Serpent

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Serpent's Fall

Serpent is a once-powerful deity, a force of unity, balance, creation and destruction, dividing the nothing from what is. It was imprisoned in the Arch during the human conquest of Diablotin, as a consequence of its weakening power after the upheaval that brought the Seven Gods into power. It was known across nations and on other planes - the shadar-kai called it Vrag, the early people of Aveyrone called it Ophion, in Plascencial it was known as Nashash, "he who solves secrets". It remained imprisoned in the Arch for many centuries, able to affect people who passed through it but otherwise exercising very limited power at most.

Serpent's closest servants, or possibly other aspects of itself, were Emkathon, the Mother of Mercy, and Kavreshar, the Father of Justice. After Serpent's fall, Emkathon and Kavreshar were both forced to take up residence on the material plane. Emkathon, preserving some of the Serpent's blood in a sacred vessel called the Phereia, brought it to the leader of the Wolf tribe, Laeken, and offered him a bargain. She would protect the city and bear him a child, which would bear this blood within it, and in its descendants - the Truebloods (and by now, much of the nobility of House Wolf, one presumes).

Kavreshar, meanwhile, enraged by this turn of events, became an avatar of vengeance, and worked to bring down the Empire and those who were responsible. He was imprisoned in a necklace, but later (inadvertently?) released during the coronation of Marl Kizer, taking on the form of a hellfire wyrm.

Serpent's Reformation

Phedre Lozada-Boyne, through her scholarly studies and extraplanar explorations, had became fascinated by the Serpent, and founded the Covenant of the Serpent Reborn (and the Order of the Black Down as a cover organization and recruiting ground) in order to attempt to restore it to power. The Covenant, with the help of Theron Rademacher, Thea Vermillion, Yanina Trueblood, and Ilphère deQuessenet (all Trueblood descendants), restored the Phereia during a ritual, and later returned it to Emkathon, after she was freed from her long watch over the city. Emkathon revealed that it was necessary for Serpent to be restored, in order that new souls could be created for the cycle of rebirth.

Reunited, Emkathon and Kavreshar restored the severed Arch, which blended its black and white halves into a mottled grey, and then disappeared into the Arch together, seemingly healed of their grief and anger. Their actions were able to restore the Serpent, which manifested briefly through the body of Martan Olivier before passing through the Arch as well.

Since that time, priests of Serpent have been able to manifest clerical powers, both on the Shadow Plane and here. Although Phedre was executed for her role in the (voluntary?) sacrifices of Butler Belden and Theonée Deverara, others took her place. The church of Serpent is divided, with some still following the darker path of the Order, while others choose the more balanced approach advocated by Sirris, an ancient servant of the Serpent from Am. The shadar-kai followers of Serpent represent yet another tradition.

Sirris's Temple of Serpent

Sirris is the leader of a small but growing body of human worshippers of Serpent. They have been active in Diablotin for about seven years, and their headquarters is a modest building in Rhenea. Although they don't tend to proselytize, they nevertheless attract about fifty to a hundred people to each ceremony. Some of those come out of curiosity, or having heard that the faith of Serpent involves sex, but a few of those who begin attending out of some prurient interest end up staying, and so the congregation is gradually increasing. Sirris has also trained several other priests from various walks of life.

A typical ceremony does not in fact involve a huge drug-addled orgy, but rather the priest gives a lesson and engages the worshipers in guided meditation focused on that topic, directing them into a trance-like state with the help of incense and music and encouraging them on the path to balance and enlightenment. The devout will also practice these methods on their own or in small groups between organized services. While carefully-directed sexual energy or the consumption of drugs are recognized as other ways of working towards enlightenment, this is something that normally only more advanced practitioners will engage in, under experienced guidance. Some practitioners find they will experience strange visions during such altered states, and these are considered important and significant, if often in need of interpretation.

Sirris's tradition is purely an oral one, as there are no texts surviving from Am - however, contact with the Shadar-kai Serpent worshipers has provided them with access to those written texts. One of Sirris's goals, as yet unrealized, is to gain the right to access the Arch as part of the church's rituals.

Using the language of Am, priests of this tradition are called "arad", meaning "servant".

Known Members

Shadar-Kai Serpent Worship

The tradition of Shadar-kai Serpent worship is long and unbroken, although for many years it was also a troubled and persecuted faith. Following the severing of the Shadow Plane from any divine influence by the damaging of the Well of Stars, the priests of Vrag lost their powers, and had already lost the faith of many of the plane's inhabitants, who felt a mistrust for divine meddling at best, and an active hatred at worst. With the remnants of their flocks, they withdrew to isolated areas, including the underground complex of Hlintarn, among others. There they continued to venerate their god, hoping that eventually it would return to them.

Some less scrupulous priests, in order to maintain the respect of their faithful over many centuries without manifesting divine favour, forged agreements with other powers - whether arcane, demonic, or from some other poorly-understood extraplanar source. This strain of influence is still found in the church, although many of its members would prefer to hush it up if possible.

The faith of Serpent's rebirth began when Bessa du Champe fully destroyed the Well of Stars, permitting it to reappear elsewhere on the plane, restoring the stars to the sky, and permitting the gods to affect the Shadow Plane once more. The new location of the Well has yet to be ascertained, however, as it could be anywhere on the Plane, and it resists divination efforts. Nevertheless full of a renewed vigour, some priests loudly proclaimed their newfound power and emerged from hiding, only to be met with attempts from the Shadar-kai government to suppress them once more. As a result, a number of Vrag-worshipping Shadar-kai made the journey to Diablotin, joining together there to found a more secure church that would be less vulnerable to official condemnation.

The primary Shadar-kai temple in Diablotin is located in The Shade, and has been there for some twenty years or so. As a result of its long years in hiding, and a certain lack of trust of the humans in the city, it tends to be a fairly private and secretive religion, although there are increasing contacts with the Serpent church as run by Sirris. Relatively few humans are permitted to join in ceremonies there, though some have earned the privilege.

Shadar-kai worship of Serpent has some differences from the faith as it is taught by Sirris. There is a tradition of asceticism and monasticism that is not as emphasized in the human version of the faith, for instance. Denial of frivolous desires and control of the body (physical as well as emotional and spiritual) are viewed as noble goals, if not ones that are easily attainable by all followers. They also view the idea of having a single prominent leader, such as Sirris, as potentially vulnerable to abuse or, more darkly, extermination. They have certain traditions of physical development (breathing, stretching, ritualized combat) that are not present in the human sect. Moreover, it is a more esoteric and text-based faith, as its members have managed to preserve (albeit sometimes in fragmented form) various sacred writings from ancient times, which they guard carefully.

A typical Shadar-kai ceremony involves song, movement (which could be described as stretching exercises, dance, or something blending the two) and the consumption of the sacred drink, bhaell, which is made by a secret method from the venom of a particular snake native to the Shadow Plane, and mixed with honey to make it more palatable. This can act as an hallucinogen when consumed in the right dosage. If there were large amounts of it available, and if the Shadar-kai were inclined to sell it, it would probably be made illegal just as Onyx has, but so far it hasn't caused enough problems to attract the attention of the Aveyronnais authorities. While thus intoxicated, participants may achieve altered states of consciousness, experience visions, channel messages from the divine, or produce a build-up of spiritual energy which is then released through acts of sex and/or violence, forces which the faithful try to control in other circumstances but find benefit in channeling here. Thus it is both a more cerebral faith and a more brutal one than the moderate, balanced path that Sirris preaches.

In Shadar-kai, priests of Vrag are referred to as "mi'ir", meaning "Enlightened".

Known Members

The Covenant of the Serpent

This secretive and mysterious organization was founded by Phedre Lozada-Boyne, and its initial membership included her then-husband Earric, Butler Belden, Bessa du Champe, Esmena vak Andras, and a handful of others. Their goal was to find a way to restore Serpent to its former power. Phedre also ran a more public cult, The Order of the Black Down, which served as both a front and a recruiting ground for the more serious organization. Later Sanadhìl Órecalo, Ilphère deQuessenet, Yanina Trueblood, and Theron Rademacher also became involved in the inner circle of the group, and were instrumental in furthering its goals via historical research, blood magic, and other rituals.

Phedre and Earric separated after he became involved with Sanadhìl, and she was ultimately arrested, tried, and executed for her role in the deaths of Butler Belden and Theonée Deverara. The Covenant remains quietly active, however, now under the direction of Phedre's younger daughter Viviane vak Andras and her husband Loric vak Andras. What precisely their membership and goals are now is not well-known, although dark rumours suggest the group's penchant for blood magic and sacrifice has not diminished.

Domains (Fate and Time)

Fate
Granted powers:
1st: Gain Uncanny Dodge. Add your Cleric levels to those of other classes granting you this ability (if any).
8th: Amor Fati (Su): Beginning at 8th level, your acceptance of the god of fate's grand plans leaves you mentally calm, granting you a +3 bonus to your Will saves.

1st True Strike
2nd Augury
3rd Bestow Curse
4th Saving Grace
5th Mark of Justice
6th Geas/Quest
7th Vision
8th Mind Blank
9th Foresight

Time
Granted powers:
1st: Gain Feat: Improved Initiative.
8th: Gain Feat: Quicken Spell (Metamagic). 1/day you can cast a quickened spell without having it take up a slot 4 levels higher.

1st Deathwatch
2nd Gentle Repose
3rd Haste
4th Freedom of Movement
5th Permanency
6th Contingency
7th Moment of Prescience
8th Temporal Stasis
9th Time Stop