NE Greater Deity
Aliases: The Ninth Calamity, The Burner of Refuge, The Carmine Fist, Slayer of Veils (derogatory), The Final General, Thepa’s Defender (reserved for a very few deities)
Portfolio: Wrath, Total War, Conquest, Systematic Destruction, Ruthlessness, Aggressive Tactics
Favored Weapon: greatsword
Domains: Air, Artifice, Evil, Strength, War, Weather
Tenets: Arcane, Conquest, Death, Humility, Obstinacy, Ruthlessness, Strength, Systematic Destroyer, Terror, Wrath
As the source of all harmful channeling, it comes as no surprise that the very symbol of Rai is also magical in nature. This magic is stored in a precious or semi-precious stone, preferably a ruby. The remainder of the symbol’s makeup is trivial.
To form the divine bond, a ritual sacrifice of a living creature is required. Accounts of captured horses being slaughtered to create entire armories of Rai’s symbols for war have been documented, though more powerful symbols demand sacrifices of truly sentient beings. The legend of a dragon meeting a priest’s sword to anoint a true artifact is easily recalled even by non-believers.
Near the apex of the formality, the blood from the offered creature spills onto the symbol-to-be, spontaneously reshaping the gemstone into the infamously known fist. The red, armored fist signifies the universal declaration of an army’s intent to give and ask for no mercy.
Finally, at the completion of the ritual, something of the blood’s vitality seeps into the new symbol; the stained crest becomes continuously wet with blood, and whenever worn afterward, the symbol’s cruor rubs off on the priest’s clothing. These clerics of the Burner of Refuge appear as warriors who have either completely ignored a wound or have walked away from a fresh kill, a truly frightening visage.
Rai has a surprising amount of followers for a being who is shamelessly judgmental. Part of his momentum lies in the fact that he is the oldest of all the other deities and has been gathering followers since his descension. Part is the fact that his judgment swings both ways, and those who impress him are lavishly rewarded. But mostly, it is because the Ninth Calamity is the deity most concerned with direct warfare.
Deities of combat and death exist elsewhere, even within the elohim; but Rai is the only one who directly supports the very concept of an army and military tactics. Hence his first title the “Ninth Calamity”. In ancient texts of the Eluen-cuthpar his name refers to warfare gone wild, out of the control of anyone, even its generals. And while popular use of the so-called 13 Calamities is lost to history, Rai embodies such perfect intentional disaster absolutely, wearing the name with pride.
Popular worship of Rai tends to be done by militaristic nations and armies. Even the forces of Zenaket, his most stalwart enemy, have been known to utter a prayer or two to Rai in times of great need, though Rai never answers prayers for protection alone.
In many ways, Rai is also a deity of magic. He is a master of all forms of war, mystical artillery among them. He is also quite skilled in the use of magic and is willing to teach, rather patron the teaching to any mage that desires bloodshed and violence. No small amount of arcane traditions or schools of thought relating to combat claim him as a patron, though most do not directly worship him.
Advocates, Direct Followers, and Minions
common: kel, human
rare: amoraq, fenodyree, goblin
Given his vast array of worshipers, it comes as no surprise that Rai’s advocates are similarly diverse and cosmopolitan. Most tend to be soldiers and warriors of some sort or another, and a few even choose him purely to become better warriors. Rai also enjoys the service of a vast number of highly-destructive monsters attracted to the carnage and chaos that his battlefields provide.
Above all others is his true cult, the kel. These monastic marauders live war. Rai is foremost among their pantheon. It’s regarded as an alarm to kelian society when a cleric serves a deity other than Rai, but these incidents are rare.
Kel clerics of Rai are sometimes known as “Red Priests”. They paint themselves with sacrificial blood, going to war wearing nothing but the liquid of life. The sights of these zealots have been known to break enemy morale even before the first casualty. This practice is the only exception to the studious cleanliness that most kel practice; their fascination with blood as a holy substance.
Red priests are also famous for being the most competent undead hunters in Thepa. Rai’s servants fear and hate those crushed under their heels since many of the slain have risen as vengeful undead whose only purpose is to stop the war march. A particularly outstanding incident of this phenomenon took place when an entirely destroyed city rose as ghosts and decimated a surprised host of giants that had attacked Tamarack. The memories of this moment gave rise to his somewhat insulting epithet, the Slayer of Veils, specifically the veil between life and death.
Thus the red priests ensure the undead never subverts a kelian army. Given the attitudes of most undead toward the living, it is not unknown for advocates of the elohim to help the kel in this duty, most notably when no other option is available. Alliances quickly dissolve when the undead scourge is dealt with, though the kel are honorable enough not to immediately attack their former allies.
Closely following the kel in numbers are evil-inclined humans, especially soldiers. Combatants of all sorts offer prayers to him; however, only true advocates who actually enjoy war and embrace violence join his clergy. The average human worshipers that do fall embody this aspect as crazed berserkers, assassins, and generals seeking glory rather than duty. Most human countries have significant cults to Rai, whether acknowledged or persecuted. Many are found in its armies and to a lesser extent organized crime. Violence is often the only dialogue criminals are able to grasp. The only exception is Tamarack, which primarily uses undead as its forces.
Drow pursue Rai as one of their lesser religions, primarily by males, but uniquely, not for unhappiness with one’s low station. On the contrary, the drow advocates think of themselves as the unseen backbone of society, noble and just, the dutiful soldiers of the larger culture. The added benefit of their faith allowing them to cheerfully bully and oppress lesser creatures without censure from the ruling matriarchs is not overlooked either.
These drow regard the art of war and combat as the highest of all artistries. It not only possesses a savage, feral beauty, but also becomes a rather practical art form. As a result of this belief, small detachments of his dark elf devotees have become subjects of fear and awe across all of Thepa for both their serene efficiency and brutal grace in combat.
The demographics of the remaining advocates become more varied and somewhat rare. Amoraq are one of these rarer races. Their fury serves them well in his armies. Amoraq clerics simply let go. They embrace the fury of the beast, learn to channel it in battle, and release it in bloody devastation carving holes in the defenses of enemy armies.
Goblins are infrequent as well. Those that do join Rai’s ranks feel that their forests are threatened and wish to destroy those who impinge upon their homelands. These goblins do not meet their opposition head on, rather they service the Last General by epitomizing the shadowy and tactical aspects of warfare by becoming master guerillas and trappers.
The rarest of Rai’s devout are the fenodyree. While all good-inclined races are capable of being gripped by the Carmine Fist, the fenodyree find themselves embracing the path of Rai’s divinely sanctioned and empowered violence at an alarming rate. A closer examination of their history reveals why; these merchant storytellers have a culture and a general instinct toward live and let live, yet there is a slight undercurrent of bitterness and ideation for the past.
Their homeland, uninhabitable and turned to ash, was lost in the Cataclysm. Most recognize their ancestors were at fault, though more than a few view themselves as victims. These fenodyree grow so enthralled with not only reclaiming their homeland, but with the glory they once had that they begin to think…Rai was a giant, a born enemy of dragons and a fey embodiment of primal civilization. Perhaps they can enlist his help in reconquering the old country.
Before one learns the character and history of Rai, one needs to learn the character and history of the giants as both subjects are integral to his descension to become the Final General, the king of the daeva. Like dragons, giants are children of the Feywyld, creatures that embody an aspect of Thepa. In this case, the giants held the twin principles of culture and tool use for their civilization created the mechanics that built all other civilizations and Thepa’s basic implements. One of these implements was the weapon.
Unfortunately without mortal ideals of restraint or social altruism, the first giants used their instruments of death to build great cities on the backs of slaves. But as the dawn of the primordial races brightened, something changed. The primitive humanoid tribes founded their first settlements; new ideas about the concepts of civilization and nature began to creep into the Feywyld. While nature was regarded with love and fear (resulting in a vast array of alignments among dragons), civilization was regarded as an inherently good thing. In time, Thepa’s primal architects began to die out and were replaced with new breeds of giants, those exhibiting restrain and refinement.
Recognizing that their tendency to seize through raw strength still existed in their blood lines, the giants sequestered themselves to avoid being hunted down. However, not all took to heart the warnings of the mortals adaptability and proliferation. A storm giant, whose original name even he has forgotten, was one that embraced his dark origins, which is somewhat odd as he wasn’t always a giant.
Indeed, the very fact that Rai was once a dwarf is quite possibly the most obscure fact in all of Thepa’s mythology, yet Rai was never of the opinion that it mattered. Every last trace of that dwarf was cast aside in his mortal life as he willed his anger to break the natural order of existence to form the perfect warrior. He looks like a giant; he thinks like a giant; he’s functionally a giant. Rai’s primary motivation is to prove that he is the strongest in all of existence. To that end, he formed a great kingdom meant entirely to support his war machine in the image of the primal giants.
Eventually, he was struck down in battle and with such overwhelming magic that the very earth beneath him cracked and collapsed into Thepa’s mantle, but his death was not the end for him. Breaking reality out of sheer fury was only his first divine act. Altering reality a second time was not nearly as hard. Rai claims to be the first deity altogether and that he blazed the path for other deities to arise. Even his main rival for that title, Iteff, is uncertain of the truth to Rai’s boast.
Rai’s true form appears much as he did after his transformation, a massive storm giant towering over 23 feet in height. His form is mostly concealed by a dark thundercloud, though the first feature most tend to notice is his great two-handed sword Dyrnwyn. Dyrnwyn is a molten blade of meteoric iron that, against all normal laws of physics, never loses its shape or sharpness; and hanging from his belt a hilt of dragon ivory crackling with the lightning from his vapory garment. Rai’s great red beard is streaked with jagged grays. His eyes glow maroon, aside from the black scleras.
Rai’s avatars are not much different. When Rai heeds a champion’s call the battlefield’s sky suddenly changes into one of Saliga’s many hurricanes. Its eye centered above his vessel. Cloaked in a thundercloud, his or her eyes change to those of Rai and whatever weapon the vessel possessed reshapes into Dyrnwyn, resized to fit the vessel’s size. Rai take direct control over his champion.
In either body, Rai charges directly into the fray, pausing only to relay orders to his forces or cast a spell at a distant adversary. He attacks with a combination of gleeful abandon and expert poise, Dyrnwyn leaving naught but smoking corpses and melted weapons. Often, the wounds sustained by his tactics are more than what a vessel can handle. The vessel’s flesh is not hardened to Dyrnwyn’s electrical hilt or heat. Neither champion nor worshipers care as dying in this process is considered a glorious privilege and sacrifice.
Ironically, in the odd case that someone does manage to defeat his vessel before Rai has finished with his hapless servant, he will resurrect the slain champion. He does, however, give the revived vessel a quest to defeat the slayer by any means. An enemy capable of defeating a deity, even a weakened form of one, is obviously an enemy worthy of respect, and he respects those who at least attempted to stand in their way.
If his champion proves that he or she is the stronger, Rai will recognize that his first assessment was mistaken. Let it be noted that his recognition is not “forgiveness” as Rai does not forgive. He only identifies his initial impression of an apparent failure as a mistake. And if the slayer proves the ultimate victor over his champion once again, the worst parts of Saliga await.
Anything without restraint is deadly. The daeva embody this axiom as they embody the overpowering nature of the emotions they govern. Beauty, desire, joy – none of those matter when taken without limits or respect.
Saligia is beautiful, yes, but it has a feral, edged beauty: the beauty of a gently spinning hurricane, an erupting volcano, or the great rifts of Thepa’s oceans. But, Saliga is also an awful place. There is no grander destructive artistry in all the planes that associate with Thepa. Saligia is a realm lacking restraint of any sort, which is why it is often called the Punishing Hell. And unlike most planes, it has always been this way. Rai wouldn’t be able to overcome its challenges otherwise, and he couldn’t exist without them.
It is often said that a plane’s ruler reflects his land. In this instance, that statement is never more true. Two of Rai’s unrestrained qualities are his willpower and diligence. Rai deliberately seeks challenges worthy of himself so he can properly overcome them through hard work. He bolsters himself by proving to the world and himself that he is stronger than everything in existence. Combined with his remarkable self-honesty, one can see why he opted to not change Saligia’s fundamental nature.
What Rai has affected, however, are Saligia’s inhabitants. Driven out to the fringes of Saligia are the daemons. They were judged too unpredictable and destructive in the long term even for Rai’s tastes. The asuras, youngest of the fiend races, have found an eager landlord in the Carmine Fist. He admires their dedication to an aesthetic lifestyle and enjoys matching wits with them. The plane is also home to a few colonies of evil giants who have immigrated from the Feywyld to dwell in their paragon’s domain.
Saligian souls, the petitioners, have been slowly but surely filtered down into only the most selfish and evil. The very environment of the plane sours their already infernal dispositions. These petitioners resemble nothing so much as humanoid outlines containing various raging elemental forces. Their former appearances have been lost in the descent to the Realm of Purification.
While these beings may be more talkative and less openly hostile than the true fiends who dwell in Saligia, they are still quite dangerous. They continually plot to rid themselves of any living interlopers, whether through selling them to a fiendish contact or simply abandoning them near the eye of a new storm – which is unfortunate for any who desire the petitioners help as they are some of the finest craftsmen in all of the planes.
Rai is aware of his limitations when it comes to fueling his war machine, thus he has instituted a system by which the Saligian souls learn to use the forces contained within them as their own internal forges. Metalwork, pottery, and even architecture are but a few master crafts. Most of what passes for Saligan petitioner society is based around these expertise.
The elemental souls organize themselves into small “smithies” specializing in a particular element to outfit Rai’s armies. Needless to say, competition between smithies is frequent and vicious, sometimes almost as violent as the mock wars the Last General has his armies perform. Rai wishes to keep his troops sharp and ready for actual invasions, whether from other daeva or, occasionally, Zenaket.
As with all Hells, Saligia is designed to remove the chance of corruption to Quah through the alignment of the souls returning to it. In this case, the last and most deeply rooted. To have reached Saligia, all traces of concern for consequences that would lead to a Lawful or Chaotic alignment are gone as to focus on the more hedonistic side of Evil. Only self-interest and a lack of sympathy for others remains.
To fulfill its purpose, Saligia subtly drills the idea that pure self-interest is ultimately self-destructive. This concept is executed through creating an existence where everyone’s primary motivation is for themselves yet the environment makes selfishness a losing proposition. Sooner or later, most petitioners embrace this truth by developing an appreciation for compassion and trust, thus balancing their natures for reunion with Quah.
One might expect that Rai, being witness to Quah’s process, is a direct enemy of Quah. One would be wrong. Rai understands the lifecycle of the soul and Quah’s existence, yet they are not enemies, hardly. Rai is clear-headed enough to understand that Quah is integral to the survival and continued existence of Thepa. He has no desire or plan to destroy the world, or to starve it of new souls. He has far too much fun destroying various parts of it. Indeed, one may call him Thepa’s Defender as he would happily lend his strength against any existential risk to the cosmos, which explains his hatred of Eadiac.
Artwork provided by Sandara
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