Philosophy - 'Trust
us, we're liars...'
The keynote of the religion is mystery.
Believers accept that the 'Outer Doctrines' as taught to lay members are
essentially false, and that as a priest rises within the temple more and
more of the true 'Inner Doctrines' are revealed to him. What constitutes
real promotion in the temple is complicated by the presence of three
major mutually mistrustful sects and the presence of the secret 'Inner
Sphere', the membership of which is unknown and which directs the
actions of the temple through secret meetings and subtle pressures.
The Temple of Ksárul operates on a
paradox - everyone is expected to behave with utter faith and sincerity,
doing what their higher ups tell them is the will of the Doomed Prince
at all times and without question, while at the same time making it
perfectly clear members of it's clergy are not only expected to tell
lies to those below them in the hierarchy, it is their religious duty to
This is Zen Stalinism, deliberate
belief in a dictatorship that you know is lying to you, in order to gain
sufficient knowledge and power to become a liar yourself. Add to that
the fact that there are several different interpretations of what the
will of the Doomed Prince actually is, and that it is difficult to know
precisely who your superiors are when the most important ones - the
Inner Sphere - lurk within the temple as spies on their own people.
Never, ever question whether a
superior is telling you the truth, this is implying they are dishonourable. He is probably lying and
certainly keeping various salient facts from you, possibly for your own
good, possibly not, but never come right out and say it to their face,
or even subtly imply that you do not trust the smiling goon as far as
you can throw him/her. However the followers of Ksárul are not gullible, far from it,
the religion values intelligence (as opposed to wisdom, the domain of
Thumis). And thus it is common practice among Ksárulites to steal from
each other, use spying and blackmail and any number of underhand tricks
to ensure they are as fully informed as they can be and are on the
inside of any conspiratorial cabal pissing out, rather than being one of
the duped and urinated on.
Of course all temples are prey to the
petty rivalries and careerism of their clergy to
some extent (even those snivelling Thumis wimps) but within the Temple
it is tacitly accepted, and a follower caught in the act of any number
of petty treacheries and misdemeanours will get off comparatively
lightly - and might even be marked for promotion as being a person with
a bit of flair and ambition and a suitably change-deity attitude to
stuffy stability-favoured things like precedent and hierarchy.
if all this sounds like unmanageable
anarchy that is because it is. The temple can act decisively and
immediately if it has to, thanks to the mysterious workings of the Inner
Sphere. The surface mayhem and confusion suits them as it stops anyone
getting any kind of coherent power base outside their own ultra-secret
Creating a Ksárulite
All members of the Temple of Ksarul must
take Secret 1 as one of their defects - they must do their best
to conceal their true circle number and be careful as to who they reveal
their true sect to. It is not unknown for a person to profess allegiance
to one sect while really being allied to another.
All members of the Temple must have at
least a familiarity with the Deception skill. Telling lies to
conceal the truth of their deities secret tenets is a religious duty to
All Administrative priests must have Admin
1, Scholars at least one Scholar skill and Ritual priests Ritual
of Ksarul 1. At least a familiarity with the Theology of Ksarul is
also a minimum requirement for all branches, and all priests must have at least Tsolyani:
1. Promotion beyond the lowest five circles or within the Inner
Sphere will require greater knowledge of Theology, and preferably one or
more the specialisations of the skill.
Temple Guards are also expected to be at
least partially literate with a familiarity in reading, Tsolyani:
Written; certainly no one will be promoted beyond changadesha
(private) without at least one level of this skill, Ksŕrul is a god of knowledge after all.
Ksŕrul favours the chidok and the crossbow as weapons, the former for
its utility in enclosed spaces such as the Underworld, the latter for
defending the often fortress-like temples from assault by the fearful
and ignorant. Ksŕrulite soldiers are also often well schooled in the
subtle arts of military engineering, artillery and siege warfare rather
than in full frontal assault and set-piece battle.
Any priest with sufficient stats may
learn Martial Arts: Hu'ón to level 1, but only members of
certain secret societies and sects may learn Fight Manoeuvres involving
Martial Arts or learn the skill beyond this basic level. Note that
martial arts are regarded as dishonourable by the aristocracy and most
priests are far more likely to learn dagger or mace as a self defence
Adherents may also learn the skill Scholar:
1, but the Tongue of the Priests of Ksarul is limited to
members of the Inner Sphere. The GM will decide who starts the game as
members of this august and subtle organisation.
Also available is the skill Knowledge:
Creatures of Ksarul, which allows people to interact with servitor
beasts such as Hra, Mrur, Qol, Thunru'u and Vorodla without fear, and
gain a bonus in trying to get their cooperation.
There are several specialisms of the Theology
of Ksarul; Outer Doctrines, Behind the Refulgent Blue
Curtain, Path of the Blue Light and Ndalu Clan Secrets. The Inner
Doctrines are only available to persons of 7th or higher circle, and
the True Doctrines can only be learned by Inner Sphere members
who know the Tongue of the Priests of Ksarul.
Higher circle scholars (12th+) may be
able to learn Language: Sunuz and Scholar: Pariah Gods at
the GMs discretion, but will not reveal such knowledge to those outside
the temple, and to precious few within it if they value their lives!
Sorcerers adept at Ritual Magic may also
be able to learn Scholar: Demonology, though knowledge of the
most potent summonings are limited to 15th circle or higher.
Sects of Ksarul
There are three major sects within the
temple; the reasonably open Society of the Blue Light, the ultra
secretive Refulgent Blue Curtain Society which dominates in Tumissa and
the Chakan provinces and the feared Ndalu Society which conspires to
gain greater political power for the temple. (See the Temple of
Ksarul netbook and Mitlanyal Vol 2 for further details.)
There are numerous lesser sects, three of
which are detailed below.
the Luminous Pylon
This is a group of two dozen adherents of
Ksarul and Gruganu (and one of Dlamelish) based in Tumissa who are
trying to map the many alternative demon planes. They are seeking to do
this not through visiting these mostly lethal places, but through
visions and scrying. They are of the opinion that it ought to be
possible to use psychic methods to look into the other planes just as it
is possible to use clairvoyance and telepathy to spy on other bits of
this plane; it is just a matter of
getting your mind into the appropriate state of consciousness. They
mostly do this through immoderate use of drugs. They communicate their
findings through sculptures, paintings and poetry, trying to capture the true
otherwordly essence of the places they have seen in bizarre abstracts and incantations that appear to be gibberish.
Serious magicians regard them as
dangerous loonies and disdain their methods and loathe the provocative
and ungrammatical way they express their ideas, but the Cartographers
are sure that they are onto something, perhaps the biggest revolution in
magical theory and practice since Llyani times. The temple hierarchy will
not stamp them out however; perhaps they secretly think the
Cartographers will produce something useful, perhaps they are useful to
the temple as a fertile source of false and confusing doctrines to
baffle the uninitiated as to what Ksárul worship is really about.
The Cartographers have no hierarchy as
such, just a charismatic leader Zuthau
hiTlekku of the Dark Fear clan, who pays for much of the 'work' out
of his own pocket. Meetings of the Cartographers at Aubshoi's
alchemist shop often start out like poetry readings or art exhibitions,
proceed into drugged and drunken debauches and fairly frequently end in
fist fights over disputed aspects of transplanar aesthetics. Once in a while
they will try an experimental incantation, which even more rarely will,
after a fashion, work. They were banished from the temple proper when a
particularly annoying plague of demonic teleporting crickets spewed
forth from one of their nexus gates and infested the temple for weeks.
They claim that they occasionally get
glimpses of the Luminous Pylon itself, which marks the nexus point
opening into a plane where Ksárul won the Battle of Dormoron Plain and
rules the universe in glorious splendour. Their key text is the 'Visions
of Azure Glory', a rather rambling and fragmentary epic by the poet
Uth'o of Purdimal written in Classical Tsolyani just prior to the
current Imperial Era.
Other members: Qapehel, Cadha'atla,
Stalkers of the
A secret organisation dedicated to
protecting Ksarul and Hru'u pilgrims on the road to the shrines at the
ruined city of Hmakuyal. Most people are well aware of the shrines, but
the official line is that they are secret. Certainly no
non-worshipper is allowed into the underground complex beneath the city,
and access for most lower order clergy and lay members is seriously
restricted. The Stalkers are made up of members of the Temple guard from
Ksarul, Gruganu and Hru'u, and given the sinister nature of these cults
is likely to have other functions as well as policing.
of the Velvet Dark
The special order of ritual priests who
carry out the Acts of the Velvet Dark, secret rituals associated with
the many demon servitors of Ksarul. When priests join as acolytes they
have their eyelids sewn up and are taught to read the bas-reliefs that
guide them through the upper and secret lower temple catacombs by touch.
At the third circle they vow never to appear in daylight and become
totally nocturnal and at the fifth circle they vow only to allow the
light of certain sacred lamps in the catacombs to touch them. At the
seventh circle they never appear in any kind of light, and reside
permanently in the blackest labyrinths. They
are acknowledged masters of the spells of Elicitation and all practice
oracular prognostication, the art of prophetic vision.
They are a profoundly creepy bunch of fanatics who
scare many of their fellow clergy, let alone the general public, and
whose sanity is further compromised by comparatively frequent
communication with such demons as The Nation of Invisible Seekers,
Njénü of the Everlasting Dream and Zanatl, the Secret Foe of All
Being. They also allegedly carry out missions in the Plane of Unending
Grey and have the secret of navigating The Citadel of Sighs. Fortunately
they are very rarely allowed out of their black holes.
Certain Temples do a roaring trade in
scrolls of 'Whispers in the Velvet Dark', scrolls of obscure
prophetic poetry allegedly spoken by these famous priests, and others
will allow favoured worshippers to meet and consult these worthies about
the future. These meetings take place in pitch black rooms full of choking
incense and cost an arm and a leg (not necessarily one's own) in temple donations and sacrifices.
Many people have
heard of the Inner Sphere; all priests know about it, many lay
members have heard hints and rumours and there are some in rival
temples who try to unravel what they are up to. What is not so
well known is the presence of so called False Spheres.
The False Spheres
are simply fake versions of the Inner Sphere; secret cabals of
priests who meet in deep catacombs to discuss secret matters, but
who in fact have no real power and no true secrets. A person may
be inducted into a False Sphere as a test before admission into
the true Inner Sphere. There may be several layers of False
Spheres, there may be no 'Inner Sphere', only many layers of False
Spheres in an infinite regress of deception and madness, ending
only at the door of the Blue Room itself...
The False Spheres
at least are run on a very similar basis to the Livyani secret
police, the Vrú'uneb. Each member is given a number eg third of
seventeen, second of ten etc. denoting their place in the cell of
the Inner Sphere. Theoretically, the first of the group is the
leader and transmits orders from the regional Inner Sphere committees,
and lower ranking members of a large temple cell may be 'first' in
their own Inner Sphere covering the small temples subordinate
to the main one. False Spheres are generated when this
transmission of orders down the chain stops being the clear and
truthful stream of Azure Revelations and Blue Commands direct from
Ksarul himself as allegedly happens in the true Inner Sphere, and
starts becoming deliberately distorted and manipulative.
Almost all of the
higher ranking members of the Ksarul Temple think they are either
part of the Inner Sphere, or have had contact with them or know
who their local Inner Sphere members are. They are very
rarely correct, such is the proliferation of False Spheres. Many
False Spheres are deliberately set up to include people very bad
at spycraft and keeping secrets, merely to provide those seeking
the Inner Sphere a lot of shifty looking idiots to chase and
secret meetings to inflitrate.
The masks used by Ksarulite priests
depict a young man or woman smiling in a rather vacant manner. They are
all made of black Tiu wood, but the male ones have a thin gilding of
silver. This is no more than a couple of grams in weight and has a
minimal effect on magic though the Enhancement spell can be used to
nullify it if needed. All masks in use by a given temple and its subsidiary
district are identical, from the lowliest second circle Sharto (the
circle at which the mask is issued) to the mightiest Patriarch, and the
differences between mask designs in use between different parts of the
Temple are so slight that only a Ksarulite could probably tell the
difference. This symbolises the essential unity of purpose of the temple
clergy, and the desire of each individual to emulate their god and
fulfil their own agenda of power and knowledge (This is of course
paradoxical; Ksarulites en masse are like the crowd in Monty Python's
life of Brian shouting 'Yes we are all Individuals!' in unison).
The masks are worn at rituals, but also
all day on holy days and on certain astrologically significant days, and
part of the temple personnel may be required to wear masks while another
group are exempt. All official meetings with Imperial officials, other
Temples and clans are masked.
It can be very hard to tell one Ksarulite
from another when they are masked, you only have the voice to go on, and
many Ksarulites habitually whisper or use an irritating sing-song chant
to make it easier to confuse people. If a masked Ksarulite is trying to
pass himself off as another masked Ksarulite of the same sex their
Disguise rolls are at +2. This again is deliberate, and is intended to
emphasise that you are dealing with the Temple as a whole and that it
speaks with one voice to outsiders (thus making it easy to draw people
in with 'off the record' unmasked briefings consisting mainly of lies
It is said by those outside the religion
that one should never trust anything a masked Ksarulite says as they are
required by their religion only to tell lies while wearing them. This is
not in fact true, but the mask is used as a tool to make it easier for
them to deceive.
The masks are all made by the Clan
of the Wooden
Smile, a small clan of dedicated mask makers, woodcarvers and
sculptors of idols. They also make many demon masks for Hru'u and
Dlamelish and ornate headresses of wood and chlen hide for several other
temples, though they are all themselves dedicated to Ksarul.
Uthi'in, Spirit of the Mind's Eye
Kettek, Prophet of the Dark Old One
- Uthi'in, the 28th aspect of Ksárul, is patron of psychic magic and
scryer of secrets. His talismans help with perception spells, and he
requires the sacrifice of hallucinogenic incense. Uthi'in is
depicted as a great deep blue eye.
- The Dark Old One is the Pe
Choi god of change. He was rediscovered some 1300 years ago by
the Pe Choi Ksarul priest Kettek who was led in his explorations and
visions of the past and of the outer planes by Ksarul himself.
Kettek is depicted as an elderly male Pe Choi with a deformed
- Kettek lived during the reign of Nriqa
Gachike (984-1010). At the time conflict between Thumis and Ksarul
was intense and spilled over into civil war soon after his reign.
Kettek was a civil servant in the Palace of the Priesthoods and is reviled
by some as he had been a Thumis priest before he converted to Ksarul
and began his researches on other planes. In 991 he announced the
discovery of The Black Old One, an ancient deity of the Pe Choi
whose worship had been suppressed. Kettek was physically distorted
by his work - those hostile to him say he was not Kettek at all
after his trip, but a demonic impersonator.
Guruásh of the Nine Eyes
- During the civil war of 1010-26, Pe
Choi converts to the Dark Old One opposed forces loyal to the Ito
when they gained control of Do Chaka, while those loyal to the
Father of Nests aided the Ito but later betrayed them, only the
Ito's old wild Pe Choi allies remained loyal. War between these Pe Choi groups was especially
bitter and savage. There was even conflict within the Dark Trinity;
at first the Temple of Ksarul claimed The Dark Old One was an avatar of their
deity, but he was eventually recognised as Hru'u. Some Pe Choi
refused to accept this subordination and there were riots in Butrus
over the issue. Kettek is still a divisive figure, and his
theological status is a matter of debate.
- Kettek is worshipped as a local aspect
of Ksárul in Butrus, and is considered an honorary demon servitor
of the god at Tumissa and Bey Su.
Ghulggr, Wise One of the Pachi Lei
- A demonic servant of Ksarul rather
than a true aspect, Guruash has nine eyes arranged at equal
distances around his polyhedral body to keep watch against other
demons (one for each of the four real directions, four for the
mystical directions, and one not directly attached to his body, but
which orbits it like a moon, monitoring himself for subversion by
Invoked whenever supernatural attack is expected and to dispel
unwanted other planar influences. He was a sentry in the camp of the
demon general Húrsha at Dormoron Plain. He is of the substance of
Ksarul and the essence of Gruganu, and has the powers of
Disenchantment, Repulsion and Warding.
- Considered an aspect of both A'lsh and
Ksarul, the Pachi Lei say Ghulggr 'reads the knots in the Ebzal tree
of reality' and liken the planes Ghulggr travels to as being homes
created in the great Ebzal tree of the multiverse by A'lsh and their
other deity N'rg. Depicted as a typical stylised Pachi Lei totem in their own
'Low Temples' and as a silver masked Pachi Lei bearing four wands
pointing at the four mystical directions of the universe in Ksarul
temples. Has shrines in the Ksarul temples at Butrus and Urmish and
in local temples in Pan Chaka, but is not worshipped elsewhere.
Ntk’kt-khík, The Pé Chói, Lord of
the Blue Carapace
- The more usual aspect of Ksarul
worshipped by Pe Choi. Leader of the Blue Carapaces, a tribe of
mighty Pe Choi sorcerers who fought on behalf of Ksarul at Dormoron
Plain. Has shrines in all cities with a Ksarul worshipping Pe Choi
population except Butrus, where Kettek is more popular. Depicted as
a neuter-male Pe Choi in a blue robe folded up in the typical Pe
Choi sleeping position with ear flaps extended in the Pe Choi
equivalent of a smile. Is said to have been captured and entombed by
the Father of Nests in a secret corner of the Forest of Hh-kk-ssá.
- The Blue Carapace clan
of Bey Su claim
descent from members of this mythical contingent in the same way as
some lineages in human clans (Cloak of Azure Gems, Dark Flame etc)
claim descent from Ksárul's human servitors at the battle. They in
fact only date back to the reign of Nriqa Gachike
(984-1010), and were formed by him from high ranking Pe Choi who had
converted to the Black Old One. Still a powerful clan in Bey Su,
considered to be a High ranking clan on a par with the Grey Wand,
though less respected at their other clanhouses in Purdimal, Thraya