While at Paizocon, I attended a seminar on homebrew game worlds. It was one of the more thought provoking seminars I attended, and in particular one of the panelists really got me thinking about religion. I’ve never had a problem with religion in my game worlds, and you could even call me a pretty huge fan of Vecna, a god from D&D. But I’ve never spent much time thinking about the wider impact of religion on my worlds, which I now recognize as a pretty huge failing on my part. So, as a bit of fun, I decided to make this Friday’s post about something with religious significance. Nothing which deserved a really large backstory came to mind, so I settled on breaking this post up into three parts.
The Stake of Ereon
Long ago, in a small village, the Church of Arethae overstepped its bounds. Arethae was a god of contemplation and philosophy, but over time her followers in this village involved themselves more and more in the petty politics of governance. As the village grew, the clerics of Arethae became powerful and corrupt, encouraging their followers to ostracize any who did not submit themselves to the teachings of Arethae. Teachings which were often interpreted by the clerics to match their own selfish whims.
Arethae was saddened to hear her name spoken as a tool of oppression. Spurned to action, she communed with a lowly priest named Ereon, who lived in a city far from the village. She bestowed upon him her seal, and commanded that he travel to the village. There, Ereon was to meet with the church leadership, and prove his divine authority by presenting the seal. None who touched the it, she said, could have any doubt who had sent him. Ereon did not believe himself worthy of the task, but he submitted himself to his goddesses command, and left the comfort of his monastery home that very day.
It took four months for Ereon to travel the many leagues between his home and the corrupt village, but as he walked the seal infused him with his goddesses wisdom and strength. Through the challenges he faced on the road, it brought forth his inner courage and taught him how to lead those who had gone astray back to the truth of Arethae. When he arrived, he presented himself to the church leaders with the might of his goddesses’ conviction in his heart. The town’s clergy examined the seal, and knew it to be genuine. They were saddened to learn of their goddesses’ disapproval. When Ereon commanded that they submit to his guidance, however, they made a decision:
They did not need their goddesses’ approval.
They declared Ereon to be a heretic, and announced his execution to the townspeople with much pomp and circumstance. A stake was erected in the village square, and the clergy made a great show of binding Ereon to it. Ereon made no objection as they lit the fire beneath his feet. As he began to burn, he serenely chanting prayers to Arethae, until the smoke made it too difficult to speak.
The moment Ereon’s final breath left his body, every priest and priestess within the village began to choke and cough, as though they too were trying to breathe through smoke. The entire populace watched as their leaders–dozens of men and women–slowly suffocated for no apparent reason. The village was abandoned shortly after, and the buildings have long since been destroyed by the elements. But the stake remains, a charred black log standing alone in a field of grass. Even now, any character of evil alignment who steps within 100 yards of the stake is suddenly overcome by a fit of coughing, which will not end until they retreat.
Bloodstain of Vecna
Millenia ago the great warlord lich Vecna was betrayed by his lieutenant, Kas. The two fought a long battle, and at its conclusion Vecna’s tower mysteriously collapsed, presumably destroying both Vecna and Kas. No one knows what the outcome of that battle was, for the only remains ever found were Kas’s mighty sword, and Vecna’s hand and eye. Regardless of the battle’s outcome, it was soon revealed that Vecna had risen as a demigod. Much later, it was revealed that Kas had been raised as a vampire, and was a prisoner within Vecna’s Citadel Cavitius. But that is another tale.
When Vecna’s tower collapsed, so did its foundations, which extended deep into the earth. A veritable mountain of stone came crashing down through level after level. Through the eons which have passed since that fateful day, the site of Vecna’s tower has become obscured. But deep beneath the surface, in the bowels of the underdark, is a stone. Once, this stone served as part of the floor of Vecna’s audience chamber, and now it serves that same function in one of the numerous labyrinthine passages of the underdark.
During his battle with Kas, Vecna was wounded and a few droplets of blood were flung from his undead veins. They splattered on this stone, and there they remain. A dark brown stain, appearing to be perhaps a few days old at most. Not that anyone can see it in the pitch blackness of the underdark. None have ever discovered this stone, and even Vecna himself does not know of its existence. However, if anyone were ever to set foot upon it, they would immediately be granted knowledge of the locations of both Vecna’s hand, and eye.
St. Baria’s Rest
A blind prophet once came to the court of Kerrogon seeking food and shelter. Gustaf Teranar, the Primarch of Kerrogon, was not a kind man. His people suffered greatly under his tyrannical rule,and he found their suffering offensive. When the disheveled old prophet entered, Gustaf nearly had him killed on the spot for daring to present himself before the Primarch. But his advisers intervened, for they recognized the man, and knew of his gift. Intrigued, Kerrogon offered him food and shelter, in exchange for an insight into the future.
The man gladly accepted the food and shelter offered him, and on the morrow he met with the court once more to reveal Gustaf’s future: that even now, a child lived within his kingdom which would someday rise up, and slay him. The Primarch was enraged, and had the old prophet cast out of the court. He would have killed him, but he feared the consequences of slaying one who had been gifted by the gods.
Gustaf rallied his soldiers in the early morning, and ordered that every child in the kingdom–all those below the adult age–were to be killed. Ruthlessly, the soldiers went from home to home. Bodies were left in the streets, and the gutters ran with blood. The grieving wails of parents filled the air, becoming indistinguishable from one another. A righteous woman named Baria gathered together as many children as she could, and tried to flee the city. She managed to gather forty of them before she led them into the wilderness. As she entered a narrow pass, however, she heard the sound of hoof beats behind her, and the clatter of Kerrogonian Armor. Thinking quickly, she noticed a cave and bade the children to hide within. Only too late did she realize that the cave was shallow, with barely enough room for all of the children to fit, let alone hide.
Baria looked frantically for another option, but it was too late. She could see the soldiers outside as they examined the tracks the children had left. She was sure she was doomed, and it was all she and the children could do to keep quiet and still. The soldiers dismounted and walked around for a long while, puzzling over the tracks, appearing not to see the woman and the children she was trying to protect. The two even followed the tracks right to the mouth of the cave, and stared directly at the group for long minutes, before returning to their horses and riding off.
Baria was mystified, and thanked the gods for whatever miracle they had performed to save her and her wards. They continued to flee, and successfully escaped the slaughter. They settled in a faraway city, and indeed, one of the children eventually returned to slay the tyrant king who had killed so many others. And to this day, none with evil intent are able to see the entrance of St. Baria’s Cave, even with powerful spells and divinations, it appears to be naught but solid stone.