Section III: Myths and Religions of other Peoples
What is divine? Which are the true Gods, and which are mere pretenders? Which way should be chosen to properly honor and revere the lords of our being? Where can a mere mortal find the path to the divinity?
All these are questions that generations have spent laboring over, without ever finding answers that satisfy the questioning mind. Scholars, priests, all have found inklings of the truth, but they seem like ceramic shards. Shards that one believes come from a single vase that was broken long ago, yet somehow none perfectly fit the other. Is it because there are so many pieces missing? Or, perhaps, is it because there was more than one vase in the beginning of which we have found the shards?
In all the known world, I believe there is not a single place where such a thought is more apt than the Imperium Romanum Novum, which is also known as the Blue Land. Here, not only differing religions collide, but also differing histories and cultures. There are two roots to our nation, one the refugees of the Arrufat peninsula who were driven from their ancestral homeland by the unbelieving hordes of the Tonomai. They came to the Blue Land to find a new home, where they would continue to cherish their beliefs and culture.
But the other root of the Imperium lies in the Munda Antiqua, the Old World, from which we have inherited a different society and a different set of beliefs. Where the other peoples of this world praise Alyssa, the Goddess of Love, we give praise to Venus. Our divine lord of knowledge is named Apollo, whereas others would recognize Darawk.
Still, these gods of ours bear the strongest of similarities to those revered by the rest of Gushémal. In fact, many priests of the Imperium keep the closest of ties to their brethren outside; and some say that the gods are in truth the same.
Can that be true? The pontifex maximus claims to be the high priest, the leader of all clerics in this world. But is his claim indeed more apt than the one of Gushémal’s Divine Speaker?
Questions of plentiful importance these are, and this tome shall attempt to provide insights but no answers. The answers I ask each reader to devise for him or herself.
To this purpose I have asked many of the most important personages of our times to contribute their views of the divine, their knowledge of the ways of reverence, and the import all this has on our existence. I do not intend to provide a statement of what is the true choice, or add a flavor to indicate either way. When such flavor is found, I assure you that it is the sole provenance of the contributor of the text but not mine nor is it necessarily supported by my views.
A further note on the contributors: Although the majority is selected from the higher levels of the society of Gushémal, I have found it necessary to incorporate a number of views from more plebeian strata. Although their texts bear roughness and lack of education, they nonetheless round out the image and information this tome is supposed to convey.
By the nature of this work, it will remain unfinished for quite some time, and I expect a number of more or less regular additions.
If there should be any questions remaining in the minds of the readers, or if any feel that added information would enhance the text, please feel free to write me. Your attention and willingness to further ponder these paths to divinity is proof that my efforts are welcome and wellneeded.
Notes on Structure
I will begin this work with discussions and descriptions of the pantheon most commonly revered in this world. For want of a better word, let us call it the Gushémal pantheon. Of course this is misleading as there are several deities which do not belong to this group, some of which have been clearly opponents, such as the single god of the Tonomai.
There are some thirty main gods included in the Gushémal pantheon. There is also a large variety of additional gods which are mostly local varieties, demi-gods or other locally confined phenomena. The latter group will receive its due description in a further subsection that I plan to include some time in the future.
As far as the main gods are concerned, I intend to keep to the following schedule:
First, I shall include tales and legends on each god. As such I consider not only the official canon preached by the priests but also folk tales which further describe the nature and character of the subject. I am obviously aware that some will take exception to this, yet my quest for the truth demands I follow this principle.
Secondly, I will describe the priesthood of the god, their precepts, their order, their inclinations, as well as the temples they have consecrated to the holy service. Again I will rely heavily on contributions by my esteemed peers, yet for the sake of orderliness I will write entries of my own in the respective categories, distilled from the information provided to me.
Thirdly, I shall consider the question of magic. The application of magic is a very important element to every priest; it is part of his power to wield for good or evil. Blessing or curse, the priests derive their magical power from their God, and thus their spells differ greatly according to which order a cleric belongs to. A very few spells, such as healing, are common to almost all priests; yet here, the quality and scope of the healing powers diverge greatly. A cleric of Darawk can at best hope to cure scratches and very minor wounds, while a priest of Decalleigh – as I have witnessed several times myself – may grasp a soul on the brink of death and pull it back, restoring the body to full virility, often healthier than before.
In the second section, I will explore some further myths surrounding the Gushémal pantheon. By that I include legends told about larger groups, as well as sagas completely unsupported by any official authority. These tales are by all accounts fictitious, yet they have persisted for centuries and perhaps millenia, so that kernels of truth may be found in them. Judgment of this I shall reserve for the reader.
The third section will leave the Gushémal pantheon behind and instead take a closer look at the belief systems of other peoples, such as the Tonomat Empire or the sandmen of the Elfadil Desert. Unfortunately this may turn out to be the least reliable section since my sources rarely come from within these societies. It is rather difficult to get in touch with a trustworthy Tonomai, and my information on, for instance, the barbarians of Robhovard are third-hand, at best.
Still I have gathered as much information as I could, and I believe I have selected the most suitable and most credible of texts for this tome. It is my hope to one day gain better access so that the reader will have the best information possible.