By D. Schneider, v1.0 2016
Overview of Cults and Choruses
Religious practice on Imarel is incredibly diverse, and the established churches of each god are normally unable to provide religious oversight for the entirety of their god’s worshipers. This problem is especially present in the case of Xosian and Niraethian worship, since worship is often scattered and shortly lived, and the official churches of those deities are often outlawed. Indarian, Lythian, and Elemental religions suffer from this problem as well. For instance, the Church of Kaal might not have the resources to provide a priest for a small outpost, but a Warlock or Occultist of Kaal might step in and provide alternative worship for Kaal that is no less powerful, just less widely practiced. When people form groups and engage in these practices, they are known as Cults for any chaotic deity or Choruses for any lawful deity. For neutral deities, the interpretation of the deity in question and the personal interpretation of the adherents determines whether it is a cult or a chorus.
Cults and Choruses also provide worship for beings that would normally not be able to exercise their will through an established church. Powerful Xosian and Niraethian beings are popular sources of power for cults, which are often centered around chosen brain-addled “prophets” that experience mad delusions courtesy of the chosen Archfiend. Choruses are usually more integrated into the deity’s church, and they serve as ways for local regions to venerate saints and heroes that have made their way to Archangel status. Sometimes, Choruses are groups of priests and seers reinterpreting worship for their deity and seek to venerate their god in strange ways.
History of Cults and Choruses on Imarel
The most famous cults throughout history tend to be the ones that worship a powerful archfiend and seek to cause nothing but disruption and chaos wherever they fester. One of the oldest cults, and the one that is often used as the standard when comparing demonic cults, is the Cult of Ysil. The cult was prevalent during the time of the Shar`Vaire Empire, and it is credited with working behind the scenes to ensure that the World Gate to Xos was opened, and Ysil could walk Imarel.
Since then, the cult of Ysil has popped up in various areas through the years to assassinate a politician or to launch deadly strikes against Knightly orders. Occasionally, the cult will attempt to take over a town, initiating a brief and horrific reign of terror that usually ends with many dead civilians, soldiers, cultist, and priests. One famous instance is the cult’s attempt to wrest control of the town of Brynmere Glade in southern Tal`Rah during the Shar`Vaire Civil War. The Cult of Ysil’s plan to provide a foothold for the Shar`Vaire Traditionalists in the Windsong Republic was only stopped by a group of heroes that banded together to root out the cult.
More recently, the chaos that has rocked Imarel has caused Niraethian cults to become increasingly popular. Even with the destruction of most of the Five that Sleep, the cults to these beings are alive and well. Until very recently, the Cult of Death-Caller was a powerful force in Sengaard. It took the intervention of an outside party, the Hope Company, to root out the dangerous cult and finally break its political power in the region. Also disturbing is the rise of the Cult of the Gnawing Void, a nihilistic and violent cult that has dedicated to the eldritch archfiend the Never Ending.
Choruses are less known for their impact because they usually work within the Church of their chosen deity. The first Chorus was the Chorus of Spring, a group of witches that banded together to act as intermediaries and beneficiaries for the wild areas and the developing elven cities. Over time, the chorus turned into one of the primary ways that the Tallis`Kah interacted with the outside world, especially their Moon Elf cousins. The Chorus of the Flamebringer is known for bringing the will of Kaal to the far and dangerous places of the world, investigating new regions for dangers to the world and bringing the word of Kaal to small towns that find themselves more drawn to fertility and elemental deities.
Choruses also provide vitality to the older Indarian churches. When times change, it is often the Choruses that embrace change and innovate ways to keep their faith relevant. Choruses devoted to Zorah have begun to bring elements of nature to the increasingly compact and dirty Imarel cities. They start neighborhood gardens, establish parks, and provide herbal remedies to those in need. More radical choruses violently defend the shrinking Imarelian wilderness and act to stave off the growing tide of technological darkness. Because of their distance with the established church of a religion, choruses are often able to act in situations where the church and the knighthood might be overtaxed or politically unable.
Choruses are also known to radically redefine the current understanding of a god or spirit. Vengeful choruses of Kaal are known to spring up in times of great distress, and they often end in angry mobs that burn heretics at the stake. It is also not unknown for a “chorus” of a Xosian deity to pop up, though if these dark choruses are actually able to draw power from their deity often a matter of how far they’ve strayed from their deity. If a Kaalian Chorus seeks to purge anyone who engages in arcane magic, they will find their power from Kaal weaken until it is no more. And, if a “chorus” of Siru begins to spread a message that suffering should be mitigated, their power will wane all the same. However, through arcane and mundane means, these cults will often stick around long after their divine or infernal power has waned.
Cults and Chorus of Imarel
The following is not an exhaustive list of all the cults and choruses of Imarel, but it is meant to give a sense of what these look like in the world. Cults and choruses violently implode as often as they manage to succeed, and new ones appear and disappear with each fortnight.
Cult of the Bound Chain
Woe be to the Guilty soul that meets a Cultist of the Bound Chain, for they will know suffering with no end. The Cultists of the Bound Chain believe that a Guilty soul has not only forfeited their life, but that they must be made penitent in this life so that their eternity in Lyth is made all the more horrifying. The Cult runs vast networks throughout Tal`Rah that abduct Guilty souls and kidnaps them to unfamiliar lands in order to completely control the rest of their life… and fill it with demeaning and dangerous work as punishment. The cult is known to run boarding houses, hotels, prisons, and asylums, anywhere that the Guilty could be herded and kept without anyone noticing, and if the Guilty are sent to them, all the better.
The Old Wolf’s Chorus
Few are blessed to meet a Chorister of the Old Wolf when they happen to meet a devotee of the Spirit of Vengeance. These devotees of Mourne see their god as a god of mercy, harsh mercy, but mercy none the less. They believe that the Guilty must be pushed towards the path back to Innocence, even though it is a treacherous, deadly path… Perhaps even because of that reason. If the chosen Guilty dies on the path towards redemption, their soul is still given to Mourne, and nothing has been lost. But, if the Guilty person redeems themselves, the world is bettered for it. This Chorus is not well tolerated by anyone, and its adherents are often dispersed.
Chorus of Spring
The oldest of the Choruses, it was founded on the teachings of the enlightened Tallis`Shei High Priestess Thalia Hyss that believed adherents of Jadaia must engage with cities as if they were any other sort of natural environment that nature might produce. Choristers of Spring reside in cities and town that need to actively engage with their environment. They help the growing towns in southern Tal`Rah expand responsibly into the wilderness, and they help cities prevent pollution and the spread of diseases. Choristers of Spring are often adept as ambassadors to the Talis`Kah territories, since they are able to provide a bridge between the naturalist and the modernist worldviews.
Cult of Ysil
The Cult of Ysil is an ancient and powerful force that seeks only chaos and the Xosian domination of Imarel. They work towards a prophecized moment when Ysil will lead the armies of Xos across Imarel and Ishaela, bringing the mortal realm under a terrible infernal dominion. Most of the time, the Cult tries to develop deep roots in a city’s political world before spreading its message among the poor and disaffected population. By the time the cult is ready to act, it usually has incredible social defenses and political contacts that insulate their plans. The hallmarks of a Cult of Ysil are an increase in government brutality, authoritarian laws, and increased violence in normally peaceful areas.
Cult of the Death-Caller
The Cult of the Death-Caller is one of the most dangerous and well connected cults on Ishaela and Imarel. In a world where Xosian beings dominate the cult scene, the Cult of the Death-Caller serves as standing proof that Niraethian cults carry a special brand of fevered insanity. The Cult of the Death-Caller works to subvert national governments and plunge countries further into industrialization and war. They hope to make death and misery so commonplace that the combined horrors will awaken their patron, Naja`Thar, the Death-Caller, and usher in a new era of ancient darkness. The cult’s power in Sengaard was broken, which had centered around the Dorius Merchant Company, by the Hope Company. How the rest of this global cult will react to the changing world is yet to be seen.
Chorus of the Hearth
This is an ancient chorus that comes out of Dwarven culture. Dwarves that studied to become Warlocks, Witches, and Shamans often dedicated themselves to Kaal. More often than not, these dwarves devoted themselves to the Church of Kaal and served as healers and exorcists. However, some seers that wanted to study the healing and divinatory arts served to help the soldiers of Kaal from home. They brewed powerful curatives and provided necessary mystical research for the church. Soon, these seers attracted priests and occultists, and they developed a way to serve Kaal by studying and serving his other servants. In the modern day, the devotees of the Chorus of the Hearth are welcome anywhere Kaal’s servants are welcome, where they often provide necessary medical skills and arcane knowledge.