Keratitis, also known as the cult of the Realm Star, is the most infamous and reviled cult known to the people of Tertia. They’re akin to a plague from which no land is safe, if one digs deep enough into the dark cracks of a nation the members of this cult will be waiting. The most harmless of them are little more than mad doomsayers who loudly babble about the inevitable end of the universe. The rest are selfish anarchists, intent only on sating insane desires before the world is gone. Their minds are infected and their morals suppressed, they’ll kill, rape and steal without inhibition or regret. When they gather, they’re likely to have orgies before turning their killing intent on each other. Even the most orderly of them dedicate themselves to the summoning of the Realm Star’s emissary through rituals of uncertain effectiveness. Kidnaps and sacrifices made upon abstract magic circles, performed just so the cultists can feel as if they’re influencing what’s to come. These are among the most dangerous people in the world, not in power but in their unhinged nature.
Pact Dealer – The Realm Star
The source of Keratitis’ power and an entity whose influence spreads far beyond just Tertia. No world in the mortal plane is safe from the Realm Star’s whispers, a voice in the mind which burns more the longer it stays. Those contacted by the Realm Star have their minds overwhelmed by the incomprehensible scale of the universe, followed by that very universe’s destruction. Their thoughts are seared until they consider the universe’s end an inevitability and any level of selflessness is lost soon after. Though they cannot grasp the form of the Realm Star, they believe its suggestions of limitless destruction. Its aim is to consume all and those it infects become the meals that hold it over.
In truth, the Realm Star is a living supernova who considers its scorching spread a form of consumption. It consumes the magic of the worlds it swallows and attains further power and intelligence. Its growth was rapid and upon its gaining conscious it rapidly devoured the solar system around it. The god of gateways, Selech, took notice of the Realm Star’s existence and foresaw desolation that would be difficult to undo if left unchecked. Yet, the gods limit the influence they have on the mortal realm. If they simply stop every major threat that appears then they believe that mortals will never grow to overcome them. In fact, races already existed that could challenge the Realm Star, it was the speed of its spread that made cause for alarm.
Thus, Selech did not destroy the Realm Star and instead opted to seal it in a separate plane. A place where it could not consume nor grow but could find ways to challenge the mortal realm. As Selech predicted, the Realm Star used its intelligence to create an emissary capable of traveling between planes. This emissary took the form of three-tailed serpentine creature, its insides a gateway to the Realm Star. Its task was to consume in the Realm Star’s stead to enable its further learning and growth. It succeeded for a time but was shockingly captured by mortals for a time, spurring the Realm Star to try something new.
Through the growth it had achieved through its emissary, it managed to create the concept of pact dealing on its own. However, its idea of pact dealing was not traditional in the sense that it forced mortals to make pacts with it. It burned away at the minds of those it contacted and forced its abilities into them. When these mortals inevitably died due to a compulsion of recklessness, the gifted abilities as well as the mortal’s own power returned to the star. In essence, they had been devoured. The Realm Star’s strength and influence rapidly grows and to make matters worse its emissary has been freed from mortal clutches. It may soon curse the mortal plane with its presence once more and Tertia is at threat of being one of the first consumed.
The Emissary – Bal’noma
The hungering creature that consumed Falme, though Tertia was fortunate that it did not take more. Bal’noma was created to be nothing more than a gullet, an detached throat through which the Realm Star could consume. However, this creature became something more, it grew its own consciousness and with it its own questions. It became an inquisitive being, wondering why its purpose bore such importance. It existed for a very particular reason, yet that reason would come at the cost of the purposes of others. It still consumed, for the Realm Star forged Bal’noma to bear an eternal hunger, yet it did not do so with utmost efficiency.
Bal’noma has the capacity to destroy worlds effortlessly, at its maximum size it could swallow even the largest planets without issue. Oddly enough, though, it instead chooses to shrink itself down and survey worlds before it consumes them. It meets the world’s residents, most commonly to a fearful and violent response, to question why it is that they exist. When they fight against Bal’noma’s hunger, it asks them for what purpose do they struggle. If it was given an answer that satisfied it, it would devour only a fraction of the world and leave the rest. Such worlds are not safe, they are left in fear as Bal’noma promises to return to size up their justification for existing again.
Such is what happened to Tertia when Bal’noma came to the world. The old gods used their combined power to push back against the extra-planar creature but they were hideously outmatched. Still, they continued to fight as Bal’noma monitored their efforts. When the old gods finally tired, Bal’noma asked them why it was that they struggled. Nelaime claimed it was to protect the people of the world who could not fight themselves. To avert a situation in which their lives were unfairly taken through matters that were beyond them. Bal’noma questioned what was unfair about it, for the creature believed the fulfillment of its own purpose to be natural. In its mind, the mortals that were to be consumed should accept that their own true purpose is to be eaten.
Mthunzi stepped in and questioned Bal’noma as to why it believed its own existence to be above that of those it consumes. Mthunzi managed to talk down the creature through philosophies of all life being equal, regardless of the innate power they hold. He used Nelaime’s example to show that they, beings who were above the ones they protected, did not feel entitled to overshadow their existences. Bal’noma was left to ponder whether or not the purposes of lesser beings held such value. It wondered if existence would be better if it could achieve its goal while others did as well. Left with these questions, Bal’noma decided to leave Tertia for the time being. It promised to return once the old gods had helped the lesser beings with their purposes. It intended to decide if the results proved that their purposes held worth. Then, it would finish what it started.
Bal’noma was captured by a particularly advanced mortal society to play in a game for a short time. However, it has since managed to escape these confines and has returned to its eating venture. A lot of time has passed since it gave Tertia a warning, it might be soon that it decides they’ve been given enough.
High Matriarch – Itha Mordigan
Despite being so wide spread, Keratitis has very few figures who take on leading roles. Leadership and hierarchies imply that those higher up have some control over the ones below, thus their freedom is in some way limited. This goes against the Keratitis mentality of just doing whatever their whims tell them, though there are those who prefer to be given direction. These aimless sorts gather around more powerful members of the cults, using their bodies to fulfill the wants of those they choose. Even if that means becoming a sex slave or a meat bag for testing how fast a knife can kill someone. If not willing to go that far, then the aimless members will follow the lead of their chosen figure at least.
Yet, even within this cult there is one who all Keratitis members respect. The one who can truly do anything she wishes with no risk of being captured or killed. A woman who knows no fear nor consequences, wearing the body of an unscarred goddess. Itha Mordigan, the most feared criminal in the world. So confident and powerful that she makes no effort to hide her activities in the daylight. Even in Vasara, she feels no threat even when the Serikaat’s judges loom. Her reputation holds such weight that local authorities won’t even attempt to stop her out of fear of becoming her next targets. She takes what she wants, kills who she feels like and makes dolls of the ones she finds attractive. One of her most well-known incursions saw her devour the flesh off of a still-living Virtue to try and “taste the gods”.
The story of who Itha was before joining Keratitis’ number is unknown and inconsequential. The people in Keratitis aren’t who they were before the Realm Star entered their minds. She just so happens to be the one who achieved the greatest affinity with the living supernova. She is able to retain her composed smugness not because of her own ability but because she knows the Realm Star can’t be stopped. If the people of Tertia aren’t able to do anything about her then they have no chance to sway the path leading towards the world’s end.
End Teller – Seirba Hizlari
Given the scarceness of leading figures within Keratitis, End Tellers essentially fill in the void that is left. These are the ones who claim to be able to hear the voice of the Realm Star most clearly, the sorts who direct rituals and the like. End tellers gather Keratitis members who want to leave some kind of mark, though there is only one mark to leave. The end of the world is inevitable and when it comes there will be nothing left. The only way for their lives to matter is to aid in that apocalypse, thus becoming a part of it. Otherwise, end tellers tend to be more vocal members of Keratitis, opting to holler about the armageddon they beget rather than just acting to their other instincts.
Seriba Hizlari is a well-known end teller who leads a Keratitis group in Saraho. Of Crobayoris’ countries, Saraho is particularly noted as having problems with the activities of Keratitis. It’s well known that the Sarans built their culture from taking what they liked from surrounding nations. It’s history and any pride the Sarans have in it lead to a mentality that cultivates selfishness. Due to this, those involved with Keratitis can get away with a lot more in Saraho than they would be able to elsewhere. While Saraho’s military is known for its might, its authorities are lacking. Perhaps not in ability but in morals. Saran authorities can easily be paid to look the other way when something questionable is happening. Gangs and cults find comfortable places in Saraho for this reason.
Seirba was actually a gang member before being afflicted by the Realm Star but that past doesn’t matter any more. As a Keratitis member, she built up a nasty reputation when she killed and raped several members of her old gang before abandoning them. The remaining gang members put several hits out for her but she survived any assassination attempts thanks to the powers she gained from her pact dealer. Hitmen became too fearful of her to try taking her down as she devolved down the path of an end teller. She leads a fairly sizable number of Keratitis members and regularly mounts excursions into Saran cities which have led to special countermeasures being taken just for her appearance. Among flames and wreckage, she preaches sermons of how the world will soon crumble in its entirety. She awaits the day the emissary comes so that she can give herself to the Realm Star directly.
Highest Activity Areas
Keratitis members can be found anywhere, from the richest areas in Vasara to the darkest cracks of Crobayoris. Vasara is the place where most of them can be found simply due to the quality of living there. The food is good, there’s no shortage of attractive folks to target and it’s the best place in the world to cultivate magic. The people of Vasara are also particularly fearful and hesitate to strike back seeing as it’s Itha’s stomping ground. This theme of Keratitis members gathering in places with high quality of living is consistent the world over, though. Several Crobayoran countries such as Hasitott, Casc, Saraho and Knuse are known to have gatherings of Realm Star cultists leeching off of their societies. They truly are a plague, one which wants only the best for itself.