The Idolatry: Scripture of Sin
As trade swelled along the currents of Elqua’s oceans, new ideas from across the Endless Blue spread like algae blooms. Being the center of economic trade, the Yaun-Teel Bights became the host of a new form of religious thinking. A renascence of sorts, the view of superstitious mythology matured into a codified system of religious teaching. The collected works of that religious rebirth, and the gods therein, are known as the Idolatry.
Gods Like Us
The earliest religions of Elqua venerated abstract deities, primordial forces such as the Source and the Verse, that where the begin-all/end-all of existence. As the eons progressed, those avatars of creation and destruction waned and religion evolved into more focused, incarnate spirits. Totem guides, forces of nature, and even ancestral worship grew as a way for primitive piscean brains to come to terms with the harsh oceans that submerged them. From those personified spirits, individualized deities arose with specialized portfolios. They focused on ideas, life and death, freedom and servitude, debt and wealth. Eventually, those incarnations interacted, took on identities and personality, forming bonds and relationships, which became the collection of gods known as the Pantheon.
The Idolatry is the first instance in Elquan history wherein the gods are portrayed as anything other that abstract ideals or animal spirits. In the book of the Idolatry, the gods of the Pantheon take on a new piscean form along with new names. The gods became the same shape as their worshipers, as if they were mortals that have attained transcendent power. The Idolatry show no evidence of race — they are not Orcans or Yaun-Teel made god-like in size and power. But they share the same physical shape as mortal pisceans, the piscean form: a torso with a pair of arms, and culminating in a tail. But beyond that, they do not resemble the morphology of any of the sentient races.
The Idolatry is a reformed system of Pantheon worship, based on holy scriptures called “The Idolatry”. In its pages, each of the gods personifies a particular sin, with their teachings touting the benefits of that sin while their actions illustrate the drawbacks. It is a form of deific “do as I say, not as I do”, where the god demonstrates how His or Her lesson was learned.
Core of the book is the Lessons of Sin. These are the 28 lessons, conveyed in story form, of how a sin can go too far, and another sin shows the way back to safe behavior. These stories match two of the eight Idolatry gods, and center around the interaction of their two sins. The usual format follows that one god will embody their sin to an extreme, and the other shows the error from the perspective of their own sin.
Severity of Sin
As the Gods of Sin, the Idolatry extol the benefits of their domain. They believe in their personal sin so completely, personify the sin to utterly, that they eulogize its virtues to the extreme. But as anyone can argue, any sin taken too far is detrimental, and it is the actions of the other Idolatry gods that teach that every sin can become ruinous. The application of sin in the mortal life is broken down into three groups: Virtuous, Discrepant, and Venial.
In Idolatrism, the Virtuous, or Sacred Incarnation of the Idolatry, is the sin used correctly. It heightens the animus vitae through reinforcement, and is just in the eyes of the god. A just sin is one that follows the deities’ usage of the sin.
In contrast, a Discrepant, or Mortal incarnation of the Idolatry, the sin taken to an extreme. It corrupts of the animus vitae by the actions and thoughts of the mortal. A discrepant sin is one that overruns to the proper use of the sin.
Then there is the Venial, or Profane incarnation of the Idolatry, where a sin so weak as to actually become an expression of the sin’s virtue counterpart. A venial sin is one that runs contrary to the proper intention of the sin.
The venial sin of Wrath is Patience. Wait too long to assert yourself, and you get taken advantage of by those more aggressive.
Temperance is the venial sin of Gluttony, where denial of your own needs interferes with your own well-being.
As the venial sin of Greed, Charity has you sacrificing your own success to the advantage of others.
Automatically obeying orders through blind Loyalty is the venial sin of Envy.
Unthinking reaction is the venial sin of Sloth, Diligence.
The resistance to Lust results in Chastity, which dooms any species to extinction.
It is expected that everyone takes Pride in their actions, and to not lessen their self-respect through Humility.
Perhaps the most important of the venial sins is Privacy, and keeping what you know hidden lest others judge you disparagingly.
This does not mean that the virtues are seen as evil acts. Many, if not all are needed for society to function. Loyalty to one’s homesea is still expected, and treason is treated as a heinous crime. However, Idolatrism does explore the flaws of those virtues, the unnaturalness of them. Each virtue is difficult to maintain normally, and subservience to them is antithetical to personal survival. No matter how well-mannered and civilized, the piscean is still an animal down to the animus vitae.
Twisted are the Ties that Bind
In this new religion, more than just looks have changed. Some genders have changed (but such binary distinctions are fluid for most of the gods), and others have lost the more symbolic aspects of themselves in favor of more obvious, blatant traits.
The married Acedia of the Despair and Gula of the Gluttony rule over the others, but only in the most passive of ways. Both are considered parasites in the eyes of the Idolatry, figuratively for the former, literally for the latter. Acedia requires the others to do all acts for him, while Gula hangs off him and feeds her bloated belly. He is unwilling to work, and she is incapable.
The mated Superbia of the Pride and Luxuria of the Lust are seen as the shallowest of the Idolatry, personifying obsession with appearance and addiction to sexual indulgence. Neither are particularly loyal, and regularly seek out the thrills found in philandery. He yearns for adulation and She seeks seduction.
Invidia of the Envy and Avarita of the Greed are the matron saints of the Principles of Service. Invidia serves as the impetus to serve, while Avarita guides the way the Principles are expressed.
Ira of the Wrath and Malvy of the Deceit are the destructive powers of the Idolatry. They are the most active of the Idolatry gods, the most erratic. He seeks vengeance while she deflects blame, and together they instigate much of the turmoil found in the pages of the Idolatry.
“The wage of sin is a proper life, as virtue gifts nothing but an early death…”
— The Book of Ennegram, the Idolatry.
Eadro, the Changing Tide
The seasons change, and life under Elqua’s water migrates, abandoning its current seabed for the fresher environment over “there”. No matter where you are, the seaweed is always greener in the next kelp-bed, the waters clearer around the other coral reef, the fish tastier from another school. The vibrancy of what you have pales in comparison to what others have.
He is the God of life along the Shore, the Bather of Gills, where flora and fauna intermix. There, their lives overlap and intertwine, utilizing the virtues each other has to better themselves. The faithful of Eadro, His Ardent, know this and take it to heart. The shark is a great hunter. So Eadro’s Ardent use their teeth for unguis and skin for shagreen. The octopus is a wily obscurantist. Thus Eadro’s Ardent harvest their ink occlude the waters and their skin for clothing. Coral is robust and strong, hence Eadro’s Ardent employ it for hardiness and resilience.
Dissatisfaction with what is when what could be is so much better. Do not be satisfied with what you have, when it could be better. By wanting more, you expand your potential, protect against those with the very qualities you covet. Those qualities make them superior, put you at a disadvantage. Take those qualities and make them your own, and you protect yourself from those that will soon use that quality against you. You are inferior without the qualities that others possess, and others know that.
Eadro, the Deliverer, Lord of the Sunlit Shore, Bather of Gills, the Changing Tide, Invidia of the Envy.
Symbol: A spiral of green seaweed, swirling with fish, circling outward at a greater and greater arc.
Domains: Animal, Luck, Magic, Travel, War.
Preferred Unguis (weapon): Spear.
Clerical Unguis of Choice: Spear.
Cleric Alignment: Chaotic neutral, lawful neutral, neutral evil, neutral good, true neutral.
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Merrshaulk, the Covetous Collector
Mortal life is small, it is limited. Tiny specks in the vast endless blue, vulnerable to the slightest danger. To the living, life is precious and cannot be extended. Trapped in just a passing blink of time, with meager ability to produce, inadequate skills to survive, each passing second is lost.
With such a short time in the all-encompassing ocean, with death hunting for you at every moment, austerity is the foolish choice.. The few moments you have, have worth. Every moment should be squeezed for every precious drop of value.
Your time spent in the service of others instead of yourself therefore requires compensation. To not take compensation is to not value yourself, to waste that small sliver of a tiny life that cannot be brought back.
The only one that can define the worth of your time is you. If others cannot meet your expected compensation, then they do not deserve the sacrifice of your time. Convincing others of your worth is therefore your right. Demand the most for what you have and what you can do, for no one else will offer you its true worth.
The oceans are plentiful. The oceans provide. You need only take what you want, want as much as you can, to warrant your survival. This encourages the competition for resources, for wealth. Wealth not just in coinage, but in resources, influence, and power. This ensures only the most competent survive. And by hoarding more than you need you prohibit others from meeting their needs. Never overestimate another’s greed, nor underestimate your own need.
Merrshaulk, the Sagacious, Lord of the Hoard, the Covetous Collector, Avarita of the Greed.
Alignment: Chaotic Evil.
Symbol: A golden eel knotted around an upturned alabaster oyster shell, the eel’s head extending past one side.
Domains: Chaos, Evil, Knowledge, Luck, Trickery.
Preferred Unguis (weapon): Constriction.
Clerical Unguis of Choice: Netting.
Cleric Alignment: Chaotic evil, chaotic neutral, neutral evil, true neutral.
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Icthara, the Voracious
Live to eat; eat to live. Consumption is the basic need of all living things, the act of taking in nutrition to keep the body alive. It is the current of life, cyclical, that all things need to thrive. Eat, eat again, eat more, and grow. Feed, consume, gorge, for you never know when you might eat again. Next time, it might be you serving as the meal. Bottom feeder or apex predator, aquatic flora or Vastness aberration, all must obey the most primal of all urges: eat to survive.
All exists to sate the Endless Hunger. Not just food, but the living are to consume all that can be digested: drink, drugs, even detritus. She is the Goddess of Gluttony, not Pride. The sunken bodies of the dead are as much a feast to Her as the freshest roe. Even the ley line nexuses fall prey to Icthara’s ravening. She sups upon their puissance; and like ambrosia, She greedily gobbles it down.
The Queen of the Feast single-mindedly travels across the water world’s seabeds, consuming everything in Her wake with equal relish.
Icthara, the Voracious, the Empress of Consumption, Queen of the Feast, the Endless Hunger
Alignment: Neutral Evil
Symbol: Two rows of three orange hooks, facing downward and inward.
Domains: Animal, Destruction, Evil, Magic, Travel
Preferred Unguis (weapon): Claw.
Clerical Unguis of Choice: Prey catcher (man catcher).
Cleric Alignment: Chaotic evil, neutral evil, lawful evil, true neutral.
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Suminarae, the True Lie
Suminarae is a contradictory Goddess that makes sense. She is Goddess of beauty and peace, the lie of the outside belying what is within. Not all that is beautiful on the inside is reflected on the outside, just as inner peace does not quell the unrest of others. That is where the trickery comes in, the subterfuge, the lies.
She espouses the lies that heal, the passing falsehoods that make up idle talk. The perfect false self protect the flawed true self from harm. This is the image of substance, the protection of deceit. This is why She believes in keeping the populace ignorant, as ignorance is blissful peace. The romantic metropolis as opposed to the true city, the beautiful seascape versus the monotonous blue, there is ugliness in the truth, and balm in the lies.
It was Suminarae that found the world of Elqua for the Pantheon, that slaughtered its indigenous pisceans to make room for the Pantheon’s immigration. The race that loathed itself, that denied their own worth, beckoned to Her from across the planes. They were practically begging for sweet release, and it is Suminarae that now lies about that horror, that covers it up with the lie of omission.
But the Insidious Doubt has more secrets that define Her. Perhaps the most unexpected lie of Suminarae is that She is not whom Her flock worships. She is, in fact, the shard of Trishna known as Tornesh, the male twin/face of the Binity of Desire. Be it the seduction of lies, the lust for the beauty, or the luck of random chance, Tornesh is now a twisted falsehood of His former half-self, a fully free Goddess at peace with Her lies.
Suminarae, the Omission, the True Lie, the Hidden Truth, Insidious Doubt, She Who Knows, Malvy of the Deceit
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Symbol: Pearl clenched in a scorpionfish’s mouth.
Domains: Chaos, Healing, Luck, Travel, Trickery.
Preferred Unguis (weapon): Spine
Clerical Unguis of Choice: Spear
Cleric Alignment: Chaotic evil, Chaotic good, chaotic neutral, true neutral.
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Home of the Gods
The Gods of Elqua are unique in that their realm is the very waters around their worshipers. There is no equivalent to a Mount Olympus off of some abyssal trench or a perfect realm nestled in another dimension. The gods of the Pantheon are found in the very waters of the Endless Blue. Not any one set spot, but freely roaming the oceans like the other denizens of the water world. The Gods are out there, in the blue, to be experienced by the worthy, the unlucky, or the damned.
The souls of the departed pisceans are believed to either remain, disembodied, among the currents (such as with Ancestor Worshipers) or are absorbed by their higher power (like with those that believe in the Source of all life). This is where the Church of Olyhydra in different from her deific brethren: She promises her loyal followers an eternal respite from strife as they bask in her presence. Even the Pantheon, with all its lessons and stories, only insinuates that death is the final end. Olyhydra promises there is something more, and to a subjugated populace, that is an enticing idea.
Civilization and the Vastness
The Known World of Elqua is currently experiencing what would be called a burgeoning Renaissance. Chemistry in the form of alchemy is being codified. A form of concrete that sets in water has been developed. The Godless are actively attempting to educate the masses. Diplomacy between the Fluid Nations was achieved with the eponymous Fluid Nations Accord. Scientific observation has led to the rise of the College of Doctors and “modern medicine”. Fauna are tamed by Packbreeders and flora cultivated by Culinists. Even the formation of the Pearl Papacy in the Church of Olyhydra has heralded an oncoming time of change and enlightenment.
But above the waves, in the reviled hell known as the Vastness, the wilderness is anything but tame. The surface world is a savage place, populated by massive monstrosities and lethal landforms. On the scattered islands that make up the only landmass above the water, aberrations that can only be described as alien dinosaurs rule the world. Their form and function terrify the aquatic pisceans below to such a degree that the world above is universally shunned. It is the antithesis of life in the nurturing waters, thin and vacuous, swarming with horrible grotesqueness and terminal to all life.
Imagine the soul rending fear early pisceans must have felt when they dared peek up out of the water, their final sight the massive jaws of an aberration clamping down on them. Or the visage of his oblivious friends as suddenly the waters explode in a swirling froth of red and their friend is suddenly… gone. Of talons and claws, smashing through the water, skewering the unwary and dragging them from the seabed with such utter force. The shock wave, both physical and emotional, radiating outward as death plucks another meal from amongst the pisceans. The cacophonous sound of thrashing gone in an instant, left with nothing but the soft sloshing of the ocean fading in its absence.
“The Vastness is a hungry, lethal expanse that will feed on any life
foolish enough to swim too close to the ebbing tide.”