Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Two Cults of Arkat

Arkat is a major figure in Glorantha, a man who fought a 75 year long crusade to kill a god, and ended up being worshipped as a deity himself. The story of his war is told in numerous Glorantha publications, and snippets about hose who worship him crop up here and there. The cults written up here are very non-canon. The original version of Black Arkat was first published in Avalon Hill's RQ3 Troll Gods, and Arkat Humaktsson has been mentioned in a few Humakt and Nysalor write ups.

Arkat Humaktsson

Arkat Humaktsson is peculiar subcult of Humakt (see here), very secretive and not liked even by the Humakti themselves. They worship Arkat as he first appeared in Maniria after he was brought out of the underworld by Harmast Barefoot, the epitome of Humakti dedication, warrior prowess and death-dealing, with an utter ruthlessness that was uniquely his own.

Followers of Arkat Humaktsson recall a few things other Humakti have preferred to forget – their hero Efrodar was a general in Arkat's army, Makla Mann's loyalty was considered exceptional because he stuck with Arkat even after he betrayed the humans of Dragon Pass and became a troll, and Arkat bore the Unbreakable Sword, a weapon wielded by Humakt himself in the Age of the Gods. In fact a few even say that the cult of Humakt was unknown in Dragon Pass until Arkat introduced it from Ralios.

They also say Arkat was never really a troll. All along he used the guise of a troll to keep the strongest anti-chaos force in Glorantha at the time on side and at the battle front beating back Gbaji. The accusations of betrayal are unfounded – Arkat was true to the task he set himself, even if that meant angering some of those who couldn't see that he had no choice.

His followers have the rather unique ability among Humakti to lie convincingly, even when they have a geas on them never to do so, even to their fellow cultists and even when a Detect Truth spell is used on them. They also have no compunctions about ambushing people and using poison, unlike many of their compatriots, and have even gone as far as to hire out as assassins, though they always fight fellow Humakti fairly and tend to reserve their dirtiest tricks for chaotics and their allies.

They justify all this horrible skulduggery by saying that they are the only sound stone in the Humakti edifice, only they are willing to compromise their very honour, risk their very souls in fighting the only fight that truly matters – beating back the insidious creep of chaos.

Needless to say their fellow Humakti have no truck with such mealy mouthed backsliding and execute any such person they find within their ranks, but a few are spooked that they seem to get away with breaking geases and playing fast and loose with the Code without calling down the wrath of the Swordbreaker. The bastards don't even seem to notice Excommunication!

Membership is by invite only, and the Arkati are very careful and selective about who they approach. Initiation is carried out blindfold with a poisoned dagger at the prospective followers throat, just in case they show any unexpected qualms. Those who balk don't live to see the dawn. Those who talk tend to die – the cult makes great use of the Oath spell.

Followers of Arkat Humaktsson do have contact with other Arkat cults, and in some places practise openly. Not all the barbarians of Ralios are averse to Arkat (though most are, since Arkat in various forms is favoured by the decadent oddballs in the cites of Safelster).

In Dragon Pass and Prax there may be as many as twenty-five followers, hidden among various Humakti mercenary bands, working as bodyguards and delving into the lethally dangerous ruins of Pavis.

Skills
Legend: Deception, Stealth
RQ6: Deceit, Stealth

Spells:
Legend: Boon of Lasting Night, Bandit's Cloak
RQ6: Darkness, Incognito

Secrets of Arkat Humaktsson

Any follower of Arkat may use his Deception/Deceit or Theology (Arkat Humaktsson)/Devotion Arkat Humaktsson) to reduce any skill or spellcasting roll that might otherwise betray him. For example: Thorgrim the Grim uses Detect Truth to determine if Halvar the 'Loyal' is telling the truth about where he was last Freezeday when some enterprising soul poked a dagger between the chieftain's ribs. Thorgrim's Exhort (Humakt) 40% is reduced by Halvar's Devotion (Arkat Humaktsson) 30% before he even gets to cast the spell and Halvar still gets to resist it! (40-30=) 10% chance... Halvar was at Geo's drinking small ale and listening to a skald, nothing to do with him...

Sadly this doesn't work with perception vs stealth rolls, if Thorgrim had been at the chief’s side while Halvar was lurking down by the privy, he'd have had a normal chance of catching him in the act.

Arkati also get a Sense Chaos skill at POW+CHA. This enables them to spot secret chaotics, like ogres, Krasht cultists and Lunars who have dabbled with chaos spells. It also enables them to spot those who have undergone Illumination.

When an Arkati breaks a geas or blatantly abuses the Humakti code he can roll against his Theology (Arkat) or Devotion (Arkat) at 2x skill to ignore any consequences.

Black Arkat


During his long crusade against Nysalor, Arkat adopted and dropped many roles and many allies. At first he was an atheist Brithini Horal soldier, then he became a Hrestoli Knight, then he was Arkat Humaktsson and then during his final assault on Dorastor he became a troll. After his victory he became a human again, but one who had walked so many paths in the Godworld becomes a deity of sorts himself, and is worshipped as such across Ralios and also in a few places in Maniria and Dragon Pass, though his complex nature means there are many competing and mutually hostile cults.

The Order of Black Arkat is a sorcerous sub-cult of Argan Argar drawing on Arkat's power as a troll and as a monotheist sorcerer. It is open to both humans and trolls, and is the only source of sorcery available to trolls.

Who worships Black Arkat?

There are two separate cult centres. the trollish land of Guhan in Ralios and in various spots around the Holy Country, though isolated practitioners can be found in Sartar, Dagori Inkarth and even farther afield patrolling the world looking for traces of their ancient enemy. Given the hostility to sorcery and to Arkat around Dragon Pass most members are secretive and 'undercover'.

The Order used to be much bigger. Back in the days just after the Gbaji Wars, the Church of Arkat, as it was then, controlled the Cathedral in Nochet, and a good many trolls of the Shadowlands were members. But humans turned against the church (and their troll rulers), the God Learner Empire thoroughly squashed it and the EWF had no time for it either. These days the Order only has two chapter-houses in the Dragon Pass area, one in Arkat's Hold, the other in the remnants of the Kitori lands south of Sartar. There are no more than fifteen followers left, all except one human, though they include some pretty dangerous sorcerers and knights. There are another dozen or so 'detached' members, troll sorcerers who possess fragments of the Lead Grimoire without actually being members of the Order as such.

Common Membership

There is no actual lay membership. The Order is recalled among the defeated and oppressed Kitori and the trolls of the Shadowlands as being advisers to their once mighty kings and to the long dead Only Old One himself, but only in Arkat's Hold are members publicly known and then only because they traditionally hold a place on the Queen's council. Some Argan Argar worshippers make donations to the cult at Arkat's Hold and some merchant enterprises are owned by the cult through front men, though their employees suspect nothing of where the profits really go. A very few Kitori have a tradition of sending their brightest children to the Order; these children are intensively schooled in sorcery and scholarship and usually reach the rank of novice by the age of 16 or so. The troll noble families in the Shadowlands who took up sorcery were decimated by the Pharaoh's armies, and those few who survived left for Dagori Inkarth and Halikiv.

Novices

Theoretically novices must first be initiates in good standing of the cult of Argan Argar, but in practice they are so desperate for new blood they will take anybody who comes close to meeting the requirements. Ideally they will have 50% or more in the following skills:

Legend: Read/Write Darktongue, Grimoire (The Lead Grimoire), Manipulation, Deception, Persistence, Lore (Mythology), Insight, Meditation.
RQ6: Literacy (Darktongue), Invocation (The Lead Grimoire), Shaping, Deceit, Willpower, Lore (Mythology), Insight

The cult teaches a fair number of common magic spells:
Legend: Bandit's Cloak, Bearing Witness, Countermagic, Darkwall, Demoralise, Detect Enemy, Detect Magic, Fate, Chill, Understanding
RQ6: Avert, Bypass, Chill, Curse, Darkness, Demoralise, Find Enemy, Incognito, Witchsight

The Novice may learn 1/3 of his INT in basic spells from The Lead Grimoire.
Legend: Project Vision, Project Darksense, Eyes of Night, Sense Chaos, Dominate Spider, Castback, Animate Shadow
RQ6: Castback, Dominate Spider, Project Darksense, Project Vision, Eyes of Night, Sense Chaos, Animate Shadow

Novices tend to be sorted out into the scholarly/sorcerous types who go on to become Adepts and the more physical and martial ones who become Knights.

Adepts

Adepts must have at least 50% in Read Darktongue to understand the inner secrets of the Lead Grimoire, and at least 70% in Grimoire (The Lead Grimoire) or Invocation (The Lead Grimoire).

They also need 70% in two of:
Legend: Manipulation, Deception, Lore (Mythology), Insight, Meditation
RQ6: Shaping, Deceit, Willpower, Lore (Mythology), Insight

They also get to learn some of the hairier magics from The Lead Grimoire, and may have 2/3 INT worth of spells.
Legend: Open Gate, Summon Shade, Tap Power, Diminish Strength, Enchant Lead
RQ6: Open Gate, Evoke Shade, Tap Power, Diminish Strength, Enchant Lead

Adepts often appear in public disguised as priests of Argan Argar, with cloaks lines in black fur, lead masks and an ebon spear.

Knights

Knights are the military arm of the Order, and back in the good old days they could field a regiment of beetle mounted warriors armed with mauls and lances and armoured in lead. Current Knights are the active agents of the cult, going out into the world to investigate possible secret chaos threats and persuade such leaders as will listen to act against them. To become a Knight you need 70% in one weapon, traditionally a spear or a mace, but any will do these days, knowledge of the Sense Chaos spell and 70% in three of the following skills:

Legend: Ride, a second weapon, Insight, Influence, Courtesy, Persistence, Resilience
RQ6: Ride, Insight, Influence, Courtesy, Willpower, Endurance, any combat style

They may only learn the basic spells noted under Novice above, plus Damage Enhancement, but may learn up to half INT worth of spells.

Master

Masters of the Order may be drawn from the Adepts or the Knights. There are currently just two such positions in Dragon Pass, one in the Kitori wilds and one in Arkat's Hold. They need 90% n three of the following skills:

Legend: Ride, a weapon, Grimoire (The Lead Grimoire), Manipulation, Insight, Courtesy, Deception, Lore (Mythology), Persistence, Resilience
RQ6: Ride, a combat style, Invocation (The Lead Grimoire), Manipulation, Insight, Courtesy, Deceit, Lore (Mythology), Willpower, Endurance

They also get to see the last chapter of the Lead Grimoire, and if they have Read Darktongue at 70%+ they can use the final few spells, and have as many spells as they have INT:

Legend: Shapechange (Human to Dark Troll), Shapechange (Dark Troll to Human), Undeath, Wrack (Swarm of Spiders)
RQ6: Shapechange (Human to Dark Troll), Shapechange (Dark Troll to Human), Undeath, Wrack (Swarm of Spiders)

Grand Master

The Grand Master of the Order is a probably a troll in Guhan in Ralios. Nothing has been seen or heard of him/her for years near Dragon Pass, the last contact being a request sent to Arkat's Hold twenty years ago for troops to fight off a Rokari crusade. It was answered by one foolhardy Knight who was never seen again.

Secrets of the Order of Black Arkat

Members above the rank of Novice are allowed into a strange secret – members of the cult can, if they want, join many theist cults, some monotheistic churches and even some spirit societies without having to worry about any divine retribution. The Masters hold a special book, 'The Blessings of the Righteous Divines', with spells that appear to fend off divine or spiritual vengeance for breaking the codes of behaviour or taboos expected from members of a specific deity, if the recipient rolls Lead Grimoire skill, and where the god is 'jealous' and requires a member to give up other allegiances, they need not do so. 

Few members use these blessings, but according to the Order demonstrate that Arkat was in truth acting as the agent of all Creation when he took on the blasphemous empire of Gbaji. Currently one of their Knights has used the blessings to become a member of the Atroxic Church, while an Adept lives among the Pol Joni as a Shaman of Storm Bull. The rest are happy enough combining the sorcery of Arkat with the divine blessings of Argan Argar, for whom no such spell is needed. The Lunar cults they would love to infiltrate remain beyond their reach.

Arkat was a noted heroquester, but the assaults by the God Learners and Belintar have left the Order with few accounts of what he did and how he did it. They have not used heroquesting offensively for a long time, but it is still part of their teaching, hence the emphasis on learning Mythology.

Arkat and the Red Moon

Both of these cults have a deep mistrust of the Red Moon and the Lunar Empire. The bastards have no qualms about using chaos, they boast of their 'Illumination' and the connection of their god to hated Nysalor and they have used 'creative heroquesting' to subvert other people's mythologies and rites. They know that there will have to be a reckoning, but they are a scattered few and the empire is incredibly powerful. For their part the Empire has not forgotten Arkat. He is not a major concern, but the sorcerers of the Imperial University know that he still has his adherents and that Dragon Pass must contain a few, and they might retain enough of the old Arkat magic to pose a minor threat to the Empire.

Arkat's Hold

In the North Marches of Esrolia lies Arkat's Hold. The site was a Daysenerus temple founded in the days of Nysalor's Bright Empire, but after Arkat liberated Esrolia he used it as a base to muster for the conquest of Dragon Pass. His fortress is still there, and parts have been rebuilt to serve as a garrison along the Building Wall created by the Pharaoh to keep out the Lunars. This fortress is a squat blocky edifice in the severe Brithini style, but most of the elaborate maze of outworks are mere lumps in the ground. The population are typical Esrolians, with a slight excess of Argan Argar worshippers and fair minorities of 'civilised' trolls and Ralian immigrants.


There is a temple to Humakt here, but most of the troops serving along the wall follow native Esrolian traditions. There is a shrine to Arkat Humaktsson in this temple, old, untidy and disused with no open worshippers bar a few cursory prayers on Founders Day, and a Chapter of the Order of Black Arkat housed in the crypt of the ruins of the Church of Arkat. Traditionally the Queen of Arkat's Hold has had a sorcerer of the Order as a member of her council, and this has been kept up despite pressure from better attended temples and churches to have this privilege removed. You might run into followers of the many disparate Safelstran Arkati sects here on pilgrimage, and the Unbreakable Sword Inn is a fine place for a heated theological argument and a fight, and studiously avoided by the unobtrusive adherents of Black Arkat and downright invisible Arkat Humaktsson..