CE Greater Deity
Aliases: The Emperor of Want, The Insatiable Bounty, Nature-Breaker, The Ashen Renewal (compliment), the Feaster of Famine (derogatory)
Portfolio: Greed, Wealth, Social Class, Evolution, Primal Elements
Favored Weapon: longspear
Domains: Chaos, Destruction, Earth, Fire, Nobility
Tenets: Ambition, Chastity, Deceitful, Fire, Greed, Knowledge, Lapidary, Narcissism, Nobility, Opportunism
Tariav’ai is the deity of greed and the social classes. And as befitting a deity of greed and the social classes, he has demanded from his clergy an extremely ostentatious symbol. In fact, true clerics of Tariav’ai are actually somewhat rare, simply because the symbol costs that much to produce. The symbol, itself, is not difficult to construct. It is basically thee discs of differing metal hung from a chain and arranged so that the discs form a triangle with one of its tips pointing upwards. Symbolically, it shows that the natural political structure of the world is a pyramid with not a lot of room on the top, and that the only real delineation, beyond the fact that each person is unique, is an individual’s position in societies’ hierarchy.
The actual cost of the symbol comes from the three required metals: silver, gold, and platinum. No other metal is allowed as each ore has a particular significance, a path to follow to greatness: gold for resources, platinum for intellect, and silver for strength of arms. The chain, being made from one of the aforementioned metals, shows the cleric’s part in society’s order. It (He) sits atop the apex of the finely-crafted pyramid brazenly ruling all others in the name of Tariav’ai.
The symbol is usually the most expensive item a cleric owns. Only land titles regularly cost more. Thus it is a fact that most symbols are actually paid for by the temples for their highest-ranking and most competent members. In exceptional cases, the divine symbol is a gift granted by Tariav’ai himself to an advocate that made enough of an impression to come into his personal attentions.
Needless to say, losing such a valuable item is grounds for instant excommunication and divine punishment. Luckily, only fools would actually steal a symbol from the Emperor of Want as evinced by the fact that a still-active symbol does not tarnish or rust. The divine power of Tariav’ai infuses each and every one of them to invoke a powerful curse on would-be thieves – a curse that will eventually cause the return of the symbol to its proper owner, usually at the thief’s expense. More than one urban legend describes a Tariav’ai symbol being clutched in a severed hand at a cleric’s doorstep.
Generally, a culture’s temperament toward Tariav’ai can be predicted by its prevailing regional fortunes. Thepa can be brutally violent, yet it can also be outrageously generous. The peoples of the world are no different. Most races have a love-hate relationship with this daeva, typically holding onto an aversion of him until he is needed. He is thusly known and pointedly ignored until the services of his temples, the bankers and moneylenders, are required. Any truly open acknowledgement and praise of him is a sign that something in a society has gone terribly wrong.
Even so, this icy toleration of Tariav’ai does not extend to his worshipers. Most of the clerks that work in his temples are regarded as upstanding members in their communities, partially because many casual worshipers are also the nobility. Not a large leap. But what comes as a surprise is that this chaotic deity enforces a rather strict code of personal ethics.
Tariav’ai does not quibble with thieves, yet he does frown upon the ideas of reneging on a promise and the use of deception in business dealings. Those actions are counterproductive. Knowledge of untrustworthy merchants hurt his flock. People are less inclined to trust both the merchant that wronged him as well as other merchants in the future. Less trust means less trade, and less trade means fewer opportunities. In truth, the majority of people on Thepa regard Tariav’ai as a neutral deity. He may not be particularly friendly but he is definitely honest and unthreatening.
Worship of Tariav’ai comes in the form of direct prayers, typically to stay a natural disaster or for good luck in an endeavor with the goal to attain. Money, artifacts of the ancient world, fame, and even love are common pleas so long as the end result is something permanent or cerebral in nature. Though, it is important to note that the Insatiable Bounty’s attention does not come without a cost. He is not a benevolent deity, therefore prayers are never enough.
Traditionally, a sacrifice is made to Tariav’ai. He prefers valuable offerings yet graciously accepts all well-intended donations. He fully understands and empathizes with the concept of individual means. In fact, trivial sacrifices are often ignored or, even worse, looked down upon. The presentation of an expensive, golden heirloom is regarded as a pointless gesture if the actual art piece is ill-favored by its extremely rich owner. Yet a significant portion of a poor farmer’s harvest that is given to Tariav’ai will not go unnoticed. In effect, prayer and true sacrifice guarantees at least a minimal response of good luck from the Emperor of Want.
The other major services Tariav’ai provides are banking and loans. Some of his shadier followers are rather notorious usurers, yet they are generally brushed aside in favor of his mainstream leaders. Most are brutally honest about their rates and services so as to assure business is based on trust. Honesty, even when the truth may be unsettling and out of reach, still builds relationships.
But not all his agents follow the monetary line. Several will seek the varied expressions of their patron’s desires by commissioning works of grandiose art and exploring for the sake of knowledge itself. In many instances, these worshipers become commissioners of adventuring expeditions into the greatest ruins of civilization. Tariav’ai has spread his influence with abundance.
Advocates, Direct Followers, and Minions
Tariav’ai may appear fair-minded, even kind, but it is through his advocates that the darker side of the Nature-Breaker is known. Whereas casual worship tends to have its standards, true devotion implies only pragmatism and patience. His priests are quite willing to use the sword or the scheme, whatever is deemed appropriate for the situation. The call of wealth and status is great. Yes, Tariav’ai’s clergy are known to utilize etiquette and restraint, but it is through the valuable qualities of opportunism and utter ruthlessness that things truly get done.
Tariav’ai is called the Ashen Renewal for a reason and, unfortunately for others, it is not because he rebuilds what has been destroyed. No. He is the destroyer – the destroyer of corrupt and dying edifices. Not due to any real sense of natural balance or euthanasia, but rather to avoid all the legal and ethical problems that come with destroying a thing. And given how many want to recycle those edifices, a shortage of help to rebuild is rare indeed. Most peoples love to build anew, more glorious and more credited to the builder than before. As a side effect to this quirk of his nature, Tariav’ai tends to attract those races that embrace rigid ethics. The sheer amoral pragmatism Tariav’ai embodies can easily be interpreted as principles, albeit very flexible ones. Thusly, his true advocates are frequently drawn from lawful societies.
Many are the duergar that tire of their perpetual class system. Not that they disagree with the idea itself, but rather that they wish to climb higher up the chain. In turn, their lord quietly nudges them along in finding opportunity inside their closed world. To this day, ascending the social ladder is infrequent, but it has happened enough in the past for Tariav’ai’s clerics to gain the stereotype of being capable social climbers among the deep dwarves – enough, in fact, to substantially annoy the majority of duergar. But, should Tariav’ai’s advocates be faulted for their cunning ability to manage the various enchanted items of their world? Probably not, so they are usually tolerated in daily life.
Far less subtle about their ambitions and far more violent are the kel. The marauding race always desires more land, more food, more resources, more everything. Tariav’ai is all too happy to guide them toward the prizes they seek. And as kel are wont to do, their interpretation is devotedly viewed through the lens of their military. Nature-Breaker’s clerics are charged with the logistics and support wings of their armies, where most perform admirably. While not quite as directly aggressive as other kel, these clerics find that the influence of their patron deity guides them to use covert and underhanded tactics, all in the name of feeding the war machine. They have been known to provoke gas leaks into mines to drive away the current owners and frighten monsters into cities in order to create a need for their brethren “mercenaries”, mercenaries to be used as a springboard for infiltration.
Somewhat less common than the kel and duergar are the arden. The rat folk are bitter about their lot, even when they are able to find fulfillment in their own communities. So when they come into contact with other wealthier cultures, some of these arden begin to contemplate how to use their natural abilities for self advancement. And in times like these, the arden do well for themselves.
Whether they have scrounged enough capital together to commission a holy symbol or found the pleasing eye of the Emperor of Want himself, it matters not. For once an arden has accepted the cloth, things change. A warren with a Tariav’ai cleric directing them might as well be called the Noble Court of Beggars and Thieves. They manage multiple diplomatic endeavors that often touch the actual nobility of the civilization they dwell near – much to the fury and frustration of kobolds. But even before their rise to become actual divine emissaries, these arden are noticeably more ambitious and grandiose than their brethren, often times relying on pure might to bring their fellow arden in line.
Amoraq are one of the final two races of Tariav’ai advocates. On the surface, they appear to have nothing in common with him. And it is true that their culture does not seek wealth or power, but what they do desire, above all else, is self-control, an extension of his often-missed cerebral side. A virtue can be an unhealthy desire. And to a few amoraq it is just that. Perhaps this diseased aspiration is even more acutely inherent to the amoraq because a virtue is one of those things that is defined by how hard it is to grasp. The ursine humanoids that become truly desperate to control their rage turn to Tariav’ai in desperation.
Lastly and to much shame of their race, sobekites have found a place in Tariav’ai’s clergy. Why they turn to a being that is so frequently the exact opposite of their race’s ethos is best viewed through case studies. One common factor seems to be that the members of their race who fall are those that do not fit in. Social acclaim, acceptance, and the ability to integrate into new cultures makes this path so very tempting, especially for those sobekites who, for whatever reason, cannot function in the familial social web.
Even before one meets the lord of Acheron, one knows of Tariav’ai’s approach. His domain’s already bitter winds will surge into a great blizzard that somehow asperses flashes of great fire, serpents of orange heat in a sea of freezing white. As the storm descends, spikes of earth erupt from the ground and then collapse to appear as minute mountains that go through an incredibly quick cycle of formation and erosion. While there is an eye to this storm, it has no calm. Instead it resembles a moving spiral of ice and flame as the earth erupts with explosive geysers of rock. Strangely, the entirety of this disturbance glides through an area with an almost perverse calmness. The blasted landscape and storm make but a whisper as Tariav’ai drifts by.
Occasionally, a strange figure, tall and covered with spikes, flashes within the eye. At this point, where one can actually see said figure, it is advisable to gain his attention for at the center of his storm the only creature that can save those caught within it is Tariav’ai himself. And since he is normally focused on his own attempts to perfect his environs, ignoring to plea for mercy can only mean certain death. Should one gain his attention, the storm will cease to reveal an eerie, imposing figure. A carapace of ice covers it with terrestrial crystal that cracks and refreezes as it moves and breaths, briefly revealing veins of molten rock. Part of this carapace forms a crowned helm that engulfs its head. Three dark holes that barely form a face dominate its head as it gazes hollowly out at the world.
On rare occasions, this facade suddenly changes; flaming pupils erupt in the figure’s eye sockets or its mouth cracks and reforms into a hollow smile. And every so often, its form flickers in and out of being, an ethereal vision that seems to not entirely be there apart from the still-raging storm that somehow does not affect the guest of Nature-Breaker. A closer inspection of this vision will reveal another body under the carapace; one that writhes in pain and discomfort.
Of all the daeva, Tariav’ai has the most obscure of pasts, mostly because he does not care about it. To him, the present and the future are all that matter. Where he came from no longer has any bearing on what he is today. Nothing about the person he was remains in the deity he is now, so there is nothing to be carried over. It is difficult to say if even he remembers his mortal self in any other way than with an academic, detached sense: he must have been a living person at one time.
In any case, he is far more concerned with his uniquely divine problem, the one that makes meeting him such a hazardous endeavor. Tariav’ai possesses a curse, of sorts, that causes his elemental nature to clash with itself and the world around him. His physical body is constantly engaged in a tug of war between scorching fire and chilled earth. He uses water (in the form of ice) and air to serve his attempts in balancing the two opposing forces through regular and constant infusions.
Even his pure form is unstable. Regularly dissolving and congealing exactly as it was before to form a process of near-constant teleportation. The only thing that makes his existence bearable is to outdo whatever force excessively compromises his body at any particular moment. His state of existence constantly shifts and forces him to monitor and alter the environs of his mutual extremes. That this constant working plays havoc with Acheron’s climate matters not to him. He simply wishes he could enjoy his godhood.
Acheron is a vision of a mortal world once its sun has died out, a dismal and desolate icy hell of despair. There is no moon here. No sign of time passing. No light save for the stars and an occasional fiery bolt produced by the constant workings of its lord. Its landscape is revealed as equal parts bleak and menacing. A hilly, mountainous terrain covered in an endless snow that kicks up into a dancing flurry by the wind – a sight appearing to almost writhe.
Here and there are random pockets of Tariav’ai’s collections, strange elements that give off the impression of a totally catastrophic past. The images of inexplicably warm lakes hosting thin layers of ice, the bluish-white plants with coatings of crystallized water breaking and refreezing as the flora sluggishly grow, and springs releasing glowing red embers rather than the precious life-giving water are but a few examples of its disturbing nature.
This is Acheron.
Not the hell of natural disasters but the eternal aftermath of one. This infernal plane of corruption eradicates Law and Chaos by seeking out Saligia’s purity of Evil. And in this particular case, the dark purification is fairly unique in that the petitioners actually look forward to it. The plane is a horrid place to visit; let alone live.
Very few things exist in Acheron other than the coldsouls, a collective term for the thickly furred, almost yeti-like forms that petitioners inevitably evolve into. Their fur, while extremely good for camouflage, does not keep them very warm. It provides little protection from the biting winds and even less warmth when wet as it tends to freeze leaving any individuals unfortunate enough to fall into water the difficult task of finding a quick way to dry their bodies or become statues.
More than one coldsoul has seared himself on the passing fire of the Emperor of Want, correctly reasoning that the pain from Tariav’ai’s brief flame is infinitely better than becoming the core of an ice mountain. Mercifully for those cores in question it only takes about a decade in Thepa time before the madness of pain and isolation breaks their minds into something allowed to reincarnate. Although, these beings that are reborn usually suffer from some form of emotional instability, often times an acute case of claustrophobia, though they cannot remember why.
Acheron is a realm where respite is a commodity, and warmth is a rare luxury that most of its inhabitants have killed to possess. It should come as no surprise that any sense of solidarity in surviving by one’s self tends to vanish rather quickly. Even the most xenophobic drow or clannish kobold tends to have their isolationism evaporate in the face of some small amount of shared body heat.
Coldsouls travel together, sleep together, and hunt together yet what they hunt for is not food. In one of the few blessings of their existence, coldsouls need neither drink nor food to remain functional. No, it is shelter that drives the coldsouls, shelter in a plane that seems to take perverse joy in preventing those that seek it. Winds will pick up wherever an igloo or other snow-born dwelling begins to take shape, blowing all effort away in a manner of minutes.
To actually find shelter requires one to play by the rules; in other words, hunting down the grottoes that the odd elemental eruptions have formed. These caves (technically holes in the ice that have somehow frozen into the form of a hollow sphere) are strangely uniform in nature. They always have a source of low-level heat, whether it be the aforementioned embers, an ever-burning flame, or a strangely hot rock.
These grottoes are also the only place green shrubbery impossibly grows, far away from even the light of the stars, let alone a nonexistent sun. Their relatively small openings prevent the blasting winds from getting in, which heightens the temperature of the area to a merely uncomfortably chill. Once a particular grotto is found, the band that discovered it tends to settle in quickly, working out a hierarchy of who will guard the shelter? Who will hide it? And who will negotiate for its use to the roaming demons?
For a while the cave satisfies. Once a conclave of coldsouls is entrenched, it is nearly impossible to pry them out, even with copious amounts of demons and coldsouls trying. Inevitably, this honeymoon period ends for once a coldsouls makes the discovery to “tap” the heat source for extra warmth – or in most cases, succumbs to the temptation of having discovered this trait before – things go awry.
Upon tapping, the heat from the cave is taken directly into the petitioner’s body and for a few minutes the coldsoul remembers what it means to be warm. The sensation passes, but the memory of relative comfort remains. So they tap the source again, and again, much like a drug addict, never noticing and certainly not caring that the green leaves slowly begin to wilt away.
Eventually, someone notices…
…and a civil war of sorts breaks out causing the coldsouls to fight for every last scrap of warmth. Soon, the source is drained and the shrubbery dies. The wiser coldsouls have left long before the resource is consumed for they know that the shrub is what holds the walls together. The entire hollow collapses in on itself, crushing those inside. In time, the source will recharge and re-melt the grotto, but by then the conclave has long moved on.
On rare occasions, a coldsoul realizes the pointlessness of the entire cycle and either starts to openly share the secret by letting the promise of a tap become a reward, or he becomes entirely solitary creature, reasoning that nobody else is trustworthy. All coldsouls are fundamentally strangers to each other after all. Either situation invariably happens shortly before the coldsoul is graciously allowed to fall to Saligia or to reincarnate.