Last week, I gave you the backstory behind the creation of Cyrene, a deity of Life who figures prominantly in our forthcoming game supplement, Assassin’s Amulet. This time around, it’s time to followup that post with an edited excerpt from AA describing the lady herself…
Cyrene (Greater Deity)
Titles/Incarnations: Giver of Mercy, Weaver of Nets, Handmaiden of Death, Shelter of Travelers, Queen of Dolphins, Bringer of Rainbows, Pool of Reflection, The Final Justice, The Last Judge; member of the Celestial Tribunal (Arbiter of Life).
Cyrene is a complex deity whose worshippers derive from as many lifestyles as she has incarnations. Her province is life itself in some of its many aspects, and this makes her both feared and revered.
The Lesser Aspects
In her aspect as the Giver of Mercy, Cyrene is believed to spare the dying from pain and suffering, and a slow death is considered a sign of her disfavor. Many with suffering relatives and loved ones will donate to her temples and pray for her to relent. Those granted quick and painless deaths are considered to have been in her favor, and it is tradition to make a token offering at her temples by surviving friends and relatives of the departed.
The Giver of Mercy aspect is considered a Handmaiden of Thanastis, God of Death. She is believed to spend her time weaving and repairing death’s net, “the net that catches all in the end.” This leads to Cyrene’s third incarnation, as the “Weaver of nets.” Since it is believed she will permit death to take none before their time, this combination has made her a popular deity for fishermen and sailors, many of whom attend services regularly when not at sea, and make offerings before every voyage—the more dangerous the journey ahead, the greater the offering.
This belief has expanded slowly through the wider community, giving rise to her newest title, the Shelter of Travelers. It is said that, on occasion, lost and weary travelers near to death (but whose time has not yet come) will stumble upon a rich estate, where the mistress of the household (a woman of great dignity and beauty, well spoken and of gentle demeanor) will offer shelter for the night.
She will heal their wounds and host a great feast. When the travelers awaken the next morning, the estate and manor house will be gone, but they will be refreshed, have had their provisions resupplied and will be on or near the path to their destination. However, should any attempt to abuse the hospitality offered, they will be trapped within the estate when it vanishes and never be seen again. Because of this legend, offerings to Cyrene are now commonplace before any journey.
Fishermen also know Cyrene as Queen of Dolphins, for they believe such creatures to be animal-form incarnations of the deity. They say she sends her subjects to protect those who would otherwise meet an untimely end at sea. Some believe that being rescued by dolphins earns a debt that must be repaid with a year’s service in the temple in whatever menial capacity is necessary; some never leave this service and go on to become lay preachers.
Hathandros, God of Storms and Seas, is considered capricious, ill-tempered at best, and resentful of those who intrude upon his domain without paying the proper respect—a standard that notoriously changes with his mood. When Hathandros is in “one of his moods,” only the intervention of Cyrene can save those who have angered him. Some theologians cast Hathandros and Cyrene as husband and wife, but many dispute this. Nevertheless, it is also believed by some that Cyrene sends rainbows as a sign his ill temper has passed. Others believe Cyrene sends rainbows to mark individuals as especially blessed or in her favor to pique Hathandros’s jealous nature and permit him to show off his power and manliness.
These beliefs give rise to the last of the lesser aspects of Cyrene, that of the Bringer of Rainbows. This aspect is much beloved by children, and it is believed by others that Cyrene herself is barren and can bear no children of her own, the price of some terrible struggle in the past. Some suggest she sacrificed this aspect of her femininity to acquire the power she possesses. In either regard, she is said to derive great enjoyment from the playing of children, and is believed to spend much of her life near playgrounds and parks. Certainly, this is a popular location for the establishment of temples and shrines erected in her name.
The Pool of Reflection
There are some who claim the Pool of Reflection is merely another of the wonders to be found on Cyrene’s estate grounds. Others claim the estate exists merely to house the Pool, but the majority believes the Pool of Reflection is an inhuman aspect of the deity, and hence can appear anywhere.
Those who gaze into the pool at their reflections are able to perceive every significant moment of their past lives, recognize their contributions to life, society and history, glean a hint as to their role in the greater story of the world, and gain a sense of how much of their accorded lifespan remain.
The experience tends to humble the arrogant, educate the humble and bring about sudden changes in personality in many, as those who have achieved much (whether they knew it or not) are given recognition of those achievements by the gods, and those who have squandered their lives are given a final warning.
GMs are free to choose the true nature of the pool:
- An artifact that wanders the world aimlessly and randomly, teleporting from place to place, a magical quality that temporarily transforms ordinary pools of water
- A magical pool located upon the estates of Cyrene
- An incarnation of the goddess herself
- Something else.
Those who look into the pool and gaze into their own reflection must make a Perception check at DC20. Success in this check imparts recognition of the true significance of the achievements of the individual’s life, stripped of all ego, vanity, self-deception and bias, and permits a second Perception check at DC25. Success in this second check gives a general sense of the time-scale of the remaining years in the individual’s life: none, years, decades, or centuries.
Success in the first check also confers a permanent +2 Wisdom ability score increase, while success in the second confers +2 Wisdom, in addition to any recieved from the first check.
The combination frequently leads individuals who experience it to make radical changes in their lives or experience radical shifts in personality.
Success at the second check also permits some individuals (at the GM’s discretion) to make a third check at DC 50.
Should this succeed, the individual is accorded a glimpse of the most notable achievement to which they can aspire in the remaining time allotted to them. Success in perceiving this is worth an additional permanent +4 Wisdom ability score increase.
Failure to pursue this potential achievement, once it has been revealed, earns the enmity of the gods. We recommend you determine the substance of the possible achievement in collaboration with the player of the character responsible rather than foisting a destiny on the character that does not accord with the player’s wishes. These achievements might be mundane or even seemingly trivial, such as raising a large family, marrying the perfect mate, owning a business empire, or even living a life of destitute poverty but with spiritual grace. The achievements should not be guaranteed to happen, either. The character should have to actively work at achieving the goals.
The Final Justice
The last incarnation of Cyrene is also the most feared. As the Final Justice, Cyrene dictates whose life has run its course and whose has not. The elderly and infirm frequently make offerings at her temples. Some seek an extension of their lifespan, some a quick release from their lives and others are simply grateful for one more day. In this incarnation, God of Death Thanastis serves Cyrene, visiting those to whom she directs. This gives some indication of the complexities of their relationship.
No matter how evil or good one’s life, how rich or poor, the Final Justice is meted out equally to all, and all will face judgment before the Celestial Tribunal. In oppressive regimes, it is believed the common folk attend services in Cyrene’s temples to pray for the death of their ruler. The more enlightened amongst such rulers consider this a means of releasing anger and hostility that might otherwise lead to rebellions. The more shortsighted perceive this as fomenting such rebellions, and often seek to quell the worship of Cyrene, harassing her priests and burning her temples and shrines.
Both reactions misjudge the patience of the goddess. All will be at her disposal at their allotted time, regardless of rank or social status; she will neither hasten nor delay that moment without good cause. Temporal events are but trivial moments passing by in the interim, and eventually, those responsible will face judgment for their actions.
The Unnatural Extension of Life
The greatest crime in the eyes of Cyrene is the extension of life beyond the allocated span. There are means, arcane and spiritual, those with the knowledge and power can use to forestall the appointed hour. The priests of Cyrene preach there is but a finite amount of life at any given time, and that such blasphemous actions rob another of their turn at life. Every stillborn child is a sign that someone, somewhere, has extended their lifespan beyond its allotted years, and that the individual should be sought out and overcome by those with the strength and means to do so.
It is occasionally rumored that Cyrene’s followers include in their numbers a secret order who take a more direct hand in finding those who perpetrate such blasphemies and bringing them to an end. However, nothing has ever been proven, no evidence has ever been found.
Cyrene and Undeath
While Cyrene and her followers consider undeath to be unholy and blasphemous in its own right, they perceive this as forestalling judgment and not forestalling death itself. They will not go out of their way to destroy the undead, but feel a kinship with those who do, and will support such endeavors undertaken by others.
The Celestial Tribunal
Cyrene is a member of the Celestial Tribunal, which judges each soul’s fate after death and award it a place in what they deem an appropriate afterlife.
The other members of the Tribunal are:
- Averinis, the God of Justice (presiding and non-voting)
- Pellina, the Goddess of Virtue, and
- Lashinus, the God of Vice (who is frequently represented by his wife, Doravia, the Goddess of Temptation).
Cyrene rarely sits in judgment on the tribunal, nor argues one way or another. Her role is to report the facts of the individual’s life to the tribunal, and hence remains impartial and neutral. Only in the event of tribunal deadlock will she be called upon to cast the deciding vote, which she will seldom directly do. Instead, she will place before the spirit being judged a challenge to test its worthiness.
Occasionally, she might demand an Afterlife Quest to undo some wrong or achieve some great deed in the name of the tribunal, successful completion of which will earn her favor.
The exception to this neutral posture comes when judging one who has blasphemed against life itself, either by the unnatural extension of life, or by the restoration of a life that had ended. In such cases, she is a hostile vote.
Once in awhile, one of the other members of the tribunal will abstain, and the tribunal will again be deadlocked. Since the God of Virtue and Goddess of Vice never change their votes once cast, Cyrene is the swing vote. This is the other mechanism by which an Afterlife Quest may be ordered. In effect, Cyrene demands the spirit undertake a quest to earn her forgiveness for its blasphemy against her domain—something she will not begrudge lightly.
Priests of Hathandros, God of Storms and Seas, often bicker and dislike priests of Cyrene, though this enmity can be set aside at need.
Priests of the other members of the Celestial Tribunal in general respect Cyrene’s priests, but individual personalities might overrule this broad principle.
Priests of Thanastis, God of Death, consider themselves allies of the priests of Cyrene, as do priests of Lumina, Goddess of Life. Since these two temples are often opposed to each other, they frequently call upon Cyrene’s followers to act as a go-between when cooperation is necessary.
Priests of Cyrene find followers of Doravia, Goddess of Temptation, manipulative and hence consider her priests unwelcome.
Priests of Calumnus, God of Knowledge and Magic, are frequently opposed to the Priests of Cyrene.
Other temple relationships are neutral unless an event occurs to change the status quo.
That’s as much as we can share on the subject without compromising the secrets and plot twists within the game supplement, I’m afraid. Hopefully it’s enough to inspire you, or at least give you some ideas.
Layou work continues on the supplement itself, now entering its final phase of preperation before the big announcement…