Kingdom. Established centuries ago from the greatest followers and companions of Ashra, the Ashur-ashurai of modern times now only consists of the three Invokates of the Trinity Temple.
The tradition of the Invokates within the Ashur-ashurai started over four hundred years ago. In that era, the Holiest of Holies was a vast congress consisting of the Manangs, the Elder Matriarchs, from all the influential Ashurai Households.
When the Hundred Heresies wormed its way into some of the Ashurai, Prophet Loraa had little choice but purge the council of all but the Invokates of the Trinity Temple. The centralized power was a boon to the Prophet, but it was not enough to quell the string of rebellions caused by the Insurrectionists that claimed over a half a million Ishtari faithful.
With the passing of Prophet Nia and the silence of the Goddess in year 990 of the New Dogma, the Holiest of Holies were forced to take the Kingdom’s helm . The Ashur-Ashurai became the main bulwark of the faithful against the heretical Insurrectionists, keeping them at bay until the return of the Watcher-in-Darkness.
When the Prophet Medeshka was chosen by Gilgorin, the Ashur-Ashurai offered up their role as leaders to the divinely mandated ruler of Kali-Ishtar. However, the Prophet allowed them to keep much of their influence and responsibilities, guiding them remotely and aiding the faithful through the strength of the Goddess’ magic.
Even after the defeat of the Insurrectionists and the return of their cities to order, Prophet Medeshka remained distant from reins of direct rulership. The Ashur-ashurai have reluctantly resumed their duties with minor changes, including the fulfillment of whatever the Prophet desires.
The Ashur-ashurai has focused its efforts on rebuilding of the Sunless Kingdom and stamping out of any other Insurrectionist remnants. The Hundred Heresies have left much of the Kingdom in disarray and despite the magics wielded by the Ishtari, reconstruction and reconsolidation have not gone as quickly as desired.
Nevertheless, Prophet Medeshka has spared little expense toward her work on the Gilgorin Revelations, which are rumored to include the Prophecy of the Seventh Kingdom. This pursuit is the greatest point of contention between the Prophet-Matriarch and the Ashur-ashurai, but the Trinity Temple have no choice to comply as well as they can – even if it means spreading the Kingdom’s forces and resources dangerously thin.
According to the Prophet’s dictates, emissaries were sent to the various southron Kingdoms (even the hated Jotunbrud) and the Ishtari became a part of the Treaty of Freehold. Also, expeditions have been sent to various parts of the world, including the lost cities of the Ishtari, to retrieve various relics and artifacts that the Prophet requires.
Adapting to the change in foreign policy, the Ashur-ashurai has decided to appoint dozens of Ashurai in ambassadorial roles as well as tasking several Kshatriya Households to engaging in international trade.
Leadership: Residing within the upside-down spire that overlooks the heart of Ashragrad is Medeshka, the 25th Prophet-Matriarch of the Sunless Kingdom. Some call her Medeshka the Merciful. The blasphemers call her Medeshka the Mad. But many Ishtari speak of her as “the Masked”, for in her past is wreathed in secrecy. Few know what Household she hails from or if she is even Ashurai. In a land where heredity is a large determinant of one’s place in life, such a mystery is borne only with difficulty.
She has been described as quixotic and random, given to speaking to no one in particular and information about her future that no one else should be able to know. At least two Insurrectionist assassins found their fate at the hands of her precognitive powers.
There are those that whisper that each Prophet-Matriarch speaks to the previous occupants of that title, all the way to Ashra herself. Others believe that her secretive ascension to power has driven her mad or that the Gilgorin Revelations themselves have allowed her to see too far beyond the mortal veil.
However, she has the Gilgorin’s blessing and therefore the Goddess’ direct mandate to govern and command the Ishtari. And so the Ashur-ashurai obey her – just as the Kingdom obeys the Ashur-ashurai.
Note: The other members of the Ashur-ashurai are the three Invokates of the Trinity Temple. They are described in great detail in the Kali-Ishtar Religion section. Also described are the roles within each Koil of the Trinity Temple.
The Kshatriya are the second highest caste in Kali-Ishtar, tasked to the protection of the Kingdom and obedience to the Ashurai . While they are not the highest among the society, they are afforded greater amounts of freedom than their lessers, the Vashu and the Pariah. This freedom allows the Kshatriya to wield some influence and power despite their station, through military might and political maneuvering.
In times of war, the Trinity Temple can call upon the Kshatriya to provide soldiers and other warcraft. In times of peace, the Kshatriya are expected to maintain their armies as well as assist the Ashurai in preserving the peace.
Designer’s Note: The Kshatriya’s Households are given Power Groups of their own because the Ashurai’s power and influence is centered around their dominance in the arena of faith.
“Those who drink from lies and death will only find their Fate” – Ishtari proverb
Basic: A secretive Household of Sorcerers and Assassins that serve the Ashurai and yet foster their own agendas.
Symbol: A crimson-filigreed pale mask flanked by eight spider legs.
History: When the City of the Beauteous Stars was taken by the Insurrectionists, the root and branch of Khasat Qarthai and those Khasat that served them fell in its defense.
When the Trinity Temple moved to retake Zirya-zilya, they were aided by Khasat Khosodam a remnant of Qarthai that survived through subterfuge and cunning. Through the efforts of the Khosodam, the heretics were overtaken and overrun without loss to the Heralds of Koil-Ishtar and their armies.
A few of the Khasat’s detractors believe that the Khosodam traded masters like coats, betraying Zirya-zilya to the Insurrectionists before betraying the Insurrectionists to the Ashur-Ashurai. Others whisper of forbidden Necromancies, Shadow-binding and Bloodcrafting performed in Khosodam enclaves.
Despite these claims, Khasat Khosodam has gained esteem (albeit guarded) in the eyes of the Ashur-ashurai and other Kshatriya. Through the years since the defeat of the Insurrectionists, more than a few Households have joined with Khosodam, marrying into the Household or establishing protection pacts.
Current: In theory, the Ashur-ashurai own Zirya-zilya; however, it is Khasat Khosodam who holds the reins of the city. Through cunning, subterfuge and diplomacy, they have risen above all other Kshatriya in the city and have taken control over the city’s trade in Gloaming Silk as well as the cave spider-warrens beneath Zirya-zilya that produce the traditional silk that Kshatriya and Vashu may wear.
Khasat Khosodam follows the Trinity Temple with ruthless efficiency, striking down any that the Koil deems suspicious. Khosodam assassins are said to rival the Ishtarian Confessors in stealth, skill and fearsomeness.
And yet, despite their value to the Trinity Temple, the Ashur-ashurai have yet to truly embrace the Khosodam. With good reason, of course – Khasat Khosodam has no shortage of secrets, including an ability to control a person by implanting them with mystical blood.
Of course, Koil-Avesti will send their Justices and Koil-Ishtar will send their Confessors to determine the truth of things, but Khasat Khosodam remains one step ahead every time, striding toward its own goals one quiet stride after another.
Leadership: The Manang of Khosodam is an ancient crone named Paha, whose sillouette has ever been obscured by a screen and her features by a veil. Manang Paha is believed to be a Sorceress of immense power, especially in the art of Bloodcraft.
Accounts of her actual features vary wildly. Some say that she is a raven-tressed ageless beauty. Others claim her to be a balding hag with cracking skin. Her demeanor is also plagued with mystery and chaos. Those who declare that she is possessed of great mercy are matched only by those who whisper fearfully of her ruthlessness.
“A strong sword and a sturdy soul makes the Kshatriya worthy of the Goddess’ love” – From the first Vedas of Ishtari Myths.
Basic: A Household known for its unflinching honor and devotion, as well as its skill with steel.
Symbol: A black stag’s head, etched against bright steel.
History: Ivan Ironbreaker was the first Husband to Prophet Ashra and brother to Maeda. Svarok was his first son and inherited none of his Mother’s penchant of the Gift.
Despite the lack, Svarok was instrumental in the cleansing of the glassy tunnels beneath Ashragrad. He was tireless in his expeditions, purging beast and Demon from the tunnels until Ashragrad was safe from predation.
Afteward, Svarok took up the arts of his Father, smelting and smithing the bones of mountains as arms and tools for the Sunless Kingdom. His disciples and the children of his wife would become Khasat Svarok – the steel-bound soldiers of Kali-Ishtar.
Khasat Svarok would be the gauntleted right hand of the Prophet-Matriarch, second in power only to the Trinity Temple. Clad in hides of fur and steel, they aided Prophet Nesha in drawing nearby Free Tribes to the Ishtari way. It was Khasat Svarok that lit the great forge in Nuremgrad to Kali’s glory and Khasat Svarok that held the line against the Jotun giants.
The Hundred Heresies tested the Svarok to the limit of their strength however. In the end, Nuremgrad was yielded to the Insurrectionists and Khasat Svarok paid greatly so that their Ashurai and their main branch could escape.
In the end, Khasat Svarok avenged itself in full against the Insurrectionists; their steel-clad armies butchered Heretic and Demon with the support and command of the Ishtarian Heralds. They were the point of the Ashur-ashurai’s spear and through their skill, they took back all the cities that suffered under the weight of Heretic Rule.
Current: Rebuilding the vastness of their depleted armies is the main aim of Khasat Svarok. To that end, they offered membership to many Matriarchs who were displaced by the loss of their Khasat. There are even rumors that they have upjumped several Vashu and even Pariah to the status of Kshatriya in their desperation.
Indeed, the relationship between Vashu and Kshatriya is especially close among Khasat Svarok. While Kshatriya are expected to only dabble in craftsmanship (war and guardianship being their spiritual obligation), Svarok are especially adept in metalwork and alchemy. Their respectful treatment of Vashu only adds to their strength.
More than any Khasat, the Svarok are more open about trying new projects and formulas in Alchemy and Smithing. In Prophet Medeshka’s regime, they have established mercantile contact with the Stone Clans and the Iron Kingdom to the South. They have also began to move toward reclaiming the cities lost to the Ishtari during the Long Sleep.
Unfortunately, their activities have brought suspicion to the gates of their fortress holdings. The Trinity Temple, especially the Avestian Justices and the Ishtarian Confessors, are always on the look out for Heresy and Corruption. While the Ashur-ashurai grants this Khasat some leeway because of their ties to the Ishtarian Heralds and the Kalian Builders, there are those amidst the Church of Kali-Avesti-Ishtar that will cut out corruption at the slightest hint of it.
Leadership: Victorina Svarok is the Manang of her Household and a veteran of the Hundred Heresies. A woman in her 50s, she cuts her hair extremely short and is almost always wearing the signature metal armor of her Household. While she is married to the three greatest craftsmen of her Khasat, she herself lacks talent in artifice and craft.
Instead, Manang Victorina is an excellent tactician, able to guess at battlefield odds and manage battlefield units at precise levels. While she is affable outside of the field, she is a otherwise a consummate soldier, just as comfortable to fall asleep across her maps in the war room as she is in a bedroll on the field.
Despite her own soldierly devotion to her lessers, there are rumors that Manang Victorina herself is not as devoted as she should be to the Trinity Temple. The proposal to her first marriage was an unorthodox affair – a Vashu blacksmith asked for her hand and gave her a sword of masterful quality; Victorina immediately accepted.
This eye towards unusual thinking has served her well on the field. In the Hundred Heresies, Khasat Svarok has often triumphed where it should have lost and survived what should have wiped it out.
However, during peacetime in the Sunless Kingdom, Manang Victorina’s orthodoxy may well spell her end.
“A Gift unused is a Gift misused” – Ishtari proverb
Basic: A Household known for their devotion to Knowledge and the Magical Arts.
Symbol: A crown of green thorny vines with 13 thorns against a field of white.
History: During the era of Prophet Ashra, Maeda the Quiet Fallen brought thirteen barbarian tribes (and her thirteen husbands) into the Goddess’ faith. While many did not survive the First Crucible, these peoples would become the citizens of the Sunless Kingdom.
After Maeda’s death, her eldest daughter Zorya took the greatest Adepts, Witches and Sorcerers of the Ishtari under her wing. With their help, Zorya founded Ziy-mitra, the City of the Fallen Dragon, in the name of the Prophet and established Zorya.
Ziy-mitra was built near a place of great power and Khasat Zorya learned to harness that power for the greater glory of Kali-Ishtar. It is said that before the Hundred Heresies, the Magic-users of the Sunless Kingdom possessed power so great that the snow itself feared to tread near Zirya-zilya.
For all the wards and defenses of Zirya-zilya – it would fall to the Insurrectionists’ cunning and malice. Treachery allowed a few Heretics within the city and after slaughtering many of the greatest magic-users of Zorya, they bent the energies of Ziy-mitra to their will and using it to summon horrific Demons to their aid.
What remained of Khasat Zorya were slain, corrupted or went into self-imposed exile; their shame was nigh unbearable.
At the Ishtari’s direst time of need did Zorya return, with knowledge on how to defeat the wards that had twisted them from their city. After a single moon’s passing and with the help of the Khasat’s magics, the Trinity Temple retook Ziy-mitra and executed the heretics that dared take it from Kali-ishtar.
In the current era, the City of the Fallen Dragon remains in the hands of Khasat Zorya and under the watchful eyes of Avestian Binders.
Current: Even in these dire hours of reconstruction, Khasat Zorya still houses the strongest users of Magic among the Kshatriya. This Khasat is also the quickest to adopt Gifted Vashu and Pariah to their Household, drawing even those from the other cities when they can (to the chagrin of the other Khasats). Those that the Zorya take can only expect rigorous training and strict instruction in the Gift, as opposed to the easy living that they would expect from being uplifted from their Caste.
That said, only the Ashur-ashurai can match the breadth of instruction and magical schooling that the Zorya provides. Those of Khasat Zorya are well-versed in the histories of Kali-Ishtar, the philosophies of the Prophets and the ways of Magic. There are some that believe that Khasat Zorya possesses certain knowledges and lores that have been judged to be forbidden by Ashur-ashurai, foraged from the ruins left by the Insurrectionists or discovered by Zorya during their exile.
Certain members of Khasat Zorya have been awarded offices as emissaries and traders for the Sunless Kingdom; these Ishtari use their station to procure more lores regarding magic and Midworld for their Khasat… and their Kingdom.
Leadership: Zaryanna Zorya III is the leader of the Zorya and a powerful Witch. Although she was not instrumental in the month-long ritual that disarmed the defenses of Ziy-Mitra, it was her leadership that organized the Zorya and allowed them to discover the Heretics’ weaknesses.
Tattooed with dark whorls, Manang Zaryanna appears supernaturally young and her raven-locks have no trace of grey in them. Her youthful appearance belies her cunning and her menace. Her supremacy among the Zorya is born of fear as much as it is of heritage and respect; those in her Khasat that do not acquiesce to her dmands usually disappear, or if rumors are correct, become one of her magical experiments and/or sacrifices.
She is never seen without her husband-bodyguard, Damos, a darkly-clad Adept. Damos is her second husband (her first husband is dead) and though they are extremely close, she has yet to bear him any children.
“Be filled with the Goddess’ will and you shall have no knowledge of pain, of doubt or defeat” – Ishtarian Herald’s blessing
Basic: A pious Clan dedicated to the Ishtar-aspect and feared for its battle-crazed dervishes.
Symbol: A tusked Ganeshi skull with a single-half lidded eye.
History: Khasat Voloth hold that they were a people born amidst the shadows and darkness of the Sunless Wastes, even before the coming of the Prophet. The Volothai were one of a dozen tribes that eked a life amidst taiga and tundra, scaling mountain peak and delving caverns deep.
Then came the word of the Prophet to the Sunless Wastes and one such tribe were drawn to the Goddess’ temple. Legend speaks of Volos, their leader, who crept through the shadows of the camp to kneel prostrate before Prophet Ashra and offer himself and his people to the Goddess. While the Voloth kept their wild ways for many a generation, they forsook sin and corruption, becoming one of the Goddess’ most zealous servants.
The Hundred Heresies dealt a savage blow to them, costing them the City of the Molten River, Marz-yanna, and forcing them unto the deadly wastelands of the Sunless Kingdom. However, the Voloth retained their ancestral tenacity through the centuries and managed to fight a guerilla war against the Insurrection for several generations.
When Prophet Medeshka led the armies of the Sunless Kingdom against the Insurrectionists, it was Khasat Voloth that stung the rebel’s flanks and cut their supply lines.
Eventually, Prophet Medeshka returned Marz-yanna to Khasat Voloth and the Volothai renewed their vows of service to the Goddess and her Trinity Temple.
Current: Of all the Ishtari, Khasat Voloth look the most like wild folk. Their fur-coats are thick and their distinctive fur hats and skull helms mark their wearers as Volothai.
These Kshatriya are more often found ranging the tundra around Marz-yanna than lounging in the city. Of all the Kshatriya, the Volothai prize their ganeshi and their other animals the most – it was through the aid of these beasts that Khasat Voloth managed to survive the Hundred Heresies.
The rebuilding of Marz-yanna is an important task for Khasat Voloth, but it is not considered a priority of the Household’s leader. The Volothai are more interested in rebuilding their numbers and consolidating their power – the better to serve the Trinity Temple and the Ashur-Ashurai.
Due to their connection with the shadowed wildernesses of Kali-Ishtar, more Witches and Adepts spawn from this Household than any other, even Zorya. Still, most Volothai cleave to the edicts and commandments of the Trinity Temple than their own savage roots.
Leadership: Aruna II is the Manang of Khasat Voloth. A tall warrior-woman descended from the wasteland tribes, Manang Aruna II is beloved by her Household as a font of piety and as a figure of strength – she has never been defeated in battle say the stories and her dozens of tattoos tell of her greatest triumphs.
Despite her renown and her popularity, few are aware of the dark secret she holds within her soul: she believes that she can speak to the Goddess. Naturally, Manang Aruna II tells almost no one of this connection – after all, only the Prophet-Matriarch can claim close communion with Kali-Avesti-Ishtar.
Still, most of her Household considers her penchant for prayer to be normal and her tendency to talk to herself a matter to be endured. Aruna, on the other hand, believes that she has been personally chosen for a great destiny by the Goddess. Hence, her fearlessness in battle and her willingness to perform any feat or deed for the Trinity Temple.
Of course, the question arises: what if the Goddess tells Aruna to act against the Prophet-Matriarch… it is a question that Aruna has yet to truly deliberate and perhaps the only vision she fears.
Zahr-Morosh, The Apostates
Accursed are the Blasphemer, the Heretic and the Apostate — for these are denied the light of the Goddess in all forms, condemned to naught but suffering and lamentation eternal.
Basic: Remnants of the Hundred Heresies and the whispers of dissent against the Theocratic Matriarchy.
Symbol: A scarlet-filigreed scarab of onyx, a black hydra with red eyes and a dozen heads or a six-fingered claw with a red rune burned into it. The Morosh use different symbols to obscure their unity.
History: The Trinity Temple believes that the Hundred Heresies are over, that the threat of Insurrection has passed.
They are wrong.
Amidst the Shadows and the Whispers of the Sunless Kingdom are those downtrodden that seek their due, the vengeful that seek their justice and the hungry that seek supremacy.
They are the Zahr-Morosh, the Apostates, the head and the body of the Ishtari’s greatest enemy. Centuries of vigilance have availed the Sunless Kingdom nothing and the Insurrectionists’ defeat is far from complete.
Current: The Zahr-Morosh occupy the shadows of the Ishtari Kingdom, walking in the spaces between whispers and discord. There are over a hundred cells, each answering to leaders, who answer to other leaders, who answer to the Zhar.
Most cells do not even call themselves Morosh, styling themselves as revolutionaries, Insurrectionists or even outlaws. Only a few elite cells recognize themselves as Morosh and these nomadic groups engage in plots and conspiracies so labyrinthine that the Trinity Temple has yet to know of the Zahr-Morosh, even in name.
Where the Morosh strike, chaos ensues: knowledge and magics are stolen, order and organization are befouled, and after it all, the Trinity Temple is none the wiser. Certainly, the Justices and Confessors catch the “offenders” and they retrieve the “stolen items”. But the Morosh are far and away, obfuscating their trail.
Perhaps the greatest threat to the Morosh are Khasat Khosodam, who have shown signs of awareness. Thus, the Apostates have begun a shadow-war with the Kshatriya Household, attempting to infiltrate it to the best of their ability – thus far, their efforts have borne poor fruit.
Of course, the Apostates know that the time of stealth will eventually pass. Thus, they are slow to move, content to accomplish their goals by the year instead of by the month.
Leadership: The Zahr-Morosh are ruled by the eponymous Zahr, whose very existence eludes all but the elite and the greatest of the Morosh. Indeed, only the Zahr’s knives (the Zahr-Katar) interact with the leader of the Apostates; they deliver his direction to the rest of the Morosh.
The Zahr-Katar are the following:
The Limper – known only by his awkward gait, the Limper is said to be a powerful Necromancer, stitched together from death a dozen times. This Zahr-Katar and his agents engage in attacks against the outskirts of the Sunless Kingdom, laying the blame on Jotunbrud, elementals or Demons. When his personal targets cross Nesha’s Web, he is often waiting at the crossroads among an army of death.
The Murmur – The Murmur is almost never seen, but heard. Her agents burrow deep into the structures of Ishtari society and deliver their reports to her through whispers and prayer. When they strike, they are as quiet as a rush of silk and leave mindless ragdolls in their wake. Their attacks are often blamed on rogue Umbral Parasites or Demons.
The Smiler – The Smiler is said to walk among the Vashu and Pariah of the Ishtari, recognized only by his grotesque, blood-splattered smile. His typical methodology is to incite discord and strife. Uprisings in Kali-Ishtari are typically short affairs, thanks to the ruthlessness and efficiency of the Trinity Temple. However, the Smiler uses these distractions to accomplish the Zahr’s goals through assassination, arson or theft. The Trinity Temple is aware of the Smiler’s existence, but they believe him to be an outlaw Diabolist or rogue Demon with a personal agenda.