Category: Tertia Worldbuilding

The Cults of Tertia – The Risen of the Ashtomb

Back in the earliest of known days, before Magia began to appear and the old gods established their rule, the people of Tertia believed in an entity known as the Hope. A formless figure of light and guidance whose followers lived based on philosophies of illumination. The believers of the Hope were so enamored with the light that they thought it a sin to remain in dark places for long period of time. Over the centuries, as gods both old and true made themselves known, this belief in the Hope dwindled to a flicker. The old gods even specifically targeted the religion of the Hope and purposely acted to bury it and make it forgotten. Now, there are people who don’t know that the religion existed at all.

Despite that history, centuries of attempted suppression from powerful entities, the Hope still has followers. Those who have stalwartly held on to the way of light for generations, never allowing themselves to stray from their guided path. These remnant believers think that their loyalty will be rewarded with eternal clarity in death, access to the absolute truth of all that exists. In recent years, belief in the Hope has flared up once more due to the appearance of a figure by the name Aphen. One who claims himself to be the physical incarnation of the Hope, come to prove that the true gods were merely another group set on leading mortals away from the light.

There is only one place in the world that still has a notable Hope following; the Crobayoran country named Tahtim. The only place on Tertia where one can still find religious buildings of the Hope that are frequently used and aren’t ruins. For the dedication shown by the Tahtians, Aphen blessed an island off the country’s cost to always have light shone upon it. There is one thing to keep in mind when speaking of light, however; all light casts a shadow. For this great light that they have been blessed with, the Hope-blinded Tahtians hide an equally deep darkness. It should come as no surprise, after all it takes some amount of insanity to stare into the light and wait for hope for so long only for it to never come.

This darkness comes in the form of the Blackout Prisons, a series of underground jails hidden beneath Tahtim’s surface. This is where the Tahtians send those who sin against the Hope or disrespect its avatar. Their name comes from the fact that natural light will never reach the prisons. The sinners are kept there so that their darkness will never make the light dim. They won’t drag anyone down with them, away from the path set by the light. Prisoners are kept from escaping through the use of a ritual made to be the ultimate punishment for those who go against the Hope. One which applies a curse known as Vampirism, which forces the body of a Magia to adapt to the dark to such an extreme extent that exposure to light will burn them alive.

The Risen of the Ashtomb are a group that managed to escape the prison nonetheless and now live as beings bound to the night. The Despairing, Vampires; they are known by many names to the Tahtians and all of them are spat with disgust. As of current, the Risen of the Ashtomb have not left the borders of Tahtim. They have no intention of running, while they are beings of darkness their goals are not shrouded. They exist to slight the believers of the Hope and tear down the ones who consigned them. While a small group, they intend to incite a civil war within Tahtim, one that will finally erase belief in the Hope once and for all.

PACT DEALER – LOTHAIRE SILVANA

Lothaire Silvana was among those consigned to the blackout prisons, specifically she was locked up in a place known as the Ashtomb. She was a talented sorceress within the coven of Hopeful before her imprisonment, tasked with uncovering new ways of communicating with and wielding the Hope’s light. Along the way she realized the futility of her task since no such being existed from which to draw light from, so she busied herself with crafting new forms of magic instead. Every once in a while she would put forward various light magics to maintain the Hopefuls’ faith in her but eventually her trickery was uncovered. Her methods were seen as attempts to turn the people away from the Hope and she was consigned to the prisons for her ‘evil’.

Yet, this would not be the end of Lothaire’s experimentation. Being afflicted by vampirism only gave her something new to work on, a project based within her own body. She discover that, while the curse was nigh-impossible to dispel, she could still alter its effects to some extent. She used this knowledge to make the curse more than just a forced adaptation to the dark, turning it into an empowering spell triggered by the lack of light. She applied the same modification to the other prisoners who were also afflicted with the curse and together they made the only recorded escape from the blackout prisons in history. It wasn’t difficult once they were out of their cells, the Tahtians wouldn’t follow them into the night.

Those survivors of the Ashtomb came to refer to themselves as the Risen, returned from the mass burial they were consigned to. None among them were willing to forgive the Hope followers who imprisoned them on the basis of a vague belief. They wanted revenge and Lothaire concocted the perfect punishment through another adaption to the curse of vampirism. A method of spreading it without the use of the original ritual. She made it such that any carriers of vampirism could afflict others with it by infusing their own bodily fluids with their target’s blood. The intent was to deal ironic punishment to the followers of the Hope, consigning them to the endless sin that they punished the Risen for.

Since then, Lothaire has further built upon the curse to give it more beneficial effects for the Risen. While not a traditional pact in the sense of its application, vampirism became the sign of a pact with Lothaire. It now allows the afflicted to mold blood and flesh as well as alter their own forms into insubstantial darkness. With each new benefit added to the curse, the Risen come ever closer to becoming strong enough to tear down the Hopeful. The notoriety of this small yet powerful group has even taken the Risen’s name beyond the borders of Tahtim. There are even those who now seek out the Risen in hopes of attaining the power that comes with being a vampire.

NOTABLE MEMBERS

DISGRACED BELIEVER – KAVITA EZEKIEL

Another of the former prisoners of the Ashtomb, Kavita was once a respected priest among the zealots of the Hope. Highly ranked among her peers; she was involved in rituals to summon holy figures of the Hope, pilgrimages to places blessed by the light and she held a seat in the council who decided how sinners should be punished. She believed the Hope and its light to be representative of the happiness people found in the world that kept them moving forward. To her, sinners were people who took the happiness away from the world and who would only drag people down with them if they were left without judgement. Kavita was a model believer until Aphen became part of the belief.

Kavita’s belief in the Hope was wholly based on its worldly significance, non-physical aspects which helped her to understand and define the world around her. The fact that it had no physical form was a huge part of her personal belief, thus when Aphen came claiming to be a manifestation of the Hope she rejected him. Despite her debating against her fellow believers in the council, Aphen established his place within the belief through the dealing of pacts and his gift of the isle of light. A true place of pilgrimage whereas any locations previous were only temporary. Kavita continued to push against Aphen’s influence, leading her to be branded a sinner and thrown into the Ashtomb.

Kavita was disgraced in the deepest possible way, surrounded by people that she had consigned to the same fate as part of the council of punishment. Though it was hard to make out faces in the dark of the blackout prisons, the other captives quickly picked up on who she was. The prisons were already unclean, all stains hidden in shroud, and Kavita was spat on and disrespected on top of that. She held on to her belief in the Hope regardless but having to face punishment herself made that faith wane. She realized that she had been blinded by the light, to the point of not seeing just how insane the measures practiced in the prisons were. She made attempts to confess to the other prisoners but few bothered to hear her, in eternal confinement the words were already too late.

When Lothaire took advantage of the curse of vampirism and began to plan the escape from the Ashtomb, there were voices which told her to leave Kavita behind. However, Lothaire was among the few who chose to hear Kavita’s confessions and saw leaving her there as an act of hypocrisy. They had committed to a life of spite but Lothaire still refused to stoop to the level of the believers above. Kavita was rescued alongside the other prisoners and became a part of the cult. The other Risen continued to hold little respect for her but Kavita had come to realize that finding forgiveness would not be so easy as just giving a prayer.

Despite everything, Kavita does not agree with the Risen’s greater goal of condemning the other believers of the Hope. Though the Hopeful were radical, though they had been blinded by the light, Kavita knew them as a community of well-intentioned people. They loved the people around them and just wanted to see a world blessed with happiness and peace, no matter what they must lose along the way. They acted not from a place of malice, just from an ignorance that had been built up for generations. Kavita remains with the Risen nonetheless for one reason. To become powerful enough to mount an attack against Aphen himself and kill the one who ruined her faith. Then, she will return to the Hopeful and dedicate herself to leading them towards redemption.

CURSE COLLECTOR – BRIDGET IONE

A wayward traveler who was actually a part of the following footfalls before taking on Lothaire’s pact. Bridget is one of the rare few among the risen who joined the group rather than being a part of it initially. She was a friend of Lothaire’s before the sorceress was locked up in the blackout prisons, the two having first met when Bridget came to Tahtim in search of knowledge regarding Aberration. Extraordinary entities born from the will of a collective consciousness, practically non-existent on Tertia bar the abnormal amount which had supposedly been summoned by believers of the Hope.

Bridget is a person with a particular interest in mythical and unusual entities. Stories of Demons and monster never scared her, instead they excited her and made her want to go out and meet them. A fearless individual to a fault, willing to go absolutely anywhere to discover more of the world’s oddities. Tahtim was just another stop for her and coming across Lothaire was mere coincidence as she was also studying Aberration at the time. Lothaire had already dismissed the Hope as an entity by this point but still posed as a believer for various reasons. Getting closer to the elusive Aberration was one of them.

Lothaire shared the information she’d uncovered with Bridget and they collaborated in their venture to find out more. They became close friends as Lothaire taught Bridget about the various magics and curses she’d had to keep hidden from those around her and Bridget told Lothaire stories of the wide world beyond Tahtim. Of course, the two did more than just have sleepovers and talk, going so far as as to sneak into one of Tahtim’s great cathedrals and spy in on an Aberration communication ritual. That event in particular was enough to sate Bridget, who simply wanted to see an Aberration, and decided she would move on to the next rare sight in her life. She offered to bring Lothaire along but there was still much for the sorceress to do, so they parted ways.

Bridget developed something of an obsession with curses after being taught about them. She continued to search for mythical entities but along the way she managed to get herself afflicted with various curses and bodily transformation. She went to Kanotia, met the hermetic dragons and became a Skaal. She let herself be caught by various cults in Pradas and somehow ended up with lycanthropy. She was becoming a mythical creature in her own right. She had fun experiencing the various effects but eventually summoned the common sense to realize that she would destroy her body if this continued. To avoid any long term adverse effects, she set out to meet with her favorite expert in the matter.

When she returned to Tahtim, she found that Lothaire had been afflicted with a curse of her own. Lothaire did not recognize her friend at first and gave her a scolding for how she’d been treating her body. Curses were no laughing matter, Bridget was lucky that Lothaire had been practicing the alteration of them. Using her expertise, the sorceress managed to collect all of the curses afflicting Bridget into a single one; Amalgopy. Amalgopy had the intended effect of enforcing a ‘normalized’ state within the body of the afflicted, drawing in other curses and preventing forced alteration effects such as mutations and deterioration. It could also nullify lesser curses completely.

Bridget’s body settled into a lycanthropic Skaal state, preventing the risk of a sudden, fatal transformation. By all accounts she should have suffered a lethal effect or become a Head long before the point of Lothaire’s intervention, her survival came down to sheer luck. Still, clearly having not learned her lesson, Bridget also wanted to be afflicted by Lothaire’s vampirism. While Lothaire really didn’t want to, it was a chance to actually test the new transferal method of the curse. She did so and Bridget became a vampire on top of everything else, also making her a Risen by extension. Other members of the group weren’t particularly accepting of her since she hadn’t suffered as they had but she didn’t plan to stick around long anyways.

Staying in one place just isn’t Bridget’s style. Another curse under her belt and now with amalgopy as a preventative measure, Bridget set out to find the next unusual event in her life. Though, she now also has more reasons behind her quest. She feels that she owes Lothaire a lot and fully intends to pay her back by showing her the world some day. Before then, though, she wants to find ways of aiding Lothaire and the Risen in their stand against the Hope. Going against the Hopeful is dangerous even for them, especially with a figure like Aphen behind them. Bridget wants to help them win, but more than that she just wants them to survive and see a future past the darkness.

ANTI-HOPE ABERRATION – LAFAYETTE

Apart from Aphen, the greatest threat presented by the Hopeful comes in the form of their Aberration. Entities manifested from their belief in the forms of holy figures from the texts regarding the Hope. They bare the power of supposed saints and saviors and, while the truth of their origin may be called into question, this strength is certainly real. However, thanks to a certain traveler, Lothaire managed to learn a thing or two about these Aberration. Once she and the other Risen escaped the Ashtomb, she made it one of her projects to emulate the summoning ritual she saw practiced in that grand cathedral. It took some time to get right due to the complicated nature of Aberration but Lothaire is not one to accept failure.

Lafayette was born from Lothaire’s efforts as an antithesis to the beliefs of the Hopeful. A manifestation of the collective spite which drives the Risen of the Ashtomb, an entity who exists solely to snuff out the light of the Hope. The ultimate countermeasure to the Aberration summoned by the Hopeful who exists to hunt them down and drag them into dark. Though Lafayette is an Aberration, she bears the essence of vampirism, though its effects are taken to the extreme. She can afflict vampirism with as little as a touch and has tremendously powerful darkness manipulation. However, her strength is also her greatest weakness. As a being of such dark and spite, she would be erased if exposed to a more powerful light, therefore the Risen must be careful in how they employ her strength.

HIGHEST ACTIVITY AREAS

The Risen are currently only active in Tahtim until their grudge is settled. However, due to the ability to spread the curse of vampirism, it is almost certain that the group’s influence will go beyond the small country in time. Especially with figures like Bridget roaming around.