Religion in Fartherall
Our Place in the Omniverse
There are several competing theories concerning Fartherall’s cosmology. What nobody contests is that the gods to exist—they’ve been rather too prominently involved in the world’s history for atheism to have taken root.
Religion in Fartherall is less a question of faith and more one of philosophy. The Divine exists—only a madman would dispute this, and an argument against the Divine would be akin to arguing a famous historical figure never existed. Tangible proof of miracles and otherworldly machinations is scattered somewhat (and some would undoubtedly say, a bit too) liberally across the land. Add to this the fact that those who adhere to a particular religion have mastered a category of magic that has eluded arcanists throughout history, and religion is lent further credence.
Something is out there, and it is greater than man, than elf, orc, or dwarf, greater than the dragons—and perhaps the gods themselves? The only question is how many layers of the divine cosmos exist. Is cosmology limited to a single pantheon of sentient deities, otherwise relatable individuals who just happen to be infused with power beyond mortal ken to fathom? Perhaps instead of manifested gods, there exist thoughtless primal forces, eternal energies that shape the universe and that are unable or unwilling to notice the beings on the mortal planes? Or what if all life, from all possible universes, could be traced back to a single source—and all things mortal (and immortal) are merely aspects, imperfect reflections of that single font of creation?
Gods and Overpowers
Does anything exist above the Divine? Do the gods have gods?
Many are the people content with accepting that the current pantheon of gods are all that exists in the realm of the divine. But others, scholars and historians who dabble in the esoteric and blasphemous, claim that the gods are not the ultimate source of divine creation, but merely a level, a tier between mortal life and a form of existence higher than them. These over-gods, these gods of the gods, they call overpowers.
Here’s how the theory takes shape. We know there are other planes, other realms of existence where the gods can travel, but where their power is limited. We also know that the gods, while immortal, are not eternal—the third generation of gods now rules in Ladhalas, and a few among their number have died. The legends of the universe’s birth even mentions an overpower by name—the Draagan—which suggests that more must exist in the realms beyond.
Extrapolating outward, scholars conclude that overpowers exist in a dimension above the material plane closer to the source of creation. As to their goals, philosophers make no claim. And as far as practical worship (or game mechanics) go, there are no churches, no temples to overpowers in all of Fartherall. It is just a theory, after all—but one about which the gods themselves are rather tight-lipped.
The Seven Realms Theory
More a theory of the universe than a religion of ritual and ceremony, the Seven Realms Theory—more commonly known as the Faith of the Seven, or merely “The Seven”—is the oldest belief system currently still practiced, which is all the more remarkable in that it worships no gods. Adherents believe that the world is composed of seven primal elements, and that to understand and master them is to understand one’s place in the universe. In this, it is more natural philosophy than religion. According to the Seven Realms Theory, the seven elements, the building blocks of existence, include the four elements of antiquity—air, earth, fire, and water—along with light, shadow, and verdance. It is believed that each of these primal elements springs from an eternal source on a distant elemental plane, and that the world is composed of the interweaving emanations from these seven sources.
Air swirls down from the Storm, a realm of endless turbulence. A realm with no above or below, all is weightless motion and howling pandemonium. There is no ground apart from the uppermost reaches of the Mountain (see below), which oftentimes become havens for creatures that have become stranded here through some mystical fluke. The lack of real estate would be problematic enough if it weren’t for the nearly constant electrical storms churning through this plane’s vast skies. Alchemists who follow The Seven claim that the purest adamantine is formed here when a lightning blast from The Storm knocks loose a chunk of The Mountain and sends it hurtling into the material world.
The source of all fire, the Furnace is a realm of perpetual hunger and endless heat. Salamanders and efreeti vie for control of the blasted landscape and semi-solid coagulations of magma constantly slough off and reforming into the larger land masses. No mortal can survive here for more than a few agonizing seconds without magical protection. It’s said by some that whatever energy is left in a wicked soul after death is drawn into the Furnace, and becomes fuel for its eternal fires. Some cultists have used this as twisted reasoning justifying the propagation of evil, reasoning that without the Furnace and its output of heat and flame, the world would freeze and die.
A realm of absolute stability and unbending rigidity, the Mountain is the source of all earth. It is densely packed and mineral rich, but jealous of each stone atop and within its fathomless body. Even the air inside its few entirely enclosed caves and tunnels feels dense and heavy to outsiders, making the native creatures here especially hardy compared to the denizens of the material plane. Change happens most slowly here, and making even a tiny mark on the original landscape is a most difficult task.
Water flows from The Fountain, a fathomless ocean with no shore and no sky, where merfolk empires rule vast stretches of sea from floating castles grown from coral, and krakens swim in schools for protection from the larger predators that occasionally swim up from the Deep. Despite its dangers, the Fountain is largely a place of quiet contemplation, and mortal sages who take the proper precautions may find the journey well worth the time and expense for just a single afternoon spent in a triton monastery, riding the currents through this infinite hydrosphere.
The source of all light and positive energy, radiance blazes from the Beacon, and it is wonderful. A realm of limitless promise and joy, healing magic cast by good-aligned priests is drawn from here. It is not, however, a safe place to visit—any mortals who found a way to the Beacon would be instantly consumed—in orgasmically pleasurable fashion, it should be noted—by the plane’s radiance. Many religions have adopted a form of the Beacon as the inspiration for their form of heaven.
The Deep, the origin of all shadow and darkness, lies in decay and sorrow. It is the source of all negative energy, and thus the wellspring of undeath. Visitors here would wither and die before undergoing rebirth as undead. Indeed, one of the strongest arguments for the Seven Realms Theory is the curse of undeath unleashed on Archaiad at the end of the Age of Legends—adherents label the Necrofont as the Deep breaching directly into Fartherall, vomiting undeath into a world unable to absorb it.
Life, according to the Faith of the Seven, is an element, and not the opposite of undeath. A better term than “life” would be “verdance”—the primal life spark that compels growth. The Garden is the source of all verdance, and it overwhelms. Not a plane so much as a pure and primal life force, left unchecked, the Garden would grow over, in, around, and through itself until destroyed if not for the other elements keeping it in check. Conversely, none of the others would be able to survive without the Garden giving it life. When this delicate balance is maintained to perfection, all the world is right and perfect. But when an imbalance occurs, natural disasters befall the world of man, their magnitude in direct proportion to the imbalance. An earthquake is venting an overgrowth of Mountain, a flood is excess runoff from the Fountain. Visitors here would experience unchecked bodily growth—hair and nails would sprout and bloom, as would muscles and warts and gastrointestinal bacteria, everything alive swelling and bursting with unstoppable, cancerous growth until the poor visitor bursts into a trillion smaller living things, which then undergo the same process.
Adherents to the Seven seldom erect temples in populous cities, instead seeking out holy sites that occur in nature that most closely correspond to their chosen element. This can lead to conflict from time to time, when (for example) followers of the Mountain claim the top of the tallest mountain for miles, only to find that devotees of the Storm have already established a temple there. These conflicts are often short lived and seldom violent, typically ending in the religious leaders of both sets of pilgrims working to understand how their two elements might work more closely together when the new group folds in with those who’d already established themselves. After all, their philosophy is based on elements entwining in harmony.
Exceptions to this rule are instances when the diametrically opposed forces of Light and Shadow come into conflict, should they both try to establish a site of worship, say, in an old hospice where many died during a plague.
The Seven hasn’t been an especially popular religion for quite some time (possibly due to its difficulty establishing holy sites convenient to the most populous areas), and is often looked upon with some condescension by those who follow more contemporary philosophies. One such philosophy is known as the Tapestry of Worlds.
The Tapestry of Worlds
This tradition teaches that all of creation is connected in a vast tapestry. It shares certain elements with The Seven, but posits that there are far more sources of power than the old religion accounts for—and that all of those elements flow to far too many places to count.
Each concentration of elemental energy is connected to its source by a thread, and these threads connect one world to another. For example, the heart of a volcano would have strong ties to both the Mountain and The Furnace, and one could follow a Thread of Fire to the center of a star or the core of a planet. A master of this religion—or of the philosophy behind it, who knew where to look—could theoretically travel between similar sites in entirely different worlds, or even different realities.
According to the Tapestry of Worlds theory, each and every world is finite, even if it appears infinite. Different weavings tie specific strands or threads and worlds together. If you find these threads you can travel between them to other worlds where the tapestry is connected. Such travel can be very hazardous for the unprepared. Believers in the Tapestry of Worlds claim that the Ord—that vanished race from the Age of Wonder—first traveled to Fartherall, and have since traveled to other worlds, following a Thread of Air from their original world of high mountaintops and thin atmosphere. Their homeworld was dying, being torn apart by the Reaver (see below), and they scattered in their airships to find a new home—or so the story goes. There aren’t any Ord to ask about it.
Adherents to the Tapestry believe in two specific named overpowers who hold dominion over all connected worlds and govern the progress of the tapestry. These beings are known simply as the Weaver and the Reaver. While one constantly creates new worlds and possibilities, weaving together the Threads of Fate, the other trims away all the frayed ends and wipes out entire realities with cold indifference.
The theory of the Root is both a religion in and of itself, and a philosophy that can coexist with other religious traditions, including belief only in the current pantheon. This theory posits that all worlds—all dimensions, all realities—are connected to a single, mysterious point of origin that has eluded sages and explorers since creation first sprung from it at the birth of the universe. From this single point came all matter and life, ranging in complexity from the lowliest amoeba to the grandest dragon, even up to and including the overpowers. If this “root” dimension could be found, one who did so would be able to travel anywhere, and anywhen, any time they so desired. They would have access to power unimagined, and in some ways, become greater than a god.
Certain blasphemous rumors tell that small fragments of this Root sometimes (somehow) are breaking away and are scattering across the mortal realms. These fragments, for whatever reason, take the form of large black circles. These circles are said to have a strange depth to them, and a telltale shimmer not unlike lamp oil splashed in a puddle. These circles can be discovered laying flat on the ground, attached to the sides of buildings, or even suspended midair. Once any living creatures step into a black circle, one of two things happens.
Most commonly, the traveler vanishes, and they are never seen again. Alternately, those who step through—if they may emerge from the other side—arrive changed in some drastic way. Anecdotes tell of people coming back sorcerers, or with extra limbs, with black glowing eyes, or with more disturbing variations.
Where these black circles can go or what their true source is, no one can say. The circles offer one-way passage only. What is known about them is that they do exist—they’ve been chronicled throughout history, though they’re by no means common—and they cannot be destroyed.
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