CE Greater Deity
Aliases: The Duchess of Sensation, The Faceless One, Mind’s Whirlwind, The Synesthetic (always compliment, artists only) the Sickly Moth (derogatory)
Portfolio: Lust, Desire, Violation of Taboos, Ecstasy
Favored Weapon: sap
Domains: Chaos, Charm, Destruction, Luck, Trickery
Xurialu’s existence is based in a dreamlike state of euphoria. And as such, it is her embrace of surrealism that produces a strange effect upon her divine symbol. Technically, it is not a symbol at all but rather an idea, more specifically, a memory of sublime ecstasy. Not joy, but ecstasy (an altered state of mind created by an involvement so exclusive that self-awareness briefly ceases to exist).
All of her clerics must experience this phenomenon before coming to her attention. For it are these memories, the seba, that birth her divine symbols. These symbols will never fade nor alter. And, by nature, they are vague and difficult to properly describe with words. To employ the power of the seba, the cleric simply needs to recall the image that holds the divinely infused power. During this process it is not uncommon for an advocate to gesticulate wildly as the memories of that single, perfect moment come rushing back.
Obviously, it is extremely difficult to separate a symbol from its host. Yet it is even harder to make replacement ones in the case that a seba is somehow lost. The cleric must somehow replicate the original experience, which given Xurialu’s proclivities, usually involves copious amounts of drugs.
Generally, the more time inhabitants of a civilization have to spend in leisure, the more concentrated the Faceless One’s followers become. This phenomenon is in part due to her recruitment practices: artists, philosophers, and the enemies of the ennui. In reality, it is near impossible to find those listed when the masses of a society must focus on their survival. For it is in the hours or rest when nothing holds the active mind that the Moth begins to flutter, whispering ways to dispel the growing sense of apathy and boredom, and filling it, instead, with wonder and new heights of sensation.
This sickness explains why many rural townships are suspicious of the overeducated and idle. Many advocates for the Duchess of Sensation tend to be rather creepy, which tends to stick in the collective memory of a people. Even so, most worshipers are not actually stereotypical of those caught in the Mind’s Whirlwind. Most are simply introspective, the philosophical sort.
These followers come to her in desperation, seeking a goddess that understands the plight of those who fail to experience joy in simple animal pleasures. In fact, the vast majority of Xurialites (Xurialu worshipers), advocates and lay members, are artists or connoisseurs of art in some sense: painting, literature, the stage, music, or some combination of the above. Of this group, a significant portion beyond the majority are snobbish, viewing those satisfied with food, drink, and pleasurable company as lower intellectual beings.
Xurialites seek pleasure, but more than that, satisfaction. Food, drink, and intimacy are incapable of leaving a true, long-lasting memory for these people. It is this reason why most were driven to Xurialu in the first place. However, even with their superiority complexes, they tend to not actively oppress others. In fact, Xurialites become alarmed when others attempt to clamp down on free expression. They will undoubtedly go so far as to crackdown on those responsible for censorship. All people should be free to experience life.
Ultimately, most of the Xurialites, while not particularly helpful, are harmless. A few have been known to patron expeditions in search of long lost lore and art. Most are at least moderately wealthy. And all are fascinated with the entertainments of ancient civilizations. Thusly, this reasoning leads to the common urban viewpoint that this eccentric group is foppish; fashionable, hedonistic, and largely of no interest whatsoever, positive or negative.
Advocates, Direct Followers, and Minions
common: arden, nalu
uncommon: amoraq, goblin
rare: fenodyree, kel, sobekite
Xurialu’s advocates, though similar to her worshipers, are far more outlandish. They spend a great deal of time attempting to become art. Most are unable to accomplish such a feat. So instead, they devote themselves to some of the unhealthiest of expressions by seeking ecstasy wherever available. To a truly devoted cleric, the barrier of decency and sanity simply becomes a challenge, a restriction that prevents lesser individuals from finding true joy and beauty. The seba is born through the direct follower’s obsessions. Hence the symbolic memory serves as a catalyst for the cleric’s vision.
Examples of these outcomes are abundant; including, but not limited to, a cleric that deliberately overdoses on cocaine to experience truly quick and erratic thought, or one who throws himself into pitched battle just to know the adrenaline that comes from fearing for his own live. Another may be obsessed with curiosity so he simultaneously provokes a crime wave while he assists law enforcement to study how investigation intersects with the simple joy of knowing. Furthermore, the most diseased will go so far as to burn a village to the ground just to know the joy of wanton destruction and, hopefully, the escape of a crime.
There is no sensation, no avenue of experience these advocates will deny themselves. Xurialu states that the world is fundamentally absurd and lacking in inherent meaning, a whirlwind of causality that ultimately signifies nothing. What matters is to live grand, know as much of the world as offered, and find true contentment. The only limit to a cleric’s whim is his obsessions, his favorite sensations and canvasses of experimentation.
Needless to say, most Xurialu clerics are mildly insane, or at the very least they end up that way. The rampant abuse of mind-altering substances that their goddess requires does take its toll on their overall capacity for normal thought. Most are not even offended when their insanity is called out. Of course, they are insane; they see the world for the mad place that it is and adapt to it. But what makes them different from the garden-variety madman, they claim, is that that they never act without purpose.
Of the races that follow Xurialu, it is the wicked nalu that are her quintessential devotees. Their nigh-constant need to sublimate their passions for safety wears at their minds. And while most seem content with their surface excesses, more than a few will succumb to her. Their daily denials of being “real” while underwater combined with the endless dread of another attack is more than enough to hurdle these peace-loving creatures into the Duchess of Sensation’s web. As a result, entire nalu settlements have been known to give over to her. Thankfully, for the nalu the attitude of the Sickly Moth’s sects among them still teaches restraint. In times of peace, they are generally found obsessively carving artifacts and chewing on opiates to displace the drudgery.
While it may be hard for some more cultured peoples to believe, the arden are actually the most common of Xurialu’s advocates. This fact mainly has to do with their lack of shame and their paradoxically self-centered yet communal nature. The latter leads, in odd cases, to the arden developing a loss of identity and an existential angst as their awareness of cognitive dissonance between their selfishness and their selflessness begins to evolve.
Inevitably, Xurialu shows up to fill in the gap. This sense of ennui is not as frequent as one might suspect, just a couple arden out of one hundred will take. But once her claws sink in, the entire arden clan almost invariably ends up in the Synesthetic’s control. The mind of an arden, which is always focused on the now, cannot simply decide to ignore the lack of self importance in the universe. This detail is something faithful arden recruiters are trained to focus on when drawing in new members.
Amoraq are uncommon advocates, and rightly so. For such an amoral goddess the ursines’ devotion must be born of something altruistic. In this case, it is the desire to turn their destructive passions into something creative. This goal is not born of happiness. Generally, the afflicted amoraq have experienced firsthand the destruction their fury can cause, and have grown desperate to channel it in any productive way they can manage.
They tend to remember these feelings as the darker parts of Xurialu impose themselves. And what they once defined as “productive” ends up becoming awfully liberal in application. Technically, the destruction of a dam that had choked off a river is a useful thing, at least for the river. It returns life and beauty to the area. But for those people that built the dam and depended on it for survival, the amoraq conveniently forget about their needs. Still, the amoraq are known for being the most stable of Xurialu’s advocates, not to mention for producing some of Thepa’s finest heartrending music.
One cannot say the same about the mental stability of the goblins that join the Faceless One. Their race is manic enough as it is, so the path leading to Xurialu needs but a pinch of depression added and the volatile mix reacts smoothly. A goblin’s fall typically comes out of heartbreak at the careless or deliberate spoiling of natural beauty, either by the destruction of others or The Rise. Both paths are not so much cruel as they are deliberately capricious and reckless, yet it is the motives that result in two massively different sects.
Those driven to the Synesthetic by others are xenophobic and strange, reveling in the fact that those that are not devout servants cannot really understand a devout servant. They conduct strange rituals and follow customs purely to see how other races react. The others, who are driven to her by themselves, are actively self-loathing and bitter, viewing their own nature and that which is affected by it as a grand cosmic joke. Worse, they transfer that bitterness to others, taking out their own internal torment by visiting it upon unsuspecting bystanders, the lucky curs.
The three other races with a significant presence in Xurialu’s followers are all equally rare. And all of them are known for being extremely vicious and amoral, though the fenodyree and sobekites only act out under very specific circumstances, which excludes their immediate social circles. It is not that they regard working their darker inspiration on their caravan or clan abhorrent on a moral level; it is more to the point that their culture has led them to find the very concept of betrayal irredeemably ugly.
Kel, however, are outright nightmarish. While already a fearsome and vicious people in the best of times, Xurialu kel are born of an odd existential angst. They grow angered at the restrictions that their militaristic society has placed upon them. To rectify this paradox, a kel in service to the Duchess becomes, for lack of a better term, a serial killer. Old military disciplines become ritualized behaviors that cause bizarre and obscene mutilations to their victims’ bodies, which in turn correspond to some obscure theology. The one mercy of these psychopaths is that such a “sainted killer” takes a number of prohibitions to prevent themselves from killing altogether if violated. There is no passion without legitimate opposition or difficulty after all. Beyond that, though, a Xurialu kel is a crafty, monstrous, and cruel beast with a ferocity only matched by cunning.
The Duchess of Sensation does not quite know her own story. Or rather, she does. But her memories are vague and fragmentary things, a shattered mirror of scintillating rainbows and partial perspectives that she is not entirely sure are all her own. Sometimes the slurry of souls she bathes in leaks through into her ego. She remembers being a poet, a musician, a dancer, and sometimes all three at once. All that she can be certain of is that she was an artist of things that fundamentally never lasted.
She also remembers being feared and admired for her work, worshipped and feted for her disturbing focus and subject matter, and reviled and hated for the same reasons. She remembers a life that swung wildly between indulgence and frugality, forsaking all pleasures to work on her next peace or losing her mind to the rewards of a job well done. She is sure this constant wavering between hedonism and puritanism is what killed her in the end. However, she did become a god. What is more surprising is the fact that these memories are the most prone to corruption from her soul pool. Yet even in this truth she is able to find enjoyment. She adores the ability to discover an ever differing version of her former existence after her daily swims.
The Faceless One, in appearance, does not actually lack a face. Anecdotal evidence from old works of Eluen-cuthpar magic meant to analyze the growing numbers of gods suggests hers is as fair as the Goddess of, among other things, Lust has a right to be. Her moniker actually refers to the fact that Xurialu is not so much seen as she is unrecallable; it’s hard to perceive coherently enough to gain an accurate impression of her features or even general figure in her presence.
All those who have encountered her describe a shorter individual that stands somewhere between the size of a dwarf and a human. Aside from this definite trait, nothing else can be agreed upon. It is not that she is a shapeshifter. It is more to the point that she is passion-made-real, burning and shifting beneath the skin of her body. One does not “see” so much as “feel” her. How does one describe the color of joy, or the shape of anger? Combine this physical appearance with the fact that her emotions and personality switch as she grows bored with her current persona and one can see why her appearance is ever shifting. Xurialu does not mind. In fact for a deity, she is remarkably lacking shallowness. Xurialu is genuinely of the opinion that it is the mind and soul that matters when it comes to people.
Whatever her current persona, Xurialu is passionate and intense. She may be a font of manic cheerful energy, a tempest of anger and aggressive posturing, a hungry hole of despair and sorrow, or anything else a mortal associates with being given over to emotional extremes. The Duchess is not stoic by any stretch of the imagination. Boredom and ennui are the enemy. And consistency of personality is a boredom she is uniquely suited to escape.
Beyond her capricious emotions, however, the Mind’s Whirlwind is remarkably stable and sober. Her goals never change. And while those goals may be fascinatingly destructive, neither will her sense of judgment change. Xurialu understands what parts of her are truly core to her motivations and agenda. The “real her”, in a sense, is quite capable of priorities. She is willing to accept being a little bored now and then for achieving greater excitement later. Thus, she has a reputation for being among the most patient and farsighted daeva, especially with her followers. She is willing to give any cleric the time needed for a plan to come to fruition. And when they ask her for help, she does not needle about or recompense with offers of creative suggestions; she likes surprises.
Xurialu’s patience truly terrifies both gods and mortals. There is no art too obscene, no inspiration too horrifying for her endless appetites of stimulation, whether mental or physical. In fact, something being morally or legally forbidden just adds to the allure of the taboo. One of her most infamous actions was engineering the lives for a set of twins, nearly identical except for their genders and color of eyes, then separated them until young adulthood. Eventually the two reunited and fell in love. Xurialu set this up both as an experiment in the ways of how physical similarity plays into attraction and to satisfy one of her interesting fetishes, picked up from her soul pool. The fallout ruined the lives of both mortals.
As far as the relationship with her followers, Xurialu has different models for lay members and for advocates. The first group is treated with an impersonal hands-off approach. To them, the Synesthetic is a distant but admired figure, not unlike a celebrity or famed exemplar. While she receives prayers, it is arguable that she never answers them directly. Instead she delegates that work to her demonic emissaries. She does not bless lay members with any obvious miracles, rather flashes of inspiration and insight into how to truly feel a particular pleasure. The lay members expect this response, and honestly don’t mind.
This reaction is not so with her true advocates. While she is not a generous goddess, the Duchess is a very personable one, perhaps due to her relatively small following. The relationship Xurialu has with her most devoted followers is that of master and apprentices. She is both friend and mentor to those who have gained the seba or may in the future. Many advocates believe that she directly intervened to save them at their lowest points and give them some obsession to live.
While the blessings she reserves for her advocates are no less intangible than her lay member’s blessings, they are far more productive. A pleased Xurialu may grant a streak of incredible luck, a taste of mind-shattering experience drawn from a single drop of her soul pool, or even calling the advocate’s astral form to her side for personal tutelage. But do not mistake this effort as companionship. While she may act friendly towards her advocates, she is not above manipulating them to serve her agendas, nor is she overly saddened by the doom of her most beloved students. Ultimately, the priority of Xurialu is always Xurialu. Nothing more. Nothing less.
The first thing people notice about this hell is the lights. Pandemonium’s inhabitants have a seemingly universal fascination with illumination. And given the particular nature of petitioners in Xurialu’s domain, they are quite willing to place it everywhere they can. The entire plane shines like a surreal rainbow, to a point that many demons leave the layer as soon as they are spawned.
Once the eyes adjust to the plane’s brilliance it becomes rather clear that Pandemonium, despite its steady stream of emigrants, lives up to its name Demon Haven. The entire plane is covered by a phantasmagoric city, equal parts castle and metropolis. The buildings seem deliberately built to connect to their neighbors, with more than a few of them being built directly into the walls of said neighbors. The styles vary from the obscenely mundane to fantastical.
Buildings are modified in various and abundant arrays by the architects and sculptors of the plane: demons, petitioners, the occasional fae, and even the ruling goddess herself – on the rare occasions that it suits her fancy. The only limit to their construction is the resources that the city’s new buildings require, and those are easily taken from the older, damaged buildings. Indeed, maps are less than useless in Pandemonium. As soon as a semi-accurate map is created, the urban environment will have been torn apart and rebuilt somewhere else as something completely different. Navigating the plane requires some degree of ability to tap into the omnipresent light – in actuality, the passions of those that live there.
The petitioners in question do not take long to adapt. Each and every one of them is a pattern of those same lights, and quite capable of extruding said lights to paste on to the walls and ceilings. Yet it is important to note that the petitioners do not have an infinite resource of light. And for reasons that are obvious to those who have experienced Pandemonium without light, one can see why they are reluctant to give up their personal illumination.
The entire city must remain lit for without it the lives of those plunged into the darkness turn gravely grim. Here, light is passion, which naturally occurs through ecstasy. Hence the second thing visitors to this hell notice, the nigh-constant din of moans, screams, shouts, and other wordless sounds of sapience whose reasoning has been briefly lost in sensation. Petitioner lights toil in creative and destructive endeavors. They writhe in bizarre tangles of trysting lovers that living beings find hard to recognize. The more sadistic and masochistic among them conspire to inflict pain both grand and exquisite on each other.
These impressionable sensations are what fill Xurialu’s soul pool. She will always have an abundant number of self-chosen donors. The loss of identity in the vortex of memories and thoughts is both a terrifying and a wondrous experience, when one neglects the inevitable expulsion from Xurialu’s lagoon of sin. When they are no longer of use, the petitioners are spit out as confused, insane husks – shadows of their former selves.
Thankfully for any visitors, the truly vicious (those who take pleasure instead of losing themselves to it) are fairly rare. These genuine sociopaths, who ignore or revel in degradation, are the ones that frighten most of the petitioners – particularly because they are often the focus of these horrific individuals. And it is the unlucky fools who get caught that are tossed to the dark. The dark, which in Pandemonium, is not just the dark. It is the polar opposite of light, of passion. The dark is ennui.
How the dark came to be the opposite of light is a matter of debate. Is it simply a trait of the plane? The result of ages of light being so associated with intense emotion that the plane itself followed suit? Or was it an alteration its ruler made that she’d be hard pressed to even remember, let alone admit? Whatever the case, the dark is not a mere absence of light. It is more tangible than that.
The dark acts like a gas, and those who breathe it in quickly find themselves losing all motivation and happiness. They are left with an empty, suppurating void of despair. What’s worse is that leaving the darkness once you have tasted it is extremely difficult. And for petitioners, it can be even harder.
The dark seeps into their light and refuses to leave. Their lights burn out faster. Their ecstasy becomes rarer. And it will never return to the intensity once held. This regrettable experience drives the petitioners to greater and greater heights of decadence and hedonism during which they forget to replace their building lights. And of course, the demons are all too happy to help the dark along, accepting ennui in return for refuge from the never-ceasing brilliance.
Xurialu cares little for these unfortunate souls. She is not permanently dimmed like her subjects. Perhaps, she possesses enough of a grasp on her own pleasures to see the enervating dark as a way of throwing her other pleasures into start relief, helping them stay new and novel for just a while longer by contrast. Whatever the reason, the petitioners receive no help from her.
As one familiar with the mechanics of soul purification might guess, these occurrences are all part of the process. The souls drawn to Xurialu’s abode are some of the most wanton and desirous souls on the Thepa, which ties them to their living selves, their old allegiances, and their memories. The mind-numbing pleasures cause the petitioners to lose their connection to their former lives and the dark’s ennui causes their connection with their own pleasures to fade. Eventually, they break one way or the other to further their paths. Curiously, this system has a visual sign; those sinners who are moving lower briefly shine the brightest of all the petitioners, a brief human-scale nova, while those who embrace their lives briefly become patterns of pure darkness, a pure darkness that seems almost serene.
Artwork provided by Sandara
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