Thursday, March 1, 2018

Fantastic Religion: Akem, the Silent One


(the Grim-faced, the Grinner, the Ishtrian Death, the Absolute, the Watcher, the Master of the Keys, the Lord of the Seven Gates, the Silent One, Lord of the Underworld)

Greater God, TN
Portfolio: Death, the afterlife, spirits
Aliases: Akanian, Kemr
Domain Name: The City of the Dead, Nullä
Superior: None
Allies: Haeron
Foes: Avauna, Galos, Tharos
Symbol: An archway, a sickle and hourglass
Worshiper Alignment: Any

Akem (AH-kem) is the god of death and the underworld. He is known for his strongly lawful leanings, but his role places him as the fulcrum of life and death and for this he must be balanced and even-handed. He is widely feared, as his presence heralds death and the otherworld has many strong taboos associated with it. However, he does not choose who perishes, merely guiding them to the Underworld and making certain that they have residence there until they can be judged by their appropriate gods.

In human literature and imagery, Akem appears to be a tall thin man with waist-length silver hair who wears black robes and a black hooded cloak. At his belt he carries a sickle and an hourglass, two signs (in addition to the Akemite arch) which are closely associated with him.

Akem is not a yielding god; the dictates against raising the dead are extremely strong, to the point where Akemites believe those returned from the Underworld to be abomination against him, and will do their utmost to destroy any such “returned men.”

The Silent Lord is as complex as Gods come. He appears to have been unknown or little-worshipped in the north by men until the Sixth Age when Khewedi soldiers brought their beliefs with them. It was not until the priest Rashid ibn-Ahmed-an-gazi converted several important noblemen in the region of Miles during the mid-Eighth Age that his worship prospered. Since then his church has fractured into three temples, each of which is powerful in a different geographical region. The Rite of Endings (also known as the Northern Rite) holds sway in the North from Gadrada, the Khewedi Right in that land, and the Southern Rite in Hadash and Ishtria.

The Seven Hells and their attendant gates are guarded by him, and they comprise his entire domain. The Seven Hells are divided into realms, the lowermost of which is his primary concern; there, one will find (according to Akemite scripture) Abdju, the City of the Dead, which he rules. From his position there, he is master over the fate of the souls of the dead as they journey to their respective rewards and punishments.

The Church (the Northern Rite)
Clergy: Specialty priests
Clergy’s Alignment: Any neutral
Turn Undead: Special
Command Undead: Special

The Northern Rite of Akem was founded in the early Eighth Age at the hill of Gadrada, now known as the Necropolitan Temple. It gained traction after the coming of Rashid ibn-Ahmed-an-gazi and the conversion of several major noble families near Miles. It now stands astride the north as an important element of all societies. Akemites, once few and far between in the north, now serve as the guides and mentors on matters of the otherworldly. The presence of Akemite priests in the countryside to act as mediators between the living and the dead as well as to help burn the deceased has become an accepted fact of life.

The church is run from the Necropolitan Temple where the priest known as the Pale Hierophant resides; he is the master of all Akemite rites and temples, and consults with the Silent Council on all matters of canon. However, there are few lines of communication between the Council and the temples abroad; they are often left to fend for themselves, particularly the Journeying Priests. However, when summons to Synod or promulgations of Holy Writ are made from Gadrada, they are always recognized.

Temple structure is varied; some temples operate as monasteries, housing men and women who have sworn Holy Orders. These have Abbots and the other attending necessities of monastic order as first espoused by Basilorius’ Rule of Worship. More traditional Akemite temples are generally divided into a Whispered Council and a priesthood, attended by a lay brotherhood that serves the temple grounds. Most common of all are Akemite hermits, wanderers, and journeymen who either dwell in caves or move from place to place seeking work burning or interring the dead.

Rule of Worship temples, also known as Akemite monasteries, have a single Abbot or Abbess who runs the day to day affairs of the temple, serves as the chief spiritual advisor, and makes report every five years to the Necropolitan Temple and the Pale Hierophant by means of messengers and journeymen.

Monasteries are also provided with Whispered Councils, these comprising the eldest members of the Order.

Dogma: The structure of Akemite beliefs is straightforward; there is a natural order, and a law to all things, and Akem enforces that natural order and that law. Death is his primary concern, and the proper treatment of the dead and the salvation of the spirit is his realm. That means that Akemites are often very troubled by improper treatment of the dead, and will take extreme steps to ensure that the soul of the deceased is preserved so it may meet its appropriate judgment.

Thus, an Akemite will never stand for the defiling of a corpse, nor will they permit even enemies to go unburned or unburied, whatever custom is required. To an Akemite, the destruction of a soul by the improper care of the physical body is either a hideous tragedy for the good or a grievous injustice for the evil who would otherwise suffer in the afterlife.

Akemites are also strongly opposed to the use of necromantic magic to fashion false souls—the reanimation of the dead, the snatching of the dead from the World Below, all of these things cause great ire and consternation in Akemite priests and the Faithful.

Day-to-Day Activities: Akemites generally live in quiet contemplation or journeying, spending little time speaking, and much dwelling on the mysteries of the Order. They maintain the houses of worship, and also treat with the bodies of all the dead in the region; they are paid for the expert services as psychopomps and officiators of funeral rites.

Holy Days/Important Ceremonies: The Long Night in winter is the holiest day of the year for Akemites, and only Akemites do not have a superstition about walking abroad on that day.

Affiliated Orders: There are three types of Akemite orders in the North—the Monastic Order, following the Rule, the temple order, and the journeying order. Journeymen and women may be assigned to a home temple or monastery, but generally sever that link eventually. There is also the Southern Rite, which has its heart in the heat-baked desert of Khewed, but which is too different from the Northern Rite to be covered here.

Priestly Vestments: Priests of Akem uniformly wear black robes and cord belts. Very mighty abbots may have finer clothes, but only the Pale Hierophant and his direct servants generally wear embellishments. The Pale Hierophant can be singled out by his cope of ghostly-white fungal-spun cloth, a high circlet of bone, and a long staff bearing the Sign of the Gate carved from solid jet.

Adventuring Garb: Akemites will wear any arms and armor they can lay their hands on, but typically prefer gray and black tones. They generally adorn such arms and armor with their holy signs (the Gate, the Key, the sickle, the hourglass). Akemites are also often derogatorily referred to as “smokemongers” or “ash priests” due, in part, to the fact that they burn the dead, but also because of the smoke- or ash-colored clothes they prefer.

Journeying Priest of Akem
(Specialty Priest, Northern Rite)

ALIGNMENT: Any neutral
WEAPONS: Staff, mace, flail, sickle, scythe, khopesh
MAJOR SPHERES: All, Combat, Divination, Guardian, Necromantic, Travelers
MINOR SPHERES: Healing, Plant, Protection
MAGICAL ITEMS: Any that do not grant regeneration or the power to raise the dead in any way.
REQ. PROFS: Religion (Northern Rite)
BONUS PROFS: Reading/writing (any)

Clerics of Akem can sense the presence of the Returned, who violated the tenets of Akem’s law. They do not need to concentrate to do this; they simply know, when looking at someone, if they have been brought back from the dead. This ability is not comprehensive; there are many ways to stymie the Lord of the Dead, and the more powerful the returned one is, the more likely they will know a way to circumvent or deflect the Akemite gaze.

At 1st level, clerics of Akem destroy any undead they successfully turn; these creatures are blasted to ash by the fury of the Lord of the Underworld. In addition, they radiate an aura of control and authority—this aura may be enhanced by the Silent One once per day for every two levels of experience obtained by the priest; when this occurs, creatures within 15’ act as though they are under the effects of the 4th level wizard spell fear.

At 3rd level, the Journeying Priest may reasonably expect succor from anyone in the countryside as long as he has not angered them, their gods, or their lords (and even in some of these circumstances, aid may still be offered). At this point the priest is officially a Journeyman or Journeywoman of the Silent One.

At 5th level, the Priest is granted a very high resistance to death magic; they receive a +4 bonus on all saves vs. death magic.

At 7th level, the Priest may choose to cow undead and force them into his service until he is finished with them (at which point he must destroy them). In effect, the Priest may choose whether to Destroy Undead or Command Undead with any turning roll made.

At 10th level, the Priest Turns or Commands undead as though he were two levels higher.

At 15th level, the Silent One grants the priest the ability to cast the 9th level wizard spell, Power Word: Kill once per day for every 5 levels of experience the cleric has obtained. The priest is also immune to negative energy in all its forms—particularly level draining.

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