Arros and Setharus
The Light and the Darkness
|Alternate Names||The Everlasting Sky, The Light, Lord of Serenity||King of the Underrealm, Lord of Gloom, Lurker Below, Keeper of Secrets, Eater of the Dead, The Darkness, The Great Trickster, Prince of Bats|
|Status||Lesser God||Lesser God|
|Domain||Goodness, The Sky, Fortune, Life||Evil, The Land, Misfortune, Death|
|Ethos||The everlasting sky is the domain of Arros and he rules all things above and beneath.||Hate breeds strength.|
|Typical Worshipers||Avarians||Setharin, Orcs, Goblins|
|Head of the Church||Glitterbeak Ulari Janzer||Abolex|
|Demographics||98% Avarian, 2% Other||40% Setharin, 17% Orc, 13% Goblin, 10% Humans, 8% Ogres, 7% Dwarves, 5% Other|
|Geographic Regions||Avar||Western Ithria, including Avar, Uthran, Ulkran, Baythnia, Rivergate, Ithell and Normida|
|Holy Symbol||A single white feather.||A pair of bat's wings.|
Arros and Setharus form a dualistic religion wherein the two deities represent two opposing viewpoints (good versus evil). It is impossible to discuss Arros without also mentioning Setharus. Like sides of a coin, the two are inextricably linked. Setharus is the counterpart of Arros, his opposite in every way.
Arros is the god of the avarians and one of the Kindred Gods. He is seen as the progenitor of the avarian race. He is the lord of light, the everlasting sky and the serene one. He is all that is true and good and pure in the world. He is the pinnacle of avarian perfection, the giver of life, master of the world, light of the twin suns and guardian and protector of the race. Arros does not dwell in the sky, he is the sky and all things in it. He takes many forms, ranging from a flock of birds to a towering thunderstorm to a perfect azure blue sky. He is most commonly depicted, however, as a handsome male avarian with feathers of every color, a beak of silver, eyes of white fire and armored in brilliant glowing crystalline armor that is said to absorb all spells directed at him.
Arros is said to dwell in a huge palace of marble and ivory that sits upon the highest cloud. This paradise realm is called Meroka. Avarian mysticism states that it is to this place that all avarian souls eventually go to live in peace and harmony with the Universe.
Setharus is depicted as a horrific, mishapen avarian with leathern bat-like wings instead of feathers, wrinkled flesh the color of ash and bone white eyes. Setharus dwells in an enormous cave deep underground, deeper than even the dwarves dwell. He wanders the underrealm endlessly. It is said that anything buried, including the deceased, will eventually be found by Setharus and taken back to his lair. There, he feasts upon the bodies of those who have been buried. It is for this reason that avarians always cremate their dead on funeral pyres.
According to Avarian mythology, Setharus is the king of the underealm, the lord of gloom, the lurker in caverns, the keeper of secrets and the eater of the dead. He is the source of all greed, corruption and ill tidings.
Myths and Legends
In the beginning, before there was such a thing as Time, there was a great Void with light above and darkness below. Descending from the light came Arros, Lord of Serenity. He saw that the Void was peaceful and silence reigned. However, from the darkness below arose Setharus, the Great trickster. The two battled and the shook the Void with their war. They fought for nine days and nine nights until Arros was victorious and cast Setharus back down in the dark.
To fill the Void, Arros created the world… all the lands, mountains, rivers, forests and deserts. Other lesser gods eventually found their way into the world and brought their own minions and faithful with them. So did humans, elves, dwarves, grums, ogres and all the rest come into the world. But none of these races were created here. None of them truly belong here. This world was created by Arros and this is why avarians are the chosen race.
Setharus snuck back into the world, but fearing the might and light of Arros, he kept hidden within the caves beneath the lands. From the darkness of this gloomy home, he strikes out at all goodness and light, always plotting and warring against Arros.
Both Arros and Setharus are closely associated with storms and thunder. Not surprising, since the avarians live in the Thunder Peaks and spectacular thunder storms are common there. The priests claim, fervently, that the sound of thunder is the sound of Arros and Setharus locked in battle. Occasionally, the sounds of their battle slip through into the mortal realm.
It is said that Arros may teleport to any place in the cosmos where there is bright light. He can see and hear everything that happens if it is well illuminated. This is why the followers of Setharus make their temples dark and gloomy places… so that the Lord of Light may not spy on them.
Overview of the Church
The church of Arros is a large and powerful force for good in the far west, however, the isolationist tendencies of the Avarians tend to limit its influence throughout the realms.
The church is dedicated to the preservation and advancement of avarian culture, history and lore. It is a rigid and hierarchical organization. The priests have a strict, many layered system of ranks and their rituals are filled with complex protocol.
The church hosts massive congregations in their temples once each month to celebrate their lord and bask in his light. However, most worshipers also pray daily, either alone or in small groups. Prayer and ceremony are both conducted under the open sky or within sight of the sky.
Within the nation of Avar, the worship of Setharus is strictly outlawed and punishable by death. Those few avarians who stay in avarian society and yet pray to the Black One are forced to do so in absolute secrecy, with cunningly hidden shrines and elaborate protections. Setharus is seen by the faithful of Arros as a wicked cult that corrupts the world. In avarian society, Setharus’ name is sometimes evoked as a curse, an exclamation of disgust or anger and sometimes when someone is attempting to ward off evil, but is otherwise rarely spoken.
Those unfortunate avarians who are hatched as bat-like creatures are known as setharin. Setharin always leave avarian society (or are driven from it). Inevitably, these retched exiles find their way to the hidden temples of Setharus and most of them join his worshipers.
Those lost souls who worship Setharus meet in secret and always in gloom and shadow as Arros is said to know all things that happen in the light. They see Setharus as a benevolent lord who favors the faithful with gifts of strength and power. He is a source of ancient knowledge, arcane power and esoteric lore. Through him, his worshipers are freed from the chains of civility that bind others. Secrets, lies, ambition, passion – these are the paths to power and greatness.
The worship of Arros is tightly confined to the secluded nation of Avar. Worshipers of Arros outside of that mountainous region are very rare, but some worshipers can be found in the border villages of Uthran. Avarians that leave Avar and venture out into the world take their faith and religious practices with them. Hence, one might find a small personal shrine to Arros in the home of an Avarian elsewhere in the world, but no major groups of worshipers or public churches.
The worship of Setharus, however, is much more geographically dispersed. Not only do the setharin band together to worship their dark lord, but Setharus also has followers in other areas of the west. There are evil dwarves in both Uthran and Ulkran who have met the setharin and learned of the Black One and choose to worship. There are clans of orcs and tribes of goblins scattered through the Thunder Peaks and the Dragonclaw Mountains who worship the Setharus in their own way. In Bathynia, Rivergate, Normida and Ithell, there are dark hearted humans who pray to the Prince of Bats. Although the church of Setharus is not outlawed in these lands, those who do worship him often do so discreetly.
History and Origins
Because of the remote region of Avar and the seclusionist tendencies of the race, religious scholars actually know very little about the true origins of this faith. t is known that the mountain Thunder Peaks were home to seven great clans before the Sundering and that these were the progenitors of the seven avarian cities. It is also know that the seven clans of old worshiped a figure known as Avos, the Sky Lord and that his symbol was the eagle. There is little doubt that the ancient faith of Avos was the predecessor to the modern church of Arros.
Gar Draydon, a human historian from Ithell, has put forth the theory that the religion of Avos may have even been directly responsible for the direction of the evolution in this part of the world and the resultant avian aspects of the race.
Furthermore, Draydon believes that the faith of Setharus may have been based upon an actual setharin by that name, perhaps even the first setharin to be born. Of course, the theories of Gar Draydon are soundly rejected by both the church of Arros and the cult of Setharus as blasphemies by an infidel. They are quick to point out that he is human and knows nothing of Avarian truth.
The church of Arros provides the moral and spiritual anchor for avarian society. The church enjoys a unique position as the conduit between avarian culture and the spiritual realm. It also enjoys a constant influx of tithes that has been carefully interwoven with the faith. It is chiefly concerned with maintaining its status and position of authority. As such, the church has its own “tithe collectors” who collect regular contributions from the faithful right along side the city’s tax collectors.
The goals of the church of Setharin are much more insidious… those who bend knee to the Black One seek vengeance, power, wealth, invariably seek vengeance upon an enemy or perhaps the world. In addition to aiding its members with their own nefarious schemes, the cult of Setharus works to bring about the downfall of the church of Arros and, more broadly, all of avarian civilization. Assassinations, theft and extortion are all useful tools in this regard. While avarian society has its share of criminals and underworld organizations, the cult of Setharus generally operates independently.
Temples, Churches and Holy Sites
The church of Arros has a temple at each of the seven avarian cities. These colossal temples serve the entire needs of the faith, as there are no smaller churches or shrines. Each temple is ruled by its own high priest and operates independently of the other six temples. However, all seven temples do communicate with each other and share information and so forth. Priests often visit other temples, bearing gifts and so forth.
The temples of Arros are truly stunning sights. They are brilliantly lit, majestic constructions of stained glassed windows and glittering crystal domes. In order to be closer to their lord, the temples straddle floating islands of rock, hovering high above their city, kept aloft by powerful spells. These huge stone citadels house hundreds of chambers, vast congregation halls, prayer chapels, impressive libraries and historical archives. The main congregation hall is circular and covered by a massive crystal dome through which the sky can always be seen.
Rank and social status are closely tied to altitude in avarian society. Avarian cities are very vertical, often being tiered and built on steep mountain sides. The higher your dwelling is located, the higher your social standing and vice versa. The same is true within an Arrosian temple itself. The rank of the priests indicates where their offices and quarters are.
In stark contrast to the sun lit, glittering towers and domes of Arrosian temple, shrines to Setharus are always underground in large caves. The chambers, tunnels, shrines and altars are carved from the stone. These gloomy halls are always dimly lit and full of shadows. While there are exactly seven known temples of Arros, less is known of the temples of Setharus. It is believed that there may be dozens of them scattered around the west. Almost certainly there is one major temple near each of the seven Avarian cities. But it is equally certain that there are more, both in Avar and in neighboring nations. The temples of Setharus operate completely independently of one another.
Almost all avarians worship Arros , even if only casually. In the avarian culture, piety is considered as important as wealth and status and so most at least attempt to appear spiritual. Perhaps the most blatant division between the church of Arros and the cult of Setharus is in the nature of their respective worshipers. Arros is worshiped by almost all avarians and only avarians. Setharus, however, is worshiped by a broad mix of miscreants. First and foremost, he is the patron god of setharin, those unfortunate and misshapen avarians born with bat, rather than avian, characteristics. Setharus also counts many other races among his worshipers – goblins, orcs, ogres and evil hearted men have all been known to worship the Black One.
The cult of Setharus is a place for those who have been rejected by society. The setharin are persecuted, hated and driven from avarian society. As such, most setharin worship the Prince of Bats, whose very form is like their own. However, this dark cult welcomes any who are rejected or spurned. Mishapen brutes, desperate victims, jilted lovers, maimed warriors and crazed lunatics all find a place with Setharus.
Allied and Opposed Faiths
The church of Arros is directly opposed to the cult of Setharus and priests or followers of these two groups will attack each other on site. Fortunately, the secretive cult of Setharus excels at maintaining a cloak of secrecy so such encounters are rare.
Worshipers of Arros always seek to “live in the light” and this phrase has multiple meanings, both poetic and literal. The faithful always seek to do what is good and right, for themselves, for other avarians and for avarian society in general. The church places a great emphasis on the worshiper maintaining high standards of ethics and morals. Truth and honesty are another important concept. Darkness is for keeping secrets . Light banishes the darkness and makes everything visible and clear.
In a more literal way, light itself is a crucial concept in this faith. The faithful refuse to sleep in dark rooms and will never willingly enter a dark area (at least, not without a good light source). Worshipers avoid dark clothing and try to keep everything brightly lit. Fire, magic and other tools are all used to keep darkness at bay. Visitors to an Arrosian temple will receive a cold welcome if they are wearing dark clothing.
Night time is seen as a dangerous time when Setharus is strongest. However, the twinkling stars above are those faithful who have died and now live with Arros. Each is now a bright source of light, but very far away, burning brightly and shining through the “veil of Setharus”.
Among other things, the church of Arros teaches obedience to authority (especially religious authority), the superiority of the avarian race and adherence to avarian tradition. Worshipers are expected to maintain scrupulous behavior, a haughty arrogance and to always strive toward personal perfection and enlightenment. Through such behavior, the believer will spend an eternal afterlife with Arros in Meroka.
The ability to fly is a vital ability to each avarian and it is closely tied to this faith as well. To fly is to embrace the sky and to be one with their god.
The setharin who join do so because of the avarian society who rejected them for the way they were born. In the ranks of the Black One, they find acceptance, allies, resources, training and, above all, purpose. Non setharin join for a variety of reasons, but often to achieve revenge upon someone. Setharus teaches the peace that may be found in solitude, the balance that is restored with vengeance and the strength that may be found in hate. The faithful of Setharus pursue personal strength, power, wealth, glory, victory, vengeance and freedom. They work hard to wipe out weakness and vulnerability. They work tirelessly to avenge themselves upon anyone who has wronged them.
The central text of the Arrosian faith is a known as the Eik’Jahud which means “Everlasting Sky” in the avarian language. This ancient text is 21,700 words long and, according to legend, was written by Arros himself. It is traditionally written on a single long scroll of finest vellum and with edges gilded with gold. The Eik’Jaud contains many stories, church laws, histories and details on ceremonies.
It also contains a famous passage which describes the birth of the race.
"... Arros stretched out his trembling wing and with his beak tore out feathers more numerous than the stars and cast them to the Four Winds where they flew the world over. The Four Winds sought high cliffs and swept across the land to western peaks where, one by one, the feathers fell into the craggy cliffs below. And where each downy feather touched the land, there sprang forth a being both man and bird in one. From the wings of Arros did we grow and so to the everlasting sky do we return in dreaming flight to be one with our creator...."
There is much debate over the meaning of certain passages. Whole classes within the temples are devoted to debating various points of views.
The holy text of Setharus is the Ek’glumata or, more commonly, the Tome of Shadows. It is a book bound in boiled leather (most typically the hide of a darkwing) and etched with his symbol. It’s pages are black and filled with silvered runes. The book is filled with spells, chants and meditations.
The symbol of Arros is a single white feather. The symbol of Setharus is a pair of bat wings.
The priests of Arros gather beneath the crystal dome of the great congregation hall each day when the twin suns reaches its zenith and chant prayers to their lord above.
A similar ceremony is conducted on nights of celestial significance (lunar eclipse, lunar alignment, meteor showers and so forth) but such ceremonies call upon Arros for protection from Setharus.
The priests of Arros are also known for “cloud reading”. The priests teach that the great Arros reveals the future to them in the shapes of clouds and the coming of storms. A dagger shaped cloud might portend a murder. A large winged cloud might foretell the coming of a dragon and so on. A great storm portends ill tidings. Such cloud reading has been practiced for centuries by the avarians and is considered an art form. Some avarians combine drugs or magic with cloud reading. It is a very spiritual and personal practice.
In avarian mysticism, there are four winds: North, South, East and West. They came into being when the world was formed. The Winds represent aspects of Arros. The North Wind is Arros' hopes for the future. The South, his desires and needs. The East, his fears and the West, his promises. Each responds to Arros. For instance, a wind or storm from the south signifies that Arros is in need of something and searching for it.
Various alignments of the stars and moons are considered holy events and are typically celebrated with a great night time feast. Any day that delivers a storm is also considered holy by the priests of Arros.
Setharus temples have no set holy days. Each group creates its own holy days based on the victories, defeats and importance dates of its founders and predecessors.
The Seven Orbs of Arros - The church of Arros is in possession of seven enchanted crystal shards that allow communication with each other. Each of these appears as a large faceted crystalline orb, roughly in the shape of a huge egg. According to legend, these were fashioned by Arros himself and given to his priests long ago. As such, they are the most holy artifacts of the church. Each of the seven temples holds one of the Orbs and each is cherished as their most valuable and holy relic. The faithful of Arros make many claims about the Orbs... that they allow the high priest to not only communicate with the other high priests, but to see the past, foretell the future and even commune with Arros himself.
If the cult of Setharus has any major artifacts, they are a well kept secret and not known to religious scholars.
Overview of the Clergy
Each of the seven Avarian cities are home to hundreds of Arrosian priests. The priests form an entire layer of avarian society and they enjoy near celebrity status. They are seen as the link between the mortal world and Arros himself. Noble families vie for the honor to host priests at their homes and parties. Avarian priests stay for free in every avarian inn, drink free in every tavern and receive frequent gifts and favors from the common citizenry.
Priests wear white robes, white hooded clocks and vests of white leather with a crystal shard mounted in the center of the chest. These crystal shards glow.
The rank structure of the Arrosian faith is complex and bewildering to outsiders. There are fifty seven ranks from the lowliest acolyte to the high priest. Each of these ranks has several subranks, commendations and special honors which can be won. Because such ranks, honors and commendations each come with a medal or piece of jewelry, the typical priest wears a dazzling variety of insignia upon their priestly vest. Most of these trinkets are shiny, bright and many of them glow.
Priests of Arros are always excellent flyers. They are typically well equipped by the church with the best clothing and armor and weapons that money can buy. Furthermore, the higher ranking priests wield powerful magic and have a variety of spells at their command.
When a priest becomes so old that they can no longer fly, they join a new rank of the priesthood, the Council of Grand Elders. As a grand elder, they take on a role of contemplation, study, wisdom and advice. They are respected and revered, but their role becomes greatly diminished, being now little more than advisors to the active priests. They no longer lead ceremonies and they tend to withdraw from the public eye.
The temple over Piramus is, in many ways, the head temple and the high priest of that temple, Glitterbeak Ulari Janzer, is unofficially considered the leader of the entire faith.
In contrast to the Arrosian priests, the priests of Setharin were black robes with deep cowls. The most powerful priests ride darkwing bats through the night sky.
Sethari priests have no formal rank structure at all. They differentiate themselves only by their knowledge of the dark arts and their abilities. A natural hierarchy develops. Regardless of their position, they all refer to themselves as "brothers and sisters of the Dark". Likewise, they bear no insignia or decoration of any kind. Each gains knowledge, power and ability through individual study, self contemplation and his or her own private relationship with Setharus.
The priests of Setharus are known for their very powerful spells. They can hurl spheres of inky blackness which stun or kill opponents. They can cloak themselves in shadows to conceal themselves and have remarkable control over light and darkness. They can cover themselves in shadow armor, absolutely silent and yet strong enough to turn the heaviest blade. They can see in the dark with ease and teleport short distances between shadows.
Setharus is called the Great Trickster and the Keeper of Secrets. In this regard he has also taught his priests many spells of the mind. The priests can cloud the mind and charm man or beast. They can weave illusions from the stuff of shadows, steal secrets from a wakeful mind and invade the dreams of a sleeping mind. It is said no secret is safe from a priest of Setharus.
Although each temple does have a leader, the faith has no "head of the church". However, there is one setharin by the name of Abolex whose infamy has spread far and wide. He rules a major temple in the heart of Avar. He is said to be the most powerful priest of this faith and none dare challenge him. If any can claim the title of "high priest of the faith" it would be him.
This website was last updated October 5, 2021. Copyright 1990-2021 David M. Roomes.